We haven't got up to 'yes" yet!

General discussion about learning languages
CompImp
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Re: We haven't got up to 'yes" yet!

Postby CompImp » Sat Jan 05, 2019 5:43 pm

zenmonkey wrote:I learned English about 45 years ago with sentence constructs that went much like this:

This is Pam.
Pam has a pan.
The pan is hot.

Tom has a book.
The book is red.
Tom’s book is red.

Is the book hot?
Is the pan red?

Is it Tom’s pan?
...

The sentence construct might seem boring and simplistic but it was effective for my age (7) and speed. Doing about a thousand of those a week and boom, English speaker in 3 months. And I still remember some of those specific examples (I’d pay good money to get copies of the books I used - Pam and Pat are seared into my mind).

My point is that these example sentences aren’t isolated they are used in an ensemble and hopefully the learned moves away from definite obj - copula ... quickly. Learning adjective placement, colors, etc... isn’t that bad in that the sentence has vocabulary and contextual information.

“[thebook] red” would be the Hebrew equivalent (no copula). “[this/that] book red [asserted state/something I know because I saw it]” is the Tibetan (no definite article without placement and copulas of assertion or observation). Both convey basic information about the language early on and tell you a bit about grammar and vocabulary.

Are they good sentences? I think I’m only able to judge in the context of a full lesson...

English isn't your L1 ? Wow....very impressive.

EDIT: nm, saw the age.
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Re: We haven't got up to 'yes" yet!

Postby zenmonkey » Sat Jan 05, 2019 5:52 pm

Random Review wrote:So it seems to me that Cainntear is right about this second point and that from the point of view of designing textbooks or "coursemaps", this is important and worth further discussion. I at least would be interested in hearing him elaborate on how to identify language that students and learners can more easily and intuitively give meaning to.


Fundamentally I agree.
Working more with structures that say ... this book, that book, my book etc...seems to solve that particular problem.
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Re: We haven't got up to 'yes" yet!

Postby zenmonkey » Sat Jan 05, 2019 6:08 pm

CompImp wrote:
zenmonkey wrote:I learned English about 45 years ago with sentence constructs that went much like this:

This is Pam.
Pam has a pan.
The pan is hot.

Tom has a book.
The book is red.
Tom’s book is red.

Is the book hot?
Is the pan red?

Is it Tom’s pan?
...

The sentence construct might seem boring and simplistic but it was effective for my age (7) and speed. Doing about a thousand of those a week and boom, English speaker in 3 months. And I still remember some of those specific examples (I’d pay good money to get copies of the books I used - Pam and Pat are seared into my mind).

My point is that these example sentences aren’t isolated they are used in an ensemble and hopefully the learned moves away from definite obj - copula ... quickly. Learning adjective placement, colors, etc... isn’t that bad in that the sentence has vocabulary and contextual information.

“[thebook] red” would be the Hebrew equivalent (no copula). “[this/that] book red [asserted state/something I know because I saw it]” is the Tibetan (no definite article without placement and copulas of assertion or observation). Both convey basic information about the language early on and tell you a bit about grammar and vocabulary.

Are they good sentences? I think I’m only able to judge in the context of a full lesson...

English isn't your L1 ? Wow....very impressive.

EDIT: nm, saw the age.


It’s become my L1 - I essentially grew up bilingual (semi - tri) and today my strengths are English > French > Spanish. With French and Spanish changing spots regularly, depending on time spent with different family members. As a child my environment had many languages.
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Re: We haven't got up to 'yes" yet!

Postby Cavesa » Sat Jan 05, 2019 6:27 pm

Iversen wrote:And I still claim that not only that there are situations where it can be used even outside forum discussions, but also that it represents a pattern which newbee learners not only can, but also MUST learn as fast as possible. If you prefer to use another object than a book and another characteristic than the red color to teach them pattern "the [substantive] is [adjective]" then it is OK with me.

Cainntear wrote:The colourless book has no clear and intuitive meaning.

No, and my point was that if I can't even be allowed to say that the book is red, then I can just as well start saying that it is colourless with red spots. Or that it is alive, evil and eats small careless hogwarts students for lunch.

Exactly, the construction it teaches is essential. And what words are used to teach it is less important.

Truth be told, I find The book is red, or even colourless much more meaningful than the example "The manager is absent."

In some classes, it could lead to complicated explanations of what is a manager. Really, asking for the manager is not that common in some countries, not even if we use other words, like "your superior" etc.

The grammar construction is hyperimportant. And the words used in the example are extremely common. The students are not supposed to get stuck on the sentence.


zenmonkey wrote:I learned English about 45 years ago with sentence constructs that went much like this:

This is Pam.
Pam has a pan.
The pan is hot.

Tom has a book.
The book is red.
Tom’s book is red.

Is the book hot?
Is the pan red?

Is it Tom’s pan?
...

The sentence construct might seem boring and simplistic but it was effective for my age (7) and speed. Doing about a thousand of those a week and boom, English speaker in 3 months. And I still remember some of those specific examples (I’d pay good money to get copies of the books I used - Pam and Pat are seared into my mind).

My point is that these example sentences aren’t isolated they are used in an ensemble and hopefully the learned moves away from definite obj - copula ... quickly. Learning adjective placement, colors, etc... isn’t that bad in that the sentence has vocabulary and contextual information.

“[thebook] red” would be the Hebrew equivalent (no copula). “[this/that] book red [asserted state/something I know because I saw it]” is the Tibetan (no definite article without placement and copulas of assertion or observation). Both convey basic information about the language early on and tell you a bit about grammar and vocabulary.

Are they good sentences? I think I’m only able to judge in the context of a full lesson...


Exactly. Coursebooks starting like this can be awesome!

And some of the weird turns of this whole discussion were not only the insistence on "the book is red" being unnatural, but also the assumption such a sentence was taught in isolation. And then we were suddenly imaging weird people asked to imagine the meaning of "the book is red" in vacuum, without any hint and context.

Of course not! The student quoted in the first post had not been taught such a sentence in isolation either, I'd bet. They just remember it in isolation, when asked about their language learning, and used it as an example. It is very probable they were taught similar sets of examples.

Really, I am more and more convinced the problem are lazy teachers unable to get their students past the units 1 and 2 in five months (I've seen real life examples of this phenomenon), and therefore leaving their students stuck at these sentences and later burnt out.
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Re: We haven't got up to 'yes" yet!

Postby reineke » Sat Jan 05, 2019 6:48 pm

Quem Dii oderunt pedagogum fecerunt.
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Re: We haven't got up to 'yes" yet!

Postby Cainntear » Sat Jan 05, 2019 8:01 pm

Iversen wrote:and as you can see the book is red.

It. It is red.
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Re: We haven't got up to 'yes" yet!

Postby Cainntear » Sat Jan 05, 2019 8:11 pm

Cavesa wrote:And some of the weird turns of this whole discussion were not only the insistence on "the book is red" being unnatural, but also the assumption such a sentence was taught in isolation. And then we were suddenly imaging weird people asked to imagine the meaning of "the book is red" in vacuum, without any hint and context.

Nope. You're misinterpreting. I still have a problem with zenmonkey's example, because "the book is red" remains unnatural -- we don't repeat like that -- "the book" should be "it".

As Random Review says, we've got to remember that we're the survivors -- we've managed to learn in spite of the weaknesses. We can't just pretend those weaknesses aren't there.

And one of those weaknesses is that language is often presented as a puzzle. Most of us like intellectual puzzles, so we are happy decoding the rules -- we use the conciously constructed examples with their unnatural repetitions and redundancy as the data for the puzzle.

But not everyone does that. Some people's reaction to artificial redundancy is to just think that they're wasting their time learning the language, because the language is boring and slow.

(Of course, it bears repeating that the solution to this is not the communicative approach -- that's just a superficial attempt to use situations instead of meaningful language, and it just shifts the unnaturalness to somewhere else.)
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Re: We haven't got up to 'yes" yet!

Postby zenmonkey » Sat Jan 05, 2019 9:58 pm

Cainntear wrote:
Cavesa wrote:And some of the weird turns of this whole discussion were not only the insistence on "the book is red" being unnatural, but also the assumption such a sentence was taught in isolation. And then we were suddenly imaging weird people asked to imagine the meaning of "the book is red" in vacuum, without any hint and context.

Nope. You're misinterpreting. I still have a problem with zenmonkey's example, because "the book is red" remains unnatural -- we don't repeat like that -- "the book" should be "it".

As Random Review says, we've got to remember that we're the survivors -- we've managed to learn in spite of the weaknesses. We can't just pretend those weaknesses aren't there.

And one of those weaknesses is that language is often presented as a puzzle. Most of us like intellectual puzzles, so we are happy decoding the rules -- we use the conciously constructed examples with their unnatural repetitions and redundancy as the data for the puzzle.

But not everyone does that. Some people's reaction to artificial redundancy is to just think that they're wasting their time learning the language, because the language is boring and slow.

(Of course, it bears repeating that the solution to this is not the communicative approach -- that's just a superficial attempt to use situations instead of meaningful language, and it just shifts the unnaturalness to somewhere else.)


And you are right that It is unnatural.

And I’ve never met a Pam that has a pin. :D

But that type of construct very quickly went to:

The dog is wet.
It is wet.
Pam is angry.
She is angry.
John has a hat.
He has a hat.
The book is red.
It is red.

Those types of repetitive substitutions are necessary and simplified because they are structured without prior knowledge of the learner. Is he or she coming from French or Tzotzil? Are object and animal pronouns understood to be the same. Is the masculine / feminine subject necessary (not so much in Tibetan) .... Unnatural repetitiveness May help early on. I really wish I had it for Setswana, I’ve been guessing a lot on the object ligands.
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Re: We haven't got up to 'yes" yet!

Postby lowsocks » Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:40 am

In your opinion, when would a learner be ready to understand a sentence such as:
I see a red book and I want it painted black.
...and furthermore, would also understand the difference between the above sentence and:
I see the red book and I want it painted black.
(With apologies to The Rolling Stones.)
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Re: We haven't got up to 'yes" yet!

Postby zenmonkey » Sun Jan 06, 2019 3:27 am

Cainntear wrote:And one of those weaknesses is that language is often presented as a puzzle. Most of us like intellectual puzzles, so we are happy decoding the rules -- we use the conciously constructed examples with their unnatural repetitions and redundancy as the data for the puzzle.

But not everyone does that. Some people's reaction to artificial redundancy is to just think that they're wasting their time learning the language, because the language is boring and slow.


I want to come back to this because I think Cainntear touches something essential that I passed over before. I've bolded the two elements that I'd like to consider.

Learning strategies are, or should be, highly individual. Let me take the example of my two youngest daughters - L (16) & A (14). Both speak 4 languages (we just spent 2 weeks with the Mexican cousins and it's evident they need to work on their Spanish but it is essentially functional). A is good at math, loves puzzles, is a wiz at Rubik's Cube and really enjoy Sudoku. L is slow at computing in her head, hates puzzles but loves communicating. On of them has some elements of grapheme-color synesthesia. The other struggles with attention on subjects that don't interest her.

Each approaches learning languages very differently - spontaneously one uses apps and studies by herself, the other prefers asking questions about grammar, structure and vocabulary.

Level, speed of learning, redundancy, gamification are all parts of language strategies that are built into tools or methods, usually as a one size fits all. And Cainntear is absolutely right that this isn't the best strategy for each and every person.
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