Your Language Learning Weaknesses

General discussion about learning languages
kulaputra
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Re: Your Language Learning Weaknesses

Postby kulaputra » Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:25 pm

NoManches wrote:
kulaputra wrote:
Ani wrote:
kulaputra wrote:. I suppose if you've never actually tried this, it might sound weird, but I and I'm sure others can attest that they have gone from not understanding to understanding by listening.


Nope. I'm with Cainntear. Attempts at listening to nearly incomprehensible material have gotten me no where and never did become comprehensible.


You're free to disagree. All I know is that I started listening to the first Lord of the Rings audio book in French with near zero comprehension and by the 14th hour of the book (the whole book is about 20 hours) I had around 60+% comprehension. I looked nothing up. It didn't cost me much effort either, as I did it while showering, brushing, cooking, or driving. In the meanwhile, the only other thing I did was run through the first 20 lessons of Pimsleur, listen to a few hours of Around the World in 80 Days and Harry Potter in the same way (starting at near zero comprehension), and watch one season of a French TV show, again, starting with zero comprehension.



Do you think you would have reached 60% comprehension quicker if you had started with an audiobook that you could comprehend at 40% from the beginning?


Of course. But I didn't have that luxury. What I did have (actually, still have) was around 15 hours of "dead" time every week when I might as well listen to French. Also I didn't find any of it boring, on the contrary, I purposely picked listening material I have enjoyed in my native language (or in the case of the TV show, it was a police procedural/detective style show I watched on a transcontinental flight, and while I'd never seen the show, I enjoy the genre). All this to say that it's not worth feeling guilty over watching or listening to something you enjoy even with low comprehension.
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Re: Your Language Learning Weaknesses

Postby NoManches » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:35 pm

kulaputra wrote:
NoManches wrote:
kulaputra wrote:
Ani wrote:
kulaputra wrote:. I suppose if you've never actually tried this, it might sound weird, but I and I'm sure others can attest that they have gone from not understanding to understanding by listening.


Nope. I'm with Cainntear. Attempts at listening to nearly incomprehensible material have gotten me no where and never did become comprehensible.


You're free to disagree. All I know is that I started listening to the first Lord of the Rings audio book in French with near zero comprehension and by the 14th hour of the book (the whole book is about 20 hours) I had around 60+% comprehension. I looked nothing up. It didn't cost me much effort either, as I did it while showering, brushing, cooking, or driving. In the meanwhile, the only other thing I did was run through the first 20 lessons of Pimsleur, listen to a few hours of Around the World in 80 Days and Harry Potter in the same way (starting at near zero comprehension), and watch one season of a French TV show, again, starting with zero comprehension.



Do you think you would have reached 60% comprehension quicker if you had started with an audiobook that you could comprehend at 40% from the beginning?


Of course. But I didn't have that luxury. What I did have (actually, still have) was around 15 hours of "dead" time every week when I might as well listen to French. Also I didn't find any of it boring, on the contrary, I purposely picked listening material I have enjoyed in my native language (or in the case of the TV show, it was a police procedural/detective style show I watched on a transcontinental flight, and while I'd never seen the show, I enjoy the genre). All this to say that it's not worth feeling guilty over watching or listening to something you enjoy even with low comprehension.



So if you had the luxury, you would pick material that is more comprehensible to work with over material that was not very comprehensible?
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Re: Your Language Learning Weaknesses

Postby Cainntear » Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:30 pm

kulaputra wrote:Of course. But I didn't have that luxury. What I did have (actually, still have) was around 15 hours of "dead" time every week when I might as well listen to French. Also I didn't find any of it boring, on the contrary, I purposely picked listening material I have enjoyed in my native language (or in the case of the TV show, it was a police procedural/detective style show I watched on a transcontinental flight, and while I'd never seen the show, I enjoy the genre). All this to say that it's not worth feeling guilty over watching or listening to something you enjoy even with low comprehension.


Except Xmmm didn't say he felt guilty, he just said it didn't work. Great that it did for you, but it didn't for him. Part of that might well be that you were learning French after presumably a fair bit of work on Spanish, and many of the most striking grammatical differences between French and Spanish will be revealed in the first few CDs of Pimsleur, meaning you had a much easier task ahead of you than a guy with no previous study experience of a Slavic language trying to learn Russian. It's the same as what I always say about Assimil -- the method was designed for French learners of English, German, Italian and Spanish, which all share a lot of similarities with French, and a method designed for close language pairs won't always work with more distant ones.

Then there's the "something you enjoy" part... well, actually a fair few of us simply do not enjoy low comprehension, and I'm sorry, but I really can't understand why anyone would.
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Re: Your Language Learning Weaknesses

Postby zKing » Mon Jul 09, 2018 8:14 pm

kulaputra wrote:
NoManches wrote:
kulaputra wrote:
Ani wrote:
kulaputra wrote:. I suppose if you've never actually tried this, it might sound weird, but I and I'm sure others can attest that they have gone from not understanding to understanding by listening.


Nope. I'm with Cainntear. Attempts at listening to nearly incomprehensible material have gotten me no where and never did become comprehensible.


You're free to disagree. All I know is that I started listening to the first Lord of the Rings audio book in French with near zero comprehension and by the 14th hour of the book (the whole book is about 20 hours) I had around 60+% comprehension. I looked nothing up. It didn't cost me much effort either, as I did it while showering, brushing, cooking, or driving. In the meanwhile, the only other thing I did was run through the first 20 lessons of Pimsleur, listen to a few hours of Around the World in 80 Days and Harry Potter in the same way (starting at near zero comprehension), and watch one season of a French TV show, again, starting with zero comprehension.



Do you think you would have reached 60% comprehension quicker if you had started with an audiobook that you could comprehend at 40% from the beginning?


Of course. But I didn't have that luxury. What I did have (actually, still have) was around 15 hours of "dead" time every week when I might as well listen to French. Also I didn't find any of it boring, on the contrary, I purposely picked listening material I have enjoyed in my native language (or in the case of the TV show, it was a police procedural/detective style show I watched on a transcontinental flight, and while I'd never seen the show, I enjoy the genre). All this to say that it's not worth feeling guilty over watching or listening to something you enjoy even with low comprehension.


kulaputra, I think each time you post in favor near zero comprehension extensive listening you are getting a strong reaction from multiple people because we may be talking about different situations and definitions of "near zero comprehension". Second, I'll say that those of us who've been reading here and HTLAL for a while, have seen some claims being given in this area that run strongly against our experience, so I think folks are kind of sensitive to it.

First, I don't consider it "near zero comprehension" to watch a familiar L1 video dubbed in an FSI category 1 language (i.e. lots of cognates), especially if you've done a little studying in it before. In fact, I'd bet that if a person in that scenario saw a transcript of the dialog, they'd be able to puzzle out >50% from the basics of previous study plus (primarily) the knowledge of the content. Yes, I admit if you hear each sentence in isolation the first time without context, it would almost always be completely incomprehensible... but, to use emk's terms, you've "cheated" your understanding up.

But if someone took, say a long native audio podcast series from an FSI category V language (Mandarin Chinese?) and "just listened" for hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours, they'd basically get nowhere. This is the other extreme end of "near zero comprehension" and there is a spectrum in between.

In the link below, the guy claimed he was on track for 50% comprehension after 1200 hours of listening... and he was using L1 subs and some kids videos that teach language to native children (i.e. lots of 'cheating up'):
https://mandarinexperiment.org/2015/09/ ... 84-and-85/
(Note that he moved from a ".com" domain to a ".org" domain, so if you get a dead link following his links, just edit the URL to ".org")

A much longer discussion here:
http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/fo ... ?TID=39388

When you describe in detail what you've done with French (again a Cat 1 language from native English), I have no doubt that can work. It was similar for me in Italian once I had a base level of study. Not so much (or at all, really) in Cantonese. I think (almost?) everyone would agree that lots and lots of native input is very very important. I'd say, as comprehension builds, extensive listening becomes more and more effective to the point that it is essential as it is the only way to get the shear volume you need to advance. (I'm now speaking second hand knowledge as neither of my L2's are yet at a point that I've experienced this personally.)

It seems from your detailed response, you don't argue with the fact that, at lower levels of understanding, intensive listening is a better use of 'study time', when that is possible. Lower comprehension extensive listening should be used when you can't (or really don't want to) do something more effective. Most folks agree that having the language running in your ears as much as possible is always a good thing... if you can listen in the background while doing something else, do it.

But, what people are reacting to is the dubious implication that "Even though you don't understand a word, just keep listening to native mp3's while you do the dishes and eventually you'll speak Bulgarian". I believe it is now clear from your detailed description, that you don't really mean that, but your short responses sometimes come across that way.

Just my $0.02.
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kulaputra
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Re: Your Language Learning Weaknesses

Postby kulaputra » Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:26 am

NoManches wrote:
So if you had the luxury, you would pick material that is more comprehensible to work with over material that was not very comprehensible?


But beginners do not, by definition, have that luxury.

@zKing Even in a Cat V language like Chinese, someone who listens to very large amounts of Chinese from day 1 alongside whatever course he's working through will learn faster then someone who waits until they reach some acceptable level of comprehension. I don't expect 0-60% comprehension in a Cat V language after a few dozen hours of listening. W/r/t Chinese specifically, when I was learning it, I did listen to very large amounts of audio and where I felt it helped most was my pronunciation. I haven't actually studied the language in a couple of years but when I was I was told my ability to produce and identify tones was nearly perfect after just a few months of exposure to the language (during which I was listening to Chinese for 6+ hours every day). I understand that the feeling of immediately "getting" something feels very rewarding but I reject the paradigm that just because you don't get that sort of immediate gratification, you're not making progress.

Also, this article which has been posted before either here or on HTLAL:

Dr Sulzberger has found that the best way to learn a language is through frequent exposure to its sound patterns—even if you haven’t a clue what it all means.

“However crazy it might sound, just listening to the language, even though you don’t understand it, is critical. A lot of language teachers may not accept that,” he says.

“Our ability to learn new words is directly related to how often we have been exposed to the particular combinations of the sounds which make up the words. If you want to learn Spanish, for example, frequently listening to a Spanish language radio station on the internet will dramatically boost your ability to pick up the language and learn new words.”


https://www.sciencealert.com/saturation ... e-learners

I feel I'm repeating myself so I'm probably going to let this topic be after this post.
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Re: Your Language Learning Weaknesses

Postby Xmmm » Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:09 am

Cainntear wrote:Except Xmmm didn't say he felt guilty, he just said it didn't work. Great that it did for you, but it didn't for him. Part of that might well be that you were learning French after presumably a fair bit of work on Spanish, and many of the most striking grammatical differences between French and Spanish will be revealed in the first few CDs of Pimsleur, meaning you had a much easier task ahead of you than a guy with no previous study experience of a Slavic language trying to learn Russian. It's the same as what I always say about Assimil -- the method was designed for French learners of English, German, Italian and Spanish, which all share a lot of similarities with French, and a method designed for close language pairs won't always work with more distant ones.

Then there's the "something you enjoy" part... well, actually a fair few of us simply do not enjoy low comprehension, and I'm sorry, but I really can't understand why anyone would.


LCEL (low comprehension extensive listening) works great for closely related languages. It's almost the only thing I did for Italian and I'm super happy with my results after about 600 hours listening and 150 hours of book study. I went from understanding < 10% of dubbed TV to about 80% now because cognates, mostly.

For Russian, though, LCEL didn't do much for me. After hundreds of hours maybe I went from 5% to 15% comprehension at most. The problem was lack of cognates to grab onto and the language just generally sounds more alien. I had to supplement with learning more vocabulary (reading, brief experiment with SRS) and doing very tedious intensive listening practice. Even now my listening comprehension is maybe 40% or 50% tops for a Russian cop show and drifts lower when I switch genres, so I'm trying to supplement with easier podcasts as much as I can stand.

So for Turkish -- I'm trying to resist the impulse to start LCEL until I know maybe 3000 words and have completed a course like Turkish Tea Time which has plenty of opportunities for intensive listening. I would feel better starting TV at 30% or 40% comprehension, not at < 10%. However Behzat Ç. is a pretty entertaining show with something like an 8.3 rating on IMDB so I still like watching it even with 10% comprehension -- hence, it's a temptation to be resisted for now.

LCEL is my preferred learning technique. But for opaque languages, I feel like it's a waste of time to start with it.
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Re: Your Language Learning Weaknesses

Postby Cainntear » Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:09 pm

kulaputra wrote:I feel I'm repeating myself so I'm probably going to let this topic be after this post.

You aren't -- you're defending your standpoint and explaining where you're coming from, which makes for a productive discussion.
NoManches wrote:
So if you had the luxury, you would pick material that is more comprehensible to work with over material that was not very comprehensible?


But beginners do not, by definition, have that luxury.

True, but that still leaves open the question of whether or not it is worth just putting more time into active study techniques in preparation for exposing yourself to authentic materials.

You feel that it is:
@zKing Even in a Cat V language like Chinese, someone who listens to very large amounts of Chinese from day 1 alongside whatever course he's working through will learn faster then someone who waits until they reach some acceptable level of comprehension.

... but I don't, and I don't think we'll ever agree on that.

I don't expect 0-60% comprehension in a Cat V language after a few dozen hours of listening.

One thing I didn't ask earlier is what exactly you mean by 60% comprehension. A lot of academics claim that the minimum level of useful comprehension is round about 80%, and by that token, 60% comprehension isn't really comprehension at all.
I understand that the feeling of immediately "getting" something feels very rewarding but I reject the paradigm that just because you don't get that sort of immediate gratification, you're not making progress.

Well that's a pretty fundamental area of disagreement between us then.

To me, language is nothing if not meaningful, and if there's no discernable meaning in something, it's not really language. Furthermore, I kind of feel that the whole "getting it" feeling is just what learning feels like.

Now it may be that there's some benefit to be had at certain times from doing a bit of listening spliced with other stuff, because the brain may pay specific attention to things that it has recently seen -- I note that you said your audiobook listening in French was in parallel with listening to Pimsleur, and it may be that your brain was stimulated by specifically trying to pick out things from the last session or two. In music there have been studies that have shown that listening to a recording of a piece after a rehearsal session acts as effective practice in a way that listening before rehearsal doesn't, and I'm not opposed to the idea that something similar might happen with language, but if it does, I think it's a lot more complicated than just listening to stuff you don't understand. (Which is why I'm happy you're explaining yourself, and not just repeating yourself.)

Besides that, there's still the issue that a lot of people simply stop paying attention when they don't understand, and once your brain stops paying attention, there's little you can do about it. I've given up fighting against my brain, and I try to work with it instead.

Also, this article which has been posted before either here or on HTLAL:

Dr Sulzberger has found that the best way to learn a language is through frequent exposure to its sound patterns—even if you haven’t a clue what it all means.

“However crazy it might sound, just listening to the language, even though you don’t understand it, is critical. A lot of language teachers may not accept that,” he says.

I wouldn't put much stock in Dr Sulzberger's PhD study. The biggest issue with it is that it was never printed in a peer-reviewed journal, and if it was as ground-breaking as he made out in the popular press, it would have made it into one of the academic journals in the 11 years that have passed since his graduation.

On top of that, all we have access to individually is selected quotes from his press releases and media interviews -- he hasn't made the thesis available at all as far as I can see, and if I wanted to read it, I'd have to travel to the opposite side of the world and ask for it in the library at the University of Wellington. However, I remember trying to find out more about it at the time, and the impression that I'd got was that Sulzberger didn't actually investigate the effects of incomprehensible audio exposure, but actually only tried to measure differences in difficulty in learning vocabulary between L2 words (Russian, in his study) that were phonetically possible/near possible in the learners' L1 (English) and ones that were phonetically not possible in L1. If I'm right, the real findings of his study were that the further the pronunciation of a word is from the range of what's possible in L1, the harder it is for the learner. Interesting, if somewhat obvious, and certainly not a headline grabber.

It seems as though his paper highlighted the problem, then he simply asserted incomprehensible listening as a way of familiarising yourself to a new phoneme system. Can it be? One of the problems with learning any new phoneme system is that our brains try to interpret everything based on its current understanding of phonemes, so it automatically discards a lot of the incoming information to try to fit what it hears into existing boxes.
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Re: Your Language Learning Weaknesses

Postby Cainntear » Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:42 pm

In fact, here's a quote from Sulzberger's LinkedIn profile:
Sulzberger wrote:The ability to rapidly acquire new words of a second language is strongly associated with the frequency of exposure to sub-lexical sequences of sounds found in previously learned words (either in the native or a language being acquired). The research suggests that extensive auditory exposure to a second language (even if incomprehensible) is a critical factor in its successful acquisition.

His finding related to "previously learned words", and yet he suggests "extensive auditory exposure". However, extensive auditory exposure to incomprehensible language doesn't expand the number of previously learned words, so it's a pretty large leap in logic...
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Re: Your Language Learning Weaknesses

Postby zenmonkey » Tue Jul 10, 2018 7:36 pm

Cainntear wrote:In fact, here's a quote from Sulzberger's LinkedIn profile:
Sulzberger wrote:The ability to rapidly acquire new words of a second language is strongly associated with the frequency of exposure to sub-lexical sequences of sounds found in previously learned words (either in the native or a language being acquired). The research suggests that extensive auditory exposure to a second language (even if incomprehensible) is a critical factor in its successful acquisition.

His finding related to "previously learned words", and yet he suggests "extensive auditory exposure". However, extensive auditory exposure to incomprehensible language doesn't expand the number of previously learned words, so it's a pretty large leap in logic...


I agree with this. Not the first time I've seen a strong argument that he's making a leap in logic from his research.
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Re: Your Language Learning Weaknesses

Postby Xmmm » Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:01 pm

Cainntear wrote:One thing I didn't ask earlier is what exactly you mean by 60% comprehension. A lot of academics claim that the minimum level of useful comprehension is round about 80%, and by that token, 60% comprehension isn't really comprehension at all.


If you watch a 45 minute TV show, it is composed of scenes. Some scenes have dialogue in the TL that looks like this:

Cop #1: Let's go now.
Cop #2: Are you serious?
Cop #1: I'm serious.
Cop #2. You're crazy! We can't ...
Cop #1. Hands in the air! Hands in the air! Nobody move!
Bad guys: Don't shoot!

Some scenes are like this:

Cop: Why did you kill him?
Killer: Not only was he fooling around with my wife, he was also masterminding a big conspiracy to defraud my company and drive me into personal bankruptcy. That's why I had to fly the ninja in from Japan. But that ninja turned out to be a real nutcase ...

That's how you get a number like 60% comprehension. It applies to long TV shows (or books). Easy parts mix with hard parts and you average it.
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