aaleks's log

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aaleks
Blue Belt
Posts: 767
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:04 pm
Location: Russia
Languages: Russian (N)
English ( ? )
learning:
Italian, German, French
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=6724
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Re: aaleks's log

Postby aaleks » Mon Oct 12, 2020 4:35 pm

I guess there might be another objection to comparing the progress I've made within a year in my English (years ago) and my French (this year) - I was learning English using mostly native media content. I mean, it might seem kind of weird and/or wrong to use my experience of learning English as a "traditional method" approach. So, I want to define what I mean by "traditional method" in the scope of my experiment, so to speak :) . By "traditional" I mean: grammar-first, words memorization (any explicit vocabulary study, no matter if one uses word lists or looks up new words and tries to remember them), using translation as a means of understanding a TL. The first years of learning English I used the latter two excessively. I looked up every word I didn't know or had even a slightest doubt of the meaning, and I translated words and sentences in my head because translation was the only way I knew to understand a foreign language. The only reason why I skipped the "grammar-first" was because I'd tried it before and those attempts had never lasted long. But still I had that conception of the importance of learning grammar explicitly, so I decided to at least skim the rules. Even though I forgot almost all of them later, and during the first four years hardly would be able to recall the names of the tenses, it wasn't like I started knowing nothing about the English grammar. With French I started almost from zero - in the beginning I knew such grammar constructions as "ne ... pas", "rien", "personne", and that was it.

Back to the experiment and "my beliefs". As I said in the post above I don't find learning through input to be really slower than what I call traditional approaches. At the same time I assume that my vocabulary size in French may be smaller than the one I had in Englsih after a year of learning the language. It's hard to tell though since I don't have the numbers, it's just an assumption. But no matter what the numbers might be the main difference between my French and my one-year-old English vocabulary is the quality of the knowledge. Back then with English if I knew a word that meant that I propbably knew its dictionary definition, I knew it in the form of "English word - Russian translation". Nominally I might have known more English words back then but my knowledge of the French words I know is deeper. Now if I know a word I really know it, I've seen it in different contexts, I know different meanings of that words, etc. Because often to learn a word from input you need to encounter it several times. And I don't really need to memorize words, I just remember them. Sometimes I memorize a whole phrase, if I've heard it in a series, for instance, and only later on, when I see it written somewhere I'll learn the words it consists of. In one of my earlier posts I described the process of figuring out the meaning of new words. But that's just the conscious part of the process, I can't really explain how it happens when there are not so many known words, or no visual clues like when I'm reading a book. The idea behind learning a language from video content is simple: you see a picture, hear words, contect them, and draw a conclusion. But it seems to be just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, and mostly the acquisition of new words happens subconsciously because I don't know how else I can explain what happened to me when I started reading my first French book. At first all I saw was a page full of words I didn't know or couldn't recognized because of the crazy spelling. Pronouns, probably, were the only words I could understand. I guess, if it weren't an experiment I would stop right then, but because I was doing it for the experiment's sake I continued. I just kept reading trying to figure out what was going on in the book. As I said before I knew the plot but only superficially. I knew it from an Italian mini-series that now seems to me to be rather an adaptation of a French mini-series (a rather loose one), and not an adaptation of the book. Besides, a book is a book, meaning there are lots of descriptions of places, weather, characters, also thoughts of those characters, their backstories, etc. So, all I could do in the beginning was just to read a text I didn't understand page after page. That was how my French reading started, and now I can trick the Dialang test into believing that I'm C1 in Reading :mrgreen: . At some point I just started to understand more, and then more, and more. Sometimes, I think after reading about a half of the book, I would read a sentence, about ~ 7 words long or so, in which I knew maybe two words but could understand every word I saw. I don't how and why that happened, it just did. The only explanation I have is that I'd seen the words before and actually knew them but only subconsciously.
...

As they say - to be continued... :)
4 x

aaleks
Blue Belt
Posts: 767
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:04 pm
Location: Russia
Languages: Russian (N)
English ( ? )
learning:
Italian, German, French
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=6724
x 1470

Re: aaleks's log

Postby aaleks » Sat Oct 17, 2020 6:11 pm

The next "belief" will be - the input approach may and can work for everyone but it won't. Or in the other words, the success rate depends on the learner's mindset about the whole process of learning a second language. This was actually my third attempt to learn a language that way. The first one was when about three years ago I tried to dabble in French (this is not a secret, I posted about it in this very log back then), it didn't work out. Then I tried to do something like that with Italian with about the same result. And yet this time it's worked - the reason, I believe, is that this time I changed the way I approached the task. The main difference is that in those two times it wasn't pure input I was using dictionary and texbooks. With French it was just opening and closing one, I mean, I didn't really learn anything, I kind of tried to read a text, then I closed the textbook, and that was it. And I bought a physical (paper) dictionary that I never used, though when I was watching a series that I chose back then as "learning material" (one of the old series I watched in the 90's. Some of the episodes I knew by heart) I would try to hear a word to look up its meaning in Google translate. For Italian first I used a book by Ilya Frank's method, then I read through a half of a textbook, and again I bought a dictionary that I never used :D but for the series I watched I was using Google translate instead. And I played with Anki for a while. Both times I would strain my ears trying to make out individual words to check their meaning in a dictionary (Google translate). Time would pass and I would learn almost nothing. With French it was almost literally nothing, maybe I learned a phrase of two but usually I just relied on cognates between French and English. After all, I was just dabbling in French. Eventually I gave up and striked out French from my list of the languages I'd like to learn. With Italian it was different; even though it had to take second place after English I was more serious about learning Italian than when I was toying with French. Yet, I wasn't learning much. My first break through happened when I watched an Italian mini-series with Russian subtitles. About four months later I decied to make an experiment of not-using dictionaries or anything of the kind for three months. That was when I found out that the meaning of almost any word could be learned from context. I think that three-months experiment was the first step to this French-without-textbooks-and-dictionaries one. What I wanted to say by writing all this is that I had to change the way I viewed language learning to eventually get some positive results.

I have one half-joking theory about the critical period: kids lose their ability to acquire a (second) language naturally in that very moment as they start taking language classes at school. Or at least that's what happened to me. I started learning German when I was 10. At that time I knew some grammar terms: parts of a sentence, parts of words, maybe somewhere around that time we learned about cases. But all that had nothing to do with the way I would speak in Russian, or write, or read. And then I found out that I needed to think in what order to put words in a sentence, and about other confusing things, to say something in German. I remember as I was wandering "how those Germans can speak in their langauge if they have to think about all those rules? When I speak in Russian I just speak". Then I realized that the Germans didn't have to do something like that either, and I had to do that becuase German was a foreign language to me. And then, pretty fast, I came to the conclusion that learning a foreign language was too hard and I was not smart enough for learning one, or maybe I should have started when I was young. Haha :evil: . According to many of those critical period theories at that time I had not yet reached the age when children lose their "sponge" ability. For quite a long time I thought that that grammar-translation method they used to teach us in school was the only way, or at least the only right way to learn a language. One of the goals I had for this experiment was getting rid of that traditional approach oriented view on the language learning process.

....
And once again, to be continued... :)
5 x

aaleks
Blue Belt
Posts: 767
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:04 pm
Location: Russia
Languages: Russian (N)
English ( ? )
learning:
Italian, German, French
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=6724
x 1470

Re: aaleks's log

Postby aaleks » Sun Oct 18, 2020 5:35 pm

I've noticed that writing these last entries has helped me sort my thoughts, some things seems to have become clearer, so I've decided to go a bit back in time and write a little more about the time I was dabbling in French and started learning Italian. After all, that's what led me eventually to starting this French experiment.

Back then I felt lost and devastated becuase it seemed neither learning through a lot of input nor learning grammar explicitly worked for me. First I was trying to learn Englisn mostly through watching tv and reading books. I skimmed through grammar a couple of times in the beginning but did no drilling or something like that. Four years later my comprehension seemed to be okay, I could read and watch everything I'd like, but then I found out that I couldn't produce grammatically correct language. I wasn't really against learning grammar, I didn't start with it from the beginning just because I didn't want to give up one more time. I thought that maybe I'd learn it later, and at the same time I hoped that I'd learn it through input that seemed to be logical. When that didn't work out I felt a bit down but I thought - okay, I was a fool thinking I could avoid the textbook part of learning a language, now I'd try to do it the right way. And that was when I found out that the most respected and approved by each and every approach didn't work for me. After that I felt completely lost regarding language learning. If I were to start a new language how should I go about it? I didn't know. I felt stupid - I couldn't learn using the method everyone claimed to be a shortcut - you read textbook, you do exercises, and voila - you can use this or that grammar pattern correctly in your speaking and writing. If you try to learn from media aimed to native speakers you will learn nothing, or wrong, will be learning at a really slow pace. That is so inefficient. Why reinvent the wheel? And so on. Now I usually feel mildly annoyed by these arguments, back then I believed them. If I didn't have that strange stubbornness, or maybe just a nagging need to know what had gone wrong I would have quitted language learning back then.

My French experiment has helped me better understand how I learn languages. This time I had to deal with a language in its raw form, so to speak, that made me to take a closer look at my English story. Especially when I started thinking of how to learn grammar - the part of language learning I failed when learning English. So, now I know, I'd say, I'm 100% sure that learning grammar from textbooks, especially in the beginning, is a waste of time for me. It's a mystery to me how learning grammar this way can be a shortcut for anyone. Those people are some kind of wizards or what? Someone with a degree in linguistic - I understand for them it might be true, or for really experienced language learners with several languages under their belt. But random learners like me who doesn't speak a couple of language since the birth and wasn't good at any language related stuff in school? I don't know, maybe I'm the stupidest language learner in the world but I can't learn grammar from the explanations they give in the books. As I wrote above when I only started learning English I skimmed through a couple of grammar books/textbooks. Four years later I would make mistakes in the topics/rules I learned or even vaguely remembered from that skimming, while the things I knew nothing about beforehand I'd successfully acquire from reading and listening. And then, when I tried to learn grammar from texbooks again, I couldn't find the answers to the questions I had at the time in them. Later I found out that I misunderstood, to a different degree, probably every grammar rule I'd tried to learn explicitly. So much for a shortcut! I had to relearn almost everything! I'm still in the process actually.

I don't know the "offical" French grammar rules. So far I'm not going to even try to learn them in a somewhat explicit way. Maybe one day I will but not now. I'd rather try to learn from input as much as possible. I've noticed that as with learning words all I need is to wait and give my brain the time to sort things out, and then, one day, a new rule or pattern just "clicks". That might be the time for analysing it on a conscious level if needed. Often I just don't need to do any extra thinking because everything seems to be so obvious as if I've known it already.

Maybe I'll try to write something like an instruction on how to learn from input, or at least to list things that I do. We'll see. And, I guess, this is not the final post in my French experiment summary series. Again, we'll see :)
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