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Answer to the question “How many languages can I learn in a lifetime”?


This is all a question of how you define things.

Firstly the problem is defining languages. Do you define them so that Serbo-Croat is still one language or six, for example? Is Malay and Indonesia a separate language? What about the languages of India, and Africa, where there are many mutually partly intelligible languages. Is Flemish and Dutch one language or two in the way you are defining it? In my opinion it is better to define these broadly and cut it down to a smaller number of claimed languages. After all, where do you stop? Maybe American and British English could be claimed as two – I heard some people try that, ridiculous though it is.

Secondly, there is the problem of desired fluency. A person who only needs to say certain fixed sentences, like a street seller or a receptionist, can say what they know with fluency, but they are not able to synthesis accurate language. Others can do so, but not in speaking as they never mastered it. I tend to go on passive vocabulary learned and put 10,000 as a very reasonable target for learning a language.

Thirdly, you need to define “lifetime”. You don’t know yet how long you will live, nor whether you will still be so keen on learning languages if it is to the detriment of learning other useful things. The day may come – and does to many a polyglot (this is why most of the older polyglots you meet are people who leave it and come back to it – or old people who used to be polyglots but have not studied actively for a long time) where you say “instead of learning Javanese, I think it’s time to learn Java”.

If a person uses optimal methods and gives 400 hours to each language, then if they study for 40 years at 20 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, they’ll have given 400 hours each to 100 languages. With good methods, that should mean the ability to demonstrate reasonable proficiency at least in the reading of those 100 languages. One might choose to spend the same time doing 4,000 hours each to only 10 languages, and show a high degree of fluency in just those ten languages. One might also go down the performing seal route and do 40 hours on a thousand languages just in order to be able to recognise maybe a thousand words and in some cases read or write very basic words in those 1,000 languages. Here one of your biggest problems is going to be materials. Which ever way you cut it, 40,000 hours of study is a large achievement, and it is really up to whether the learner has more utility for what he or she wants from their study whether to be more academic on a smaller number or more hobbyist on a larger number.

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.

RL101-4 The next five letters


 
 
 
 

Playout date:    23 September 2006
Location:    Home
Other people featured: None
Music used:    Akon’s Mr Lonely karaoke track, used to rap Onegin’s letter from the end of Evgeniy Onegin
Languages used:    English, Russian
Animals featured:    None

 This fourth lesson deals with 5 letters that are not in English at all but come from Greek. Here we have a difference to the previous lesson which had letters that look like English letters, but because of Greek they have a different use in Cyrillics.
 
 With 160 likes against 2 dislikes, this has to be one of the most popular videos I ever did.

The Goldlist Method and Kanji


Stroke order for the character 言 (word) shown ...

One technique for learning stroke order, this one's called Stendhal Method.

The following is my contribution from yesterday on how-to-learn-any-language.com .

Victor Berrjod wrote in the thread about the Goldlist method over on that excellent forum:

“I’m on my third day of using this method for Japanese, and while I know the meaning of most kanji already, knowing what readings to use is a problem. I have written 3 pages of 25 words each, with the furigana listed right next to the kanji. I realized that I’m sort of writing down 50 words this way. Would it be a better idea to have them separate, and maybe merge them when distilling if necessary?”

Excellent question. I don’t know whether I really answered, but I said how I use the Goldlist when it comes to Japanese and in particular Kanji.

The use of Goldlist for Japanese is not as straightforward as it is for many languages. I’ll tell you how I go about it, and you’ll see if there’s anything in there that can work for you. Read the rest of this entry

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