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Moses McCormick’s admirable achievement

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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tarvos
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 Message 177 of 221
26 March 2013 at 3:53pm | IP Logged 
Quote:
it's better to master few languages than to attain a basic/low-intermediate "Teach
Yourself" level in a 50.


Why?
1 person has voted this message useful



Sterogyl
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 Message 178 of 221
26 March 2013 at 4:26pm | IP Logged 
tarvos wrote:
Quote:
it's better to master few languages than to attain a basic/low-intermediate "Teach
Yourself" level in a 50.


Why?


(You left out the "In my personal opinion" at the beginning of the sentence.)

Well, in my personal opinion, it's good to be fully functional in a language instead of only being able to babble some phrases. Acquiring a reasonable listening comprehension of a language alone can be a long hard road, and you have to put in a lot of work in order to achieve that. But what is the use if you are a so-called "polyglot" and can't really understand even a single one of your languages? For me, personally, it is more desirable to be as functional as possible in a rather small number of languages. I cannot imagine learning and maintaining 40 languages at once, personally. You know, it is just my opinion. If others, as I already stated in my former post, like to be some sort of "jack-of-all-trades" (in a linguistic sense, of course), they have my blessing. There's nothing wrong with that. But it is not my cup of tea. For me, the fun starts where I become more and more functional.
5 persons have voted this message useful



hrhenry
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 Message 179 of 221
26 March 2013 at 6:01pm | IP Logged 
Sterogyl wrote:
For me, personally, it is more desirable to be as functional as
possible in a rather small number of languages.

On the other hand, it's entirely possible to be fully functional (professionally, even)
in a couple or few languages and still dabble with other languages, recognizing that
these other languages won't be anywhere near the level of your primary "working"
languages.

They're not mutually exclusive.

R.
==
8 persons have voted this message useful



tarvos
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 Message 180 of 221
26 March 2013 at 6:08pm | IP Logged 
Quote:
it is more desirable to be as functional as possible in a rather small number of
languages. I cannot imagine learning and maintaining 40 languages at once, personally.


But when are you functional? What if their functions are entirely suited by their
level?
And more importantly, why does your desire have to equate to their desire?

Quote:
But what is the use if you are a so-called "polyglot" and can't really
understand even a single one of your languages?


Why the need to make loaded statements about one's ability? Why is it relevant to you
"what their understanding is"? How do you research and define someone else's
understanding of a language?

Is this expressed by the amount of words he knows? The grammar? By the fact he can
debate Kantian philosophy?

If my job as a store owner is to handle clientèle in the shop that speaks, say, German,
and I am able to that, then I speak perfectly adequate German for that task. My brother
for example works in a toy store and occasionally he gets called upon to handle
customers that don't speak Dutch (so they have to resort to something else, and he is
capable of handling pretty much anything in English). But he doesn't speak much aside
from those two languages, except the German (and some French) he studied at school. He
doesn't use it, nor like it. But even when foreigners come into the store speaking
German, he helps them out in German, even though his level is probably A1 or A2 and he
wouldn't be able to read a newspaper or follow a television show.

What is not functional about this?

Edited by tarvos on 26 March 2013 at 6:13pm

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Sterogyl
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 Message 181 of 221
26 March 2013 at 6:33pm | IP Logged 
@hrhenry: Yes, you're right, of course.

tarvos wrote:
Quote:
it is more desirable to be as functional as possible in a rather small number of
languages. I cannot imagine learning and maintaining 40 languages at once, personally.


But when are you functional? What if their functions are entirely suited by their
level?


You're a functional when you can function in the society where the language is spoken. When you can use the language at work, when you can understand the news, when you can talk to your neighbours, when you can go to the cinema with your friends and watch a movie, when you can read a book, when you can call the ambulance, when you can understand announcements in the subway. This means being functional in a language.

Quote:

And more importantly, why does your desire have to equate to their desire?


Are you deliberately misreading my postings? I am not willing anymore to discuss on this basis, sorry.

Quote:

Is this expressed by the amount of words he knows? The grammar?


Yes. Language consists, roughly spoken, of words and grammar.

The rest of your "deluge of questions" I will not answer. I think you misread postings you don't like on purpose.

Edited by Sterogyl on 26 March 2013 at 6:34pm

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tarvos
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 Message 182 of 221
26 March 2013 at 7:14pm | IP Logged 
Sterogyl wrote:


You're a functional when you can function in the society where the language is spoken.
When you can use the language at work, when you can understand the news, when you can
talk to your neighbours, when you can go to the cinema with your friends and watch a
movie, when you can read a book, when you can call the ambulance, when you can
understand announcements in the subway. This means being functional in a language.


Why is this definition of functional better than the definition of functional I
proposed? And why is it necessary to you to hold people to a standard they probably
have no necessity to be held to?

Quote:
Are you deliberately misreading my postings? I am not willing anymore to discuss
on this basis, sorry.


No. I am not deliberately misreading your postings. I am giving you a perfectly
adequate question based on what you wrote. If you don't want to answer that question
then that is your problem, but you are the one making blanket statements about
desirability, not me. It is not up to me to prove that I am right, the burden of proof
lies with the one who makes the statement.


Quote:
The rest of your "deluge of questions" I will not answer. I think you misread
postings you don't like on purpose.


Do what you will. But I didn't misread your post. I asked a question and gave a good
counterargument. And your walking away does not make your argument any stronger.
3 persons have voted this message useful





Iversen
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 Message 183 of 221
27 March 2013 at 12:30pm | IP Logged 
If you take Sterogyl's definition of what being functional entails as quoted by Tarvos above, then it doesn't strike me as being particularly harsh on language learners. The big question is whether you also demand full comprehension, no errors, an almost perfect pronunciation and knowledge of all kinds of cultural items (like the number to call if you need an ambulance) - if you do that then those fairly commonsense demands suddenly become scary.

There is another aspect to this. It is farly obvious that you gradually loose your languages if you don't use them, and this is particularly obvious when we are talking about languages which you never have learned properly in the first place. In order to keep a language alive without feeling it as a chore you must be able to understand it fairly well. If you can't read a page in a book without a dictionary then you need to study intensively every time you open a book. If you can't understand a film without subtitles then watching a film is a hardcore study activity. And being functional means that you can use your language without feeling that you have to work hard - it should be a pleasure, and you should be able to relax with that language. But it does NOT imply that you should be able to use it without making mistakes or missing some minor details here and there.

You can be functional in French without ever using a subjunctive. Even Tarzan could be functional out there in the jungle, just as the sales clerk mentioned by Tarvos is within the narrow German framework he has carved out for himself. But to claim functionality without some qualifying remark must imply that you cover a fairly wide area.

The problem is of course that many of the activities you might do with a functional target language are irrelevant or downright impossible if you are a home learner far from any community that speaks that language. For instance I can't see myself going to a cinema to watch a film with a native speaker of Latin or Catalan or Low German. So claiming functionality on the basis of activities which you actually never have performed may be somewhat questionable, but then you have to extrapolate from things you actually have done.

PS: I have no idea whether Moses is functional in his languages or not - I simply don't know how well he can use them in practical situations, although he probably have said something about it in his videos. But it must be difficult to find native speakers (and time!) of more than forty languages, so it can't be easy for him to find opportunities to test his 'functionality' in the more exotic items on his list.   

Edited by Iversen on 27 March 2013 at 12:53pm

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tarvos
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Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 184 of 221
27 March 2013 at 1:20pm | IP Logged 
Quote:
The big question is whether you also demand full comprehension, no errors, an
almost perfect pronunciation and knowledge of all kinds of cultural items (like the
number to call if you need an ambulance) - if you do that then those fairly commonsense
demands suddenly become scary.


And this was entirely unclear from Sterogyl's posting, hence my question.

Iversen, Moses' functionality mostly consists of being able to handle routine
interactions in restaurants, shops, basic banter about himself, so on and so forth.
This is pretty much how Moses needs his languages because he does not travel abroad
much. He takes pleasure from social conversation (and probably some amount of
linguistics), and immersing himself in foreign culture at home. I believe Moses is very
functional within his frameworks, and that he is very capable of setting goals to meet
this standard. Hence I have no problem with him working the way he does, he's a
motivated dedicated learner that is very able to use languages to his purpose. Moses
has no need for extremely high performance in many languages (he states that his goals
for most languages are upper-intermediate level iirc), and the exception to that rule
is probably Chinese because he has a Taiwanese wife and plans on raising his children
bilingually.

But another reason I ask is that to me language learning is inherently a utilitarian
tool. To me, it is important that I can fulfill my functions in the language in a way
that I desire to use them. To me, being able to fulfill these functions is imperative
because they constitute (usually) my reasons for learning a language and aid me in
setting goals and remaining motivated. It occurs quite frequently that my goals in
language differ hugely per language, one because I don't use them in the same
circumstances, and two, because my social relationships with speakers of those
languages frequently differ.

And to me it's kind of bizarre to make a blanket statement that "quality over quantity"
is important because, especially for Moses, his strength is in the fact that he is an
incredibly motivated learner who wants to know how to interact at a basic level in
about 40-50 languages. He has no need for super-duper levels apart from a few, but
because he has good levels in some of his languages, he would qualify for the title of
polyglot anyway.

And for me, attaining a whole lot of languages to level B1-B2 implies a great deal of
functionality already. My German is not above B2 but I was able to function
independently and stay at a friend's without having to resort to English, which was
perfect for my goals with German. I have no need to be able to discuss philosophy in
this language but I am able to enjoy German media, travel, and be active socially in
groups in that language. And in that language I am satisfied with those abilities.

Edited by tarvos on 27 March 2013 at 1:28pm



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