Confidence Shaken - Rough Language Exchange - Am I spinning my wheels?

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Confidence Shaken - Rough Language Exchange - Am I spinning my wheels?

Postby issemiyaki » Fri Oct 23, 2020 11:51 pm

Do you ever question if what you're doing is working?

This week, in an online language exchange, this woman from Benin asked how I learned French. I told her: “On my own, and I practice with a native speaker twice a week, online.” (2 hrs. Monday and 2 hrs. Thurs.)

Well, she gave me an earful about how important traditional, formal training is, with a professional teacher.

I wanted to say: And that’s why your English turned out so great, right? (I held my tongue, though.) Instead, I said: “Right now, YOU are my best teacher. What good are grammar exercises if you can’t even communicate.”

I tried not to get discouraged. But what she said did make me think.

Are my private tutor sessions working? It’s a fair question.

(Basically, during my private lessons, my teacher types out the corrections in the chat. They then go into my glossary. Next lesson, I try to use those corrections in conversation.) This is pretty much the process.

However, recently, my tutor incorporated writing exercises, which have uncovered weak spots. (We don’t have grammar lessons, per say, but we identify the problems, and I work on them with grammar exercises on my own. Later I try to incorporate the newfound technique in either a writing assignment or conversation.)

If you ask me, this is better than the languages schools I was enrolled in while in France. Sure, I lived with a French family. Yes, I was surrounded by native speakers. But teachers gave no homework! And I clearly didn’t get the undivided attention I have now.

So, what do you think? Does what I’m doing sound reasonable? Have any of you questioned the quality of learning in school vs. forging your own path?
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Re: Confidence Shaken - Rough Language Exchange - Am I spinning my wheels?

Postby Axon » Sat Oct 24, 2020 1:54 am

issemiyaki wrote:So, what do you think? Does what I’m doing sound reasonable? Have any of you questioned the quality of learning in school vs. forging your own path?


I don't do regular intensive language exchanges, but I also question my self-study learning quality from time to time.

There's a clear (to me) gap in my abilities in the languages that I've just learned mostly by myself compared to the ones I've had professional teachers for. Mandarin is a bit of an outlier because I only took six months of classes, but those were an extremely beneficial six months (mainly because of my study partners, but that still wouldn't have happened without the class structure).

I think it's probably because I just don't hold myself as accountable for producing correct language when I just study by myself. I just gather vocabulary and try to understand more and more, but even in my worst language classes I still had to ask questions in the language and regularly hold myself to a high standard.

I'm taking a class in Java programming right now and noticing kind of the same thing. When I learned Python on my own, I skipped things that were too hard and found solutions that did what I wanted at the expense of best practices. Well, now in class my teacher makes me write hundreds of lines of code with very exacting standards. Guess how fast my programming is improving?

Yes, there are a lot of people on this forum who mention self-learning in an offhand way, as if they accidentally learned Swedish on the way to the supermarket. But I believe the ones who really have learned those languages well are the ones who have at some point held themselves to a high standard of output. That might sound obvious, but it's the discomfort that gets you there. You'll improve over time if you never test yourself, but it'll take forever. What you're doing with the careful writing exercises and regular speaking sounds like an excellent way to learn French!
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Re: Confidence Shaken - Rough Language Exchange - Am I spinning my wheels?

Postby issemiyaki » Sat Oct 24, 2020 1:13 pm

Axon, you expressed a lot of what I’m feeling.

I suppose I was inspired years ago after seeing videos of Steve Kauffman and Luca Lampariello. They freed me from this notion you had to spend years in a university or high school to learn a language.

So, I was off and running. And, I assumed all self-learners, given their passion, shared my goal of reaching near-native proficiency (meaning: ability to have deep conversations with native speakers, and do the things grammar books allege they offer: convince, persuade, console, encourage, negotiation, etc.)

But now people see you advancing so quickly without having gone through traditional schooling, and they are immediately skeptical. They assume your foundation is not as solid as someone’s who learned in a more traditional fashion.

When I was at the Alliance Française, I analyzed how they taught their classes. A lot of it can be boiled down to deconstructing authentic material to see how verbs, adjectives, idioms, etc. are used in context, and then practice these techniques in a debate or conversation. Homework, if they gave it, was either grammar exercises or a small essay.

Comparing this to my own process, I must say that the ONLY thing missing are the regular grammar exercises. (Yes, I do some, but not nearly as much as I did when I was at the Alliance Française in France. Exercises were a daily part of class.)

So, I won’t bury myself in a grammar books, but I will, more vigorously, allow my conversation sessions with my tutor to guide me on what grammar exercises to attack. This is similar to what I posted above, but actually writing out this thought process has allowed me to tweak and refine what I’m doing, and to see the value of grammar exercises in their proper light.

Thanks!
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Re: Confidence Shaken - Rough Language Exchange - Am I spinning my wheels?

Postby Cavesa » Sat Oct 24, 2020 1:34 pm

I am all for self teaching, but I believe in a value of a good tutor (those are rare), under some conditions. You seem to be doing what I would probably do, if I found someone worth it without having to spend a hundred hours searching. Unfortunately, many believe stuff like your language partner/tutor does.

Recently, I've been giving it a lot of thought. I can definitely afford tutoring now. But is it worth it? Would it really make me more efficient, or the opposite?

I gave up on tutors in past, because it was simply too bothersome to look for the exceptions. The exchange partners were a lost cause completely (Czech is worthless on the part of market I am interested in). But even the tutors were too difficult. Many are bad for various reasons. But one of the things that stood out was the adherence to the myth "you need to learn traditionally with a teacher" that you describe.

The last tutor I tried on Italki (a few years ago) was a woman who immediately started destroying my learning process. She was acting amazed that I spoke quite well without ever having had a teacher before. My Italian was ok for an A2ish level, I wanted to get to B1 in a few months. I had a realistic plan, given that I was already an experienced learner, had learnt two romance languages before, was in medschool (so definitely capable of independent and intensive studying), and I was motivated (I was seriously considering Italy for my Erasmus). She had a living proof of all that right before her. I clearly described what I wanted: mostly strict and detailed feedback, lots of speaking, some writing, assignments pushing me to improvement. I could do all the traditional stuff on my own.

She was like "ok, so we need a more realistic plan. You cannot get to B1 in three months from here, but perhaps next year" (ok, that was already making her lessons worthless to me. I had a deadline, her value was supposed to be making my learning process faster, not slower). "And I'll be giving you some grammar exercises, I've noticed you are making mistakes in this or that, let's go over these worksheets next time together" (The feedback was what I needed, but to do the exercises on my own, not to waste paid time during the next lesson). "Your pronunciation is really good" (Not true. I could here I was not too good, but I needed someone to tell me how exactly and what to do about it. So, she was clearly either too lazy to correct me, too inexperienced, or too greedy, trying to not discourage a learner at all costs).

And that was a rather typical exchange, that I have had with various tutors.

The last offline one, that was a problem too. I sort of made it work, despite the fact he was giving me too easy homework, and I really had to convince him that the grammar drills were unnecessary, I was doing them at home. Just like listening exercises and other such stuff. He wasn't too good at explanations, but he was still better at writing feedback than nothing at all (the French writing is a bit specific. And he was the only one not to refuse an advanced learner). I found out too late he had been far too lenient with my pronunciation and that I had been his first advanced student. But he had been presented as an experienced tutor from a language school. I am not sure whether I passed thanks or in spite of this collaboration, but I am sure that my "stubborness" made it much better.

But this story had a continuation, relevant to this thread. A few years later, a friend of mine asked for guidelines to reaching a high level in French, so that he could move abroad like me. He wasn't that much interested in the real stuff that got me to my level (the hundreds of hours of input, the coursebook work on my own, etc), he kept insisting "but tell me who was the teacher!" as if I had been some obliviously ungrateful moron who did just a bit of unnecessary playing in my own time, and as if the teacher had been a hero, who got me to C2. Well, I gave him the contact info and also advice on how to make the most out of the time. He came back like "you were right, he is horrible. We just do grammar drills all the time, it doesn't lead anywhere". That's what happens, if you trust a teacher and the traditional approach too much.

issemiyaki wrote:Do you ever question if what you're doing is working?
Are my private tutor sessions working? It’s a fair question.

(Basically, during my private lessons, my teacher types out the corrections in the chat. They then go into my glossary. Next lesson, I try to use those corrections in conversation.) This is pretty much the process.

However, recently, my tutor incorporated writing exercises, which have uncovered weak spots. (We don’t have grammar lessons, per say, but we identify the problems, and I work on them with grammar exercises on my own. Later I try to incorporate the newfound technique in either a writing assignment or conversation.)

If you ask me, this is better than the languages schools I was enrolled in while in France. Sure, I lived with a French family. Yes, I was surrounded by native speakers. But teachers gave no homework! And I clearly didn’t get the undivided attention I have now.

So, what do you think? Does what I’m doing sound reasonable? Have any of you questioned the quality of learning in school vs. forging your own path?


Yes, exactly. I tried the formal learning in basically all the settings. The teachers in language schools almost never give homework (because the priority is to keep people paying for more semesters, and homework might discourage the lazier ones), those in normal schools follow a too easy curriculum (B1 in ten years), the teachers waste time on stuff you can easily do on your own.

What you do sounds very good. You get lots of feedback, you incorporate it in your learning and in further practice. That's how a tutor (or an exchange partner) should be used, in my opinion.

Teachers and schools in general will have to change. I find this to be the silver lining of the current pandemia. People need to be much more independent in their education.

The only thing that worries me, when I observe this (as I compare my experience with my teen sister, who is now in distance learning, or my dad, who's join a language class, which is also distance right now): Just a minority of the system goes the right path, to more and more independent learning and the precious time together with a teacher being used like what you describe. Many are just transfering their real life experience to videocalls.

Axon wrote:
issemiyaki wrote:So, what do you think? Does what I’m doing sound reasonable? Have any of you questioned the quality of learning in school vs. forging your own path?


I don't do regular intensive language exchanges, but I also question my self-study learning quality from time to time.

There's a clear (to me) gap in my abilities in the languages that I've just learned mostly by myself compared to the ones I've had professional teachers for. Mandarin is a bit of an outlier because I only took six months of classes, but those were an extremely beneficial six months (mainly because of my study partners, but that still wouldn't have happened without the class structure).

I think it's probably because I just don't hold myself as accountable for producing correct language when I just study by myself. I just gather vocabulary and try to understand more and more, but even in my worst language classes I still had to ask questions in the language and regularly hold myself to a high standard.

I'm taking a class in Java programming right now and noticing kind of the same thing. When I learned Python on my own, I skipped things that were too hard and found solutions that did what I wanted at the expense of best practices. Well, now in class my teacher makes me write hundreds of lines of code with very exacting standards. Guess how fast my programming is improving?

Yes, there are a lot of people on this forum who mention self-learning in an offhand way, as if they accidentally learned Swedish on the way to the supermarket. But I believe the ones who really have learned those languages well are the ones who have at some point held themselves to a high standard of output. That might sound obvious, but it's the discomfort that gets you there. You'll improve over time if you never test yourself, but it'll take forever. What you're doing with the careful writing exercises and regular speaking sounds like an excellent way to learn French!


I really like this post, as I think it shows an important and underestimated factor. People from Chinese classes (not only) seem to report a very different experience from those going to the more mainstream one. If the teacher is pushing you harder than you'd be pushing yourself, great. But that's simply not what happens in most cases.

Why do you think people mention self learning in an offhand way? When I read this forum, I see lots of dedicated learners, who definitely haven't learnt stuff by accident. Most self teaching people around here work on their languages much harder than any teacher would make us. Yes, testing oneself and pushing oneself hard is important. And that's exactly where teachers had been failing me, when it came to languages. Most were not doing it. And the one that really did was actually not trying to teach, she was bullying people (there is a difference).
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Re: Confidence Shaken - Rough Language Exchange - Am I spinning my wheels?

Postby Cavesa » Sat Oct 24, 2020 1:43 pm

issemiyaki wrote:Axon, you expressed a lot of what I’m feeling.

I suppose I was inspired years ago after seeing videos of Steve Kauffman and Luca Lampariello. They freed me from this notion you had to spend years in a university or high school to learn a language.

So, I was off and running. And, I assumed all self-learners, given their passion, shared my goal of reaching near-native proficiency (meaning: ability to have deep conversations with native speakers, and do the things grammar books allege they offer: convince, persuade, console, encourage, negotiation, etc.)

But now people see you advancing so quickly without having gone through traditional schooling, and they are immediately skeptical. They assume your foundation is not as solid as someone’s who learned in a more traditional fashion.


Yes :-D :-D I totally have the same experience. People either believe in some magical talent (I've heard so many French recently tell me "but it's easy for you, people from the eastern europe are so good at languages, we've got several doctors here!". They don't realise that 1.no, we have no talent but just much more motivation, because most of our native languages are internationally worthless 2.we are the most motivated exceptions, not a sample of the normal population), or they believe I am just an ungrateful brat that doesn't thank her awesome teachers enough.

My French is a success in spite of teachers, not thanks to them. Or is it really too probable, that a class two cefr levels before me was helping me learn? or that 15 hours with a tutor got me from B2 to C2, and not the hundreds or thousands of hours of my own work? :-D

About the foundation: yes, the definitely seem to take the self teaching learners for frauds. But I think we are a bit damaged by the reputation of many self teaching tools. The general public doesn't imagine us neither as people hundreds of hours in exposure, neither as people, who just take the textbook and do all the activities inside of it and more. They see us through the lens of Duolingo and Rosetta Stone marketing and quality. As long as a self teaching learner=Duolingo user, we can't blame them for not believing in our solid foundations.


When I was at the Alliance Française, I analyzed how they taught their classes. A lot of it can be boiled down to deconstructing authentic material to see how verbs, adjectives, idioms, etc. are used in context, and then practice these techniques in a debate or conversation. Homework, if they gave it, was either grammar exercises or a small essay.


When I was in the AF, I was in class with some of the least hardworking people ever. I was the youngest, just a teen, and the AF was hesitating to allow me to take the class (I was refused everywhere else. It was clear discrimination based on age). But the adults were acting like kids, sabotaging any homework until the teacher gave up. So, the analyses you describe was present, but there were also grammar exercises and other such stuff. In two semesters of intermediate classes, we didn't get to write a single small essay.

So, the people thinking that language classes are the more serious way to learn are clearly inexperienced and/or foolish.


Comparing this to my own process, I must say that the ONLY thing missing are the regular grammar exercises. (Yes, I do some, but not nearly as much as I did when I was at the Alliance Française in France. Exercises were a daily part of class.)

So, I won’t bury myself in a grammar books, but I will, more vigorously, allow my conversation sessions with my tutor to guide me on what grammar exercises to attack. This is similar to what I posted above, but actually writing out this thought process has allowed me to tweak and refine what I’m doing, and to see the value of grammar exercises in their proper light.
Thanks!


I'd agree, the best is to target what you need. You make mistakes in a grammar feature, better study it, no need to go through every grammar book from cover to cover. But doing this studying outside of the practice session is very important. I really think most people underestimating this and trying to just suddenly do it right after a thousand corrections are not valuing their time too much :-)
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Re: Confidence Shaken - Rough Language Exchange - Am I spinning my wheels?

Postby smallwhite » Sat Oct 24, 2020 1:47 pm

issemiyaki wrote:Do you ever question if what you're doing is working?

All the time!
issemiyaki wrote:Well, she gave me an earful about how important traditional, formal training is, with a professional teacher.

... this is better than the languages schools I was enrolled in while in France.

I assume you were enrolled in holiday language schools in France (just because that's all I know of), while she probably means Alliance Francaise, Goethe Institut and universities.

I once read the student forums of my local Alliance Francaise - very high quality posts in French. I also took one of their non-routine chat classes, where my classmates were mostly students from their routine I think B1 classes. Again, very high quality students.

So I always recommend AF to friends who can afford it.
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Re: Confidence Shaken - Rough Language Exchange - Am I spinning my wheels?

Postby eido » Sat Oct 24, 2020 8:50 pm

issemiyaki wrote:Do you ever question if what you're doing is working?
...
So, what do you think? Does what I’m doing sound reasonable? Have any of you questioned the quality of learning in school vs. forging your own path?

(I'll be referencing @Cavesa's and @Axon's posts here.)

I question what I'm doing every day, even if it's not language-related. Gotta make the most of your time, you know! ;)

Starting when I began to formally learn languages 'til now, most of my efforts have been experiments to see how well I could learn a tongue. Japanese has been the only exception, since it was the first language (I believe) I tried to learn when I was pretty young, armed with only anime and Pimsleur.

With Spanish, I considered many factors, and worked toward success against my teen brain. (Although teen brains are relatively well-developed in comparison to what they will be later on, there's still a degree of impulsivity.)

After having a few other smaller experiments in addition to those under my belt, I started to work through Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and various others.

The biggest time I experienced this in the direction of being in school vs. self-study was with Spanish, in high school. In freshman year for a good while we couldn't even say "was" or "it" and I remember thinking that was ridiculous, so I struck out on my own using the Internet. Some languages don't even have words for those concepts, but wouldn't it at least be good to know that? We weren't even aware. At the very least, we were awful confused. Now I'm experiencing a slight reverse phenomenon with Burmese and Hindi, wondering if I should get a tutor or just study hard and then converse... like you, @issemiyaki.

Now that you mentioned it, I'm currently attending classes at the Alliance Francaise and we don't do many exercises in class or outside of it. We just work on pronunciation a lot and translation from French to English. My class is has two spectrums: so casual as to be barely studying, and the other type, fighting over who has the best French with our native teacher. It's entertaining a lot of the time, but when it gets down to the nub... not when you've spent quite a chunk. This also makes me question the value of such courses.

I once had a Korean teacher that was about the same age as me, and while I knew a lot of grammar (though not as much as I do now), she seemed to think I must be like every other foreigner and couldn't learn Korean and was only interested in cute k-pop boys. (Spoiler: I'm not. The Koreas are more than just that.) Once she gave me a sentence that was completely translated wrong to English; even I knew at my intermediate level. I had maybe three lessons with her, and I retained nothing. Everything I've learned of Korean has come from extensive reading on the subject and repeated readings to boot. I had a similar experience with a Chinese teacher, as well.

Teachers can help, but only if they have a real passion for teaching and learning. They have to care about their students and their growth. And students have to work a little too; it's not a one-way street. The only reason I learned Spanish to a workable level at first was good presentation and motivation to move forward.
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Re: Confidence Shaken - Rough Language Exchange - Am I spinning my wheels?

Postby iguanamon » Sat Oct 24, 2020 10:22 pm

issemiyaki wrote:...recently, my tutor incorporated writing exercises, which have uncovered weak spots. (We don’t have grammar lessons, per say, but we identify the problems, and I work on them with grammar exercises on my own. Later I try to incorporate the newfound technique in either a writing assignment or conversation.)
If you ask me, this is better than the languages schools I was enrolled in while in France. Sure, I lived with a French family. Yes, I was surrounded by native speakers. But teachers gave no homework! And I clearly didn’t get the undivided attention I have now.
So, what do you think? Does what I’m doing sound reasonable? Have any of you questioned the quality of learning in school vs. forging your own path?

I used a tutor in Portuguese. I already spoke Spanish at a high level- mostly self-taught except for two years at high school. I specifically searched for a tutor who did not speak English. I also self-taught with the DLI Portuguese Basic Course; Pimsleur; reading; listening. My tutor was what helped me pull it all together. It was hard to get through writing exercises; speaking; doing reviews of books and novelas. There were days when I dreaded my one hour sessions. I didn't like taking notes while watching an almost hour long novela. But it all lead to me reaching a high level in Portuguese, to be able to read anything; watch and listen to anything; travel and talk about about anything. It was worth the hard work it took to get there.

Luckily for you, French is a big international language. You can teach yourself most of what you need to know. The ideal method, to me, is to combine the best of both. Find a tutor who is willing to help you with your weaknesses... weaknesses we all have and teach yourself what you need to know to write the language better, speak the language better and listen to it better. It's a lot of work. It can be frustrating, I know.

There are plenty of resources available. I don't speak French but there are grammar series of exercise books available for all levels to work through- CLE Grammaire Progressive du Français. There are advanced courses, tons of books, tv, podcasts, films, moocs, etc.

Axon sums it up quite well here:
Axon wrote:I believe the ones who really have learned those languages well are the ones who have at some point held themselves to a high standard of output. That might sound obvious, but it's the discomfort that gets you there. You'll improve over time if you never test yourself, but it'll take forever. What you're doing with the careful writing exercises and regular speaking sounds like an excellent way to learn French!
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Re: Confidence Shaken - Rough Language Exchange - Am I spinning my wheels?

Postby issemiyaki » Sun Oct 25, 2020 4:08 am

Thank you all for pitching in with such thoughtful responses.

@Cavesa. I had a very specific goal in mind before I started seeking out tutors. My tutor and I have had some rough times, as you saw in my previous post earlier this year. (Usually, we disagree vehemently when debating certain issues.) But his ability to spot errors and the fact that he genuinely wants to help me sound my best – well, you can’t buy that. It motivates me to learn. Almost makes me tear up just thinking that my tutor, despite our political disagreements, is invested in my success. And yes, he is flawed, but so am I. No one is perfect. But overall, the good outweighs the bad. I think he's more talented than he gives himself credit for. And it's endearing that maybe he sees something special in me, too. Despite our differences, and arguing, we are approaching almost a year together. I should note the dynamic between us is not that of "teacher and student." It's more like a good friend who's not afraid to tell me what I need to hear. Like tough love. I love his honesty and candor, and I look forward to seeing where I am with him six months from now.

But Cavesa, I also get where you're coming from when trying to find good teachers. Some don’t get the concept of comprehensible input and they want to teach what THEY want to teach, instead of helping you meet YOUR goal. That's just a terrible business model.

Cavesa wrote:
I'd agree, the best is to target what you need. You make mistakes in a grammar feature, better study it, no need to go through every grammar book from cover to cover. But doing this studying outside of the practice session is very important. I really think most people underestimating this and trying to just suddenly do it right after a thousand corrections are not valuing their time too much My French is a success in spite of teachers, not thanks to them. Or is it really too probable, that a class two cefr levels before me was helping me learn? or that 15 hours with a tutor got me from B2 to C2, and not the hundreds or thousands of hours of my own work? :-D


I love the point you make about the thousands of hours of hard work outside of the lessons. I used to want to be a novelist, and the one thing many great writers say is that you have to put in your time in the chair. You have to write your ass off if you want to be any good.

Eido Wrote:
Teachers can help, but only if they have a real passion for teaching and learning. They have to care about their students and their growth. And students have to work a little too; it's not a one-way street. The only reason I learned Spanish to a workable level at first was good presentation and motivation to move forward.


Amen!

Iguanamon wrote:
I used a tutor in Portuguese. I already spoke Spanish at a high level- mostly self-taught except for two years at high school. I specifically searched for a tutor who did not speak English. I also self-taught with the DLI Portuguese Basic Course; Pimsleur; reading; listening. My tutor was what helped me pull it all together. It was hard to get through writing exercises; speaking; doing reviews of books and novelas. There were days when I dreaded my one hour sessions. I didn't like taking notes while watching an almost hour long novela. But it all lead to me reaching a high level in Portuguese, to be able to read anything; watch and listen to anything; travel and talk about about anything. It was worth the hard work it took to get there.


Thank you, too for mentioning the hard word, outside of the class, Iguanamon. Also, most of the books you mentioned by CLE International I have them, but never really took advantage of them because I was on the track of minimal grammar. I didn’t know how to strike a balance. But I do now.

You also mentioned the DLI (I am already making my way through the listening and reading exercises). I use the GLOSS website, and I’ll make my way through the National Foreign Language Center’s website as well (here’s the link if anyone needs it. https://portal.nflc.umd.edu/ It used to cost something like $5 dollars a month. NOW, its FREE!)

So, thank you all for stepping into this space of reflection with me. We reflected hard on some hard issues. It helped me put those negative voices in my head in perspective.

Luca Lampariello also said something that has stuck with me. You need to set aside time to analyze your language-learning system? Do you have a system? Is it working? Do things need to be tweaked? I don’t think it matters what the system is, so long as it works for you.

You all have left quite a few golden nuggets of information on this thread. I hope others reading this will be able to pull from it what they need and flourish.

Again, Axon thank you for encouraging us to not be afraid of the "discomfort" and to embrace those uncomfortable areas.

Thank you all!
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Re: Confidence Shaken - Rough Language Exchange - Am I spinning my wheels?

Postby Iversen » Sun Oct 25, 2020 7:43 am

You mentioned the GLOSS page. I used it long ago, and the idea behind is splendid, but some of the recordings were hard to understand because of background noise and things like that. I haven't checked it recently, but this brings up another question, namely whether you should use sources with dubious sound/print quality or not. And here my answer is simple: if you can find them then use 1+i sources, not i+7 sources. Or in other words: do your studies on sources where the difficulties are in the language itself (i.e. vocabulary and grammar and idiomatics), not in the medium. Grab the low-hanging fruits first and leave irrelevant problems for later.
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