You're doing it wrong

General discussion about learning languages
Cavesa
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby Cavesa » Mon Mar 11, 2019 5:47 pm

Serpent wrote:
David1917 wrote:If you've read and understood Voltaire in the original but never spoken to a French person, then while you've accomplished a great intellectual feat commensurate with a C2 level, you'd probably be lucky to pass an A1.
I don't think it's possible to have a C2 comprehension and zero production. Not even for a Spaniard learning Portuguese or vice versa.
Cavesa wrote:If you look at the long self assessment list I've posted a link to, you will see there are common definitions to a lot of stuff. If you have a look in a resource like that hyper detailed list by Cervantes, you'll notice that the curriculum for each language is actually well thought out.
This.


The differences between skills can be several levels wide, but I'd agree that such an extreme might be impossible. Also, the fact you haven't spoken to anyone doesn't mean you cannot, the activation of well prepared skill can be very fast. However, I have never heard of solutions to the problem of very similar languages in language testing. What I mean: let's imagine such a a Spaniard learning Portuguese or, even closer, a Slovak "learning" Czech would sit an exam. How would their spoken and written production be graded, if it was clearly a mix of the two languages (a mix including more of their native language than the target one), I have no idea. I'd be curious about it!

A lot of the CEFR problems are actually being solved, there is some evolution. A few months ago, someone posted(no idea in which thread and who, unfortunately) a link to the report on the recent changes to it. The questions that are being solved are in many ways similar to what we've been talking about on this forum for years. There are more "levels" after C2. Yes, the exams and precise definition for those are unlikely to be needed, but there are differences between the very advanced learners. There is also a level under A1, at which people can actually speak about a very narrow set of things, related to their job usually, but cannot do the more general stuff (typically a person competent at selling their products or working in a restaurant communicating with foreign customers, often in several languages, but definitely unable to talk about themselves or do majority of the content of the A1 coursebooks. These people are now nothing on this scale, despite not being monolingual). And there are attempts to classify somehow the bilingual skills, such as the ability to read an article in your target language and sum it up in your native one (which is an example of a thing people do all the time).

Still, the scale will never be perfect and include everything. But nothing is perfect, and the scale is a clear step in the right direction away from the vague terms, I'd say. If even language schools vary on their definitions of words "intermediate" and "advanced", when they name their courses, the words are probably not good enough (In some language schools, advanced can be B2, and intermediate A2) And while I completely understand, why many people may be reluctant to self-assess their skills or believe self-assessments of others, it doesn't change the fact that CEFR is meant for self-assessment too. Not mainly, true. The exams are central to it and should be much more widely spread. But honestly, self-assessment is in many cases more correct than random assessment by less experienced and less knowledgeable teachers, I definitely wouldn't dismiss it completely.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby Cainntear » Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:08 pm

DaraghM wrote:Could you clarify "differently neuroplastic"? If the same areas of the brain light up in fMRI in proficient L2 speakers and native speakers, how are they different?

Note: I don't hold a strong position on various theories, but genuinely want to tease out the based approach, based on the evidence.
By "differently neuroplastic" I mean that the physiological changes undergone by the brain are different.
An infant brain is extremely highly connected, and during the early years of life, the primary neurological mechanism for learning is the culling of these connections, connections that never come back.

In later life, the primary neurological mechanism for learning is just a reprogramming and reconfiguration of the remaining connections. There has been relatively recent research that show there is a way that the adult brain can make truly new connections, but it is still a very different mechanism from the infant one.

Of course, neurology isn't psychology, so the fact that the neurological processes are different does not mean that the learning process necessarily is, so I'm not saying that everyone should stop believing that adults can learn like children -- just that it shouldn't be presented as obvious and logical that adults can/should.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby Cainntear » Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:17 pm

MacGyver wrote:What sort of fails or dead ends have you had. I see a language learning world out there full of lifelong beginners and false beginners. Most people here would have moved past that phase a long time ago, but you must have stumbled along the way.

I tried to learn Basque when I was living in Donostia. Unfortunately I was short on time and high on stress, and the book I had was horrible. It had a few simple drills, then the instruction to make as many sentences as you can from the material used, which was all handily laid out in little tables, so making a sentence just meant picking one item from each box. It was not good.

Anyway, I managed to get my brain so knotted up trying to force myself through the book and trying to think about meaning rather than just gliding through the tasks with my head in neutral that I found my entire foreign-language-processing skills seized up and I couldn't use my Spanish (which was still pretty basic then).

I had mp3s of Michel Thomas German on my hard drive, so I stuck them on my MP3 player and did a few hours of MT German, first while dozing on the couch, then while walking by the sea. Somehow that "unstuck" my brain and I was able to speak Spanish again.

I don't think I ever went back to that book, and for some unfathomable reason I used part of my luggage weight to carry it back to Scotland when I came home. It's currently sitting on a bookshelf in my parents' house (my natural stopover between overseas jobs and university courses) and will probably never be used....
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby Serpent » Mon Mar 11, 2019 9:11 pm

Cavesa wrote:The differences between skills can be several levels wide, but I'd agree that such an extreme might be impossible. Also, the fact you haven't spoken to anyone doesn't mean you cannot, the activation of well prepared skill can be very fast.
Yes, activation can be fast. And some people definitely claim to have C2 comprehension just from speaking a related language. Usually that's an overestimation. (similarly, someone who does understand a lot but claims to have only A1 in speaking probably underestimates their level)
If you can understand abstract philosophical/scientific texts but not ordinary novels that use everyday language, you're not C1/C2.

Anyway, by definition I doubt that the difference can be more than 1-2 levels, with the exception of pronunciation and writing/spelling.
However, I have never heard of solutions to the problem of very similar languages in language testing. What I mean: let's imagine such a a Spaniard learning Portuguese or, even closer, a Slovak "learning" Czech would sit an exam. How would their spoken and written production be graded, if it was clearly a mix of the two languages (a mix including more of their native language than the target one), I have no idea. I'd be curious about it!
I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to count, but in practice it may depend on the pair of languages. All learners have accidentally used a word from L1 or a strong L2 at some point, sometimes modifying it to sound more like the language in question. The way I see it, the person doing the evaluation will try to see how much you're "faking" it, and also how well you'd be able to communicate with a monolingual speaker of the language. And for each level there are some basic things you should know well (and correct yourself if you slip), such as the verb "to be", the plural of nouns, the past form of verbs (apart from rare exceptions obv).
A lot of the CEFR problems are actually being solved, there is some evolution. A few months ago, someone posted(no idea in which thread and who, unfortunately) a link to the report on the recent changes to it.
Interesting! I've heard of a professional certificate for German (C3?) and one for teachers of Italian (I think natives also have to take it if they want to teach in Italy). Was it something like that?
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby zenmonkey » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:01 pm

Serpent wrote:
Cavesa wrote:A lot of the CEFR problems are actually being solved, there is some evolution. A few months ago, someone posted(no idea in which thread and who, unfortunately) a link to the report on the recent changes to it.
Interesting! I've heard of a professional certificate for German (C3?) and one for teachers of Italian (I think natives also have to take it if they want to teach in Italy). Was it something like that?


As far as I know (CEFR update 02/2018), there is no "C3", the commitee recognised that the C2 designation does not cover exceptional context of professional learners. They mention the Wilkins scale and note that for rare cases there is a consideration of the need for "Beyond C2".

‘Level C2, whilst it has been termed ‘Mastery’, is not intended to imply native-speaker or near native-speaker competence. What is intended is to characterise the degree of precision, appropriateness and ease with the language which typifies the speech of those who have been highly successful learners’. (CEFR Section 3.6)
‘Mastery (Trim: ‘Comprehensive mastery’; Wilkins: ‘Comprehensive Operational Proficiency’), corresponds to the top examination objective in the scheme adopted by ALTE (Association of Language Testers in Europe). It could be extended to include the more developed intercultural competence above that level which is achieved by many language professionals’. (CEFR Section 3.2)


and

In fact, a scheme including a seventh level had been proposed by David Wilkins at an intergovernmental Symposium held in 1977 to discuss a possible European unit credit scheme. The CEFR Working Party adopted Wilkins’ first six levels because Wilkins’ seventh level is beyond the scope of mainstream education.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby Inst » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:07 pm

MrPenguin wrote:
Inst wrote:What I dislike the most are people who end up studying one language for 10 years and not reaching reasonable proficiency. If it's going to take you 10 years, you're better off either not beginning the language, or finding the opportunity to do it intensively.

What an absurd thing to "dislike the most". What is wrong about people who have other priorities in life taking a long time to learn a language? Not everyone has the desire to sit around studying for hours every day. If a person enjoys studying a language for a bit once in a while, and takes 20 years to gain reasonable proficiency, what's so bad about that? Telling them that they should just not bother strikes me as gatekeeping. There are many ways to enjoy hobbies. Having an all-or-nothing attitude is, in my opinion, one of the worst ways.

To quote Kató Lomb:
Language is the only thing worth knowing even poorly.



Well, I apologize for breaking the thread rules, when this should be about what we're doing wrong, as opposed to what I'm doing wrong. But it's not what it appears to be.

I myself am semi-monolingual. I am most proficient in English, with substantial time and effort dedicated to picking up Mainland Mandarin Chinese, a task that has been going on for years. I have some experience with learning French, some with Spanish, some with German, even some with Japanese, but I don't list them as even A1 proficiency because I don't treat A1 proficiency as anything other than "language learning", as opposed to actual proficiency.

So when I say I dislike this factor the most, maybe I'm actually recounting self-hatred.

As far as how others go, I just suggest others don't do what I do. Get to C1 or C2 in a language you like as quickly as is practical given your available time, then move on to another interest, instead of A1/A2-ing 20 languages.

On the other hand, I do understand that others might enjoy language learning for the sake of language learning, but that's sort of like being a pianist when you're a laptop LED to Horowitz' sun. You're not any good at it, but you enjoy doing it for your own sake. This qualifies your expertise, and you'd honestly be better off if you were more objective oriented.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby MacGyver » Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:05 am

aokoye wrote:
MacGyver wrote:Does it matter though? If someone thinks they are C1, but in reality they are B1, its not a big deal. I mean if they try to get a job that expects C1 level skills, they might be in for a shock, or they might come across as overly confident/arrogant compared to their actual language skills... but meh.

Or they might just not get the job, might not be able to obtain permanent residence to a country, might not be able to gain naturalized citizenship to a country, might not be able to matriculate into a college degree program - I could go on.

Yeah there are plenty of low stakes situations where thinking your language proficiency is higher than it is just isn't a big deal or has little to no consequences. There are also loads of high stakes situations where the consequences are major.


To be brutally honest, if someone has that much at stake and are just relying on self assessment for their level... well, they are either arrogant or stupid.

Inst wrote:The problem is, without an aggressive schedule, a lot of people end up being lax and not putting up enough effort. What I dislike the most are people who end up studying one language for 10 years and not reaching reasonable proficiency. If it's going to take you 10 years, you're better off either not beginning the language, or finding the opportunity to do it intensively.


Really? Not bother at all? If someone can speak Mongolian at age 35 after starting at age 25, doing 30 minutes a day, isn't that something quite wonderful? Or should they just have spent that 30 minutes a day watching TV?
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby chove » Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:08 am

I would honestly rather know a few languages to an intermediate level than one or two to C2. That's just my preference, because I'm unlikely to ever work in another country or become a translator or whatever. I can definitely see the appeal of speaking another language to native fluency, but it's just not my goal.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby aokoye » Tue Mar 12, 2019 3:02 am

MacGyver wrote:
aokoye wrote:
MacGyver wrote:Does it matter though? If someone thinks they are C1, but in reality they are B1, its not a big deal. I mean if they try to get a job that expects C1 level skills, they might be in for a shock, or they might come across as overly confident/arrogant compared to their actual language skills... but meh.

Or they might just not get the job, might not be able to obtain permanent residence to a country, might not be able to gain naturalized citizenship to a country, might not be able to matriculate into a college degree program - I could go on.

Yeah there are plenty of low stakes situations where thinking your language proficiency is higher than it is just isn't a big deal or has little to no consequences. There are also loads of high stakes situations where the consequences are major.


To be brutally honest, if someone has that much at stake and are just relying on self assessment for their level... well, they are either arrogant or stupid.

Or it's an issue of people being competent enough to function in a society but not being able to pass the required test, chronically overestimating their skills, having others overestimate their skills, or not believing people who tell them that no, they aren't as proficient as they think they are (there are likely countless other reasons). I know someone who lived in France for at least 5 years but who had to take whatever language test is required for naturalize citizenship at least twice, I think three times. She's not dumb nor is she lazy. She was easily able to live a life in France prior to eventually passing the language proficiency test.

On a less high stakes level, there were probably hundreds of students at Freie Universität Berlin's summer school when I was there who thought that they would test into higher levels of German than they did. Almost all of these people had some amount of previous formal instruction in German and there was quite a lot of Sturm und Drang when they found out what level they got into.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby golyplot » Tue Mar 12, 2019 3:19 am

chove wrote:I would honestly rather know a few languages to an intermediate level than one or two to C2. That's just my preference, because I'm unlikely to ever work in another country or become a translator or whatever. I can definitely see the appeal of speaking another language to native fluency, but it's just not my goal.


This is my approach too. I'm never going to be a translator and I have no intentions to emigrate. But I like being able to watch foreign movies without subtitles or understand other people who aren't speaking English. If I had infinite time, I'd probably try to learn every commonly spoken language on the planet.
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