Category Archives: Literature
Anything literary or related to literature, including my own modest attempts.
I am now returning, having received a moment ago a timely reminder from Victor Berrjod, to the discussion on the above diagram, and what it can show us of use to the learners of language.
In the earlier article, I wrote about how in reading and in listening the language user is passive – not having to generate his own grammatically correct language or have the right word at hand. Therefore reading and listening are intrinsically less challenging than writing or speaking. For someone not in an active state with his command of a foreign language, reading and listening creates less of a problem than writing or speaking. If he, or she, knows the word in their passive memory then it should be that they can deal with reading it or listening to it. In order to be able to speak or writing a person must find that word for themselves.
So we have compared the two rows in the diagram. Let us now compare the two columns.
In the leftmost column, the one containing reading as the passive skill or function and writing as the active skill, we can say that the learner is able to exercise more control over timing when reading and writing than when speaking and listening.
It is clear that listening with a pause button enables a similar control of timing as reading and speaking into a recording device that enables pauses, repetitions, breaks and then a later edit allows a similar control as in writing, and the use of recordings – making them as well as listening to them in that way – certain makes for an excellent bridge between the skills where we have all the time we need – reading and writing, and those skills where we don’t have all the time we need, such as conversing with someone who is not particularly inclined to wait around while we find the words we need.
In reading and writing there are also scenarios where we don’t control the time, for example reading subtitles in a foreign language cinema when an English language film is shown undubbed, or certain chatroom scenarios where if we are not careful we will not keep up with the flow and our contribution to the chat will look lame. These therefore are also bridging scenarios.
However, in the main if you are on your own and reading and writing for yourself, reading a book or writing the goldlist, you can control how fast you want to do it, therefore you can be relaxed and therefore you can more easily get into a state where the subconscious, long-term memory is the default information pantry and not the conscious memory, which switches on in states of nerves or stress and which remembers in a short-term way, recycling its hastily constructed synaptic pathways after only two weeks.
The unconscious memory may only sample 20-30% of what you cover and place in the short-term memory if it is activated, but then it will keep it for decades whereas the short term memory loses pretty much everything after two weeks. 100% of 2 is much less of course than 20% of 1,000, so a preference to use the long-term memory methods and avoid the short term memory methods should be a no-brainer for all of us.
The problem is of course that people want to be able to speak and listen, they want to be able to rely on their language knowledge in real life situations, and so people want to get to the point where they can speak at will. And language classes seem geared around the getting of students to speak phrases and be able to engage in conversations, as well as getting the students to repeat a lot and rote learn. All of these ways are short-term memory ways, they encourage the learner to feel as though he or she is making faster progress but it will prove to be an uphill struggle as the learner is always fighting against his two-week barrier, and later on blaming himself and not the teacher’s method for the fact that not much gets retained after class.
Now you can ask any polyglot you know, and even though some of them seem to take a delight in the act of activating their languages, and make no mistake about it, it is an extremely pleasant sensation to activate a language and to really start speaking and thinking in it for the first time, you will still learn from them that they do a lot of reading and writing and they take their time over it and do it alone at home. They don’t rely on the classes. If they use classes at all it would be for them just an adjunct, a social dimension to the real learning which they do alone, reading in the main and writing.
When reading and writing you can be as relaxed as you like and so the unconscious memory works nicely. It will work less nicely on listening if you feel stressed, but that is why good audio course such as Michel Thomas, Paul Noble, Pimsleur, all emphasise the use of the pause button. You have to have the feel that you are in control of the timing at which the language is coming at you and can repeat any part of the recording ad nauseam if necessary. However actually repeating things over and over is also something that calls forth the conscious memory because while doing that we are TRYING to remember. The long-term memory works when we are not trying to memorise.
The short-term memory methods used by language schools of course are in their interests as the teachers of languages are paid for their time and if they can feed you with an illusion that either you are progressing quickly or if you are not progressing it’s not their fault, then people carry on for much much longer than they would need to learning alone, and all the time paying for lessons. Paying for lessons is not bad if there is a language which needs a lot of explanations which the books are confusing you on, and you stay in control and ask the questions. If you have a teacher who lets you do that, then they deserve their money. If you have a teacher who coaches you in the proper use of your brain and in the selection of good materials and clear explanations, then again you have a teacher who deserves their money. The other 80% are ripping you off either consciously or unconsciously.
From what I have said so far, it is clear that reading is the least challenging function of the four as in reading most of the time you have control over the time, you can relax and make it a pleasant experience and you don’t have to waste time getting yourself into a continued state of activation in the language in order to do it. As a reminder to those who have read me before, or an aside to those who haven’t, activation from a non-active state takes three days.
Recently no less a language learner than the polyglot A-lister Steve Kaufman of Lingq.com, a great believer in the learning power of reading by the way, such that he doesn’t feel the need to keep a record by writing in the way the Goldlist works – he feels it slows him down – which is not necessarily wrong, but doing so has many other advantages we can come on to – wanted to test my three-day activation hypothesis by coming to Prague after learning at home in Canada for I think about a year. However, when he came, he was already very nicely active in less than three days – because he had been spending his time in Canada already on regular Skype calls to his Czech native speaker friends and therefore he didn’t come with a completely passive knowledge and so the results of his experiment were – unfortunately for me – not very conclusive. I would have been fascinated to see his reaction if he had come genuinely passive and seen the remarkable effect of immersion over a few days from a passive state. It really is quite exciting and I can recommend just trusting the Method and trying that one time.
Anyhow, one thing I do agree with Steve on, and this is by far not the only thing, is that reading is a great way to learn languages to a high degree of perfection having a great time and freeing the long-term memory. In my opinion, though, to get to the point where we can just comfortably read away in the literature needs quite a bit of groundwork. In the old UK way of doing things, literature was brought in at A-level, only after a vocabulary of some 2,000 of the most common words had been achieved along with a thorough grasp of all the required grammar, which if we are talking about French literature (the most commonly learned language in that old UK system) requires the subjunctive and the past historic, even though you could live a month in today’s France barely using either and nobody would think any the worse of you for it.
In a similar way both Steve and I love the Jaroslav Hasek classic “Osudy dobreho vojaka Svejka” – but even this, a twentieth century document unlike the works of Voltaire and Goethe, is written in something fairly removed from modern Czech and the idioms we can learn in it, the greatest jewel of the Czech literature, might not stand us in good stead in daily life.
This does still leave reams of modern things worth reading in Czech, and in most of the languages which are available to be learned, some of course more than others.
I would say that if the four functions diagram shows you that the easiest thing to do when learning is to read, but people nevertheless want to progress from reading to speaking, there has to be a route or a choice of routes by which we can get from reading to speaking also encompassing the other two skills or functions. namely the writing and the listening.
And how we do that will be the topic of the next in this series.
- Chinese from scratch – a 1260 hour work Programme optimising your result. (huliganov.tv)
- Mental Spring Cleaning (bar201050.wordpress.com)
- 8 Tips for Improving Your Memory At Work (tymebeatagencyin.wordpress.com)
- Popular myths in psychology (part 1) (gmbcblog.wordpress.com)
- Method (funnyeasyitalian.wordpress.com)
- Question from a Student (“Why Should I Learn to Read and Write Chinese?”) (cityhotpot.wordpress.com)
Here we have, in nice HD coding, a walk around in Prague, showing some of the flavour of the experience of being in the Czech Republic – including this very strange thing that happened to me last Spring.
I don’t want to talk about the facts of what the case turned out to be, (especially as one party of it graces some films of mine on YT, which will also be shown here) but to my relief I only actually needed to be a witness. I have no wrongdoing as such on my conscience, but I have been known to sack people, and they get given more rights than I do when it comes to court, even if there’s no earthly justice in it. But this wasn’t even someone I had sacked. Because I didn’t know that, I had to go to the expense of a decent lawyer who naturally deserved to be paid for his appearance despite not in the end having a decisive role. But in the end I didn’t get annoyed about it, as it was something truly Kafkaesque in the city of Kafka which I’ll be able to remember and joke about for the rest of my life.
I also talk a little bit about learning Japanese and the kitsch for sale to tourists in Prague.
I thought I’d spice things up with a poll! Remember this is not the number of cases you’ve seen – you may have been more than once. Count is as number of days you’ve ever had to turn up. Don’t count it if you went along just for entertainment.
- Walk from the River Vltava to my flat – CUV (huliganov.tv)
- Kafka’s Work Trapped in a Kafkaesque Legal Fight (neatorama.com)
- Bilingual author best known for his tragicomic Kafkaesque fantasy (theage.com.au)
- Fate of Franz Kafka’s literary heritage turns into nightmare ruled on by judge (guardian.co.uk)
Hot off the press today, not historic in any way, my helping Sophie get more motivated to learn the poetry for her Polish literature class led me to do an impromptu YouTube session with her reciting some from memory.
It may interest you to know that none of the poems were learned with this video in mind, or even recently, and the class test of them happened some time ago.
I don’t let Sophie read a poem more than once a day. I don’t let her read without trying to enjoy the poetry and understand something from it. Never read in order to memorise, but in order to enjoy. Then go back some time later, especially more that two weeks later in the end, and see what was memorised and what not. Just like the goldlist method, only without the writing out, only using recitation.
This method works with a child’s poetry syllabus if you get ahead and do the initial readings well ahead of the class, so that the child already really knows most of the and is at the most putting in the finishing touches while other children are in a panic trying to force the thing into their memory. This results inevitably in the child using the Polish school method having the poem in the short-term memory and the child using a staged repetition technique and taking a long-term view will have a long-term memory of the poem.
So where you have continuous assessment, the benefit is reaped by people who simply won’t remember the poem once the year is finished. But children need to understand that education is for them to take something precious into their lives and is not just about marks and grades. A teacher might grade the cramming kids higher, but they simply won’t know much when my lower graded kid will remember more than any of the rest of them, and have a more pleasant time over it.
I understand that the download from DocsStocs made by Claude Cartaginese has now reached into over 5,000 downloads, with also many other sources of this document appearing also on the web as people share it freely as intended, so that the full number of downloads may be as high as 10,000 or more.
Set against that, though is the fact that not nearly so many paper copies have been ordered. The only place they can be ordered is Amazon in America, not the UK Amazon as yet, and the link to the product is embedded on the thumbnail.
If you would like a book worth in fact over 50 USD if it had not be gifted by over 40 volunteers each telling how they managed to learn multiple languages for less than 17 dollars, and also support Uncle Claude who had to fork out some of his private lolly on making the first bunch of paper books that are not selling, even though people have been eager to take the free version, then either click on the link here (which gives you the same price and I think I’m on 6% without costing you any more) or if you don’t want to give me 6% but still pay the same, then find the link just by going normally to Amazon.com and searching for it.
If you read the e-version and liked it, why not buy the paper version as a gift for someone else? It will always be possible to get a free version of this booki, but the printed one is very nice too and a good use of seventeen dollars, so please let’s be having a few more purchases of it.
- Buy “The Polyglot Project” on Amazon via my aStore, or download e-book (huliganov.tv)
- Answer to Question comparing Goldlist and Mnemosyne Methods. (huliganov.tv)
- Windows Phone 7 App Showcase: Polyglot (pocketnow.com)
- Just a Few Days Away… (via SYZYGY ON LANGUAGES) (huliganov.tv)
- Docs.com update brings speed, stability, and support for additional languages (downloadsquad.switched.com)
Here is the The Book of Samson and Dallillah (the second book of the Usenet Apocrypha, the first being The Book of Aaron, also available on this site. The third book, The Wisdom of David is lost and efforts are being made to uncover it for the readership of Huliganov TV.
The Book of Samson and Dallillah is believed to be, along with the other Books that make up the Apocrypha of Yuzneth, a lost portion of the Book of Mormon, having fallen out of Joseph Smith’s pocket as he was walking back from the hill to the village of Manchester, Ontario County, which, by a cosmic misunderstanding, fell through a kink in the space time continuum and ended up in Manchester England 159 years later and was offered for sale to me by a man in a white van as I was taking petrol at Knutsford Service Station. I didn’t get his number.
Those modern day mormons who became aware of the existence of this
book naturally wished to acquire it, but the angel Moroni came to me
in a vision during an advert break on telly as I was enjoying a nice
cup of coffee and gave me to understand that they had had their
chance and blew it when Joe Smith let it fall out of his pocket,
especially since they didn’t drink caffeine based hot drinks as God
had commanded to the remnant of the human race at the time of Noah,
and that now it was my turn, as a linguist and coffee addict, to have
a go with the Urim and Thummim, and translate the plates, and the
mormons were not to have them for any money, or all the tea in China.
And so, without further ado, here is The Book of Samson and
1. As it is written in the Book of Psalms, ‘Blessed is the man
that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the
way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth
he meditate day and night’.
3. There was indeed one who was such in the land of Yuzneth, and
verily he was like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that
bringeth forth his fruit in his season
4. And his scroll of answers to oft asked questions came forth as
an offering to the people of the temple each time that the moon was
5. And he was a leader, as a lodestone amongst men, and he did
establish the Assembly of the Righteous, and did give them laws in
the Scroll, which was called Nethi-Keth. Read the rest of this entry
Pushkin sitting on a copy of his complete works.
You may laugh. Ok, I’m old-fashioned. But in my defence I have to say that until I got this Samsung Galaxy every phone I had would not have made this anywhere near as easy. Not only was I able to download the free Android app for WordPress, but also this phone has an input method called swype which is much faster than the input methods I’ve seen on phones until now. It’s roughly half as fast as writing on a computer keyboard, which means about three times as fast as your usual phone keyboard. Effectively that means that it’s much easier to take a spare moment and keep a diary of what’s going on while I’m out and about.
This brings me nicely into announcing formally something that I only hinted at in an earlier post, namely that in the new year, the start of a new decade in a maybe not strictly mathematical sense, I will be starting a new series of posts on this blog called ‘Diary of the Next Decade’, or DND for short. This will be mainly a series done from the mobile, though probably not exclusively.
Additionally in the new year, I’ll be uploading the new videos added to youtube as they appear on youtube and that will continue to follow the 100 rule, which I’ve already been following for some months, since my thousandth video, which means I only upload the next video when the one previously has either reached a hundred views or else is well on its way there. In between current videos I’ll be uploading the earlier ones, usually in the order they first appeared four years or so previously.
In a few days, I’ll be setting my targets for writing and film making in 2011.
And all this was fairly comfortable to write on my new phone – technology just gets better and better.
- Swype Gesture-Based Android Keyboard Now Available to All [Video] (lifehacker.com)
- One of the “Killer Apps for Android,” Swype Opens Its Beta (readwriteweb.com)