Cutting yourself some slack; allowing for "first-pass" results
Back when I was studying piano, I had a teacher who told me: "There are two ways to do this, probably thousands more. You can focus on each note, get it absolutely perfect, and move to the next; OR, you can get the whole piece into your fingers, imperfectly, and then work it out over time, the gestalt way. Her point was that she favored the latter.
I have been getting anxious over an upcoming trip to Switzerland, trying to nail down my German, Italian, and French. But I realized that on many lessons, I get the gist of the sentence quickly without profound understanding of the grammar or vocabulary. This for me, for now, is enough. I don't work for the UN - I don't need deep knowledge - for now.
I will spend the rest of my life studying languages; I will die not knowing enough.
I think - and this is just me, folks - it is ok to start with broad strokes and advance to pointillism with time. Begin with Bob Ross; work your way up to Georges Seurat. My focus was, for a time, on cramming as much vocabulary into my head as possible. It was an effort with diminishing returns. When I relaxed and un-puckered my cerebral-sphincter, I found myself understanding words I didn't even know, just by association.
If this is not your approach, I applaud whatever works for you. I sincerely wish ALL of you great success in ALL your endeavors.
In this dance, the language leads. You have to do it backwards, and in heels.
I will spend the rest of my life studying languages; I will die not knowing enough.
So far, favorite sentence of the day :)
When I prepared for my trip to Vietnam, I crammed like crazy, taking things to level 5 before moving on to something new. My goal was fluency as I figured I had 6 months totally immersed in the Vietnam culture and language. Remembering words and phrases in actual conversations is a tad more difficult than Duolingo lessons, especially over time. The problem of consciousness and epistemology entered the fray my first month living in Vietnam. I went with Jackson Pollack and No. 5, 1948. I dropped my goal of fluency and just enjoyed the moment and did the best I could in conversations, as I was sabotaging myself trying to think of all the words and cramming like I did before. It seemed l learned more with the canvas of conversation than trying to remember everything at once.
In summary, I agree with you.
The canvas of conversation! It is first time a read those two word together and they make sense. They are now part of my Weltanschauung.
You did better than I in my trips to Vietnam. I can increasingly make better sense of signs, but conversation is tough with newcomers.
I too go up to Level 5 before starting the next module, and I frequently go back to practice the old stuff. So I'm at level 25 but maybe only a bit more than halfway through the material, and even then with constant practice, you forget.
Thank you for the thought-provoking post. A man I respect very much once told me, of language learning, that it's best to focus on learning vocabulary that you'll actually need rather than cramming unnecessary things such as grammatical case or perfecting your grammar. I find your approach to be very liberating in a sense.
That's not the Duolingo way. If you get a wrong answer you're supposed to get on the discussions and appeal it. Typically with something like, "I'm British and we would never say it like that. It is simply bad English to do so. This program is unfairly biased in favor of those who speak American English."
Yes I agree, especially with the piano analogy. I do think that doing our best at first is important but I also noticed that our ears become more atuned to sounds or subtle differences between words as we go on. Great post!
I like the idea of language being a dance. I find it better to learn patterns first, then figure out why they're used. Often, the rules cited leave you struggling to decide whether or not a word falls into x, y or z category while examples repeated often enough make it instinctive. Stopping to think - now is this nominative or accusative, vocative or whatever when you're speaking loses you the conversation.
I've always believed there are 4 phases to learning a language, 1. being able to read it, 2. being able to write it, 3. being able to understood it spoken, 4, being able to speak it.
Within all of these we must accept we will make mistakes and understand that these will be fully accepted by the recipient who will no doubt appreciate your attempt to communicate in their language and accommodate accordingly.
Perfect grammar is at the high end of learning a language, I must say there aren't many people I know who have this in their native tongue, so I would agree in learning the fundamentals and then tweak them as you progress.
I would exchange steps number 2 and 3, as I find it easier to recieve language than to produce it. As far as writing....there are people in every society that can speak the language and communicate but not necessarily write. Food for tought and debate.
Whereas I would personally exchange 3 and 4. As Duolingo is my nearly-sole source of learning, I am learning to read, write, and speak, in that order. Listening to someone speak, at their natural speed, is beyond me most of the time.
If you ever find yourself in a total immersion setting, you might find your listening comprehension surpasses your speaking ability in fairly short order. This has been my experience in both Chinese and French. (As for German, I'm never really going to get anywhere with any aspect of it, no matter what happens.) ;-)
Anyway, I don't think the proposed phases are aligned in a linear fashion, and they're largely contextual. I can chat via text messages with Chinese and French speakers, but I wouldn't be able to put the proper nuance into an essay, and perhaps I never will.
Yeah, me too. Reading is first, then comes listening. After that comes production, text first and then finally (hopefully and haltingly) speech.
As somebody who plays the piano and learns languages, I cannot agree and like your post more!
Although, I might want to point out that the go-to method (IMO) would be different for languages and for piano:
I personally use and have used both methods for piano, and I do prefer the first one.
When it comes to languages, I actually get the language into my brain, imperfectly (vocab only, mostly nouns) and work my way up from there (verbs and grammar).
My language-learning method, suits ME well, because my talent is actually hearing and comprehension (everybody has a certain language-comprehension level, but I believe mine is higher than average), so most of the languages I know (which happen to be all 5) were learnt in that language's environment. And, proof of that is that now that I am learning Swedish in Portugal, with Duolingo only (ATM), I am not doing as well as I did learning Czech in the Czech Republic or German in a German school.
Thanks for reading and thanks for the post!
What you're saying reminds me of the Suzuki (or "Mother Language") Method-- It's for learning to play instruments, though, but it's similar to what you're saying.
Basically, it's talking about how a child learns their mother language-- listening first before they have the mouth coordination (for lack of a better word) to repeat, then repeating. Of course, the child makes tons and tons of mistakes first speaking, but the parent doesn't correct the child, with full knowledge that the child will listen and learn themselves. (When I was little, I didn't say "aminal" for very long, to my mom's dismay actually xP) Then the child slowly fixes their mistakes both subconsciously and consciously, just through hearing the correct way of doing things.
The same is true for instruments and even as adults/teens learning languages-- we just pick up a little slower and are less "spongey" than a child is.
Very well said, this should be required reading for all new Duolingo users.
I always find that I kick myself for not trying to get the minute details of each sentence exactly right on the first time. I'll have to keep this post in mind. Thanks a bunch.
Gestalt work well for me too. My new approach is to finish level 1 for all the lessons and then go back and get to level 5. Words worth remebering generated was this almost scholarly post: Gestalt, pointillism. Lingot number 18 came from me, it was worth spending. The piano and dance analogyes are memorable. They will stay lingering in my mind.
I'm a mediocre, at best, musician. Most of the people I worked with were better "typists" than me...But they were playing my arrangements. I heard the music.
I study various languages. Use them or not, doesn't matter. It is the pleasure of knowledge. Since you like language learning. Really don't care.
Great post! This really helps put things in perspective when I'm getting frustrated over small details but improving on the overall understanding.
Nice post, and I just did my first Bob Ross paint-along a few weeks ago, so that's a "happy accident" of a reference, to borrow a phrase from a certain big-permed TV painter.