The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

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Le Baron
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby Le Baron » Tue May 25, 2021 10:37 pm

rdearman wrote:Wow. I really am crap at this. I don't think I have ever spent 3 hour studying anything. Certainly not one single subject for 3 solid hours. And like Iverson i was stupid and learned two romance languages at the same time. I need to reevaluate my life.

Not a single thing? Ever? I admit I get up now and again and make a cup of tea, or potter off to the shed for five minutes, but I can sit and study something for a good three hours. Might even have some jiggery-pokery..
Sometimes I can be doing something (not necessarily languages) and 3-4 hours passes in what feels like 1 hour. It might be because I have limited leisure time and mostly at the weekend, so I try to set aside time.

Or maybe you're just a genius or have cracked the code whereas I'm still floundering pissing in the wind?

Did the two romance languages at the same time work out?
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby Iversen » Tue May 25, 2021 10:42 pm

Well, I may have been slightly foolhardy to tackle Spanish and Italian in parallel, but how should I know that? Even HTLAL didn't exist back in the mid 60s, let alone Llorg, and I didn't tell my teachers in English and German so I just took the plunge into the deep and dangerous unknown world of the Romance languages.

But today I'm happy that I took the chance, because today I can understand and speak both languages (and a couple more..).
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby einzelne » Tue May 25, 2021 11:09 pm

Le Baron wrote: So long as people aren't fooling themselves with regard to what they are doing and where they are. What does it mean, for example, if you say "I have B1/B2 reading level, but go to pieces when someone asks the way to the station in Italian? If your real, actual, truthful aim was middle-range reading proficiency in Italian, then fair play, you've done it. Move on if you want. Why you wouldn't want to pursue speaking is a mystery to me.


I can only speak for myself. I've been reading in French for almost 7 years now. I've never been to France and I don't plan to move there so would I invest my time in active skills when I don't need them? If I'm not mistaken you yourself wrote elsewhere on the forum how your French deteriorated to the level that you started to forget even the basic stuff and, with other languages under your belt, you still cannot boast the level of French you once had. The real mystery to me is why experienced learners who experienced first hand the negative effects of language attrition would still promote mastering active skills in all the languages they wish to learn.
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby Le Baron » Tue May 25, 2021 11:36 pm

einzelne wrote:I can only speak for myself. I've been reading in French for almost 7 years now. I've never been to France and I don't plan to move there so would I invest my time in active skills when I don't need them? If I'm not mistaken you yourself wrote elsewhere on the forum how your French deteriorated to the level that you started to forget even the basic stuff and, with other languages under your belt, you still cannot boast the level of French you once had. The real mystery to me is why experienced learners who experienced first hand the negative effects of language attrition would still promote mastering active skills in all the languages they wish to learn.


Okay, but did say if the aim really was only to read, then fair play. Did I not? I just couldn't imagine myself leaving it at that.

It's true my French did start to atrophy from lack of use (in previously the same way), but I didn't forget the basics or any main structures. Just reflexes and vocabulary started fading. In the last few years I've done a lot of reviving of it. The ability to use it daily like when I lived in Belgium can't be recreated here, but I don't want to just read.
Even my native language has suffered by not using it daily as much as Dutch for a long time.

I wasn't insisting that people master all active skills, but that to achieve your goal (whatever it happens to be: reading, watching films, talking) should probably be focused on before spreading your focus even thinner by taking on even more languages. Only that.
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby einzelne » Wed May 26, 2021 2:07 am

Le Baron wrote:I wasn't insisting that people master all active skills, but that to achieve your goal (whatever it happens to be: reading, watching films, talking) should probably be focused on before spreading your focus even thinner by taking on even more languages. Only that.


I see. It makes total sense to me.
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby PeterMollenburg » Wed May 26, 2021 6:54 am

smallwhite wrote:
PeterMollenburg wrote:
FSI wrote:Learning a language also cannot be done in a short time. [...]cannot be shortened appreciably. FSI has tried to shorten programs, and it has not worked.

So if it cannot be shortened, where's the 'cut off' between efficiency and time wasting?

FSI talking so they probably mean "cannot shorten below 1000 hours to learn French" so if you're taking 5000 hours then yes 5000 hours can be shortened to 1000.


I took the cannot be shortened to mean that the FSI course could not be compressed further while the overall hours would remain the same. Meaning that 1000 hours would remain 1000 hours, but it would be done in less overall days thereby increasing the daily study amount and reducing the overall duration in days of the course. This is why I started to wonder where their conclusion came from.

Was it that 8 hours/day was/is enough (I have no idea how many hours/day their courses are/were) because fatigue increases substantially, or is it that distraction becomes an issue, or downtime is needed for sanity or consolidation of learned material? Then I wondered, well is it better then to learn just one hour/day of three languages or 3 hours of one? Or, is it actually better to reach 5 hours a day. As many members here have already touched on, it's likely to be highly variable depending on the person (their experience, personality and so on), but surely we could find a general rule or average rule of what's most efficient. This doesn't mean we must follow this and sometimes theory might be great but realistic application is another story.

iguanamon wrote:I can only attest to what I have done and what I have observed. I didn't set out to become a polyglot. I backed into it. I started out with Spanish. Through the help of the old HTLAL forum, I was able to advance it. I then wanted to learn Portuguese... and I did. I wanted to learn Ladino/Judeo-espanyol and I did, after the first two. I learned Haitian Creole after Ladino. I learned Lesser Antilles Creole French, after HC and Catalan after that.

There's a pattern here. I didn't try to learn multiple languages at the same time. I'm sure my method is not very efficient... but it's what has worked for me. I know, speaking for myself, that I cannot deal with learning two languages simultaneously... especially with both being at a beginner level.

My observations after reading the forum on an almost daily basis for almost 11 years now are that extremely few people who start off with a list of multiple languages to learn as an adult monolingual beginner ever manage to learn even one language to a high level. There are a number of reasons for this, I think- outside of a structured enforced routine like school has, it is very difficult for people to allocate their limited time adequately to juggle multiple-language learning with a sufficient enough time period for studying each language to allow the brain to make connections. It's hard for the mind to absorb multiple language pathways simultaneously as a beginner. Oh yeah, life often gets in the way of the best language-learning plans as an adult.

So my conclusion, for me, is that the best pathway to polyglottery is one language at a time (speaking only for myself!). Yes, other people can learn multiple languages simultaneously. Related languages are easier, certainly. Learning multiple languages is easier after a learner has learned their first second language (again, speaking about adult monolinguals here). Certainly we have people here who are learning multiple languages simultaneously and others who have done so successfully. Now that I have a few languages under my belt, I could probably take on two or three at the same time... but is that the best use of my time? I'll leave that to others who have been successful at it. I have found what works for me.


Hi iguanamon,

I appreciate your and everyone else's for that matter, feedback that is. Your experience in language learning is invaluable to many a language learner.

While you say you studied your languages sequentially. I have had periods of multiple language study and generally have been quite okay with studying two or three at once no matter the level. Still, I probably would steer clear of two very closely related languages such as Spanish and Italian as I'd suspect I'd find it particularly challenging. Mind you, I've never wanted to study these two languages simultaneously as I've not been interested enough in Italian to attempt to learn it. Should I suddenly feel the need to learn both of these languages, I'd probably go against my own unspoken rule and attempt it anyway. We learn what works through trial and error, right?

I went on my massive several year French only mission because I had 'failed' to learn three languages simultaneously. Failed not due to confusion but due to not sticking at it long enough to get far enough and this is perhaps the greatest issue with studying multiple languages at the same time - time! With one language you can have slack days and still learn something. With three you have a slack day and you miss a language or two. That's not great for consistency, especially when time is already limited being divided between three languages.

So as my French mission has floundered in the last couple of years due to several understandable reasons, I still wanted to see what the general consensus in theory was on the topic of efficiency. (And while I say floundered, I must clarify that I use French practically every day and feel very comfortable in the language the vast majority of the time.) Should it clearly be that you'd get there (three languages at an advanced level) more efficiently learning three languages simultaneously then I might have just decided to do so with an extra degree of commitment as I feel one could succeed at such a mission if one just stuck to it long enough (theoretically). It seems that the balance however tips as suspected towards a single language at one time and thus it seems as I recently concluded again with iguanamon's insights for reflection that I ought to continue onto resitting the Dalf C2 at some point. Question is, do I want to? Yes and no. I'm so close and yet so very far and this decision is not set in stone, by far.

Edit:
I've settled on a plan which I'll detail in my log.
Last edited by PeterMollenburg on Wed May 26, 2021 1:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby PeterMollenburg » Wed May 26, 2021 11:59 am

And just as a side note.... such musings have been mused (many a time?) before:

Xmmm wrote:Introduction:

We say that more time devoted to study will lead to better results, yet we intuitively know that 18 hours a day of language study will probably not lead to better results than 6 hours a day, and that 6 hours a day is probably only a marginal improvement over 2 hours a day. But where is the cut-off point, where the marginal utility of additional studies reaches the point of not bothering with? A new language is a strange, alien thing. The mind will tend to resist learning it. What if the doors of perception close much earlier than we think? What if the best study time is the first 20 minutes each day, and after that we are mostly spinning our wheels?


There's more to that post where Xmmm announces a 20 min/day language learning self challenge. You can read more here if curious: https://forum.language-learners.org/viewtopic.php?t=9203
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby rdearman » Wed May 26, 2021 3:44 pm

Le Baron wrote:
rdearman wrote:Wow. I really am crap at this. I don't think I have ever spent 3 hour studying anything. Certainly not one single subject for 3 solid hours. And like Iverson i was stupid and learned two romance languages at the same time. I need to reevaluate my life.

Not a single thing? Ever? I admit I get up now and again and make a cup of tea, or potter off to the shed for five minutes, but I can sit and study something for a good three hours. Might even have some jiggery-pokery..
Sometimes I can be doing something (not necessarily languages) and 3-4 hours passes in what feels like 1 hour. It might be because I have limited leisure time and mostly at the weekend, so I try to set aside time.


I cannot remember ever studying anything for 3 hours straight. Even in school I didn't study like that. MIT recommends only 50 minutes with at least a 10-minute break between sessions. If I did attempt to study for that long my mind would wander off or I would be asleep and drooling on the pages of the book while snoring.

In Tech School in the military they only did 40-minute sessions, and even then me and one of the army guys used to go outside or in the hall and do push-ups to get back to being alert. (FYI Tech School is boring and all the rooms are hot.)
Le Baron wrote:Or maybe you're just a genius or have cracked the code whereas I'm still floundering pissing in the wind?

Did the two romance languages at the same time work out?

Or maybe it has just taken me longer? 20+ years?
It has been ok. After a little while (a few years) instead of having 2 buckets in my head, one English and one "Other/Miscellaneous" I now have 4 buckets to pick from, English, French, Italian, Miscellaneous. I've almost sorted all the French or Italian out of the miscellaneous bucket, and now it is mostly filled with random bits of Korean, Mandarin, or Setswana.

EDIT: I should mention for the sake of the OP, I found the best way for me was 20 minutes of study per topic per day. I was doing, French, Italian, Setswana, Mandarin, Maths. I just did 20 minutes of each with a break between. Breaks being anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours depending on what I was doing. At the time I was commuting and had 45 minutes on a train, so I would do 20-5-20 to work, then 20-5-20 back home. I did the other 20 minutes during my lunch at work. Which left me my evenings free. :)
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby Le Baron » Wed May 26, 2021 4:55 pm

rdearman wrote:I cannot remember ever studying anything for 3 hours straight. Even in school I didn't study like that. MIT recommends only 50 minutes with at least a 10-minute break between sessions. If I did attempt to study for that long my mind would wander off or I would be asleep and drooling on the pages of the book while snoring.


I'm sure that goes for all of us. However 'studying for three hours' to me means setting aside that three hours to work on whatever you're working on; including some inevitable breaks, rather than starting the clock and not looking up until three hours has passed! When I did the government-sponsored 4 month intensive Dutch course at a school, all the blocks were three hours. But they had 10 minute breaks and we sometimes lapsed into chatter before regrouping again to continue. That 40-minute limit you mentioned seems to be a pretty natural limit for focused effort.
Yes, short blocks within the larger blocks.

rdearman wrote:Or maybe it has just taken me longer? 20+ years?
It has been ok. After a little while (a few years) instead of having 2 buckets in my head, one English and one "Other/Miscellaneous" I now have 4 buckets to pick from, English, French, Italian, Miscellaneous. I've almost sorted all the French or Italian out of the miscellaneous bucket, and now it is mostly filled with random bits of Korean, Mandarin, or Setswana.


Of course, and that's perfectly fine. I've also never rushed my own home-based language learning. I'm not trying to learn in record time. However this may be somewhat different than spreading effort thinly between multiple things which probably require a lot of effort actively and adequate time to stew in one's brain when not actively studying. And while 15-20-30 minutes per language may well obviate the problem of doing too much, it may also end up as doing too little. In my unworthy opinion I don't believe anyone learns x-language(s) in 30 minutes a day, because 30 minutes with all the other faff is really 15-20 mins and it's not enough to accrue all the elements, unless one is willing to put that 20+ year time-scale on it.

The business of running multiple languages in a learning-phase... I see it something like starting to redecorate and renovate every room in the house simultaneously, rather than starting on one, doing the job properly and then starting another when the other one is under control. Why juggle all those things unnecessarily? It's how people end up with a load of half-finished rooms and motivation/progress all shot.
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby Iversen » Wed May 26, 2021 5:53 pm

I remember that Argüelles once recommended max. 15 minutes per language/activity, but at least with my wordlists I have noticed that my recall rate actually goes up after the first 15 minutes, not down, so it would be foolish to stop at that point. Three hours in a row ... well I have done it. When I wrote my final thesis at the university I worked almost continuously and even switched to a 36 hour cycle with a short nap in the middle near the end of the 6 months allotted to write it. And I collected 10.000 examples from 10.000 pages to illustrate correlative constructions in Modern French, so it was actually hard empirical data collection that took up my time during that period, not binge drinking or watching TV.

And of course I have also spent three hours reading for fun, which counts as an extensive activity. But who hasn't? For intensive activities an hour is enough - but I have to add that I normally have a TV program without sound running in the background plus music from my computer to keep me entertained, so saying that I just do one thing in that hour would be slightly off the mark. And afterwards I can start a new hour with another project in another language without feeling totally exhausted. However if I had found the first activity boring I wouldn't be in the mood to continue with the second one, so it is important to stop while you are happy doing whatever you do.

As for the 20 years learning programs, I would expect to be able to read and write stuff after the first 4 or 5 years even when juggling several languages. The big problem is to find opportunities to activate them.
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