aaleks's log

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aaleks
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Location: Russia
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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... :)
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aaleks
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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... :)
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aaleks
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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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aaleks
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Re: aaleks's log

Postby aaleks » Mon Nov 09, 2020 4:34 pm

So... it's been a year which means that my French experiment has come to its end. In my last post (above) I wrote about giving something like instructions on how to use this input approach but... Well, there are several "but's". First of all I don't think I'm the person who should or might do it. After all, it wasn't me who invented or discovered the approach. I just used what I'd read on the Internet: tips, thoughts, other people's experiences aka anecdotal evidences. So everyone can find all that stuff as well, and those stories and advice would probably be more percise and better written than anything I can write here. Besides, I believe I need to reach a level in French at least comparable to the one I have in English first so I'd have better understanding of the whole process. I've decided that instead of instructions I'll write something like the main principles, the way I see them, in applying the input approach to language learning. I'll probably repeat the things I've written before but I'd like to try to round them up in this kind of final post.

As, I believe, I've written before the principles are simple. The first one is - to relax. Basically, that's all about it: being relaxed, listening/reading the story you like, being focused on the things you understand but not on the words you don't understand, and giving the words time to "reveal" their meanings. This is not listening to a languange in the background but not straining one's ears either. That's why it's important to use material you find interesting - what's Krashen calls 'compelling'. The problem is, of course, that it's not easy to find something like that in a langauge you don't know, especially if you're not accustomed to the media of the TL country. But, based on my experience, I can say that mildly-interesting is enough. I often start with that kind of media content. For instance, I didn't find Hélène et les garçons all so interesting when I started watching it but then there were the days when I'd watch 6-10 episodes in a row (when I had time, of course). There always might be a twist in a story that will turn mildly-interesting into compelling, even just temporarily. The reason why being interested in the content you're watching or reading is important is that it helps to stay focused on that content, even when you don't understand much. At the same time you shouldn't be too focused, i.e. straining your ears when listening, trying to figure out the meanings of the words, etc. All you need to do is matching what you see (when watching tv) to what you hear. It's better to listen to a language as a whole and not to dwell on meanings of the words you don't know at the time. The first time I heard the phrase il faut que j'y aille I understood its meaning almost right away because it was obvious - a character said it before leaving. So I understood that it was supposed to mean something like I have/need to go/I gotta go but couldn't make heads and tails of each word. The only word I was able to distinguish was "j(e)", everything else seemed like being jammed together. I tried to guess the words but not too hard. I would just think of it occasionally when I heard the phrase. I don't think it had taken me too long to guess that it started with "Il faut que...", and then, some time later, I saw it written in a book. Having leaned this short phrase taught me also how "il faut..." is used in a sentence in general.

And one last thing I'd like to say in this post, for anyone interested in trying to do something like my French experiment there's no need to start learning a new language to see how it works. It might even be better to first try it on a langauge you've been learning already but haven't reached too advanced level. I guess any level up to B1 would be okay. Don't put your expectations too high, don't set too ambitious goals, don't make long term plans. A week, a month would be enough. One more thing I believe is that the ability to guess and learn from context is an importand skill for a language learner, and that's reasonable to put some time in practicing that skill from time to time. Also I might help to start understanding the logic behind the TL better in general.

edited: the second paragraph: "...the story you like, being focused on..."
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aaleks
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Re: aaleks's log

Postby aaleks » Sun Nov 22, 2020 11:54 am

I've been thinking of writing this post for some time but just couldn't find the time to actually do it. When I watch an youtube video about input, like Matt's recent video with Krashen for instance, and then read the comments below there's often someone asking or arguing about the importance of practicing one's speaking and writing. They would say something like - you can't just start speaking one day if all you do is inputing (listening and reading). In this post I'll try to describe my own experience of turning input into output, so to speak.

First, the advantages I think I had at the moment I decided to start working on my writing: vocabulary, idioms, phrasal verbs, and a general feeling for the language. At that time (about 4 years ago) my vocabulary seize was good enough to understand books and tv in English. Actually it was pretty close to the one I have right now (~19 000 back then, ~22 000 now). I knew quite a lot of idioms, and using phrasal verbs seemed to me to be the only right way to express one's thoughts. That doesn't mean I would always use them correctly and in all the right places, though. As you can see my writing is still far from perfect, and far from narural, the reason (back then and now) is the same - lack of pracrice. This is going to be a bit off topic but I just want to share it anyway because I find the story weird and funny, and this is my kinda personal log so ;) ... Recently a funny thing happened to me on efl.ru because of my not really perfect English. A person tried to mock me when I *dared* to say that I "consider myself being a rather advanced in English" :mrgreen: . Reading this sentence now I have to admit I don't like how it sounds. The whole post was badly written, to be honest. The thing is though I was aware of that when I was writing the post. I just didn't care because I always find it a bit weird to write there in English. It feels like a game, not something real. But no matter how badly I'd messed up the text, her reaction was mean and uncalled for, especially because she practically asked me to respond to her in English. The funniest thing is that her frends got offended when I called her English advanced :D . What's wrong with those people? :roll:

Back to the topic. Another advantage that comes from having reasonably big vocabulary is I have never had to do something like writing my texts first in my native tongue, and then translating them to English. I'd always just write in English, even when it looks more like Runglish :lol: . I need dictionaries mostly to check my spelling, sometimes I just can't recall how this or that word is supposed to be spelled.

But yes, to write well, you need to practice. Isn't that true for writing in one's native language as well? And while not every langauge learner after tons of listening and reading would start writing and speaking in a perfect, grammatically correct langauge, they still would profit from the previously acquired knowledge, and they would learn faster. I, myself, am not a success story but, I believe, just because I chose a wrong strategy for activating the things I had acquired before. I tried to relearn the langauge starting from the basic grammar like if I was a beginner. I kind of tried to ruin everything I had built instead of doing some "refreshing work", so to speak. Unfortunatly, there seems to be no instruction, or guid, or textbook where they would provide some guidance on what to do learners like me. On the other hand, most of "input-learners" may not have that kind of problems though.
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aaleks
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Re: aaleks's log

Postby aaleks » Wed Dec 02, 2020 1:01 pm

A couple of day ago I wrote this post in Cavesa's log where I was speaking about a possible negative effect mean people may have on one's confidence regarding the language skills, etc. That's what this post is going to be about.

In Cavesa's log I wrote about the time before I came to this forum. The story I'm going to tell happened about a year and a half later. At that time I wasn't so scared of writing in English anymore. I didn't feel really confident but I was moving in that direction, so to speak. That was probably why I got myself in a potentially harmful situation. Language-learning-wise harmful, of course. I won't tell the whole story, I'm not sure if it really matters or not. (It happened two years ago). Anyway, at some point of some discussion on efl.ru another user wrote this to me:

"alanta, try to avoid starting your sentences with Because and And.
Your writing is ok in general. There are some minor mistakes and slips but it’s not the issue. The main trouble is that it has totally Russian syntax and rather big problems with composition. I could say that those are the aspects you should pay more attention."


(alanta is me :) )

IMO, this text is a great example of a mean remark, among other things, because it was disguised as advice. Unsolicited advice. I wasn't asking how I could improve my writing or anything like that. I was asking a quite specific question about a quite particular phrase. But this text not only didn't answer my question, it didn't provide any helpful information at all.

The first line: "try to avoid starting your sentences with Because and And". First off, I knew that. Second, I knew that it might be important for formal writing, the text we were discussing was a forum post.

"Your writing is ok in general. There are some minor mistakes and slips but it’s not the issue." - again no real information. Just warming up before a blow.

"The main trouble is that it has totally Russian syntax and rather big problems with composition." - this is what the whole text was written for.

Syntax is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of sentences (sentence structure) in a given language, usually including word order.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syntax

Thus, "your writing has totally Russian syntax" is just a fancy way to say that I write in Runglish. And this is the worst possible insult for a native Russian speaker learning English. And then she says that I should pay more attention to this and that's it. No examples, no practical advice. The person who wrote that mean post is a teacher/tutor of English (but she's a native speaker of Russian, not English), so she's kind of supposed to know how to deal with this, how I could improve my English, etc. If I really had "totally Russian syntax", trying to improve that with paying more attention would be like putting a plaster on gangrene.

Basically, that person said that I'd achieved nothing. This was the point, especially in the context of the whole story that started when I disagreed that C2 was a native-like level, and then tried to prove that one could learn a language without teachers.

Back then I could see through her intentions but my problem was that I was and am an independent learner, that means having wery little feedback. While normally I don't mind that that's what may make me an easy prey for mean people like that teacher from efl.ru. And this is a downside of learning languages on your own, I guess. I've thought of what I can do about that. Back then I wrote this post in the log and the support I got from the forum's members really helped. But sometimes I recall those words about "totally Russian syntax" and that makes me self-conscious about my writing. Recently I left efl.ru, maybe it'll help (?) :) . Anyway, this post probably has those old problems with syntax and composition since I haven't paid attention to those aspects. I just wanted to share this story, partially because another mean person finally made me leave that other - efl - forum.

edited: typos
Last edited by aaleks on Wed Dec 02, 2020 9:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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overscore
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Re: aaleks's log

Postby overscore » Wed Dec 02, 2020 2:56 pm

aaleks wrote:"alanta, try to avoid starting your sentences with Because and And.
Your writing is ok in general. There are some minor mistakes and slips but it’s not the issue. The main trouble is that it has totally Russian syntax and rather big problems with composition. I could say that those are the aspects you should pay more attention."


(alanta is me :) )

IMO, this text is a great example of a mean remark, among other things, because it was disguised as advice. Unsolicited advice. I wasn't asking how I could improve my writing or anything like that. I was asking a quite specific question about a quite particular phrase. But this text not only didn't answer my question, it didn't provide any helpful information at all.

The first line: "try to avoid starting your sentences with Because and And". First off, I knew that. Second, I knew that it might be important for formal writing, the text we were discussing was a forum post.

"Your writing is ok in general. There are some minor mistakes and slips but it’s not the issue." - again no real information. Just warming up before a blow.

Look at it objectively, she's in the business of selling training hours and effective training goes directly in competition with that. She's not vested in your particular success here. :lol:
Ask yourself, "will she benefit monetarily if I fail here?". The answer is "yes".
I personally can't stand that kind of artificial sanitized environment; for Serbian I see it a lot, every other day people are asking about language classes and such, while others are complaining about just how "impossibly difficult" Serbian is on silly youtube videos.
The usual tripe, I don't even find it funny anymore: "jebeni padeži, jebote wahh wahh".

Meanwhile the local Chinatown is all fluent.
Organized education in general is a scam, the fact that Biden will soon bail out 750 billion dollars of student loans is just another indicator of the monumental waste of time it is. Input method and taking control of one's own learning works.
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iguanamon
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Re: aaleks's log

Postby iguanamon » Wed Dec 02, 2020 4:55 pm

aaleks wrote:But sometimes I recall those words about "totally Russian syntax" and that makes me self-conscious about my writing. Recently I left efl.ru, maybe it'll help (?) :) . Anyway, this post probably has those old problems with syntax and composition since I haven't paid attention to those aspects.

There are no problems in your post with syntax and composition, none at all. Your English writing is excellent. You have done quite well as a self-learner. You long ago reached a point where resources for learners of English and engaging with other ESL learners is no longer necessary for you. You have nothing to worry about! :)
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aaleks
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Re: aaleks's log

Postby aaleks » Wed Dec 02, 2020 5:10 pm

overscore wrote:Look at it objectively, she's in the business of selling training hours and effective training goes directly in competition with that. She's not vested in your particular success here. :lol:
Ask yourself, "will she benefit monetarily if I fail here?". The answer is "yes".

She's definitely not going to benefit monetarily from me :lol: because I would never choose her as a tutor - she's a bit too snobish to my taste :mrgreen: On a more serious note, I agree. Also, I think, there might be some confirmation bias, I'm not sure it's the right term though. What I mean is many teachers on that forum (efl) mostly work with kids and people who don't know how to learn a language just by themselves - without teachers, tutors, classes.
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aaleks
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Re: aaleks's log

Postby aaleks » Wed Dec 02, 2020 5:27 pm

iguanamon wrote:
aaleks wrote:But sometimes I recall those words about "totally Russian syntax" and that makes me self-conscious about my writing. Recently I left efl.ru, maybe it'll help (?) :) . Anyway, this post probably has those old problems with syntax and composition since I haven't paid attention to those aspects.

There are no problems in your post with syntax and composition, none at all. Your English writing is excellent. You have done quite well as a self-learner. You long ago reached a point where resources for learners of English and engaging with other ESL learners is no longer necessary for you. You have nothing to worry about! :)

They would say I shouldn't trust your words because you... a native speaker ;)
Thank you :) ! I really appreciate your opinion and your dropping by. I'm always glad to see you in my log :)
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