At What CEFR Level Did You Start Reading Harry Potter?

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Re: At What CEFR Level Did You Start Reading Harry Potter?

Postby AllSubNoDub » Tue Oct 19, 2021 1:58 pm

Cavesa wrote:The fact the longer books containing more distinct words is due to them being longer imho. Even if you take into account the ratio words/unique words as counted by AllSubNoDub.


Hence my last post.

Cavesa wrote:But I don't think the amount of words is the only important factor, when we talk about a book's difficulty.


Hence my comment on lexile scores. For foreign language learners, I feel vocabulary is a much bigger impediment to reading than grammar or other factors (hence, lots of courses giving little to no grammar explanations, but no courses not giving you some kind of vocabulary translation).
Last edited by AllSubNoDub on Tue Oct 19, 2021 3:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: At What CEFR Level Did You Start Reading Harry Potter?

Postby luke » Tue Oct 19, 2021 2:32 pm

Cavesa wrote:In English: approximately A2. Of course it was not a comfortable level, but I could follow the story and not wait half a year for the official translation of the book. It helped a lot actually and clearly illustrated how motivation can be more important than just "readiness" in terms of the language skills.

Yes, motivation, desire, ganas.

I was at the doctor yesterday and the phlebotomist had a tattoo of Harry Potter's glasses on his arm. I know because I asked him about the tattoo while he was drawing my blood. He also made reference to the "Harry Potter" glasses on his face.

He said he read Harry Potter like 20 years ago (he must have been an adolescent at the time). He looked early 30s.

So, a compelling story that causes kids to grow up and get tattoos, that's motivation!

Based on his accent, he didn't grow up in an English speaking country. Now I wish I'd asked him what language(s) he read Harry Potter in.
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Re: At What CEFR Level Did You Start Reading Harry Potter?

Postby Cavesa » Wed Oct 20, 2021 1:58 pm

AllSubNoDub wrote:
Cavesa wrote:But I don't think the amount of words is the only important factor, when we talk about a book's difficulty.


Hence my comment on lexile scores. For foreign language learners, I feel vocabulary is a much bigger impediment to reading than grammar or other factors (hence, lots of courses giving little to no grammar explanations, but no courses not giving you some kind of vocabulary translation).


After a certain point, vocab is probably a bigger obstacle. But until to that point, I am not at all convinced about that, as the missing basic grammar makes even catching the basic structure of the text near impossible. Vocabulary is easier to learn through reading, but the bases of grammar less son.

"Lots of courses", that is no argument in this case imho, no offense meant. From what I see all around, most people using the courses with little to no grammar explanations struggle a lot or just fail at learning the language, unless they also find a more serious grammar resource. But many courses are monolingual, therefore without vocabulary translation included. Most courses also don't prioritize reading at all these days, so I don't think they are too relevant to the question.

luke wrote:He said he read Harry Potter like 20 years ago (he must have been an adolescent at the time). He looked early 30s.

So, a compelling story that causes kids to grow up and get tattoos, that's motivation!

Based on his accent, he didn't grow up in an English speaking country. Now I wish I'd asked him what language(s) he read Harry Potter in.


Yes, it was a rather unique situation. No idea whether any story will excite an entire generation now or in a few decades to the same extent. Including lots of us really improving a foreign language just because we refused to wait for the translations :-D What's a small tatoo compared to that :-D
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Re: At What CEFR Level Did You Start Reading Harry Potter?

Postby AllSubNoDub » Wed Oct 20, 2021 3:12 pm

Cavesa wrote:
AllSubNoDub wrote:
Cavesa wrote:But I don't think the amount of words is the only important factor, when we talk about a book's difficulty.


Hence my comment on lexile scores. For foreign language learners, I feel vocabulary is a much bigger impediment to reading than grammar or other factors (hence, lots of courses giving little to no grammar explanations, but no courses not giving you some kind of vocabulary translation).


After a certain point, vocab is probably a bigger obstacle. But until to that point, I am not at all convinced about that, as the missing basic grammar makes even catching the basic structure of the text near impossible. Vocabulary is easier to learn through reading, but the bases of grammar less son.

"Lots of courses", that is no argument in this case imho, no offense meant. From what I see all around, most people using the courses with little to no grammar explanations struggle a lot or just fail at learning the language, unless they also find a more serious grammar resource. But many courses are monolingual, therefore without vocabulary translation included. Most courses also don't prioritize reading at all these days, so I don't think they are too relevant to the question.


No offense taken! I respect your opinion, it's just different from my experience. I just feel like, as an example, Michel Thomas grammar can get you at a 98%+ comprehension of the grammar in HP, but absolutely no where near that in terms of vocabulary. In my experience, native input has been the best teacher of grammar and bilingual dictionaries have been the best teachers of vocabulary. A lot of the AJATT guys have gotten to N1+ and never studied any grammar. I'm sure for highly inflected languages it may be different, but TY and Hugo's Simplified German was essentially all I ever needed for German grammar. Not so much the vocabulary, which is seemingly limitless.
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Re: At What CEFR Level Did You Start Reading Harry Potter?

Postby german2k01 » Thu Oct 21, 2021 7:40 am

A lot of the AJATT guys have gotten to N1+ and never studied any grammar. I'm sure for highly inflected languages it may be different, but TY and Hugo's Simplified German was essentially all I ever needed for German grammar. Not so much the vocabulary, which is seemingly limitless.


Where do you rate your speaking ability on CEFR? As an aside - how did you approach studying Grammar for German? Every day did you pick a separate grammar issue to tackle with? Did you apply it consciously while reading texts in German?
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Re: At What CEFR Level Did You Start Reading Harry Potter?

Postby Cavesa » Thu Oct 21, 2021 4:28 pm

AllSubNoDub wrote:No offense taken! I respect your opinion, it's just different from my experience. I just feel like, as an example, Michel Thomas grammar can get you at a 98%+ comprehension of the grammar in HP, but absolutely no where near that in terms of vocabulary. In my experience, native input has been the best teacher of grammar and bilingual dictionaries have been the best teachers of vocabulary. A lot of the AJATT guys have gotten to N1+ and never studied any grammar. I'm sure for highly inflected languages it may be different, but TY and Hugo's Simplified German was essentially all I ever needed for German grammar. Not so much the vocabulary, which is seemingly limitless.


Truth be told, I always considered MT to be really overrated. It may have been revolutionary ages ago, but isn't really anymore. But even if we set my opinion aside, it is still a beginner course. How far does it reach, A1? A2? In most cases, A2 is not sufficient for book reading. A2 learners are not supposed to read unadapted books (the fact some of us start so early changes nothing about the definitions of the levels in general).

I don't think any beginner course covers all the needed grammar, but I definitely believe you that a person after MT will be better prepared for reading grammar-wise than vocabulary-wise.

But I'd say a coursebook (and how it does or doesn't prepare you) can be judged only after its B1 or B2 level. That's where we could compare various approaches. Judging a beginner coursebook on how it prepares you for a real book, that simply doesn't make much sense, because it is not supposed to do that.

AJATT got to N1 true, that's far beyond MT. But if you look at his method, he actually did study grammar, just very differently. He picked thousands of examples of the applied grammar, and memorised them. That's not that different from some other types of exercise, but of course it is extremely impressive. However, I don't think most people are capable or at least performing at their best, without the explanations.

Explicite grammar learning makes a world of difference for me. When I tried the grammar light paths, it never ended well. The difference between me two months ago and incapable of following tv series in German, and now capable of it with German subtitles (and a significant part of the time even without) is a ton of explicite grammar learning. Including a Harry Potter movie btw, we are still within the topic :-)
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Re: At What CEFR Level Did You Start Reading Harry Potter?

Postby AllSubNoDub » Thu Oct 21, 2021 5:20 pm

Cavesa wrote:
AllSubNoDub wrote:No offense taken! I respect your opinion, it's just different from my experience. I just feel like, as an example, Michel Thomas grammar can get you at a 98%+ comprehension of the grammar in HP, but absolutely no where near that in terms of vocabulary. In my experience, native input has been the best teacher of grammar and bilingual dictionaries have been the best teachers of vocabulary. A lot of the AJATT guys have gotten to N1+ and never studied any grammar. I'm sure for highly inflected languages it may be different, but TY and Hugo's Simplified German was essentially all I ever needed for German grammar. Not so much the vocabulary, which is seemingly limitless.


Truth be told, I always considered MT to be really overrated. It may have been revolutionary ages ago, but isn't really anymore. But even if we set my opinion aside, it is still a beginner course. How far does it reach, A1? A2? In most cases, A2 is not sufficient for book reading. A2 learners are not supposed to read unadapted books (the fact some of us start so early changes nothing about the definitions of the levels in general).

I don't think any beginner course covers all the needed grammar, but I definitely believe you that a person after MT will be better prepared for reading grammar-wise than vocabulary-wise.

But I'd say a coursebook (and how it does or doesn't prepare you) can be judged only after its B1 or B2 level. That's where we could compare various approaches. Judging a beginner coursebook on how it prepares you for a real book, that simply doesn't make much sense, because it is not supposed to do that.

AJATT got to N1 true, that's far beyond MT. But if you look at his method, he actually did study grammar, just very differently. He picked thousands of examples of the applied grammar, and memorised them. That's not that different from some other types of exercise, but of course it is extremely impressive. However, I don't think most people are capable or at least performing at their best, without the explanations.

Explicite grammar learning makes a world of difference for me. When I tried the grammar light paths, it never ended well. The difference between me two months ago and incapable of following tv series in German, and now capable of it with German subtitles (and a significant part of the time even without) is a ton of explicite grammar learning. Including a Harry Potter movie btw, we are still within the topic :-)


Yes, but please don't miss "the forest for the trees" in the point I was trying to make. I chose one random example of a course.

It doesn't really matter what the course is. If course X gives you just enough basic grammar to intuit the general meaning of the vast majority of sentences you read, then you will eventually internalize the grammar through lots of comprehensible input. The same cannot be done for vocabulary, in my opinion (unless maybe you're learning two extremely closely related languages, like Spanish and Portuguese for example).

Also, by AJATT, I did not mean Khatzumoto the person, I meant the general AJATT/MIA/Refold community. Khatzumoto did not take the N1 and it is actively frowned upon in the community, mainly because achieving an N1 doesn't take you anywhere near a native level, so it only establishes that you've reached a minimum level of proficiency (not saying I agree with this). You're right in his general method though: 1. Read through a basic grammar book (don't do exercises, just read), 2. Make bilingual sentence cards for all the example sentences. The sentences aren't memorized though, they are just comprehension cards. He only optionally suggests further grammar instruction if, 1. You have already achieved a very high level in the language and can intuit all of the grammar already, 2. It interests you.

Anyway, I feel like courses that "sprinkle in" grammar combined with lots of comprehensible input, e.g. Assimil, are very effective for most people. Best to intuitively learn grammar and explicitly learn vocabulary, but implicit and explicit knowledge of both would be optimal.
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Re: At What CEFR Level Did You Start Reading Harry Potter?

Postby AllSubNoDub » Thu Oct 21, 2021 6:18 pm

german2k01 wrote:
A lot of the AJATT guys have gotten to N1+ and never studied any grammar. I'm sure for highly inflected languages it may be different, but TY and Hugo's Simplified German was essentially all I ever needed for German grammar. Not so much the vocabulary, which is seemingly limitless.


Where do you rate your speaking ability on CEFR? As an aside - how did you approach studying Grammar for German? Every day did you pick a separate grammar issue to tackle with? Did you apply it consciously while reading texts in German?


Sorry for the WOT barely related to this thread! TL;DR: I frontloaded a lot of intensive learning for German and slowly introduced a lot of extensive learning later on, which got me to a pretty decent level fairly quickly.


My speaking and writing abilities were always on par with my reading and listening abilities per the CEFR guidelines, if not at times surpassing them. The only exception might be after I began college when I only had time for reading (which I also put on hiatus eventually).

After I went through Pimsleur, I quickly skimmed through Michel Thomas. At this point, I was left with fairly good automaticity and excellent pronunciation, but no ability to read or write and pretty basic vocabulary and grammar.

I then systematically worked through Teach Yourself German by John Adams and Hugo's Simplified German (first generation) in parallel as prescribed in the books. This basically concluded my explicit grammar instruction. After this last step, I realized I developed a huge level-up in speaking abilities despite not speaking for months.

After this I watched hundreds of hours of TV shows of stuff I had already watched in English and knew the basic plot of, not pausing and rarely looking up words. Long series aimed at adolescents is best to start off with. My listening comprehension slowly lifted like a fog, such that I went from picking out random words, to whole sentences, to huge chunks, to basically full comprehension. In parallel, I read every graded reader and bilingual text I could get my hands on (note, as mentioned, I tried to intensively read Harry Potter too early, so I gave up on that and focused on readers). For learning new vocabulary, I would make lists from random sources and use Iversen's method for memorizing them. I also used Iversen's method to go through the TY vocabulary lists.

At some point I worked through Assimil German without Toil and Assimil German with Ease. I remember shadowing German without Toil and systematically working through German with Ease, as prescribed by Dr. Arguelles (for each dialog: blind shadow day 1, shadow with L1 text day 2, shadow with L2 text day 3, scriptorium day 4, etc.). I don't think I bothered doing any of the exercises or paying much attention to the grammar notes. When I shadowed, I tried to make my voice sound exactly like the speaker's (I can still remember their voices and some of the dialogs years later). I had to make long daily and weekly trips at the time, so I would play all the dialogs I worked through on a loop while driving. I think I also worked through a volume of the FSI course, but really only used it as an audio source.

After the TY/Hugo's stage I also wrote a lot and would have Germans correct my writings through language exchanges (lang-8). I had conversations online - I started with text/IMs (you have time to think and look stuff up) and slowly went to audio conversations. I would talk to Germans in person every chance I got (there were a lot of Bavarians and a few Swiss people in my area). The writings I submitted for correction were always very personal to my life and usually involved something I wanted to know how to say in German, but wasn't sure if it was exactly correct. Sometimes I would memorize them like "scripts" and later record a video, then get feedback from native speakers. One trick I learned was having one native speaker correct it, then another correct that version, and so on.

After that I mainly just read a lot and listened to native podcasts. I have no idea what my CEFR level was since I never bothered intentionally looking at CEFR focused vocab and probably actively avoided it since I found it boring (e.g. business, education, the environment, etc.). I'm sure I could have quickly picked it up easily enough if I tried. I read a lot of non-fiction that interested me, but looking back, not enough fiction. I would say above B2 in all areas after 1.5 years. I dabbled with a lot of other stuff too which I now don't remember (probably because it was ineffective, e.g. listening while you sleep). I would have done a lot of stuff differently now if I had to do it again, especially since I didn't know about stuff like italki and Anki at the time.
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Re: At What CEFR Level Did You Start Reading Harry Potter?

Postby german2k01 » Thu Oct 21, 2021 6:46 pm

That's some impressive progress in all areas just after 1.5 years! More so you did not use Anki back then. However, seems to me like you were really committed to learning German hardcore. If you don't mind me asking, what was your balance like between reading vs listening per day in terms of hours?
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Re: At What CEFR Level Did You Start Reading Harry Potter?

Postby AllSubNoDub » Thu Oct 21, 2021 7:22 pm

german2k01 wrote:That's some impressive progress in all areas just after 1.5 years! More so you did not use Anki back then. However, seems to me like you were really committed to learning German hardcore. If you don't mind me asking, what was your balance like between reading vs listening per day in terms of hours?

Yes! I am obsessive and really had my hopes up to move to Germany some day (at the time). Every minute I was away from German felt like an hour and every hour I was with German felt like a minute. Learning German literally changed the trajectory of my life.

Yes, I did not use Anki, but I do feel it could have been beneficial if I wanted to know some particular vocab, especially since I didn't live or work in the country (e.g., low frequency or business vocab).

I would say reading/listening was mostly a 50/50 split (if you count TV without subtitles as listening). This was on average; some days I'd spend the whole day reading in a flow state, some days I'd spend the whole day listening in a flow state. When I was going through readers, I tried to read out loud as much as possible, which was extremely helpful but also slowed my reading speed down. Once I had gotten to a high level, I did a lot more reading (70% reading, 30% listening). One of my goals with Spanish is get to a level where I can just effortlessly listen to audiobooks straight - I think because I didn't read enough fiction in German, this may have been a bit of a struggle.

As for hours a day I spent on German, I don't think I could come up with an accurate number. A lot. I worked full-time, but I had no issues immersing in German 16 hours a day on the weekends and enjoying every minute of it.
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