Immersion, speech, and plateaus [Spanish]

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Re: Immersion, speech, and plateaus [Spanish]

Postby Cavesa » Fri Apr 23, 2021 11:16 am

yossarian wrote:This is exactly what I mean. On the surface talking about something like politics seems like more of a challenge but in the end it is these informal and colloquial chats which are are harder to master. When you're exploring different ways to tell a story, do you ever bother to write them down and ask for feedback from a tutor or a friend who speaks the language natively? Or is it simply something you keep to yourself?

Definitely NOT :-D A language is supposed to give me more freedom and more income, not dependance on a tutor. There are a few more factors: the high levels, you have enough experience with the language to give a lot of feedback of this kind to yourself. The problem in the real situation is just that you haven't tried it before, not lack of external "oh, this doesn't sound funny/precise/whiny enough" feedback. Or do you pay a tutor to prepare these social things in your native language too? I guess you don't.

2.Most tutors are overall of not too good quality, and even fewer are good at the higher levels. You are more qualified in some ways, than them. Unlike most of them, you've learnt a language to a solid level, and you know extremely well your own needs. Most simply have no clue how good can an advanced learner actually be (this is a problem proven even by research, Reineke shared a link to a good paper ages ago) and don't push people hard enough. And given the nature of the teaching job, they may be trying to put you more to the safe and standard and beginnerish language, instead of helping you let your personality shine.

3.are you a millionnaire? I am not. So, if I decide to get a tutor, it is for something I am objectively incapable of learning from other (and more cost effective) resources to a sufficient level. Tons of vocabulary or tons of registers and emotional nuances in the language are definitely learneable from other sources (a dictionary, tons of media, the real life situations). Solid more or less academic writing of longer texts is an example of what I was not able to learn alone, primarily due to lack of suitable resources, so I paid a tutor and was rather disappointed anyways.

Don't fall for the idea, that a tutor is a solution to everything. Most are not too bright, most are not experienced enough with advanced learners, and too much fear of independence could just lead you to wasting your money on them for the rest of your life. Not being perfect is ok, improvising (and sometimes failing to do exactly what you want) is a part of the path too. It's no tragedy.

You're both right of course, and this is something I try to keep in mind. I find it really hard not to compare myself with colleagues who can already speak several languages, and it's easy to forget the head-start and advantages they may have had such as growing up in countries where language learning is valued, or simply being exposed to more media in those languages as children.

Don't obsess so much about the children's learning and other countries. Especially many anglophones do this, they look for this excuse based on an image of something that is very different from the reality anyways.

A little excursion to the reality:

-most non natives with solid English have gotten the deciding huge amounts of input as teens. Not as babies. It's the decision to watch tv series without dubbing, to play computer games, to read books without waiting translation (yes, this was a huge factor for us, the Harry Potter generation). At the age of 16, the brain is much closer to one aged 30, than to that of a toddler. So, no need to cry about some parents not paying for baby or kindergarten language classes. The deciding part of youth is the teenage, and the free decision to get hundreds and thousands of hours of exposure. What is harming the learners of non-English languages is geoblocking and lack of PR of the high quality stuff in other languages. Not parents.

-a language being valued still doesn't mean success. My country is a proof. Languages are in theory extremely valued, but the results are still by far not as high as they should be. Many people succeed, true, but almost always in spite of schools and the system, not thanks to them.

-No need to blame parents (let's keep this for real traumas :-) ). Really, most of the English classes for small kids are just a fraud, just a gold mine, with very little lasting effect. I know, because I was there. No, it didn't help at all, when I was forced to really start English at the age of 11, it had been a waste of money. Yes, many parents help their kids, but it is usually what I've already described two paragraphs above (mostly, they just pay for the internet connection at home), some pay for extra classes, some pay for stays abroad. But that's all mostly for the teens. I have experienced and seen a lot of the classes and exposure for children and I am convinced it is mostly just a worthless money machine. It cannot work the way it is designed, but that's for a longer post.

-Yes, there is another way, that can make a lot of difference. Parents offering tons and tons of exposure from the very young age, without stopping it. Not a few hours of too expensive classes with a native per week, that's worthless. But tons of exposure at home, even paying for a nanny (that's not standard even in Europe! It's a rare thing!). But those are exceptions. Extremely rare. They have no effect whatsoever on the overall level of a foreign language in the country. Regretting you were not a child of such parents is just as logical as regretting you were not born into a billionaire family.

mokibao wrote:If you really feel your lack of eloquence is frustrating your day-to-day communication (what I usually call 'caveman' syndrome), you should probably just read more books.

Cavesa wrote:Have you spent at least a few hundred hours watching normal tv? Have you read at least 10000 pages of books? If not, do so. And even if yes, keep going. That's something people underestimate a lot, when they compare their English learning and other language learning.

I have easily spent that much time watching series and films, and that's probably why my listening comprehension has improved a lot faster than my other skills in the last year or two. I've spent less time reading intensively, and perhaps doing more would help develop that "internal voice" which I feel is lacking.

Good, you've found one weakness, which is easy to fix, even though time consuming. And as you are in the country and surely have a library in town, you can even fix that for free. Cool.

The tons of input have surely affected your speaking too, it is just not that visible now. Keep going. Btw repeating after the actors is a good exercise sometimes. Or talking to the characters :-D Simply enjoying your brain being immersed. And books can help too.

Interesting that you mention the "interal voice". It's been recently found (or at least popularised), that there are two big categories of people. Those, who think in words, have such an inner voice, and those who think in images and similar non verbal areas. And each category considers itself normal, and cannot just imagine how the other group thinks. Some people from the second category (which is rarer) even thought the inner voice was a symptom of mental illness. :-D Just mentioning it, as for now we know very little about how this affects learning. But we can be 100% sure that both categories can learn languages successfully and millions of people from each group must have done so. But I am getting a bit further away from the point, sorry :-D

Steve wrote:My own experience in playing music and decades of limited language learning is that fact-based memory can provide a substitute for skills up to a certain level.

This is what I feel is happening to me... I've become skilled at Anki and other drills but not at speaking confidently.

Steve wrote:I now spend most of my time doing skill-based activities. I use limited amounts of fact-based study to clear away stumbling blocks and make improvements to skills.

What some other things you consider "skill-based" activities?

This is actually not as bad as it sounds. While the skill-based activities are indeed important and the facts seem less useful (and people like to bash this kind of knowledge these days), you have prepared a huge advantage for yourself. When you get into the habit of using this knowledge, of accessing it in real time, you will have a huge advantage. A huge advantage over people, who are able to use 100% of their fact-based knowledge actively, but actually don't know that many facts. This advantage might shine a bit later, but it will pay off in my opinion. It's not a problem, it is just something that waits for the right moment, for the right complementary skill. :-)

I have actually completed that series of books Cavesa. They're fantastic as you have said. I consider myself fairly studious about grammar and don't believe in simply "absorbing" it either, I'm always sure to ask someone if I have doubts. But that's why it's become so frustrating for me that, despite being able to write without too many errors, in the moment of speaking I make mistakes as simple as using the masculine form of adjective when I should be using the feminine, or mixing up the imperfect and preterite tenses. In process of worrying, I find the rest of the sentence falls apart too and that prepositions go missing. These are things that I obviously know, since I don't make the same mistakes when writing. Will doing yet more drills really help?

Great. Just as before, I think you have a lot of solid foundation, just need to access it in real time. And the fear of messing up and the dependence on asking others are not helping. The grammar books won't make sure by themselves perfect production, but they clear up the system, prevent fossilised mistakes based on wrong guesses, and the exercises are an excellent stepping stone before using the learnt features. However, you also need a lot of input and practice. Work on that. And you need to lose the fear of making mistakes. You need to trust yourself more. Don't just ask others every time, teach your brain that it has to find any solution on its own. And it will sometimes be a mistake and that's ok. Look up answers to doubts and examples yourself. Trust yourself more.

When you make a mistake, it's not the end of the world, you will not be shot in your head for it. But if you freeze, it is worse in most situations. I make a basic mistake here and there too (especially when I am really tired), and I am C2 (not in Spanish, in French) with a lot of experience (including some extreme language situations most people don't encounter). I hate my mistakes, but dependence on others or freezing and doing nothing are both much worse options. Worrying makes you fail much more.

More drills will help sometimes, tons of input will help. Practice will help, but reduction of the fear will help the most.

Cavesa wrote:If an unexpected problem arises, do you insist on solving it in Spanish, or do you escape (or allow the other side to escape) to English? To really progress, you need to push yourself to new experiences and learn from them. If you can pretend to not know any Enlish outside of your work, it might help.

I don't think the accusation that I avoiding the language is fair, since I don't speak English at all outside of work, and only speak English at work when it's absolutely necessary (the person I'm talking to doesn't speak Spanish for example). I can only think of a couple times I've had to default to English to explain something technical, although the explication in Spanish is often awkward. It is true however that I can pass a day or two without talking to anybody face to face, which is obviously not "immersion" so in that respect you have a good point. Any formal documentation I write at work must also be in English. Perhaps on those days I should force myself to listen to more podcasts in Spanish, or to write a diary entry in the language.

It's not an accusation, sorry if it sounded like that. It was an honest question about an extremely common mistake people make all the time. You seem to be well aware of such issues, which will surely pay off.
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Re: Immersion, speech, and plateaus [Spanish]

Postby Valddu » Sat Apr 24, 2021 3:12 pm

I'm 5 years into learning Spanish and consider myself around C1 and making good progress towards C2. I have and sometimes feel the way you do, but overall I still feel like I'm progressing at a steady rate.

Here are a couple of suggestions or ideas:

1. you mentioned being frustrated that you can't actively use words you learned in Anki in an actual conversation. I've been SRSing for years, but only in the last year did I finally figure out how to really incorporate it into my Spanish, and that's just to think of it as a tool to help me understand things when I'm immersing in Spanish media. That's it. If I "learn" a word in Anki I don't expect to be able to naturally and fluidly use it in a conversation--I do, however, want to be able to read a text with that word and not have to look it up. I input slang and expressions into Anki for a similar purpose--so I can just watch a show like Club de Cuervos and know the difference between when one character says "de poca madre" and another says "Que poca madre!" later in that episode. Anki just lets me consume media, and that media is where I really expect to learn the grammar/slang/vocab/whatever.

2. Read read read. I've read more than 20,000 pages in my target language and it's still not enough--I think I'll need another 5,000 or so pages before I'll even consider sitting for a C2 exam. The reading has done me a lot of good in terms of my vocabulary and grammar. I use Kwiziq to help me with grammar, but by reading a lot I get to encounter the grammar and really digest it since I can pause and think about what a sentence means. I also think reading has led to me using more varied vocabulary in my conversations.

3. You could be doing everything right and it's just a matter of being patient. The better I get at Spanish the more realize just how long it takes to get really good at a language. I've internalized certain elements of the language, while other elements I can use but I have to pause and think about for a moment first. Some vocabulary jumps into mind effortlessly while I speak and other words I really have to reach for and I'm not always sure I'm using them correctly. I know that I will internalize those other elements of the language as well, and that my active vocabulary will continue to grow, but it's going to take time. I think I can hit my goal in a year, but maybe I need two. Who knows? Just keep putting the work in, challenging yourself, and you'll eventually look back at where you are now and think "Man, I'm sooooo much better now than I was back then."

4. Find a tutor and stick with them. I've had the same tutor for 2 years and we talk weekly for about an hour. As a result, we've inevitably talked about an absurd number of topics. Sure, we still have talks about work or whatever, but we mostly end up talking about things like our childhoods, or COVID, or politics, or history, or whatever, and that forces me to find new holes in my knowledge of the language or challenges me to do things I normally don't do in the language (like telling a funny story).
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Re: Immersion, speech, and plateaus [Spanish]

Postby amarina » Thu Apr 29, 2021 9:39 am

rdearman wrote:
yossarian wrote: wanted to start with French this year but I'm now starting to think I should delay it until my Spanish is more rock solid.

So you want to start French? If it took you 4 years to get to your current Spanish level, do you think French will take less time? If you wait another 4 years to start French then it will be 8 years to get to where you are now in Spanish in French. People overestimate what can be done in a day, but underestimate what can be done in a year. Also ...

Once upon a time, there lived an Emperor who owned a majestic white stallion, the finest beast in all his Kingdom. One night, a thief tried to slip in and steal the horse, but was captured by the palace guards and thrown into the dungeon.

The next morning, he was dragged before the Emperor. "How dare you," bellowed the Emperor, "lay a hand on my royal steed! Jailer, put this thief to death!"

Immediately, the thief bowed deeply. "Your judgement is peerless and wise, O Emperor," he calmly replied, "but my life is of little value. I should offer you a gift before I depart. Your mount is quite a fine one, but if your eminence would spare my life for just a year, I swear to you, I can teach that horse to sing!"

The court burst in to laughter at that, but the Emperor was intrigued. After all, you didn't get to his high position by turning down freely offered gifts, no matter how far-fetched they seem. To the surprise of all, the Emperor quickly accepted the offer.

As they were leaving the chambers, the jailer whispered to the thief, "You are a fool!"

"I am a fool?" replied the thief, smiling broadly. "Much can happen in a year. The Emperor may die. The horse may die. I may die... and maybe the horse will learn how to sing."

Lovely quote

Try studying French using Spanish. Go to French classes for Spanish speakers, and use study materials and dictionaries for Spaniards. Don't worry about keeping them separate and clean, your language level is advanced enough to handle it, and it will never be clean and organised anyways.

Language stacking is my 2020s fave
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Re: Immersion, speech, and plateaus [Spanish]

Postby amarina » Thu Apr 29, 2021 9:43 am

mokibao wrote:I used to be share your linguistic insecurities but I realized I also suffer from such predicaments in my native tongue - it has more to do with being at ease than linguistic competence.

If you really feel your lack of eloquence is frustrating your day-to-day communication (what I usually call 'caveman' syndrome), you should probably just read more books. That's how people learn to sound eloquent and cultured in their native tongue, anyway. Just pick up a dictionary, a book other than Harry Potter and get going.

Oh yeah, I find that any psychological issues are a lot more obvious in non-native tongues. I know A2-B1 speakers who are able to support any conversation, with loads of endearing mistakes and cute creative grammar weaving, and C2 speakers who stumble over their eloquent vocabulary and grammar, because they are afraid that they mispronounced something or whatever
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: 582 / 15000 ~ write 15 000 words in German;
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: 0 / 5000 ~ write 5 000 words in French;

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