The limits of comprehensible input?

General discussion about learning languages
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Re: The limits of comprehensible input?

Postby golyplot » Fri Nov 16, 2018 4:31 pm

I think perhaps part of it is that English has a vast amount of obscure and archaic vocabulary, which native speakers pick up over time, but which isn't necessary for every day usage.

If I read something from the 19th century, I almost always encounter unfamiliar words, and I did a lot of reading as a kid (estimated vocabulary of 33k according to testyourvocab). The fantasy genre is also notorious for using words that are no longer in common usage in order to sound cool (which often leads to a revival in those words).
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Re: The limits of comprehensible input?

Postby DaveAgain » Fri Nov 16, 2018 5:54 pm

golyplot wrote:I think perhaps part of it is that English has a vast amount of obscure and archaic vocabulary, which native speakers pick up over time, but which isn't necessary for every day usage.

If I read something from the 19th century, I almost always encounter unfamiliar words, and I did a lot of reading as a kid (estimated vocabulary of 33k according to testyourvocab). The fantasy genre is also notorious for using words that are no longer in common usage in order to sound cool (which often leads to a revival in those words).
It's not just vocabulary.

In Part 4: What Everyone Should Know about Second Language Acquisition (7mins into video), the speaker gives an example from spanish where understanding of a particular sentence structure differs between native speakers over/under 14 years old.
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Re: The limits of comprehensible input?

Postby Random Review » Tue Nov 20, 2018 11:20 am

DaveAgain wrote:
golyplot wrote:I think perhaps part of it is that English has a vast amount of obscure and archaic vocabulary, which native speakers pick up over time, but which isn't necessary for every day usage.

If I read something from the 19th century, I almost always encounter unfamiliar words, and I did a lot of reading as a kid (estimated vocabulary of 33k according to testyourvocab). The fantasy genre is also notorious for using words that are no longer in common usage in order to sound cool (which often leads to a revival in those words).
It's not just vocabulary.

In Part 4: What Everyone Should Know about Second Language Acquisition (7mins into video), the speaker gives an example from spanish where understanding of a particular sentence structure differs between native speakers over/under 14 years old.


Maybe. I would argue that this might not not really be a case of not understanding a particular sentence structure. If native adults go about 50/50, then it follows that both interpretations of this sentence structure are possible out of context. The question then becomes why the speaker is adding the optional overt subject in a particular context, (one possibility being to signal that the antecedent is not the subject of the main clause). For me this is pragmatics and there's nothing particularly surprising that even natives have to be teenagers to start to figure this out, because that is when most people start to get quite proficient at figuring out other people's intentions and stuff. It doesn't necessarily imply that it takes a long time to master the actual language point (although it might).

Interestingly IIRC written Spanish has devices to avoid this kind of unclear antecedent when necessary (e.g. éste and ése). I wonder why they are not often used in in informal speech. Thinking out loud, could it maybe be because these pronouns are also used colloquially (at least in Spain) to refer to someone in a disparaging manner? I remember a Spanish person being quite surprised when I showed him textbooks teaching "éste es el señor..." for "this is Mr...", advising me not to say this, because (while grammatically correct) it is quite disrespectful.
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Re: The limits of comprehensible input?

Postby Tristano » Sat Nov 24, 2018 8:59 pm

A lot of young Italian people have been raised from parents who heavily used a dialect, and although they can understand the dialect perfectly, they are unable to use it probably. This apply to me as well, my knowledge of the local variety of the Milanese dialect is so limited that I can't have a conversation in it. All I can do is to say some random sentence to make some crazy joke, especially when I want to recreate a rude farmer effect. This is very common in Italy. Also, the dialect is almost never written and is not taught at school. If I have to dialogue with a native Milanese speaker who doesn't speak Italian I would have no problem to understand and answer back in Italian and he would have no problem to understand Italian and reply in Milanese.
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Re: The limits of comprehensible input?

Postby frenkeld » Tue Dec 04, 2018 5:15 pm

zKing wrote:Edit: I also wanted to say that I think Reading makes the noticing thing a little easier as all those little words are clearly on the page and easy to re-read, or to put it another way, it makes it harder (but not impossible) for the brain to ignore those little glue words and endings, etc. Which is why I believe massive free reading correlates so highly with language skill.

On reading for CI:

"Early literacy may compromise grammatical learning":

https://phys.org/news/2018-12-early-literacy-compromise-grammatical.html
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Re: The limits of comprehensible input?

Postby StringerBell » Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:15 pm

frenkeld wrote:"Early literacy may compromise grammatical learning":

https://phys.org/news/2018-12-early-literacy-compromise-grammatical.html



I don't see anything that supports the conclusion they came to. I kept rereading this article thinking I was misunderstanding something, but still can't see from where they drew their conclusion:

The preliterate six-year-olds were better at learning grammatical relations than at learning nouns. Their score on grammatical relations was well above chance (64 percent correct), while their performance on nouns was at chance (50 percent correct).

The eight-year-olds were equally good at learning grammar and vocabulary, scoring above 65 percent correct in both sessions.

After only six months of reading instruction, the first graders showed the same pattern as the third graders.

The now literate six-year-olds performed equally well on grammatical relations (61 percent correct) and nouns (57 percent correct). As expected, their grammatical agreement advantage had disappeared after learning to read.

The researchers conclude that literacy affects the way children learn a new language, and may come at a cost. According to first author Naomi Havron and MPI's Limor Raviv, this finding has implications for second language teaching: Exposure to written input can help word learning, but may harm some aspects of grammar learning.




***So preliterate 6 year olds scored 64% correct on grammatical relations questions but then 6 months later they scored 61% correct on grammatical relations questions. This seems statistically insignificant to me. This experiment was done on an extremely small sample size (31 students) so this slight variation could have easily been caused by a few kids who didn't sleep well the night before or were hungry or otherwise distracted. I'm not seeing anything in these results that suggests learning how to read has a negative effect.

Additionally, the 8 year olds scored higher in both grammatical relations AND nouns than the 6 year olds, which would support the opposite conclusion; that reading leads a small improvement (again, they didn't score that much higher and it's still probably statistically insignificant). Even after 6 months of reading instruction, the 6 year olds were still lower in both areas compared to the 8 year olds.

If I had to draw conclusions from this, I'd say that before learning to read, children are slightly better at learning grammatical concepts than learning nouns. After learning to read, children improve slightly in both areas and their ability to learn nouns increases so that it is on the same level as their ability to learn grammatical concepts. However, there is no mention about how much, if any, explicit grammar teaching the 8 years olds had been exposed to, so it might not even be fair to use them as a comparison because there would be too many variables (reading proficiency level, # of hours of reading done, amount of explicit grammar instruction, etc...)

*As long as this doesn't take the thread off track, I'm curious to hear what others think about this.
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Re: The limits of comprehensible input?

Postby frenkeld » Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:58 pm

StringerBell wrote:*As long as this doesn't take the thread off track, I'm curious to hear what others think about this.

I am able to see the research article itself at this link https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs41809-018-0015-9 from home, so it is quite possible that others might too, should they wish to examine it.

My own interest in this topic is in the general question of how much CI should be in aural and how much in written form. I used to be a believer in the joys of reading, but at some point reineke persuaded me that listening is strongly preferred. Except that I don't particularly enjoy TV shows, so I got left with nothing, to the point of my language studies languishing for several years now.
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Re: The limits of comprehensible input?

Postby Iversen » Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:44 pm

Thanks for posting the link to the original article.

I think the crux of the matter lies in the expectations of the researchers:

Given that literacy affects unit size of processing, we predict that learning to read will lead to differences in the way children acquire certain aspects of the artificial language. In particular, we predict that preliterate children will be better at learning article-noun agreement (larger units) than at learning nouns (smaller units), while literate children will not, and might even show the opposite pattern.

OK, and then they came to the conclusion that they were right (as usual), but as Stringerbell has explained not because of their results.

Actually literacy at any stage (as a supplement to hearing the language in question spoken) should make it easier to observe grammatical patterns since you now also get them as visual input without the time limits of speech. The idea that budding readers only read small units may be true at the stage where you really can't read more than one word in one go, but then the logical goal should be to get past that stage as early as possible, and once that is achieved your chances of being able to deal with longer sequences should be better than with just speech to help you, where the words just fly past you and are lost in the mist of eternal oblivion, blocked by an unending avalanche of more babble.

So just learn to read as early as possible. I have been told by my mother that I could read the subtitles on my aunt's TV before I started school at the tender age of 6½, and I don't think I have been stumped in my grammatical development because of that.
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Re: The limits of comprehensible input?

Postby tarvos » Wed Dec 05, 2018 10:09 pm

I was able to read at four; this immensely helped with my English...
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Re: The limits of comprehensible input?

Postby Serpent » Sat Dec 15, 2018 11:29 pm

frenkeld wrote:My own interest in this topic is in the general question of how much CI should be in aural and how much in written form. I used to be a believer in the joys of reading, but at some point reineke persuaded me that listening is strongly preferred. Except that I don't particularly enjoy TV shows, so I got left with nothing, to the point of my language studies languishing for several years now.
I just saw your posts. Great to see you here! :D
Have you seen the super challenge? It has enabled people to make some incredible progress.
I'm not a fan of TV shows either, with some exceptions like El tiempo entre costuras.
Have you tried audiobooks?

I personally think that massive reading can give you very good writing and thinking skills, but speaking skills are much easier to develop if you also do listening. But if you don't find listening motivating, it's better to read a lot than to do nothing.
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