Hare-brained language learning schemes 2023

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Hare-brained language learning schemes 2023

Postby Le Baron » Wed Jan 04, 2023 12:40 am

Since I don't have a plan for learning any 'new' languages I can only really devise plans for the best ways to maintain and strengthen what I do have. I do actually plan to (re)start with either Norwegian or Italian, but for the next few months I actually have a lot of other things to do. Some of them have been on the back-burner for too long and need to be addressed, they are important.

However I need to do things to maintain languages in a simple and linear way so that I don't get distracted or flounder. It means setting up little goals. I had think about it and there are things I normally do which can be repurposed to suit language maintenance - and improvement.

1. I write a diary every year anyway (usually daily or at least 5 times a week) and very often I just write it in either English or French and sometimes entries in Dutch. I could try and write the entire diary for a year in Spanish. Or if that is just too hard at least 1-2 entries a week in Spanish and it has to be substantial. Say, 500 words or so. Writing/composition is a common weak spot for a lot of language learners. Yet very necessary considering the way writing is used online for interaction. I regularly go to a French classical music site, if I couldn't write in French I would be knackered. In fact there is one site where when you try to sign up the proprietor warns you that if you write bad French - wrong grammar/conjugations etc - you won't be allowed to post! :lol: I don't know how this standard is maintained, I didn't join and the membership must be small and a conspiracy of silence.

2. In social interactions I could deliberately plan most of my rendez-vous where speaking a TL is necessary. I have Spanish friends and a few Germans I know here and then the Indonesians and Surinamers who are really from my wife's family and circle of acquaintances. In the last five years at least I haven't probed a single one of the Indonesians for any language opportunity, though I did when I was studying Malay (one of those 'from last decade' things Smallwhite offered us). It's probably going to be Spanish and German.

3. I want to say I could watch 20 Spanish films. Or one a weekend - 52 films! - but then I know that last one is probably delusional. 12 is probably more like it. Though it can have challenges...say once with subtitles and once without? I don't really like TV series. I like some, but I barely watch them in English so why would I want to watch them in a language that is giving me pain? Awful things like Buffy The Vampire Slayer , and dubbed into a TL, would make me want to drive a stake through my own heart.

4. Reading... I don't want to read any German books for a while, but I will consent to read the paper. I already go to the central library when walking out at lunch and I can pop in there and at least skim read most of the paper. Yes that could be done online, but when you're online and your mind starts drifting you end up watching furniture restoration videos on You Tube. Well I do. Spanish newspapers too, but also Spanish books. Reading is something I can keep more random.

5. Some time after I have solved the important life things, maybe 2-3 months, I shall start on Norwegian/Italian. One of them.
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Re: Hare-brained language learning schemes 2023

Postby Le Baron » Sun Jan 08, 2023 12:43 am

In the week between Christmas and New Year I went to the Red Cross bookshop and because I was feeling frivolous I bought three books (though they were only €1 each). It's a very good place which only stocks good books and with it being a major university city and where a lot of students stay on, the book circulation is quite varied.

About a year ago I saw a copy of Simone de Beauvoir's Les Mandarins and for some reason I can't remember I passed it over, then regretted it and went back to find it gone. So when I saw a copy of the letters between her and Nelson Algren (though it's only her letters, not his) I bought it. Being naive I assumed these were originally in French, but they weren't. Algren didn't know French (in the third letter she suggests he could learn it in order to learn about her properly :lol: ) so she wrote in English, and presumably did her own English a favour in the process... of 300-odd letters. So they were translated for this book by (I assume) Sylvie Le Bon-de Beauvoir, who was her 'adopted daughter'.

Almost a 1000 pages though and I am generally allergic to anything over 2-300 pages. 150 seems reasonable to me and that if it takes 500 the editor was incompetent or the writer is hyperactive. However these are letters over an 18-year period between two writers and from only one of the parties, so 1000 pages is probably quite modest.

I should be finished in time for New Year's Eve 2024...probably.
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Re: Hare-brained language learning schemes 2023

Postby Le Baron » Mon Jan 16, 2023 11:33 pm

german2k01 wrote:I would love to read about your experiences regarding developing good listening skills obviously apart from interacting with natives when living in your target country. What else can you do as a learner more so as a self-independent learner? How did you approach it? or do you think with time (i mean in years) it will get better? or do you think using "the right" resources/tools is key to developing good listening skills? Strategies? Active listening (working with transcriptions), repetitive listening? Increasing your overall vocabulary perhaps?

Boring stuff first. Time is the main factor, but not just time alone. Time spent in many sorts of repetitive interactions, for the sake of familiarity. There's also the social and work situation to consider, or if a person is perhaps a student. All of these mean the difference between lots of real-life input and not much real-life input at all. If, e.g. a person sits in an apartment, doesn't go out much and only opens the door to the postman, it will be slow.

Stuff to do. I don't know if "the right resources" exist. Before it was trendy I already listened to music in the language and tried to learn the words. So back in the past, the late 80s and 90s, I was e.g. listening to 'Cantopop' (borrowed from a Chinese girlfriend) and I genuinely liked and enjoyed it. You have to have that actual enjoyment and then it's not 'work', but passion. I've done it with with German and Dutch, Indonesian and Spanish.

I posted a reply to garyb's log today about the use of media which is less taxing. Have a look at it. If you can find less taxing media like that with content you REALLY find absorbing, rather than pretending to be interested in it for 'learning purposes', then it makes a great difference.

In the country though, as you are, I don't think you should be relying very heavily upon media for majority results. Before replying to you I tried to think hard about how much non-course media I actually used for German and Dutch, so as not to give a false reply. The truth is it wasn't that much in comparison to how much I've used for say Cantonese in the past and then Indonesian and Spanish much later on, because I am not in those countries. To my mind heavy media use is for when you can't get much of the real thing.

However I listened to the news (TV or radio) in both German and Dutch and I do so in Spanish. Just one source, the main TV or radio news, every morning and evening for the TL. Catching the bulletin repeats for a second chance at listening/understanding. I chose a couple of TV programmes and watched them. Just those, no others. I also threw myself into both German and Dutch films from the past looking for the gems, asking people what the classics were. Some of these films are now in my own lists. So I suppose it's about digging deep into the shared popular culture, the things everyone speaking the language as a first language knows and loves. TV is different now, because you can get it on demand and sit there binging on multiple episodes over the space of two weeks. I don't know if that's a bad or good thing.

Then there is study. What can I say about it? People can do it or eschew it. I've always done it. Everyone can dispute until the cows come home about its effectiveness, but after ten or twenty years has passed and you're already easily comfortable enough in the language it will be still be impossible to know if study was responsible or if it was media or creating opportunities for interactions. Likely all of them play a role and I take a Pascal's Wager view of it. I hammered the audio for the course Levend Nederlands and also the audio for the German Linguaphone course. I also do coursebook exercises, all of them, in whatever book I'm using.

Stuff I didn't use up until recently:

Anki or any SRS. For Dutch in particular I did no type of flashcard thing at all. Not even regular lists. In old exercise books I found about four short lists. What I did the most was reading books and accruing vocabulary. Same as I've done for any language I've ever attempted. And in the past it was the main activity aside from trying to find audio material. I have nothing against Anki, I use it, but it's clearly possible to learn a language without it, so I'm guessing it's just speeding things up or whatever. The jury is out on it and I do it because I think it is useful and anything that increases vocabulary is useful.

Conscious shadowing. I say 'conscious' because thirty or twenty years ago I didn't know about anything called 'shadowing'. However like a lot of people I copied people speaking. Thinking, hey I like the way that fellow speaks German, so sort of copied his style of speaking. I used to copy people from the Belgian news (though I also had real life examples too). All of this is dual-function really. To do 'shadowing' you have to listen to the people speaking and therefore you're listening.

Some last bits and pieces... I have to reiterate 'time'. It's a fairly long game and longer/shorter for different people for who-knows-why? So many factors feeding into this. Boldness of character leading to interaction? Better memory? Good ear? Studied a lot? However the outcome is that anyone actually studying and using a language with bone fide intent will eventually be able to use it more comfortably. It's surely impossible to hear the same sorts of things day-in and day-out without them becoming familiar. But also... you won't learn everything and what you learn is always only parts of things because there is so much. It's why I focus initially on 'ordinary language'. To want to talk (and understand other people talking) about e.g. 'science' or labour economics of programming languages is a speciality area to be developed on top of this 'ordinary language' base, but you need the base first. Which means several years of just chit-chat. Learning how other people say certain things and collecting these to use. That's what listening is to me.
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Re: Hare-brained language learning schemes 2023

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Tue Jan 17, 2023 6:21 pm

Le Baron wrote:
german2k01 wrote:I would love to read about your experiences regarding developing good listening skills obviously apart from interacting with natives when living in your target country. What else can you do as a learner more so as a self-independent learner? How did you approach it? or do you think with time (i mean in years) it will get better? or do you think using "the right" resources/tools is key to developing good listening skills? Strategies? Active listening (working with transcriptions), repetitive listening? Increasing your overall vocabulary perhaps?


Boring stuff first. Time is the main factor, but not just time alone. Time spent in many sorts of repetitive interactions, for the sake of familiarity. There's also the social and work situation to consider, or if a person is perhaps a student. All of these mean the difference between lots of real-life input and not much real-life input at all. If, e.g. a person sits in an apartment, doesn't go out much and only opens the door to the postman, it will be slow.(...)


I agree. Time, approach, learning conditions... If I take my listening skills in English as an example, I have no idea how many hours of exposure I've had. Formal class hours, yes. But also informal exposure from popular media etc., reading books (all skills help each other, you know...).

There are probably some things one can do to get a head start (or speed things up), but the more I think of... just about anything I know, it's a combination of many factors, and time is definitely one of them.

Arguelles wrote:(...)people want to get the results without doing the work.

(...)the effects of having done something without having done it.


(Somewhere else in the video, he compares language learning to baking a cake - it takes the time it takes.)
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Re: Hare-brained language learning schemes 2023

Postby Le Baron » Tue Jan 17, 2023 8:44 pm

jeff_lindqvist wrote:I agree. Time, approach, learning conditions... If I take my listening skills in English as an example, I have no idea how many hours of exposure I've had. Formal class hours, yes. But also informal exposure from popular media etc., reading books (all skills help each other, you know...).

There are probably some things one can do to get a head start (or speed things up), but the more I think of... just about anything I know, it's a combination of many factors, and time is definitely one of them.

Arguelles wrote:(...)people want to get the results without doing the work.

(...)the effects of having done something without having done it.


(Somewhere else in the video he compares language learning to baking a cake - it takes the time it takes.)

Yes, I agree. Whomever first made the distinction between 'learning' and 'acquiring' had it right. To the point that the question isn't really: 'how do I learn to do that?', but 'how many times do I have to do it before I know how do it?' If you want to do a coin trick the method is straightforward and can be shown to you, there's a method, and from there it's a matter of doing it until it 'works'. That latter is having 'acquired' the knack, where the penny drops.

Admittedly learning a language is broader than the method for a coin trick, but in the end you still have to hit eureka moments. Where you finally understand how bits and pieces work. And speaking is itself a completely eureka moment where you discover that you can do it by doing it.
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Re: Hare-brained language learning schemes 2023

Postby Iversen » Tue Jan 17, 2023 9:15 pm

....'learning' and 'acquiring ... are we sliding back into one more discussion about Krashen? :roll:

For me "learning" is defined by one single thing, namely the difference in skills from one point to a later point, and then it doesn't matter what happens in between. If you learn something by standing on your head then it's learning ... Krashen or no Krashen. And anything learnt is acquired ... Krashen or no Krashen.

The 'in between' activities fall in two categories: intensive and extensive ones, and for me both are necessary - but with a need for more intensive activity in the beginning and more extensive activity later on when you already have "acquired" (!) the necessary knowledge to decode input on the fly. Intensive activities are those where you study something closely, using whatever tools you have within reach to squeeze out the imbedded information - and doing something to get the essential repetitions done. On the other hand extensive activities are those where you use the savvy you already possess (and the skills you already have trained to a certain level). . OK, you may pick up a word or two or an idiomatic expession while being entertained, but if you have to spend time looking words up in a dictionary then you are back into intensive study.
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Re: Hare-brained language learning schemes 2023

Postby Le Baron » Tue Jan 17, 2023 11:21 pm

Iversen wrote:....'learning' and 'acquiring ... are we sliding back into one more discussion about Krashen? :roll:

For me "learning" is defined by one single thing, namely the difference in skills from one point to a later point, and then it doesn't matter what happens in between. If you learn something by standing on your head then it's learning ... Krashen or no Krashen. And anything learnt is acquired ... Krashen or no Krashen.

The 'in between' activities fall in two categories: intensive and extensive ones, and for me both are necessary - but with a need for more intensive activity in the beginning and more extensive activity later on when you already have "acquired" (!) the necessary knowledge to decode input on the fly. Intensive activities are those where you study something closely, using whatever tools you have within reach to squeeze out the imbedded information - and doing something to get the essential repetitions done. On the other hand extensive activities are those where you use the savvy you already possess (and the skills you already have trained to a certain level). . OK, you may pick up a word or two or an idiomatic expession while being entertained, but if you have to spend time looking words up in a dictionary then you are back into intensive study.


I wasn't even thinking about Krashen! I don't think it's really his observation anyway. People seem to have known for a long time that that you partially learn by study and also blend with the surroundings in action. I am not a Krashenite!
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Re: Hare-brained language learning schemes 2023

Postby Iversen » Tue Jan 17, 2023 11:56 pm

The word "acquire" has just got some since connotations since ... well, I didn't actually expect Le Baron to come out of the closet as a fullblown krashenite. Let's just return to the good old world where "acquire" didn't preclude studying.
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Re: Hare-brained language learning schemes 2023

Postby german2k01 » Wed Jan 18, 2023 8:09 pm

Anki or any SRS. For Dutch in particular I did no type of flashcard thing at all. Not even regular lists. In old exercise books I found about four short lists. What I did the most was reading books and accruing vocabulary. Same as I've done for any language I've ever attempted. And in the past it was the main activity aside from trying to find audio material. I have nothing against Anki, I use it, but it's clearly possible to learn a language without it, so I'm guessing it's just speeding things up or whatever. The jury is out on it and I do it because I think it is useful and anything that increases vocabulary is useful.


I passed both my reading exams aimed at A2(100%) and B1(75%) with zero reading practice/exam preparation. This time I did not use Anki extensively. 2% usage at best. This March 2023 will be three years of immersion. Obviously, I picked up a lot of vocabulary by reading books and listening to a variety of sources. It validates your point. However, it is very much passive vocabulary. I am not sure if my active vocabulary is that extensive. I always wonder if reviewing certain vocabulary in Anki will help increase my active vocabulary. I do not know the answer to this question for sure. The whole concept of active recall is to keep things fresh in your mind over a longer stretch of time.

How did your fluency come along in your target languages without depending on Anki?

However I listened to the news (TV or radio) in both German and Dutch and I do so in Spanish. Just one source, the main TV or radio news, every morning and evening for the TL. Catching the bulletin repeats for a second chance at listening/understanding. I chose a couple of TV programmes and watched them. Just those, no others.


Even though I have totally lost my interest in politics, however, this year I will be listening to Radio and watching Television news daily. Just to assess how adding these two mediums into my learning will help with my listening skills. I have the Radio Garden app installed on my iphone so I can easily listen to my favorite radio channels from Germany and Austria. Let's see how it goes. I will also be adding reality shows, too.

So far I have watched a lot of television series and listened to audiobooks and radio plays.

As a side question, how consistent were you with conscious shadowing?
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Re: Hare-brained language learning schemes 2023

Postby Le Baron » Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:22 pm

german2k01 wrote:I always wonder if reviewing certain vocabulary in Anki will help increase my active vocabulary. I do not know the answer to this question for sure. The whole concept of active recall is to keep things fresh in your mind over a longer stretch of time.

Can anyone really hold things fresh in the mind all the time? As I see it the thing is more a learned reflex of usage, more than the actual vocabulary items as 'fertiges Wissen' waiting in discrete boxes to be used. I'm not saying the learning of the words isn't necessary, but that the base deep reflex comes from having employed many of them contextually again and again and again. And as you move towards the feathered edges of your vocabulary the less-used words are the ones we all search for when expressing ourselves. I'd consider it the difference between the 'basic expressive structure' and the vocabulary items that will have an outing only now and again; which might even need to be looked-up.
An 'active vocabulary' is one being used. I'd recommend anyone to treat this as formation of a habit, rather than this fertiges Wissen always collected up and waiting. Which is separate from use skill. Get really comfortable and flexible and skilled at using a limited vocabulary until you don't even need to think consciously about it. Adding extra vocabulary in that scenario is a lot easier.

german2k01 wrote:How did your fluency come along in your target languages without depending on Anki?

The question is unusual in some ways, because the 'without Anki' scenario is the one I've had for most of the time. Without Anki I learned how to actively speak low intermediate Russian, basic Cantonese, intermediate Indonesian, Esperanto, some Welsh, German, Dutch, Sranan, to read Norwegian... Without most of the common methodologies and tools now used auto-didactically. And I expect it is the same for most learners on this site who pursued this before the advent of the WWW. I did use paper flashcards to help memorise the correlatives in Esperanto, though they're very regular. Anki and that sort of SRS is new and people have been successfully learning languages for ages before that.

The one thing I've learned over time is that it isn't study per se which makes you talk. Talking makes you talk, and it's like a sculpture where you start out with a lump of clay roughly in the right shape and you refine it as you go along. It has to be done in real time, meeting obstacles and problems. Again that notion of habit formation and skill development.

german2k01 wrote:Even though I have totally lost my interest in politics, however, this year I will be listening to Radio and watching Television news daily. Just to assess how adding these two mediums into my learning will help with my listening skills. I have the Radio Garden app installed on my iphone so I can easily listen to my favorite radio channels from Germany and Austria. Let's see how it goes. I will also be adding reality shows, too.

Politics is rather wearying currently, so I wouldn't blame anyone for that. In any case it's just tuning-in, listening and understanding what you can. Every day a new, brief tableau of information, but presented in a familiar format. And it does tend to have lots of variety in an on-the-hour news bulletin. About 5 stories, some people speaking in vox-pop interview segments and maybe a bit longer in the studio. It's a useful daily test: 'What is the core of each headline story?' 'What happened?' 'Who said what?' Look up a few of the bits of terminology, then forget it and onto the next bulletin the next day. Over time this accrues and you develop a habit; especially as patterns and terminology are used over and over again.

german2k01 wrote:So far I have watched a lot of television series and listened to audiobooks and radio plays.

As a side question, how consistent were you with conscious shadowing?

I like plays, both written and audio. Pure dialogue. As for 'conscious shadowing' not consistent at all. I do it when I feel like it, though I'm guessing most people here mimic and repeat audio, and sometimes speak aloud whatever they're reading? I do, quite a lot actually.
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