Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby StringerBell » Thu Jul 04, 2019 8:01 pm

While working on dopełniarz/genitive case this morning, I got hit by a very big "OMG that's it, I can NOT learnt these f*!&ing case endings, I give up!" Had I attempted to start out with grammar in the beginning, I would be 100% giving up right now. But having invested so much time and energy into this language, I don't want to give up that easily. I can deal with biernik/accusative and narzędnik/instrumental, but dopełniarz/genitive just might just be the nail in the coffin.

So, I'm questioning what I want to do about Polish. Originally, I wanted to just be able to read/listen, and for those things I don't have to be able to apply any case endings. But then at some point, I decided that I'd at least like to be able to communicate at a basic level (basic meaning simple, not basic meaning riddled with errors). It's possible that I'm overreacting, but it's equally possible that I will actually never be able to produce relatively simple sentences correctly. Do I keep trying? Do I just content myself with understanding and give up on ever actually speaking without a ton of mistakes? Should I give up all together? <<<probably won't do that last one, but it's on the table.

I'm not going to make any decision while I'm in such a bad mood, so I'm going to just try to keep going and see how I feel a little later. I'm hoping I'll feel more positive about Polish grammar in a few days.

For anyone reading this, what was the most frustrating/difficult/impossible grammar concept you had to learn in a foreign language and how did you deal with it?
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby cjareck » Thu Jul 04, 2019 8:19 pm

In high school, I was generally lazy. I didn't learn almost anything and was rather a mediocre pupil. My ambition was not to have 2 at the end of the semester. This was the lowest positive mark you can get. We had German and English and the teacher said that I will have 2 at the end. I said that I would like to take an exam of whole material to have 3. I had to learn the case government of verbs in German. Which verb takes which case - "Warten auf + Akkusativ" (to wait for somebody + accusative). I made flashcards manually and learned them by heart. I passed with flying colors. Neither I nor my German teacher would believe then that German will be the main language in my academic research ;)

The other thing is that you should communicate and learn by making errors. Children learn that way. As I stated this already, even my youngest (almost 6) use sometimes regular forms where the word should be declined or conjugated regularly. I correct them and they learn. And they are native speakers.

I had a hard time with my Hebrew, but my recent visit to Israel gave me so much motivation that I have still some of it. And just as it started fading out, new fuel came into its place - I started to understand the written and the spoken language. Not everything, but I see the effects.

So do not break down, but intensify your efforts to overcome the bad mood. My PM box and my email box are waiting for your writing practice. If you wish language exchange I can arrange it with my wife. With her English, you will be forced to communicate in Polish ;)

(edit)
And since you are learning Latin Repetitio est mater studiorum

(edit2)
I made a mistake in my case government example ;) Thanks to Kat for pointing it out. It is correct now.
Last edited by cjareck on Fri Jul 05, 2019 5:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby rdearman » Thu Jul 04, 2019 9:20 pm

You may be affected by demoralization. I wrote a blog article about this and did a presentation you can watch here and read the presentation once (spoiler, it is in French). Yes I know my French is bad, not need for more comments. :)

Part of the problem is that once you see just how high the mountain is, you want to give up. When you were in the foothills learning new words it was all sunshine and grass. Now it is rocks and snow capped peaks!
StringerBell wrote:OMG that's it, I can NOT learnt these f*!&ing case endings,
This is an example of poor thinking. You should try to put thoughts like this one on trial. You "cannot" learn this? If you have 16 hours per day with a native speaker and 150 years to learn it could you learn it? Course you could. So you can learn it, just perhaps not in the timescales you have envisioned. So the problem isn't what you're learning but your expectations.

People usually avoid tasks or self-efficacy is low, but undertake tasks where self-efficacy is high. You must believe that you will eventually understand and you will. I translated a bit of my presentation from French.

  • Low self-efficacy can lead people to believe that tasks are more difficult than they actually are. This often leads to poor job planning and increased stress.
  • Barriers often stimulate people with high self-efficacy to greater efforts, where a person with little self-efficacy will tend towards discouragement and abandonment.
  • A person with high self-efficacy will attribute failure to external factors, where a person with low self-efficacy will assign a low capacity.

Modeling is experienced as "If they can do it, I can do it as well". When we see someone succeed, our own self-efficacy increases; where we see people fail, our self-efficacy diminishes. This process is most effective when we consider ourselves to be similar to the model. Although not as influential as direct experience, modeling is particularly useful for people who are particularly uncertain about themselves.

The first and most important source of self-efficacy lies in mastery experiences. However, nothing is more powerful than having direct experience of mastery to increase self-efficacy. Success, for example in mastering a task or controlling an environment, will increase self-confidence in this area, while failure will undermine this belief in effectiveness. Having a resilient sense of self-efficacy requires experience to overcome obstacles through effort and perseverance.

The second source of self-efficacy comes from our observation of the people around us, especially those we consider as role models. Seeing like-minded people to succeed through their continued efforts reinforces our belief that we also have the capabilities to master the activities needed to succeed in this area.

Influential people in our lives such as parents, teachers, managers or coaches can reinforce our beliefs that we have what it takes to succeed. Being confident that we have the capabilities to master certain activities, we are more likely to make the effort and support when problems arise.

The state in which you are will influence how you judge your personal effectiveness. Depression, for example, can reduce confidence in our abilities. Stress or tension reactions are interpreted as signs of vulnerability to poor performance while positive emotions can reinforce our confidence in our skills.

Psychologist James Maddux has suggested a fifth way to self-efficacy through "imaginal experiences", the art of visualizing oneself behaving effectively or successfully in a given situation.


So I would suggest you do can few things. Think about your timescales. Give yourself 25 years to get to a basic level, not so much stress and pressure, so you might get better quicker. Next look at all the people who've learned Polish as a second language.

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish astronomer who put forth the theory that the Sun is at rest near the centre of the Universe, and that the Earth, spinning on its axis once daily, revolves annually around the Sun. This is called the heliocentric theory. Scientists often use the “Copernican principle” which states that Earth is not a special planet circling a special star and neither are we humans special creatures by extension to say that we are not in a special time, or special place, or have special abilities. We are most likely to be in the NORM. So all the people who learned Polish are unlikely to be special. They are MUCH more likely to be statistically normal humans. You are likely to be a statistically normal human. SO if all those NORMS can learn Polish, then so can you.

IN answer to your question about how did I learn difficult grammar concepts? Well I basically ignore them. I don't read grammar books and I don't study grammar. Like cjareck's children, I'm letting people correct me and I try to get a shedload of exposure. Sometimes I look up grammar, but very, very rarely. I also have a long rant about my rubbish methods somewhere on this site, but I couldn't find it. Basically if you want to learn a language, don't use me as an example. :)
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby Radioclare » Thu Jul 04, 2019 10:29 pm

I really struggled with case endings when I started learning Croatian (and I'm struggling with some of them in Russian too). I think they're a really challenging part of learning Slavic languages because it's virtually impossible to say anything without them and it sometimes feels like even the simplest of phrases are fraught with difficulties. I got really stressed out before my Russian trip when I realised there were five of us going. Nouns following five require genitive plural (which is my weakest case) so even trying to say something like "five tickets please" felt like a huge challenge.

The things which helped me in Croatian were not trying to learn them all at once (i.e. accepting that this was a huge thing to master and breaking it down to small chunks, like just practising genitive endings for feminine nouns, for example) and using different resources. There are only a handful of Croatian textbooks for English speakers, but I basically bought all of them and when I felt like I was hitting a mental block with one of them, I'd just abandon in and start using a different one. Sometimes just having a case explained by a different author or presented in a different way with different examples was enough for it to click with me.

The thing I absolutely struggled with the most was case endings after numerals and I think this reduced me to tears on one occasion. I don't like learning grammar (in fact I don't really enjoy learning languages :lol: ) so I can only do it in small doses. With numerals, I eventually found one textbook which explained it really well and kept making myself read it. I mean, not continually, but I'd read it one week and then come back to it the next weekend and read it again etc. There was too much to absorb in one go, but each time I read it I got something new from it. If I take that textbook off my shelf now it would automatically spring open at that page :D So I think revisiting material, but taking breaks in between, is really useful.

I haven't found extensive reading or listening has helped me much with cases at all. It's definitely helped me with other aspects of the language but I find that if I'm engrossed in a plot, rather than thinking "ooh that's interesting, that noun is ending in -a - does that mean it's a genitive?" I automatically zone out all the case endings and just focus on the sense of the words to enjoy the story. This is definitely a personal thing; my boyfriend is the exact opposite.

What I did find really useful was trying to write sentences myself and getting them corrected (on Lang8 or similar). I had a phase a few years ago of trying to write 150 words in Croatian every day and getting them corrected. Sometimes it was soul destroying, because I literally couldn't write a sentence without a mistake in a case, but ultimately I learned a lot from it. I think I learned more from making the mistake and being corrected/having it explained to me where I'd gone wrong than I would have done from hours of staring at the declension tables at the back of my textbooks.

As far as speaking Croatian goes, I make mistakes with cases all the time but I try not to stress about it. To be honest, I think when you're speaking the most important thing is to get the first part of the word right; I'm not sure about the case ending I just mumble/swallow it and hope for the best. If you speak quickly enough, my theory is that no one can really tell whether you put an -e or an -a on the end of your noun :lol:

Anyway, don't give up! Polish isn't easy and you've obviously come a long way with it already. Maybe take a break if it's really frustrating you right now, but come back to it and keep trying :)

And thank you for sharing your struggles here; it always feels weird to "like" posts where people are talking about things they find difficult, but I think honest posts like this are some of the most valuable on the forum because sometimes it's easy to feel like you're the only person who has days like this and everyone else is effortlessly learning five languages at once :lol:
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby Brun Ugle » Fri Jul 05, 2019 7:11 am

You’ve already gotten tons of great advice, but I thought I’d add mine anyway. You said you can deal with the accusative and instrumental cases (and I assume nominative as well, since that’s usually the dictionary form). What I would do, would be to spend some time, maybe a few days or a few weeks, working on only those cases. If you can find exercises on them, do them. If not, trying writing your own sentences using those cases and get them corrected. The idea is to get so good at them that you’d know them in your sleep. If someone woke you up in the middle of the night and demanded that you say something using the accusative or instrumental case, you should be able to do it correctly. Basically, over-learn them. Then start working on the genitive. If it’s hard, don’t even bother learning the entire genitive at once. Start with one gender in the singular, then move on to the plural or to another gender, until eventually you can do all the genders in both singular and plural. I like over-learning things like this because I find that I’ll otherwise “forget” the things I already know when I start adding in new things. I’ll mess up cases or verb forms I know because I’m too busy concentrating on getting the new one right. But that happens a bit less if you know them better.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby Polish Paralysis » Fri Jul 05, 2019 7:59 am

Great advice from everyone so far. I would simply emphasise the value of correction as far as cases go, whether that be written correction (as Radioclare mentioned) or verbal. Producing the language in whatever form helped me to get a handle on the majority of the cases in a matter of weeks, although I do still make the odd mistake. I would also argue that you should learn all the more common ones first as those are the ones you have to use. For example, when I have to say something using the dative plural such as I gave it to the nurses, I struggle a lot more than pretty much every other case. It's simply a matter of the dative case showing up less commonly in spoken language. I guess this is simply a product of my having learnt cases through usage.

A grammar book approach might work for some people but I think a combination of production and induction is definitely more useful for me. To be perfectly honest cases are difficult but I will have long learnt the cases by the time I have learnt enough vocabulary to have a decent conversation. Cases are an annoyance and make Polish look very complicated at a superficial level but for me the much greater problems are understanding verb aspects and simply garnering a sufficient amount of vocabulary in a language with very few English cognates.

Edited: spelling correction
Last edited by Polish Paralysis on Fri Jul 05, 2019 10:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby rfnsoares » Fri Jul 05, 2019 9:26 am

The genitive and the locative cases in Polish are really difficult. I know it because I studied Polish about two years ago. You might know this youtube channel: "Polski z Anią // Polish with Ania". It is the best for grammar explanations. Besides, I like to practice writing down declensions for the 100 most common nouns. That helped me.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby Daniel N. » Fri Jul 05, 2019 9:29 pm

I suggest you not to attempt to learn the genitive case all at once. Learn only the genitive singular first, and only for one group of nouns (say, nouns in -a). That's how you can split a big task into smaller and more palatable ones...

In the long run, verbs will be the hardest thing, you are right.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby ILikeKarkówka » Sat Jul 06, 2019 9:45 pm

StringerBell wrote:While working on dopełniarz/genitive case this morning, I got hit by a very big "OMG that's it, I can NOT learnt these f*!&ing case endings, I give up!" Had I attempted to start out with grammar in the beginning, I would be 100% giving up right now. But having invested so much time and energy into this language, I don't want to give up that easily. I can deal with biernik/accusative and narzędnik/instrumental, but dopełniarz/genitive just might just be the nail in the coffin.

So, I'm questioning what I want to do about Polish. Originally, I wanted to just be able to read/listen, and for those things I don't have to be able to apply any case endings. But then at some point, I decided that I'd at least like to be able to communicate at a basic level (basic meaning simple, not basic meaning riddled with errors). It's possible that I'm overreacting, but it's equally possible that I will actually never be able to produce relatively simple sentences correctly. Do I keep trying? Do I just content myself with understanding and give up on ever actually speaking without a ton of mistakes? Should I give up all together? <<<probably won't do that last one, but it's on the table.

I'm not going to make any decision while I'm in such a bad mood, so I'm going to just try to keep going and see how I feel a little later. I'm hoping I'll feel more positive about Polish grammar in a few days.

For anyone reading this, what was the most frustrating/difficult/impossible grammar concept you had to learn in a foreign language and how did you deal with it?


Out of interest what exactly does your work in this area involve?

And also out of interest - what is it about the instrumental case that makes you feel that it is ok to deal with but not the genitive? I also find the instrumental case a lot easier to get my head around and the endings are more uniform however in my mind it has the same basic "ingredients" as other cases.

I do personally think that some painful time spent on this is very useful and also rewarding in the long run however it shouldn't get to the point where it is putting you off the language. If it is reaching that point then another approach may need to be looked at.

rfnsoares wrote:The genitive and the locative cases in Polish are really difficult. I know it because I studied Polish about two years ago. You might know this youtube channel: "Polski z Anią // Polish with Ania". It is the best for grammar explanations. Besides, I like to practice writing down declensions for the 100 most common nouns. That helped me.


I second watching this series. I have watched most of it mostly because it is in Polish (with the very occasional English word) and it is one of the video series on YouTube that has subtitles in Polish which helps me absorb content better. So I don't watch it for the grammar necessarily as I class it is as part of the native materials I watch however I do think her explanations are generally very good.

It is interesting you say the Locative case is really difficult, in my opinion it's the easiest to get my head around. Is there a particular reason why you say it is really difficult?

The reason why I think it is more straightforward is that there are 2 questions that I need to overcome to be get comfortable with using a case 1) When do I use the case and 2) What is the required transformation of the noun (and agreeing adjective if relevant). For the Locative Case I think both of these are easier to answer than for others. That is just my way of thinking though.

Daniel N. wrote:I suggest you not to attempt to learn the genitive case all at once. Learn only the genitive singular first, and only for one group of nouns (say, nouns in -a). That's how you can split a big task into smaller and more palatable ones...

In the long run, verbs will be the hardest thing, you are right.


I also suggest this is a good approach.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby StringerBell » Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:52 pm

Thanks for all the responses and suggestions.

POLISH:

I'm not sure exactly what is going on with Polish at the moment. I think we are having a lovers' spat. :lol: I've been feeling really mad at the language and I'm not sure if I will continue with it. I can now see that being able to speak simply (though grammatically correct) is not possible for me. So, I'm trying to decide if I can be satisfied with any of these options:
1) give up totally on speaking and just focus on improving listening/reading.
2) continue speaking in a way that is riddled with tons of mistakes forever.
3) accept that even though I love this language and gave it my best, it just isn't for me.

One of my major obstacles is that I don't improve AT ALL if I'm corrected during conversation. This has been a major hinderance for me with Italian. Even my husband (who is a big believer that to get better at speaking, a person has to do it a lot and get corrected) has told me that he no longer believes that speaking a lot is the way for me to make improvements, because he's seen first hand that I don't remember or incorporate corrections. They are a total waste of time for me in a conversation. If I'm corrected while I'm talking, the other person might as well not say anything at all. With Italian, even if he's corrected me on something 10x in a day, I will continue making that mistake until I sit down and fill up page(s) with written reinforcement of the correct way. My auditory memory seems to be non-existent. This is the reason I stopped my Italian speaking challenge last year and switched to more reading and writing, which made a difference for me. But I'm already doing A TON of reading and scriptorium writing in Polish, and there's only so much I can do before my hand falls off.

So, I will not get better by having my mistakes corrected by a native speaker because (1) I don't learn that way, and (2) I am making a huge amount of mistakes, and (3) if I don't even understand why the correction is being made it's extra meaningless to me. I started writing out corrected sentences multiple times, but the minute I stopped doing it, I forgot all the corrections, and I'm confident that I wouldn't be able to say/write most of those same sentences correctly anymore.

Grammar rant: don't read this if you're not in the mood for a bunch of whining and complaining
I was hoping that after tons and tons of exposure (I'm up to 1,500 hours) a lot of grammar would be obvious and I'd have a good enough feel for what sounded right that learning the rules and applying them wouldn't be too big of a deal. This is not what's happened, unfortunately. There are a few cases that I do have a feel for and can apply, but it's really a tiny percentage.

I'm feeling particularly angry because I'm realizing that in some instances, the case ending thing is pointless; in Biernik/Accusative, neuter words and masculine inanimate word don't change the ending at all (and neither do the plurals regardless of gender) which tells me that these case endings aren't actually necessary for understanding the meaning of the sentence. This makes me feel extremely resentful. I can accept the idea of case endings if they are actually necessary for understanding but if a ton of words don't change at all, then what's the point of changing the others?

Then there's the fact that a lot of case endings overlap, which makes them extra confusing, or that masculine words sometimes take on endings that make them look like they're feminine, or that in dopełniarz/genitive there's a list of 423,000 nouns that are masculine inanimate that take a particular ending but 715,000 masculine inanimate nouns that take a different ending... I better not get started on dopełniarz/genitive, I could write a novel just ranting about how ridiculously convoluted that case is. I can't deal with the frustrating level of complexity that's involved in identifying the case and figuring out what the ending should be based on whether the word is masculine animate, masculine inanimate, feminine, neuter. And the whole masculine animate/masculine inanimate thing makes me especially angry. Fruit and vegetables and names of cars are animate????

I know that every language has a ton of nonsense that you just have to accept, but I don't know if I have it in me to deal with this particular level of nonsense. It's too much, man! (<<<BoJack reference). Breaking it down and just focusing on one tiny part of one case doesn't work for me. Doing hours and hours of grammar exercises don't work for me because I can't apply any of those exercises to real life speaking...and I hate doing hours and hours and hours of grammar exercises. I hate it.

My understanding still feel light years away from where I can enjoy native materials; I think it will be years before I can understand the majority of what people say in a TV show or to even be able to read Young Adult books without a parallel text and that's making me feel particularly demotivated. I know that comprehension takes time, but after 1,500 hours I still feel like a beginner who can't say the most basic sentences correctly (like anything that's negative or involves a plural) and that's not a good feeling. In fact, it's making me questioning what I accomplished during all those hours.

So, I think I will take a break from Polish and see how I feel about it in a little while. Maybe once my frustration dissipates I'll decide to return to Polish, or maybe I'll decide that I've reached my limits and it's time to focus my energy elsewhere.
Last edited by StringerBell on Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:58 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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