Blog Archives

The Four Basic Linguistic Functions Analysed


langfunc3

Today, I am just uploading this for your perusal. I will start commenting on it and explaining it and drawing conclusions from it during the week, and hopefully what I will have to say will be quite useful for language learners. For today however I just wanted to let you take a look at the picture and you are welcome to give your initial thoughts in the comments.

There is actually so much that I could have to say from this simple diagram that I don’t worry that discussion before I have started to show what it is all about could “steal my thunder”. On the contrary it would be interesting to see what interpretations people would place on the diagram as it stands.

Should you first master your own language before learning another?


English: Belarusian as native language among u...

English: Belarusian as native language among urban population in Belarus according to the 2009 census Українська: Білоруська мова, як рідна серед міського населення Білорусі за даними перепису 2009 року. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning on Facebook someone cleverly asked the question whether one should first master one’s native language before learning another. The person asking the question later in the thread comes out in favour of the answer no, one does not have to first master one’s native language before starting another. Quite right too, but I was negatively surprised to see a number of people siding with the proposition. Do they think that they can even measure what it is to “master” one’s native tongue?

I think it is even actually impossible to master one’s own language without learning another. It is impossible to be properly analytic about one’s own native language without stepping out of it. A common denominator among people who use their native language particularly poorly is that they have never undertaken serious study of a second one.

I had a friend from Australia once who was completely ignorant of whether he was using a word in English as a noun or an adjective or an adverb – in English words don’t necessarily change their form to show you what they are. As a result his reading comprehension was a hoot, he made incorrect inferences the whole time from what people wrote to him. You could see that his whole world view was hemmed in by the fact that he didn’t even have a proper grasp of how his tool for thought, ie language, actually worked. It was not until he started learning other languages that his eyes began to open. This is before we even get to the deepening of thought and the opening of the mind that comes ones we are able to understand word origins better, or start to think in the other language or begin experiencing the world through the linguistic apparatus of another people. Read the rest of this entry

A question on the Goldlist Method


Français : A small list of common Louisiana Fr...

Français : A small list of common Louisiana French words different from normative French. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nice to see there are still all the time more and more people discovering the method online and finding out about it. One viewer asked me today:

Hello, in the last few days I’ve spent a few hours watching Your videos about the Goldlist Method. They have answered most of my questions, but one. Which is; as You’ve said, it is not a language course, or language learning method, but a way of learning vocabulary, so to learn a language the student also needs a book about the language. But how to use the course, if I’m using the Goldlist method? I mean, to make sure that the words I’ve learnt, I remember with the long term memory, I should not have contact with them for at least two weeks, but I would have if I were to use the course. Should I actually use the course (the way it’s meant to be used) after I learn all/most of the vocabulary contained in it? That would mean spending quite a few months learning the vocabulary, and not being able to really say anything in the target language. Or should I read enough about the target language’s grammar before? Though, that would mean spending some time learning the grammar, without knowing too much vocabulary to practice it with.

When I choose a language course, I try and find one that has vocabulary given in each lesson (as well as an index at the back, and graded grammatical explanations in each lesson. So I copy over the voicabulary items as single line items, and I copy over the grammatical paradigms as well as the explanations in summarised form as line items, just like noting things out of the book. I don’t need to write out all the dialogues and I don’t then usually need to do the exercises.

The fact that common words will inevitably be met again while I’m working further on the course is not an issue. These are the words which are so common of course you are going to learn them if you learn also the uncommon words, but in fact you shouldn’t panic unduly about seeing the words again, you just shouldn’t revise them again, but press on forward.

Even if you end up writing a word or grammar point more than once because you forgot you met it already, and only discover this on a later distillation, it’s really no big deal. Goldlist is quite a long project even though it’s probably the quickest way to learn in terms of total time spent, and these small inaccuracies will all come out in the wash.

Hope that helps.

The stubborn ear of the first-time linguist.


Portrait of Jane Austen, from the memoir by J....

Meet your new English teacher...

This is an answer to the question received from Grzegorz Siwiec which I’ve answered also where he put it in the Goldlist section, and also I wanted to make an article of it in its own right as it’s a great question. I’ve added a bit more here than in the answer to his question, so hopefully you’ll read it here as well. The additional bit is at the end.

You basically said that when you read English you understand a lot, but when you hear even the same text spoken, you understand a lot less. You asked whether the Goldlist method would help with listening.

OK, so here’s the answer.

Firstly, reading and listening are two sides of the same discipline. They are both the passive sides of linguistic activity. Linguistic activity, like mathematical activity, has four main functions. In maths we have addition, multiplication, subtraction and division. And just as division is like the opposite or passive side of multiplication, so hearing is the passive side of speaking. And just as subtraction is the passive side of addition, so reading is the passive side of writing. And just as it is easier to do big subration sums than it is to do long division without a calculator, so it is that the beginner until fluency is gained will find the passive activity of reading to be easier than the passive activity of hearing.

In reading, we provide in our heads our own “voice” for the words and we “listen” to that. But it is a voice that we have made and therefore it will contain the mispronunciations that we have picked up. We may hear the same word back read by a native speaker and it may sound different because the pronunciation is not what we expected. The Goldlist can help here if you note with words in the goldlist any unexpected pronunciation to an English word if you’re learning English or other not precisely phonetic language.

In the main the reason why we do not understand a spoken text as well is that the tempo it is presented in will be someone else’s tempo. When we read we adjust the speed of the internal voice to match what we are comfortable with. We pause when we need to think about a word, whereas in a spoken text the voice carries on while we still need to chew on an earlier word, and we get lost. We can also see an unfamiliar word and analyse it for etymological clues, and do things that we don’t have time for when listening to a text. If we do get lost we can repeat it.

So don’t expect following a spoken text to be equally easy as following a written one. Not unless you are learning Japanese, that is. And even there, the speech of some speakers, especially male speakers, is quite hard to follow. Bear in mind also that some languages swallow half the letters, for instance French and Danish, and many accents of English. Accents in themselves cause listening comprehension to be much tougher than reading comprehension, especially in languages like German or English which contain strong dialects. In Polish even the Zakopane accent is not so hard to follow – I heard some on the radio this morning as a local was commenting record visitors to the place last long weekend. Kashubian is the biggest challenge maybe, or a thick Silesian, but Kashubian counts as another language and even Silesian is not as far from Polish as some of the dialects around England are from one another. People speaking southern England dialect can follow standard Australian or American with much greater facility than they can follow broad Geordie or Scouser once they get going. Please make sure you are following people who are speaking a form of English that is fairly standard. Many Poles went to Ireland and pride themselves on getting an Irish brogue, but the downside is that they aren’t all that understandable to other native speakers. Irish is a lovely accent when it’s authentic, but it’s not one the foreigner should be aiming to copy for international use if they can help it. I’m not talking Terry Wogan here, I’m talking a strong Irish accent.

So, what tools can one use to improve listening comprehension? In the good old days, in schools we used to be given dictees in French – less so in German as it was more self evident how things were written as long as a person wasn’t speaking to us in Schwaebisch. I understand that ‘dyktando’ was also used in Polish schools. You can actually give yourself a dictation by taking an audiobook and sampling a paragraph at random on the mp3, writing it out from listening to the actor read and then checking it back to the book.

You don’t even need to write it, you can simply listen to an audiobook paragraph by paragraph, then read the original to see if you understood everything, and then mark the words you still don’t know, and then use the translation to get those words, which by the way should be added to the Goldlist headlist. This linguistic Triathlon is a great way to develop both the passive skills.

The best way to go about it is to see if you can get three things for the same novel or short story: first the audiobook read by a good actor on mp3 on audible.com or other sources. There’s no shortage of material out there on the net and not all of it is paid, if you get my drift. second you need the English original and finally you need a Polish translation. It probably helps if at least one of the two written ones is in printed form – a print-out if not a book bought or borrowed from the library. By using this method you’ll gradually come to see that you need the Polish translation less and less and you need to read the material in addition to just hearing it less and less. Also you’ll familiarise yourself with some of the jewels of English literature. Take twentieth century literature in order to have a more modern standard – we tend not to talk these days in the way people did in Dickens or Jane Austen, but in due course if you like the process you’ll be able to graduate to them.

If you cannot get into novels and literature, you could choose films. Films with a lot of talking in are preferable. Green Mile, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Fight Club – these are all better than pure action movies like James Bond which will take your time up with car chases and sexy women which could more profitably be spent on language learning. The thing to do here is to get DVDs – preferably hiring them, and play about with the soundtracks and titles. Basically when the DVD was born the language lab died.

Here are the additional bits I wanted to say:

The problem which you are encountering is particularly noticeable when learning your first foreign language. Sometimes the ear is slow in reacting to the different sounds of a language, especially when being in a country for the first time and hearing native speakers when all one has had has been other more adavcned foreign learners as speakers. This training the ear to accept strange sounds is different to activation, and can take a couple of months of being in a country. Once one has “broken” this stubborn ear then for subsequent languages the problem doesn’t tend to happen.

The other thing is that as long as you have a small vocabulary, of only a few thousand words, then you will come up against unfamiliar words more often and they will put the ear off track all the more often. A vocabulary of 15,000 words or more means that you are really familiar with 99.9% of what you hear so interruptions to the flow are that much rarer and one’s ability to follow for longer periods that much easier. Therefore working on the Goldlist to gain really large vocabularies will also help the ear to become attuned.

Replies to recent questions about the Goldlist Method.


Voronezh

Voronezh. If you're looking for (<3) trouble, you've come to the right place...

Today I’ll be answering to great letters with questions in. I haven’t been able to answer all questions sent in, but these were both very good questions and admittedly in these cases you wouldn’t get to the answers from things I’ve said before now, which shows that both these guys have been paying attention, and they’ve given me a chance to add something new today that Goldlist Method users won’t necessarily have seen before and will be of potential use to quite a lot of people. If you agree, please be sure and give your 5 stars.

The following great comment appeared today from user Mistervilleneuve, who identifies himself as Jonathan, and I am motivated to answer it immediately, even though I’m painfully aware that another person also has asked for an answer – and has been waiting for ages. Hopefully I’ll do them both in this article, and my apologies to the second, who has had to have so much patience.

First Jonathan’s comment:

Dear David,

I teach English as a second language in the schools of the province of Quebec, Canada and I am also a passionate of languages. My first language is Quebecois French. I taught myself German and Russian to intermediate level and have plans to learn more.

I try to make my students as autonomous as possible, for instance instead of giving them words to learn I suggest them to write down new words they encounter on sticky yellow notes (Post-Its) and put them in view on their desk, and remove them only when they feel they know them by heart. I know that recopying words can have virtues if done right and I had a breakthrough in my mind when I discovered your Gold List videos on YOUTUBE. Your method is quite frankly the missing link I had been looking for for a long time. It ties together and gives the structure I needed to many ideas I already had about language learning. In fact, the GoldList method will now be integrated in my teaching.

I would like to better understand how exactly the self-testing should be done. I find that I am able to understand the words I want to learn (L2 to L1) but I have more difficulty to translate from my mother tongue to the language I want to learn (L1 to L2). This “one-way translation ability” has puzzled and eluded my problem-solving skills for a long time. My students also tell me that although they can understand English, when it comes the time to “produce”, they have trouble to find their words. They know they know them, but can’t recall them. And I am not any better, I can translate over a thousand Russian words, but give me the list in French or English and I am shamely not able to translate them all back in Russian.

Also, I have begun to learn Hungarian and I am developping a multiple-language learning method I like to call “Stepstones”. In essence, it is about using L2 to learn L3, then L3 to learn L4, etc. addition to everything else I use, I have a Gold List notebook of 360 pages, divided in 3 sections. The first section is the lists English–>Russian. The second section, the lists Russian–>German. The third section, the lists German–>Hungarian. I would be glad to have your educated opinion on learning more than one language at once. That being said, if by definition, a good method gives results and a better method gives the same results with less time and energy spent, I think you will not disapprove that I adapt your method to my own purposes.

I look foward to read your response, here or through email.

By the way, last Winter I spent 3 months in Voronezh to visit a Russian friend and if they say that Kiev is the city of beautiful women, Voronezh must be in very close second place :)

yours truly,

Jonathan

I’m delighted to see this reaction from someone who lives by language teaching to the Goldlist system. I have found that the number of language teachers among the small minority who don’t like the Method is quite high, and in a sense that is not surprising, as the method puts the student back in charge and not the teacher, in fact it reduces the role of teacher to coach. That is not a bad thing, we still need coaches, and sports people who achieve a lot in their fields do so because their coaches motivate them to keep going themselves, they don’t run the race for the runner. The runner doesn’t take a piggyback on the coach to get around the track, or if he did he would never become a top class athlete, but the way some language teachers conduct their lessons you will see quite the opposite.

I was reading James Heisig‘s introductions to his Remembering the Kanji books today. Not only are the Remembering the kanji books absolutely first rate as language tools (although I have done a friendly micky take in my article “Professor Huliganov’s Remembering the Romaji”, that doesn’t mean I don’t rate Heisig because I do) but also he is clearly another teacher who wants to put the student in the driving seat. And so are you, as is clear from your letters.

In fact, I was thinking of actually having Goldlist Method certification for language teachers who fulfill the following criteria:

1. They show an understanding of the Method
2. They undertake to attribute the Method to me and to make it available to all their students at no extra cost, or if they do find that it increases their revenues they should promise to share 10% of their increase with Multiple Sclerosis or Autism charities, or Red Cross disaster relief, or similar, marking their donation from Goldlist Method. The materials themselves should not be sold or attributed to anyone else
3. They undertake to enable the maximum independence to students, less teaching them the given language than teaching them to teach themselves language.
4. The qualification will be earned when twelve students of the teacher are willing to give a reference stating that the teacher taught them the method.
5. I will announce where the register will be kept, but it will enable the people who have qualified to be GoldList Method Accredited.

At the moment this is just an idea. I just think it will help along those language teachers who do the honorable thing by their students the way you do. I won’t be making any money from the initiative, but it will be a way of furthering what I think is best practice among language teachers.

Now to your very understandable question about self testing, and when to consider a word as “learned”.

I would suggest the following “rule” – a word is learned when the following things are true about it:

1. When you see the word in the target language, you know its meaning(s) – (as in all the meanings you are supposed to have learned so far, if there is a number of meanings – don’t worry if your study order doesn’t try and foresee all the possible meanings of a word – that’s not necessary and will only happen for those who are studying from a dictionary as a source, which in itself has positive and negative sides).
2. When someone says that word to you, you could write it down spelling it properly
3. From seeing it written down, you’d know how to pronounce it
4. You know all the unusual grammar exceptions applying just to that word, at least those covered in your study approach so far. So if you have, for instance, done English strong verbs as a general grammatical idea, you won’t consider “to tread” as learned until you can say “tread, trod, trodden” – but “to step” is learned as soon as you can say to yourself ‘that’s a weak verb’ when you use it.

If you know the word well enough to pass these 4 criteria, then you should be happy to distil it out.

In any event, you can always make two passes, firstly covering the target language side (that’s usually the left side) and see if you can get to the word from your learning language (I use that terminology as often it is good to use as the learning language for Goldlist another language than your own, it can serve as a great checklist for that language which was studied earlier. For instance, I use German – the Langenscheidt Czech-German pocket dictionary to be precise – for Czech, and this has become a great “Czech list” if you’ll pardon the pun, for the occasional German word which it turns out I still don’t know even after having achieved quite some fluency in German, and oll of this is pretty much like your “stepping stones” approach, which is excellent, especially if you need to learn languages that are related to each other) and then if the first pass doesn’t already render enough words for the distillation the second pass can be from target language to learning language, using the above criteria. (It’s a good idea to have them in mind for the first pass too, by the way) and then as a final option if passes one and two don’t give you enough to distil, you can combine woords in a number of ways. Some combination techniques will be included in the forthcoming book, but one thing I’ll give here as a plural is combining words to make fictional titles for notional novels, poems or other art works.

Between these two approaches you should be able to get to the point where the next distillation is going to be something like 60-75% of the preceding list. It doesn’t need to be exact and the less one distils on a given distillation, often it is easier to distil a larger proportion on the next distillation.

When I’m doing big projects on Goldlist Method, I usually plan the distillation and leave my “lumberjack marks” as it were, on the words to be left out or combined a few days before – or sometimes even weeks before – I actually come to do it. This gives an extra memory run. I wouldn’t even do the lumberjack marking run though until at least two weeks have elapsed since I made the list I’m working on. That’s the key secret of the goldlist, leaving that two weeks clearance each time so as not to be led astray by the flatterings of the short-term memory.

On the other matter you mentioned, I certainly agree about Voronezh. I fell in love there but it didn’t do me a whole lot of good. The activities of the then Soviet authorities didn’t help. If you’ve read my account at the end of the Polyglot Project by Claude Cartaginese, you’ll know something about that. You can find it in the boxfile on my LinkedIn profile.

Nice letter.

Now to the second letter which I have shockingly neglected and have to put that right with an apology:

Youtube Channelowner “Stealthanugrah” wrote the following way back in May:

 Hey brother,

I was reading in the Polyglot project your whole crazy testimony, that is one crazy life. I am really blessed to know God got a hold of your life.

Anyways to the question, how do you suggest one memorize music for longterm usage? Musicians tend to forget music quite easily after a few months etc, I’m just curious to see how you would do it.

Here’s another, when gold listing, is it ok to use a language you are intermediate in to learn another one? I am conversant in French and I am learning Spanish, is it alright to be defining Spanish words with French definitions you don’t know, to kill two birds with one stone so to speak? I think that might’ve been a problem.

One more question, how do you feel about how churches memorize songs? You know how at church we just sing them from top to bottom and then it just comes out, but when we do that, these songs tend to lose the meaning in the words they hold (at least for me), how do you suggest we memorize songs, not to mention Bible verses. Should we goldlist Bible verses, because the word of God is something quite important no? If we gold list how much should we goldlist, 25 words? Someone told me instead of reading out all the words, why not shorten the verses so that you write only the first letter of each, (which really works but for short term I’m afraid).

Sorry for making this a bit long, I’m just really curious to see your perspective on all this, and I hope that you’ll answer this on your next blog post.

When we talk about the long-term memory of music, Brother, I think that in the main we remember the way tunes go. If we become very proficient at our instruments, we should be able to play from memory as we can sing from memory. In the main most people haven’t got such big problems singing songs from the long-term memory as they do when playing on a guitar or keyboard. If you are really in command of your instrument and of musical theory that should be the best way of ensuring that long-term memory works, and then the other thing would be to play them a little and often, for pleasure and not to try to learn them or cram them up for a concert. You will always need a bit of last minute practice just to “activate” to concert level, but as with language three days should be optimal for that, if you knew the piece well before.

Expecting always to be able to play without errors at the drop of a hat is a wrong expectation like being able to spark off fluently in a language someone hasn’t spoken for months. The long term memory is great as so many things fit in it, it seems fit to last us for a thousand years of memories, not just a hundred, but we have to accept that it’s neither natural nor necessary for everything in their to be active at once. The three day rule is part of the God given design of our minds, to activate something, to effectively bring about a change in our state of mind. It also reflects the way our Lord was three days as Jonah in the belly of the great fish. Our bodies are full of natural reminders of Biblical truths.

Your second question I think I answered above  when talking to Jonathan – it’s a very good thing to use one language to learn another, and if the new language is related closely to a language you learned before then it’s more than a good thing, it is the best way to avoid interference and the deleterious effect of the new language on the old, as it will highlight for you careful attention the differences between the languages. You can use internet bookstores to get any number of books that speakers of your older studied language would use to learn the new one.

Now onto the use of Goldlist for spiritual purposes. I would contend that Churches, in simply singing the songs or hymns on a regular basis as well as in NOT trying to force people to learn them, but by rehearsing them out on a regular basis in a stress free way, actually give people the best chance of long-term memorizing them. If people want to learn a favoured hymn they can use the Goldlist method to good effect – indeed they could to learn a secular poem if they wanted to, but personally I’d advise any minister against imposing either the method or a tempo for it from the pulpit. If ever the day came where I learned that someone was imposing goldlist on someone else as a religious service, I would be deeply saddened by it.

When trying to learn any favorite hymn, you’ll find that most verses you know, it is a question of remembering the least favorite verses and also the seques to new ideas. In  a rhyming couplet, I wouldn’t have to say too many syllables of a known hymn before someone who had sung it on numerous occasions could finish the couplet, but he or she might then have difficulty remembeing the bit that comes next.

The above also applies to Scripture. Memorising scripture gives the Christian a source of great strength and guidance, especially in the fight against sin. David says “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee”, and Dwight L. Moody said “either the Bible will keep me from my sin or my sin will keep me from the Bible”. The problem is really to decide which places to start. I personally don’t like to prefer any part of the Bible above another as God can use even the geneologies and the Levitical laws to speak to people’s hearts, and there is nothing that is not relevant to study, even things which we no longer strive to adhere to in the Age of Grace.

Writing out a thousand page book into the goldlist method and distilling it would be a very long process – far longer than learning languages, and there may well be easier ways to learn Scripture. You could record yourself reading it – maybe put up on YT to help others to, and then listen to it back. Or listen to someone else reading it, but on a regular basis. I’d be inclined to use Goldlist for the memorising of passages you especially want to know well, like the “Romans Road” verses for evangelism, some key psalms, or some of the more rich passages of where Christ is speaking such as the Sermon on the Mount, the High Priestly Prayer in John 17, or some of the beautiful doxology and sermons and passages from the letters of Paul, the peon to faith in Hebrews, the hard parts of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation that repay the most meticulous study. I would also suggest it for any parts where God has blessed you and you decided to memorise the passage but find it elusive.

You can also use it for study around the Bible, to learn names of protagonists, places, and the dates that things happened.

Don’t make a work out of it, though. It’s purpose should be to actually put LESS work into the memorising of things you were wanting to memorise anyway. And may God add His blessing to your study of His Word.

Incidentally, August 2011 starts tomorrow and I am going to make that a Blitz Month – with record numbers of postings – mainly of the older YouTube material that I was planning to have up here by now but time was not available. I hope that subscribers with enjoy this “Summer Special” – each of the films will be commented with a bit of extra information I didn’t put onto YouTube, as well as feature some of the most interesting comments received from viewers so far.

True to Type?


Photo of keyboard and pen

The pen is mightier than the board

Over on YouTube this morning, a viewer called Fightingnate commented on the  second Goldlist film  with the following very good question:

How do you not think you use muscle memory for typing on a keyboard? how do you think some people can type 100 wpm? Why do you think there are typing lessons and programs? Typing (if you type correctly and efficiently) requires just as much memory as writing.

I knew immediately that the answer to this question was going to go well beyond 500 letters (more than 500 words, for that matter) so I left there a request to look the answer up here and I hope the asker and some others who are interested will read it here, and also commenting at length of desired is easier here, as long as you have a wordpress account, or have something like facebook or one of the other methods for logging in here.

I am ready to admit that there are memory functions associated with typing. It’s a perfectly valid observation that there are lessons and programs to learn typing which certainly require the use of memory, including long-term memory and the long-term memory will certainly be involved in learning to type.

Whether it “requires just as much memory as writing” as you claim I would suggest is an unfounded statement. It may be true or it may not be, I am uncertain that it can even be measured reliably. However what I would say is that even if typing is more demanding on the memory than stylus writing is, that still wouldn’t make it optimal for language learning to the long-term memory.

In a sense you might take as an analogy that using GPS will still engage your memory, but working things out with an old fashioned map may be a more natural way of remembering how to get to a place. Typing numbers into a calculator may help you churn numbers out faster at the cashier’s equivalent of the secretary’s standard of 100 wpm, but whether it really helps you retain the parts of maths that need to be rote learned as well as paper and pencil calculations do, well, I doubt it.

Learning to the long-term memory is, I believe, done best when we are not giving to our brains signals that we are making efforts to learn, and not making our brains feel as if they are working. A more relaxed way of writing is preferable. Maybe for Generation Y-ers and Z-ers you feel more relaxed writing in typing than in stylus writing, but that is a bit unnatural. The way of writing with a stylus developed thousands of years ago, if you include knives and brushes as well as pens and pencils in that class of implements, and it was developed in a sense “naturally” in a form basically dictated by the biological shape of the human hand as well as the workings of the human brain. The keyboard layout on the other hand is an attempt to impose a certain predictated logic onto a flat surface and in a sense we have to use an extra layer of effort and memory to remember where, in two dimensional space, a letter is. In a sense the typist can remember the shape of the word and will find that enduring typoes bear witness to the fact that memory – if at times erroneous memory – is involved in that process. But you are only feeling keys. You are not feeling a word being crafted by your hand against the paper. There is no big difference between the feel of one key and another.

The keyboard restricts the movement of your body to one place, while in stylus writing you are moving your hand forward (even in right to left or other systems that still counts as forward) across the sheet. You can also move your body in relation to the writing more easily. You can hold the book at more different angles and in different positions. You can grasp the pen and book from a standing start or take it with you anywhere far more easily than the computer. Even the tiny computers which we now call telephones bear testimony in their new stylus-imitating input methods that the keyboard is not the most relaxed or efficient way of doing things.

Even when the speed typist sits and types her 100 wpm, or his in order not to be sexist, and shows up a certain advantage keyboard writing can have over stylus writing at high speeds, can the substance of what is being typed be remembered just as well as with the typist or handwriter going at much lower speeds? I venture to suggest not. The long-term memory is a subconscious sampler – that’s a key tenet of the Goldlist method and if it were not so then the whole system wouldn’t work. But what determines the sampling rate? Is it the same rate at high speeds or is it a sample of so many passes per second regardless of the amount of material? We don’t know for sure, but I believe that the way perception works will make it a bit of both. You certainly remember more details of a street when you walk down it than when you drive down it, but the ratio of details remembered to time spent could well be lower on the walk, as at slow pass speeds some items will be sampled more than once.

Pen writing doesn’t fade like a screen when you work on it in the sun. You don’t need electricity and you can carry the book with far less weight on a walk. Writing languages in it which are full of diacritics, or writing in Japanese or other character-based languages will be for more English-speaking learners far easier to do. And most of all it will be personal. Your handwriting is special because it is your personal body language in paper form. For literacy, handwriting something rather than typing it is the equivalent to saying something with your own voice instead of letting off a recording of somone else saying it, and just listening. The printed page may be all your words but your body language has not melded with the language as it does with the handwritten page. You do not become one with it. And that is why the specific memory aid that comes with that melding and crafting of the written words in writing as nice as you can make it and done with a sense of the pleasure derived from such craftsmanship, is not really delivered by the process of typing.

Most of us do a lot of typing, sone of us are even threatened with Repetitive Stress Injury from the amount we do, and also we have fewer and fewer occasions to cultuivate the hand and as a result when we need nice handwriting it evades us. The insistence on having Goldlist Method a handwritten method is not anti-machine – it simply reminds us that there is an alternative to the machine and that the computer is not the only tool when it comes to language learning – even a language learning method that bases on a quite mathematical algorithm.

Excuse me, are you intelligent?


I had an idea on the aeroplane, as we English English call airplane, namely to do a little survey to find out whether the readers and subscribers of this blog are intelligent or not.

Please put your IQ in the attached survey. TIA.

 

I do hope this will show that my readers are a bunch of unbridled geniuses, as I might be able to use that to interest advertisers.

The Mystery of Gothic and why I left How-To-Learn-Any-Language.com


Guido Westerwelle

Guido Westerwelle - a politician whose remarks are only to be discussed in abtraction from politics, on how-to-learn-any-language.com!

I am repeating here a few comments I made about the Gothic Language on How-To-Learn-Any-Language forum some time back. As I am now not posting there owing to their heavy-handed moderation policy ( I was censured for discussing politics in a thread about why a certain German politician – Guido Westerwelle the Foreign Minister no less, refused to speak German at an international press conference because it happened to be held in Germany.

I am looking forward to the Eurovision Song Contest this year – instead of being done in French and English as per the tradition, as Lena won it for Germany last year (with a song that has not even been given any lyrics in German and is sung in Essex English by someone trying to impersonate Lily Allen but who is at any rate a good deal hotter than Lily, and that of course is what the Eurovision is all about these days…) it will have to be held entirely in German to appease Westerwelle’s nationalist complexes!

Anyway, it was for taking an anti-Westerwelle line that I got censured in HTLAL. I warned that if moderated I would simply leave and stop contributing and at that the moderator called my bluff and pulled the whole thread! In case anyone thinks that it means that I am spitting my dummy out and walking away like a big kid, let me explain the following points:

1. I have very limited time to post and type on the internet. Thankfully I have the pleasure and privilege of a small following of people who like to read my things or watch or listen to my multimedia outputs, and so I have the impetus always to continue. Even on How-To-Learn-Any-Language.com I enjoyed the privelege of popularity – not that many posters have received over 1,5 times the votes compared to the posts they have made. Many people have more than the 139 votes I received, but these are folk who usually have hundreds of posts and not just 87.  If it were not for the fact that I know many people like to follow what I do, at some times of year it would all stop as I get just too busy. Read the rest of this entry

Top 30 Languages to learn for 2050


Map showing countries and autonomous subdivisi...

The Turkic linguation - to a greater or lesser extent mutually intelligible languages. However often not the preferred business languages of their regions, hence only 12th place in this economic utility-based prediction.

Here are my 2050 predictions, originally shared on http://www.how-to-learn-any-language.com :

1. Chinese (all types)
2. English (all types)
3. Arabic (all dialects)
4. Russian
5. Spanish (all types)
6. Japanese
7. German
8. French
9/10.Portuguese and Korean(if there is Korean unification, Korean takes the higher slot)
11. Italian
12. Turkish and mutually intellible forms of Turkic Read the rest of this entry

Question on lexical sufficiency


Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad Korzeniowski - the ultimate benchmark in mastery of an acquired language is surely that of having added to its artistic literature?

Reader (and poster) Bill_Sage667 from How-To-Learn-Any-Language.com’s forum wrote me the following question and agreed kindly to a public answer here:

Dunno whether u’ll be able to find the time to reply to this, 1 in a million chance lol……but I’ll write out my questions anyway lol

You said something about 15,000 words needed in order to achieve a good degree level in Russian. Are imperfective and perfective verbs considered separate words, as well as adjectives and verbs under the same lexemes (e.g. беремменость, беремменая, беремменеть, забеременнеть) when you were estimating the number of words?

And what if someday I want to attain the proficiency of an educated native speaker (might take me 20 yrs but oh well)? How many words am I supposed to know (for active and passive knowledge)? For Russian, that is. btw thanks for releasing the Gold List Method to the public for free!

Firstly, Bill, be careful about the number of ‘m’s and ‘n’s you have in those pregancy-related words. You have too many ‘m’s and not enough ‘n’s. I’ll leave you to review that one.

You’re very welcome about the Goldlist. As I say in the section I wrote in syzygycc’s The Polyglot Project, I’m just paying forward the favours I got from so many people when I was a young learner.

In my opinion 15,000 words, as long as they are properly selected, are perfectly adequate and in the headlist you would use all the forms initially as separate forms (but not the various conjugations and case endings, only the so-called ‘dictionary forms’) and you could soon condense them on distillation.

If you use the frequency distionary I am selling on www.oioioio.com you will be able to focus on commoner words first. Within the first 10,000 words you do get words that are already pretty specialised that you wouldn’t use maybe more than once a month or so even if you were a native, and so it continues over the next 5,000 as well. You’ll find 15,000 enough to read the great novels comfortably and to appreciate the poetry of Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva and even Strogonova (the last of which you will find uniquely published in this blog as a ‘page’. She is no poorer a poet than these well-known ones, only far less known.)

I would also like to draw people’s attention to something else I wrote about the 15,000 word ‘marathon’ in a thread over on the HTLAL forum:

What this Gladwell character [I'm referring to upstream discussion of someone who said you must have 10,000 hours of learning to become fully fluent, like a native - a claim almost unanimously rejected by every serious linguist and polyglot I know other than those who teach languages privately, as this idea is grist to their mill] needs to bear in mind is the Pareto rule. If it were true (which I dispute) that you need 10,000 hours to become as native (although how this deals with your accent is anyone’s guess) then you could get 80% of it in 20% of the time. That means you’d need to have 2,000 hours study to get to 80% of native fluency. Since that’s ludicrously overcautios, I’d suggest that the 10,000 hour target for full native fluency is overcautious.

The fact is, a person could be like Konrad Korzeniowski (Joseph Conrad) and already writing ground-breaking literature in the language he or she had learned and still have a strong enough accent to provoke politely meant but annoying compliments on the quality of his language by native speakers.

In the end you just have to accept what English speakers accepted for their own language in the main long ago – that as long as it doesn’t hinder comprehension, a foreigner’s accent in English is just as valid as a “native” accent. This is easily accepted by multi-national or mega-regional languages like Spanish, Russian, Chinese, etc, but in places like Poland as there is largely only one way of speaking, the bar is raised for their own language.

So in fact that means that the same n-thousand hours done by an Englishman in Russian could have the Russians noticing very little different about the foreigner, especially if he has a bad haircut. Whereas if he has a really bad haircut and the same n-thousand hours of Czech, the reaction will probably be “he looks like one of us, but our language is difficult and so we must forgive the way he sounds, although obviously we are frank and friendly people so we will tell him to his face at regular intervals that his Czech sucks bigtime.”

Given this subjectivity, I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s linguistic shadow, but simply to set amounts of words as targets. 15,000 words is in language learning, to my mind, what the marathon is in athletics. If you’re fit, you can do it with patience and training. And if you can do it, nobody can say you’re not fit.

There are longer races, there are tougher events. But the marathon is the ‘classic’ and the marathon runner knows that it’s really a competition against yourself and not really against the runners alongside. Even people coming in at six hours are clapped and get a medal. So should language learning be.

If this article is of interest you can look up the article as plenty of people have some interesting stuff to say, both about the 10,000 hours nonsense and the number of words needed. I get into a discussion with “Lingua Frankly” blogger Niall Beag (known as Cainntear) on when the Pareto rule isn’t just a number like 10,000 with no real basis for being a law. There are also those who are ready to stand up for the honour of the number 10,000 and tell the detractors of 10,000 hours to mind their jolly manners. Excellent thread.

I’m going to add more thoughts there today.

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