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Moses McCormick’s admirable achievement

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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JonB
Diglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 4769 days ago

209 posts - 220 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Italian, Dutch, Greek

 
 Message 9 of 221
18 December 2008 at 5:47am | IP Logged 
Fa3ala wrote:
I really do think that Mr. McCormick's achievements are amazing. However, I should like to point out that he does not appear to have equal mastery of all his languages. His Arabic and Persian, for instance, are at a very low level (not to mention his pronunciation) compared to e.g. his Chinese. This does not, of course, take away from his achievements, but it does underline that the number 23 refers to the amount of languages that he has studied, rather than to the amount of languages he has acquired a good knowledge of. I guess it is a matter of taste and inclination as to whether one wants to study such a huge number of languages in such a brief period of time or whether one wants to focus on a smaller number but achieve more in each individual language.


I think this raises a rather interesting point. Is it better: (a) to know just 2 or 3 languages, yet having a very high level; or (b) to know 20 languages, yet having - in many cases - only a very rough-and-ready level?

I'm not in any way suggesting that the latter scenario would apply to Mr. McCormick, because I myself am not competent to judge his ability in any one of the foreign languages that he speaks!
However, leaving aside Mr. McCormick, I have sometimes seen other multilingual presentations on Youtube, where I have by no means been convinced that the person really does have the mastery that he or she is claiming in all of the languages spoken. All too often one has the feeling that these 'Youtube-polyglots' are simply engaging in a rather vulgar form of showing off. There is - perhaps - nothing intrinsically wrong with showing off. But a person who claims to speak 10 languages (when, in most cases, all that he or she can do is to utter a few broken and grammatically incorrect phrases) is simply a fraud!

NB Just to be absolutely clear: I am NOT in any way referring here to Prof Arguelles! (Quite on the contrary, there is an extremely refreshing modesty and understatement about his Youtube presentations, I find.)

--Jon Burgess


3 persons have voted this message useful



laoshu505000
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4320 days ago

121 posts - 231 votes 
Speaks: English*

 
 Message 10 of 221
22 December 2008 at 1:56am | IP Logged 
ProfArguelles wrote:
Whenever someone subscribes to my YouTube channel, I am informed via a link that shows me that person’s channel page. I am curious as to what kind of person finds me intriguing, so I always look their pages over. As an aside, I must say that I notice a confluence of interests surprisingly often, as people who tend to value my videos also share other relatively rare tastes with me across the board, such as my political leanings or historical and other interests, with a far greater frequency than I encounter these tendencies in other people in the normal run of life. Of course, however, the binding tie is love of languages, and in this respect, I have just made a “discovery” of a remarkable degree of linguistic aptitude when Moses McCormick subscribed to my channel the other day.

I gather that Mr. McCormick is a majoring in Chinese at the University of Ohio, Columbus. He is 27 years old, and began studying languages at the age of 19. He describes three key elements in being able to learn languages:
1) access to necessary resources (and he relies primarily upon the Teach Yourself Series plus online language exchanges with native speakers).
2) confidence to speak precisely so that you can make mistakes and, learning from them, improve.
3) an open mind.
And he implies a 4th element, namely lots and lots of hard work.

Over the past 4 months, Mr. McCormick has posted videos of himself speaking an astounding range of languages, the LEAST exotic of which being for him, a native English speaker, Russian, Bulgarian, and Armenian. The list of 23 languages that Mr. McCormick has studied over the past 8 years includes (but may not be limited to):

Arabic
Armenian
Bulgarian
Chinese
Hebrew
Hindi
Hmong
Indonesian
Japanese
Korean
Mongolian
Persian
Russian
Somali
Swahili
Tagalog
Thai
Tibetan
Turkish
Urdu
Vietnamese
Wolof
Zulu

Members of that coterie of critics who always surface to harp on the lack of a native accent (as if such a thing were desirable, let alone attainable) will probably immediately emerge to nag on the fact that he has not attained this – though why and how should he, sitting by himself in Ohio? I, too, have seen a number of recent videos of polyglots saying a few lines each in a dozen languages back to back, all with flawless intonation. Impressive as this is, it is a demonstration of an inborn talent that the rest of us may envy in the sense of wishing that we, too, had it, more than any kind of accomplishment worthy of respectful admiration. Mr. McCormick’s attainments, on the other hand, are something that may actually be able to learn from. Indeed, he not only makes videos of himself speaking languages, but – for Zulu, Swahili, Hindi, Chinese, and a number of others – teaching their rudiments. Not only does he write on the board in his videos, but he has posted paragraphs of composition on his blog, so it is eminently clear that he considers every aspect of every language he studies. I only overlap with him on about half of his languages, but in all of those that I understand, I understand him perfectly. What he can do in Korean, for instance, is far, far, far more than most of my fellow past colleagues could do after years in the country. Furthermore, as he clearly states in many videos, he is emphatically not making them to claim to have “mastered” the tongues, but rather precisely so as to get feedback for those areas upon which he needs to concentrate so as to improve. More than anything else, I am truly impressed by the degree to which he is most clearly and truly actively thinking in the languages as he speaks them at the relative length of three or four minutes at a time.

Many of Mr. McCormick’s videos have few views and no ratings, and his blog has no followers. He has put forth a tremendous amount of time and energy in pursuit of our common passion, and as a result he has not only already attained admirable results, but he holds the promise of being a core teaching polyglot for years to come. I believe that anyone who finds this thread in this discussion room should naturally and of necessity feel the greatest respect for Mr. McCormick and all that he has achieved. Let us all visit his sites to congratulate him on what he has attained, to encourage him to continue doing what he is doing, and indeed, to ask him to join us here on our forum in the hopes of stimulating more interesting discussions about the art and science of language learning!

Here are the links to Moses McCormick’s YouTube channel and his blog.

Alexander Arguelles


Hello Professor,

I'm just now getting the opportunity to join this site. It's funny because I think I've been here a few times a long time ago. I feel very flattered from all of the praise you've given me. Just like everybody else here, I enjoy learning language.I think you should also be praised for all of the hard work you have put into languages. A few days ago I've watched that video when you were walking back and forth speaking in Mandarin. I thought that was very interesting.

I'm happy to have become a member on this site and I do look forward to making friends and sharing my knowledge with other language learners. Again, I want to thank everyone here for watching my youtube channel. Talk to you soon.
3 persons have voted this message useful



qklilx
Moderator
United States
Joined 4690 days ago

459 posts - 477 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Korean
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 11 of 221
22 December 2008 at 5:36am | IP Logged 
Good to meet you Mr. McCormick! I hope you did not take offense to any of my comments on accent. Regardless of my opinions, you have achieved more than I could wish. I have no choice but to look up to you as a language learner. I do have a couple questions though. What made you decide to learn the languages that you learned? You made so many exotic and unique choices that one can only be curious. Also, how far do you plan to go in learning the ones currently on your list? Forgive me if those questions have been answered in one of your videos as I have not viewed all of them.

Welcome to the forum Mr. McCormick and I hope you'll be able to share your knowledge with us.

Evan McKinney
1 person has voted this message useful



Rollo the Cat
Groupie
United States
Joined 4538 days ago

77 posts - 90 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Italian, Russian, Ancient Greek

 
 Message 12 of 221
22 December 2008 at 9:43am | IP Logged 
Hello Mr. Mccormick,

I would be interested in hearing more about the process you go through to learn a language. How many different
methods have you tried? Are there any you feel don't work for you?

Also, I have studied martial arts my whole life and your analogy between martial arts training and language learning
is one I make all the time, though a bit different that the way you did. But, I enjoyed the video with the Bruce Lee
references you made.

Rollo Terson
1 person has voted this message useful



laoshu505000
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4320 days ago

121 posts - 231 votes 
Speaks: English*

 
 Message 13 of 221
22 December 2008 at 12:07pm | IP Logged 
Hello my friend,

Thanks for the message. Well, I didn't take any offense to your comment as far as accent is concerned.Mainly because I've acknowledged the fact that I have an accent when speaking a foreign language. I put a lot of effort into learning language and I believe that obtaining the nice foreign accent is quite difficult especially when you're learning language on your own without having being in the country for several years. What people fail to realize when learning a foreign language is that acquiring an accent when speaking a foreign language isn't what's important here. The main important thing is being able to be understood by the natives.It becomes a big problem when a native can barely understand what you're trying to say. What a language learner should focus on is getting the pronunciation/tones down the best that they can so that they could be understood at least 95%. Although I have an accent when I speak, I feel very good when a native tells me that they can understand me perfectly despite the accent. It's ok to have an accent. The incentive of not having that foreign accent is more praise. It's very impressive when someone doesn't have an accent when speaking a foreign language. You also have to look at the whole picture. In my case, I've been learning languages on my own since the age of 19. Chinese was the fist language I started on then Japanese.I've talked to many Chinese during my study, but it wasn't enough to get rid of my accent likewise Japanese. However,I'm sure the Chinese can understand me 99% when I speak Chinese. I'm content with that.

The reason I've chosen the languages I'm currently learning is because as an American, I feel that they are very very different and challenging. When dealing with a completely different language other than your own, there are many different things you must get accustomed to. After putting in the hard work, becoming proficient in that language, you will feel very good about yourself for taking the time and effort learning that language. After doing that, you get so confident and want to learn another difficult language.As far as proficiency, my goal is to be able to speak the languages fluently without having to use English when talking to a native speaker. I just want to be able to communicate effectively with a non English speaker. Everyone has their own goals for learning a language and that's mine.

I often hear the word 'Master'. Many people will ask you 'So how many languages have you mastered?' Well, I don't believe in 'Mastering' language. I believe there is always something to learn. As a native speaker of English, I find my self learning new things about English while learning foreign languages. I don't know if that's ironic to many people, but it's true. There is always something new to learn. Bruce Lee once said that although people consider him a 'Master' he doesn't accept that because he's learning something new about martial arts every day. Bruce Lee considered himself a 'Master-Student' which means that he has knowledge of a master,but is still learning as a student.''If there isn't more for you to learn, then you are crystallized' That's what Bruce said...and see I feel the same way about language. No matter how high of a level you obtain, there will ALWAYS be something new to learn in that language.'The highest art is no art. The highest form is no form'

     I also take all aspects of language seriously. Some people say that they only want to learn how to speak, but to me that's an abomination. If you're gonna learn a language, take advantage of all aspects. That's part of acquiring fluency in the language.

Again, don't worry about the comment on accent. But just remember what I said about accent when learning a foreign language. It is not the most important aspect when learning a foreign language.

Well, I think I'm gonna end it here. I will visit this thread more often in the future. Thanks again for viewing my videos. I will be posting up more in the future as well. Look forward to talking to you again. Take care.

Best,

Moses McCormick



qklilx wrote:
Good to meet you Mr. McCormick! I hope you did not take offense to any of my comments on accent. Regardless of my opinions, you have achieved more than I could wish. I have no choice but to look up to you as a language learner. I do have a couple questions though. What made you decide to learn the languages that you learned? You made so many exotic and unique choices that one can only be curious. Also, how far do you plan to go in learning the ones currently on your list? Forgive me if those questions have been answered in one of your videos as I have not viewed all of them.

Welcome to the forum Mr. McCormick and I hope you'll be able to share your knowledge with us.

Evan McKinney

9 persons have voted this message useful



laoshu505000
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4320 days ago

121 posts - 231 votes 
Speaks: English*

 
 Message 14 of 221
22 December 2008 at 12:40pm | IP Logged 
Hello Terson,

I'm glad to have read your message.

      Well, the first thing I do before starting a language is getting the adequate resources. This is important because some resources aren't that useful for learning a language effectively. I found myself working from several resources just for one language! Like Professor mentioned, I use the teach yourself series a lot. I think teach yourself is good if you utilize it correctly. What do I mean by utilize correctly? Well, I don't go chapter by chapter. Basically, I try and learn things that I will need right away.Like other language learners such as Steve Kaufman and Khatsumoto, you have to make it 'natural' make it fun while learning. Now, I'm not saying the content in 1 chapter won't be needed, but right off the bat, you're not gonna be talking to natives about how much cream you want in your coffee.You have to think 'What will I be talking about in my first encounter with the native speaker' We all know that the natives will ask you 'Why are you learning, where are you learning, who are you learning with, what will you do with this knowledge?'' So you have to learn how to answer these questions right away. I like to flip through chapters to see what would be useful during my first encounter with a native speaker. Like Bruce Lee said 'You take what is useful and discard what is not' Maybe that's a it unorthodox for people, but it works well for me.

The next important thing when learning is of course finding people to practice with. This is essential when learning a language.If you don't practice, it will be hard to make things stick. You can sit there and read material all day, but when it comes to a real life situation, you won't be able to apply it due to lack of using it in a real scenario. That's what I realized about language being taught in schools. They tend to spend time on things that won't necessarily be used right off the bat. I've learned that it literally takes people years to obtain a conversant level when taking language in school. I don't wanna say that for every institution, but so far from the people I've met, this is how it's been.

Overcoming fear is another thing. To many people , it may be weird to try and start a conversation in a foreign language with a 'stranger' Well, we talk to 'strangers' everyday don't we? When you go to a grocery store or post office, you have to talk to the people there don't you? My point is, you have to take advantage of every chance you get for practicing language with a native speaker. If you happen to come across a foreigner on the street and you're convinced they're Chinese or Korean, approach them and ask if they know what time it is or something. Once they tell you the time, then politely ask them what country they're from. Once you get the information you need, you can start that lawmmower! hahahaha!! get the conversation up and going. I found this method to be very good. It's almost like actually being in the country!!! You have to think that you're already in the country. If you want to learn Chinese, you can find Chinese here in the states likewise any other ethnicity. That tends to be one of the biggest excuses for people to not learn a foreign language. You have to come out of your comfort zone sometimes.

Well, I hope I didn't leave anything out.Sometimes I find it hard to explain methods -_-.. I look forward to talking with you again. Take care.

Moses McCormick





Rollo the Cat wrote:
Hello Mr. Mccormick,

I would be interested in hearing more about the process you go through to learn a language. How many different
methods have you tried? Are there any you feel don't work for you?

Also, I have studied martial arts my whole life and your analogy between martial arts training and language learning
is one I make all the time, though a bit different that the way you did. But, I enjoyed the video with the Bruce Lee
references you made.

Rollo Terson

7 persons have voted this message useful



Juan M.
Senior Member
Colombia
Joined 4403 days ago

460 posts - 597 votes 

 
 Message 15 of 221
22 December 2008 at 5:24pm | IP Logged 
Mr. McCormick,

I'd please like to ask you two questions. First, you have discussed the role of conversation, but how do you approach the great literature of each language? Have you studied any classical languages with few or no living speakers? What would be your recommendation in each case?

Second, and perhaps related to the above, how do you work on languages with poor, scarce or inadequate self-teaching resources?

Finally, just let me congratulate you on your achievements. A lot of people here (including myself :-) ) envy you.

Thank you in advance!
2 persons have voted this message useful



ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
Joined 5760 days ago

609 posts - 2100 votes 

 
 Message 16 of 221
23 December 2008 at 9:10am | IP Logged 
Welcome to our forum, Moses McCormick! I am very pleased that you accepted the invitation to join us here, and I can see already from the thoughtfully detailed letters you have written that your contributions should add greatly to the quality of our discussions about language learning.

As you quoted my initial letter about you in full without correcting anything, I assume I got most of the facts right, but I presume that I may speak on behalf of others and write in the plural that we are all very curious to know more about you.

Are you majoring in Chinese or is it just a part of your program of studies, which I surmise to be at the graduate level? Likewise, is your ultimate goal to be a language teacher?

You must know that your ability to lay in the foundations of a new and utterly different linguistic system very rapidly, not just on the theoretical descriptive level, but on the active internalized level, is very rare. I assume that this is mainly due to the fact that you are going with great passion at something for which you feel a natural affinity, but perhaps your method and techniques of study facilitate this as well. Is this ability something that you believe you could teach to others?

As for yourself, is the list of languages that I drew up inclusive of all that you have studied? In any case, it is striking for its focus upon languages that are rarely studied. Do the more commonly studied languages of Western Europe pose no appeal to you?

I hope I am needlessly stating the obvious when I point out that you need not confine yourself to this thread, but should feel free to contribute to other discussions as well or to start some of your own.

Alexander Arguelles



2 persons have voted this message useful



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