Focus on form

General discussion about learning languages
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rdearman
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Re: Focus on form

Postby rdearman » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:14 pm

But back to Uncle Rogers point, which was basically if you've not achieved an average or high level in your native language, your unlikely to get to an average or high level in a second language. Someone who is a poor student in one language could be a great student in another and I'm sure there are people like that because there are always outliers, but it isn't going to be the norm.

kulaputra argued that "All human beings are equally proficient in the use of their native language" and I fundamentally disagree. Some people are great orators and/or writers and others are not. This might be a skill which can be developed, but everyone being equally proficient is not an accurate statement, since it can be easily proved people have different levels of vocabulary, experience and education.

Blanket statements about "All human beings" are almost always false simply because of the diversity of the human animal.

I agree there isn't any direct link between skill in L1 and skill in L2, but when you're talking about averages then things can run along a parallel track. I say this simply because the personality traits which make a person good or bad at one skill might make them good or bad at a related skill. So if you're a poor student, dislike studying, dislike reading, dislike puzzles, and dislike speaking with/to others then you're unlikely to become a great orator in any language.

kulaputra wrote:Reading and writing are not language. Language is a natural human faculty, as innate to us as flying is to (most) birds. On the other hand, writing is an artifice that has only existed for less then 2% of the time we have been on this planet as H. Sapiens. The vast majority of people to have ever existed were perfectly illiterate and also perfectly competent in their L1.

Of course in today's world it's great not to be illiterate, but it isn't the same thing as language incompetence, which is the mark of infants and L2 learners.

My objection is you're saying that everyone is equally good at it, which I believe is not an accurate statement. All humans can sing, some couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.
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Re: Focus on form

Postby kulaputra » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:23 pm

rdearman wrote:But back to Uncle Rogers point, which was basically if you've not achieved an average or high level in your native language, your unlikely to get to an average or high level in a second language.

Someone who is a poor student in one language could be a great student in another and I'm sure there are people like that because there are always outliers, but it isn't going to be the norm.


So my grandmother, with no formal schooling, but with at least 4 languages under her belt is what exactly? An aberation? On the contrary, that was actually the norm in many parts of the world: learning languages through formal education, whether L2s or the writing/prescriptive rules of an L1, is an extremely novel phenomenon.

rdearman wrote:kulaputra argued that "All human beings are equally proficient in the use of their native language" and I fundamentally disagree. Some people are great orators and/or writers and others are not. This might be a skill which can be developed, but everyone being equally proficient is not an accurate statement, since it can be easily proved people have different levels of vocabulary, experience and education.


Oration and writing are specific skills which themselves are not language. I personally don't aspire to be able to give the equivalent of "We shall fight on the beaches" in my L2, nor do I aspire to be able to write War and Peace. But I can't really do those things in my L1 either. That doesn't make me incompetent at language, it means I'm like 99% of other people who speak my L1 natively, aka- what's that word you were using- ah, right, I'm perfectly average. All I strive for is to be average in another L2, aka like 99% of people who have that as an L1.

rdearman wrote:Blanket statements about "All human beings" are almost always false simply because of the diversity of the human animal.

My objection is you're saying that everyone is equally good at it, which I believe is not an accurate statement. All humans can sing, some couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.


Language, for the human species, is not like singing. Language is like walking. Your claims are true about chimpanzees or parrots, but not humans.
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Re: Focus on form

Postby rdearman » Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:31 pm

We'll agree to disagree then.
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Re: Focus on form

Postby Uncle Roger » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:41 pm

No point in arguing against one of the strongest and most pervasive laws of nature: normal distribution.

Take any language and you'll be able to plot a normal distribution of how well its speakers speak it. There are people eternally mistaking "its" and "it's", "they're" and "their", writing stuff such as "should of been" instead of "should have been" and people who wouldn't be caught dead doing those mistakes. And all shades of gray in the middle, of course.
And whilst I have quoted examples mostly tied to spelling and writing, I can guarantee you the same happens in speech too. Plenty of Italians do get the subjunctive mood wrong, or use the male indirect complement pronoun even when they should use the female one. Some do it systematically, some do it often, some hardly ever do it. There you go, different levels of accuracy in the use of the language.

There exist people that for whatever reason do have a lesser command of their native language, a less broad vocabulary etc, still well within the realms of being a native speaker. I wouldn't be surprised if these same people wouldn't be as apt at learning a second language.

Also, if oration and writing are "specific skills", I guess the same can be said of listening and reading, so I wonder what's left to be classified as "use of language" on which a proficiency can be measured.
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Re: Focus on form

Postby Cainntear » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:55 pm

Uncle Roger wrote:And whilst I have quoted examples mostly tied to spelling and writing, I can guarantee you the same happens in speech too. Plenty of Italians do get the subjunctive mood wrong, or use the male indirect complement pronoun even when they should use the female one. Some do it systematically, some do it often, some hardly ever do it. There you go, different levels of accuracy in the use of the language.

Plenty of Italians don't speak Italian as their first language. Fewer than in previous generations, right enough.

But even then, there is plenty of valid variation in native speech. I do not tell people who say "the team is playing well" that they're wrong, and I hope they wouldn't tell me I'm wrong for saying "the team are playing well". I do not call people incompetent for saying "the floor needs cleaning" and I don't expect them to call me incompetent for saying "the floor needs cleaned".

I'm not going to deny there is some distribution of abilities, but I feel the curve is small and narrow enough that it's hardly worth thinking about. Besides, the measure of it would be entirely subjective.
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Re: Focus on form

Postby Cainntear » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:59 pm

Uncle Roger wrote:Also, if oration and writing are "specific skills", I guess the same can be said of listening and reading, so I wonder what's left to be classified as "use of language" on which a proficiency can be measured.

You're missing the point.

Literacy, i.e. reading and writing, is a skill that builds on top of language. You need language to read and write, but you don't need to read and write to language.

Oration is not the same as speaking. It is using speaking in a particular way for particular purpose.
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Re: Focus on form

Postby Uncle Roger » Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:01 pm

I talked about below average and above average. Never did I say that below average implies incompetence or insufficient competence. The whole distribution could be well above the "lower specification limit".
But the moment you have a distribution, you have an average and some observations will be above, some below.

You'll have to explain what "to language" is then.
Oration may not be the same as speaking, regardless there is a distribution in speaking too.
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Re: Focus on form

Postby kulaputra » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:53 am

Uncle Roger wrote:No point in arguing against one of the strongest and most pervasive laws of nature: normal distribution.


Normal distribution doesn't apply when you're comparing two disparate populations, namely L1 speakers and L2 speakers. "Normal distribution" is also virtually meaningless without knowing standard deviation.

How many bad walkers do you see on a given day who aren't infants? Very few, right? Most people walk just as well as anyone else, barring a few people with certain disorders, injuries, and disabilities. The frequency of disorders, injuries, and disabilities that seriously muck up linguistic ability (in your L1) is much lower then those that muck up your ability to walk, so this is even more true for language.

Uncle Roger wrote:Take any language and you'll be able to plot a normal distribution of how well its speakers speak it. There are people eternally mistaking "its" and "it's", "they're" and "their", writing stuff such as "should of been" instead of "should have been" and people who wouldn't be caught dead doing those mistakes.


Really, you're going to prove people speak a language poorly by referring to orthographical mistakes as evidence?

Uncle Roger wrote:And whilst I have quoted examples mostly tied to spelling and writing, I can guarantee you the same happens in speech too.


But it doesn't, by definition.

Uncle Roger wrote:Plenty of Italians do get the subjunctive mood wrong, or use the male indirect complement pronoun even when they should use the female one. Some do it systematically, some do it often, some hardly ever do it.


That's not "wrong." Language isn't decreed by God or the Pope. Italians can't speak Italian poorly anymore then they can breathe wrong. Is English "wrong" because its subjunctive mood has all but disappeared? No. So if the subjunctive mood is becoming marginalized in some/all dialects of Italian, how could that possibly be wrong?

Uncle Roger wrote:Also, if oration and writing are "specific skills", I guess the same can be said of listening and reading, so I wonder what's left to be classified as "use of language" on which a proficiency can be measured.


Speech (as opposed to oration) and listening as literally as old as humanity. It's fundamentally biological, like, we can literally point to language genes. It's as much a part of being human as being able to fly is part of being a pigeon. Writing and reading are relatively recent inventions that have existed for less then 2% of human history. Oration/rhetoric is, in essence, talking like one writes, and hence oration came about even later then writing. Pre and non-literate societies don't produce Gettysburg Addresses not because they're bad speakers but because you need a semi-permanent medium to compose speeches, and good speeches don't sound like normal conversation.
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Re: Focus on form

Postby Random Review » Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:07 pm

Cainntear wrote:I do not call people incompetent for saying "the floor needs cleaning" and I don't expect them to call me incompetent for saying "the floor needs cleaned".


I still remember my feeling of utter shock when (just a couple of years ago) I found out that the former (*which sounds horrible to me) is generally deemed "correct" and the latter (which I've said all my life) is only a Scottish thing. :o

* I get that it is a gerund. When modified (e.g. "it needs a good cleaning") it sounds much better (though even here I'd much rather say "it needs a good clean" :lol: ).
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Re: Focus on form

Postby kulaputra » Sat Jun 16, 2018 4:15 am

Random Review wrote:
Cainntear wrote:I do not call people incompetent for saying "the floor needs cleaning" and I don't expect them to call me incompetent for saying "the floor needs cleaned".


I still remember my feeling of utter shock when (just a couple of years ago) I found out that the former (*which sounds horrible to me) is generally deemed "correct" and the latter (which I've said all my life) is only a Scottish thing. :o

* I get that it is a gerund. When modified (e.g. "it needs a good cleaning") it sounds much better (though even here I'd much rather say "it needs a good clean" :lol: ).


Not just a Scottish thing; parts of the US with heavy Scottish or Scotch-Irish ancestry also use it, i.e. central Pennsylvania, where I spent part of my childhood (although this is not a feature of my speech, I heard it a lot over the years).

I believe this generally only works for qualities that are impermanent, so *He needs trained is incorrect/very uncommon in these dialects because being trained is a fairly permanent quality.
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Iha śāriputra: rūpaṃ śūnyatā śūnyataiva rūpaṃ; rūpān na pṛthak śūnyatā śunyatāyā na pṛthag rūpaṃ; yad rūpaṃ sā śūnyatā; ya śūnyatā tad rūpaṃ.

--Heart Sutra

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