Rhythms and shapes in language learning
I say (write) this every time, but it seems more necessary every time: This post is one person's opinion - it works for me; I don't assert that it works for all; and if it works for you, that makes me happy, because anything that helps anyone succeed in language-ing is a beautiful step forward in joining the world.
There are two things which I have realized help me make steps forward in the languages I am concentrating on (Though they may work on other languages, I can't speak to that): French, German, Italian, and Spanish.
Rhythm (and melody): I am a musician, have been my whole life, and I find that allowing the words and phrases to "sing" to me, to establish a beat, works better than approaching the exercises from a purely intellectual perspective. I listen to how the phrase feels, I taste the word in my mouth, and then my responses appear like magic. I'm sure someone can explain it better than that. Prior to reaching this stage, I would study tables of conjugations (OK, I still do) and "logically" THINK every answer. Now, I find the answers manifesting themselves because they "feel" right. This has rocked my German world, where I have just started "feeling" all those wackadoodle prefixes: "ab, an, zu, auf, aus" and realizing how they fit in the German way of thinking. Run into enough words like "unbeaufsichtigt", and you might start looking for your own solutions, too.
Shape: This is purely visual. I've found it particularly helpful with Italian, which has some seemingly unpredictable consonant doublings. Double ll's and d's and z's, etc. I look at the words and trace an imaginary line over it, picturing that shape in my head, and the next time I have to recall those words, I see the shape in my head and I am less lost. There are some doublings in French that throw me as well.
I apologize if this post has been a waste of space for anyone. I love working on languages, I have a long way to go, and I thank DL once again for starting me on this adventure. Good luck to all.
Please forgive this addendum.
I worked with children for a while: some mainstream, some special needs, some on the autism spectrum. Those experiences taught me a lot. Some of those children approached problem-solving in VERY different ways: Visually, aurally, verbally, physically, etc. I learned SO much from them and eventually tried to figure out how I could incorporate their methods into my learning.
For example, learning piano repertoire is a complex task, but looking at a piano score as a "picture" can speed things up marvelously. Same for a shopping list. Try to "hear" the same score without playing it? Same deal. Draw the notes across the page? Your brain changes.
This all has given me a giant toolbox when working on languages. I'm not saying I have any kind of mastery or special skill, just a never-ending astonishment at and appreciation for the human condition.
Thank you kids, for your myriad gifts.
I like your post! Thank you. For my languages I use a similar technique as you describe for rhythm. I actually mumble the sentences in my target language when they are spoken/written and I have to translate to English/German, when I am later asked to do the exercise the other way around I first write how I think and then read it out 'loud' - mumble it again - and sometimes the rhythm is wrong - mostly I forgot a de/da/do/se/me/... some of those tricky small words
Music. Maybe that is why I am fascinated with Vietnamese, a language that kind of sings with 6 tones for vowels. And they have a special love for music, so they can express their deep feelings in a nonthreatening way. Early on I learned to sing Vietnamese songs as a way to learn the language and hear their culture. My favorite songs are by the composer/poet/painter Trịnh Công Sơn, the "Bob Dylan" of Vietnam. When I have studied any culture I also like to explore their musical instruments. The "đàn bầu" of Vietnam is a single string instrument that has a whammy bar at one end and the trick is to find the harmonics of the string for the notes. One of my favorite musical experiences in Vietnam was a ride in one of the big Dragon boats at night on the Perfume River that flows by the spiritual capital, Hue. Traditional instruments playing traditional songs made it one of my favorite moments. After the singing was over, we all went to the lower end of the boat to light candles inside paper lotus (note my avatar) and gently put them on the river. Many other boats were orchestrated to do the same thing at the same time and it looked like the stars from the heaven came down to dance on the river.
If they ever offer indigenous Australian Aborigine languages, I am good to go. Years ago when I first heard a didgeridoo, I had no idea what they looked like but was determined to find out and buy one. Having played the trumpet, it was not too hard but it was challenging to learn "circular breathing" so that it is possible to play them for hours without a rest. But not too challenging, as when a child and bored at a restaurant, I stumbled into that with a straw in my water. That is a secret of mine to start to learn circular breathing. If you can do it on a straw, you can build up to a didgeridoo.
Aboriginal languages is a great idea! Don't know how many languages there are that have been lost in Australia. Seems the Aboriginals were killed out and dehumanized, detribalized from the beginning of British occupation.
That is an interesting approach, actually - especially considering that many languages, such as Italian, are noted for being very musical by nature. So really, this approach actually makes a lot of sense ... Methinks I'll try this now. Thank you for the idea! Lingots coming your way. ;)
Volgav vitsenanieff nivya kevach varatsach.
That last sentence? It's a sentence in a conlang I made, meaning "Two rivers do not flow the same direction." Since there's no way to search by username in the DL fora and my Followed list is already really long, I use it to mark my posts so I can find them again. I borrowed the idea from another user ... you've probably seen them around.
Thanks for asking! :)
Volgav vitsenanieff nivya kevach varatsach.
establish a beat
haha. Those weird 5/4 measures in Spanish sometimes throw me off. I think that's just so they can throw in a C⁹ˢᵘˢ⁴ so that the final chord gives more denouement.
No conozco a ella.
In my head I put a little fermata over the extra beat and suspended chord, which is the direct object marker a, just so that I'll remember to include it.
Other Romance Languages don't have that, but Catalan and French do have those pesky adverbial pronouns en and y (en and hi in Catalan), which are also a bit like obtrusive 5/4 measures in an otherwise well-written symphony in common time.
I've completed the French from Spanish, Spanish from French, and Catalan from Spanish trees, at least to 2 crowns (I'm working on getting the catalan tree up to all 4 crowns at the moment). Translating between those similar languages without going through English usually has that quality you describe as a feel or shape. Less like engineering and more like art, I suppose, since I don't often pause to decipher it in my native language. I think that was my point, my goal, in doing it that way. Duolingo is really only good at teaching you how to translate (you have to use other resources if you really want to speak, read, write, listen, converse, etc., in a foreign language.) I found a way to exploit the translation-only tool to advantage. Translating between two similar but foreign languages while resisting the temptation to use English as a middleman--since English is less related to those than they are to each other, so the English translation is imperfect anyway--usually involves a rhythm and when I can get into the groove it helps me learn better.
Interesting post. Thanks. I think that any strategy that connects you to the words themselves is helpful, and these new ways - ways that get you to spend a little more time with each word - are a good idea.
And I know what you mean about starting to "feel" a language. I'm working on Italian right now and even though I have a French degree and have studied quite a bit of Latin, I never really did much with Italian until now. It's different - especially in the sound, the musicality - and I'm finding that when I just let myself sink into it, let it wash over me, that I am able to understand the most. Or, at least get the most exercises right. :)
Bryan. I had the feeling you were a musician. You may have noticed my own comments about the rhythm of a sentence (in Italian), the intonation and sound in your mouth. I sing the congiuntivo to "Suzanne" - the timing is perfect for certain verbs - modest acoustic guitar being my thing. Grazie ai santi per la musica, la lingua e Montalbano:-)
I'm also a musician (well, not so much these days due to arthritic fingers) and come from a creative family. I've found your "feeling" and "rhythm" for the language good too, though it's difficult to describe isn't it? I'm studying Swedish which is very singy-songy so that helps, too! I see most things in picture or music form so I set out words or phrases in curves, blocks, lines etc in my mind. It sounds really loopy, I know, but it works for me. I remember many years ago - I was studying basic accountancy when I wanted to run my own business - and I couldn't get to grips with anything until I started imagining filing cabinets, draws, files etc to put all my numbers in and retrieve later! Mad!
Amazing post. I find that words at least Romance ones have a kind of feel to them of what they mean. Casa--house sounds like red earth and rocks in a solid dwelling. Oiseau is a bird--I can just hear it flying in this French word. Hebrew is made in a different way. Zevoov for fly. But it does have words like that also. I do find the sight reading with the sub-conscious best with that.
Bryan you do talk sense. Different people will learn languages using different methods. Like you I taught special needs kids. Myself, I'm analytical so just list-learning doesn't work with me.
You are also right about music. Every language has it's own stress pattern (music if you like) so getting the tune of the language gives you a better fluency. Most Romance langauges have stress on teh second syllable but Hungarian/Estonian/Finish have it on the first and so on. Although, in saying that, not all musicians are good at languages - so my friend found out when she tried to learn Hungarian.
I used to do "maps" of stress and tone in language, when in linguistics class and we had to reproduce an unknown language pattern orally. Dancers also can be trained to map movement using Benish or Laban notation. So mapping is a useful tool to become fluent in a language.
Like you I love languages. Hated them at school - it was the way they were taught. But after doing a Descriptive Linguistics course I was flying.
Although I am also musical, I have not yet used this method or found the rhythm. But it's a great idea.
The words I can visualize, I keep faster. I'm just noticing that I find it all the more difficult with words that have no visualization power of their own for me.
I can certainly confirm that my music education has been helpful to me in learning languages, even though I seem to have little understanding of the shape of a word.
Perhaps that would require one to be an experienced painter?