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Moses McCormick’s admirable achievement

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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Sterogyl
Diglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 2845 days ago

152 posts - 263 votes 
Studies: German*, French, EnglishC2
Studies: Japanese, Norwegian

 
 Message 185 of 221
27 March 2013 at 9:07pm | IP Logged 
@Iversen: Yes, errors and foreign accent would be okay, but you should be able to build the subjunctive in French, for example, at least you should be aware of the concept. This is basics. Sorry, I don't have the time to go into details now. But I think it should be more or less clear what being functional in a language means. It doesn't mean that you are functional only in a small number of activities such as buying ice-cream or talking about your learning languages.

But usually it is enough to be functional in one single language, so I don't see any problem here.

@Tarvos: One very last time in the hopes that you will finally get it (provided you really don't misread on purpose which I still don't believe no matter how hard you yell):

sterogyl wrote:
...)in my personal opinion, it's better to master few languages than to attain a basic/low-intermediate "Teach Yourself" level in a 50. (...). If it's okay for him it's good!
(...)
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.


tarvos wrote:

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


I could go on and on. And this - besides your overly aggressive tone - is the reason why there is no basis for us to continue discussing. Good bye.
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leosmith
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United States
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 Message 186 of 221
27 March 2013 at 10:25pm | IP Logged 
tarvos wrote:
No. I am not deliberately misreading your postings

Why not?
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tarvos
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 Message 187 of 221
27 March 2013 at 10:42pm | IP Logged 
What is the point? It's an argument on the internets.
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Mooby
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Scotland
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 Message 188 of 221
28 March 2013 at 12:07am | IP Logged 
tarvos wrote:
What is the point? It's an argument on the internets.

No point? Maybe there is - I can't help being impressed when I see such a detailed argument in English between non-native speakers!
I wish I could argue in my L2 :)
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Budz
Octoglot
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Australia
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Speaks: German*, English, Russian, Esperanto, Ukrainian, Mandarin, Cantonese, French
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 Message 189 of 221
28 March 2013 at 12:58am | IP Logged 
I think one needs to differentiate between an intermediate level gained through mastery of half of one of the Teach Yourself series of books... and what Moses demonstrates in his so-called leveling up videos.

I once took a trip to Romania and before-hand, worked through about 10 chapters of Teach Yourself Romanian and I managed to negotiate restaurants, hotels, trains and even had a chat with a fellow passenger on a train about the war (all with zero English). An intermediate level from Teach Yourself is a nice level. But Moses, except for his Cantonese and Mandarin, shows this sort of level in almost none of the languages in his videos. (given that his Cantonese seems to have surpassed his Mandarin in just a few months study... I have to wonder whether he even speaks Mandarin at home)

Moses is a superb source of great information about language learning and about resources for individual languages but he's not a good example of what one can do with an intermediate knowledge of a language. It looks impressive if you don't understand a word of what he's saying but when you understand the language it's not impressive at all. (except for his Cantonese and Mandarin)

Even his technique for leveling up, is in my opinion, completely wrong. If you walk into a Chinese restaurant, you expect the staff to speak some sort of Chinese. You don't need to chat in English for 5 minutes then switch to Chinese. This only establishes that both you and the other person can speak English. Any switch to Chinese at this stage can seem artificial - unless your level of Chinese is really high - but then you don't need the leveling up practice. Any beginner of Chinese is going to find it really difficult to switch to Chinese after starting off in English.
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casamata
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 Message 190 of 221
28 March 2013 at 4:33am | IP Logged 
Budz wrote:
I think one needs to differentiate between an intermediate level gained through mastery of half of one of the Teach Yourself series of books... and what Moses demonstrates in his so-called leveling up videos.

Moses is a superb source of great information about language learning and about resources for individual languages but he's not a good example of what one can do with an intermediate knowledge of a language. It looks impressive if you don't understand a word of what he's saying but when you understand the language it's not impressive at all. (except for his Cantonese and Mandarin)

Even his technique for leveling up, is in my opinion, completely wrong. If you walk into a Chinese restaurant, you expect the staff to speak some sort of Chinese. You don't need to chat in English for 5 minutes then switch to Chinese. This only establishes that both you and the other person can speak English. Any switch to Chinese at this stage can seem artificial - unless your level of Chinese is really high - but then you don't need the leveling up practice. Any beginner of Chinese is going to find it really difficult to switch to Chinese after starting off in English.


I think it can go both ways--I personally think it is kind of rude to assume that the person speaks Chinese, Spanish, or whatever language it is that you want to practice. So, by starting in the "de facto" language of the US, which is English, he's not just surprising the person. But your point is also valid.

Moses seems to like languages a LOT and must practice/study a lot, but his level in Spanish, at least, is about a low A2. I watched the video where he chats with Mexican guys at Subway and it was pretty painful. It wasn't just a matter of getting conjugations wrong, making pronunciation mistakes, and gender errors, but the fact that his knowledge of word choice left much to be desired. It's as if I were just learning English and went up to Americans and said, "Whats up my dogz?" in a formal setting. The issue is that Spanish is relatively easy for English speakers, much more than languages like Arabic or Chinese. So it makes me wonder what level he has in those languages. Mind you, it is fine for somebody that studies 30 or so languages, but it is not intermediate level.

But if he has a basic A2 level in 30 or so languages, that is ALSO as amazing (to me) as learning 3 languages at a C2 level. If two people both spend X hours studying/practicing languages but one focuses on quality and the other on quantity, then they are equally hard-working and amazing to me. Or if somebody focuses on a few foreign tongues to reach a high level while dipping their toes into a few others just for fun, as hrhenry said.

Edit: typos

Edited by casamata on 28 March 2013 at 4:36am

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Iversen
Super Polyglot
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 Message 191 of 221
28 March 2013 at 4:38am | IP Logged 
Sterogyl wrote:
@Iversen: Yes, errors and foreign accent would be okay, but you should be able to build the subjunctive in French, for example, at least you should be aware of the concept. This is basics. Sorry, I don't have the time to go into details now. But I think it should be more or less clear what being functional in a language means. It doesn't mean that you are functional only in a small number of activities such as buying ice-cream or talking about your learning languages.


It seems that we disagree on some basics here, namely the roles we ascribe to 1) restricted activity/subject ranges 2) restricted range of knowledge and skills.

I would accept functionality within a restricted range of activities, but the more restricted the range is the more need there is of course to point its limitations out. And we are only talking about degrees here - even native speakers are more or less versed in the special vocabulary of speciality subjects, and for language learners there will even more variation between areas and registers/genres you know fairly well and those you haven't had time or inclination to study. The waiter at a restaurant who can take orders and discuss the menu with foreign guests, but who can't understand a simple weather report, is just an extreme case. And so is the guy who can do his shopping, discuss films and weather and politics and town planning with native speakers, but who hasn't bothered to find out what baby bottom powder is called in Greek. The latter just has a wider range.

The other subject where we disagree is the idea that you at least should know all major features of your target language to be called functional. The claim itself is very fair, and below a certain level you may have problems expressing yourself, but it is really not a condition for getting a point across. Actually I chose the French subjunctive for a very specific reason, namely that it is almost completely automatic - there are very few cases where you can choose freely between indicative and subjunctive and thereby get different meanings. And precisely because it almost is an automatic feature in French it is also something you can drop without losing anything but the respect of those you speak to. Just as you can drop the past tense in English and German if you just pepper your talk with enough temporal adverbs (in fact that's how tempus is expressed in Indonesian, and almost 200 mio. Indonesians live happily with that system). It would be a ghastly parody on those languages, something like Tarzanese, and bot Sterogyl and I would cringe - but functionality is measured on one and only one parameter, namely your ability to get your intended meaning across.

Instead your knowledge of your target language AND your ability to use that knowledge in practice are summarized in the notion proficiency, which is a totally different thing.


Edited by Iversen on 28 March 2013 at 5:04am

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Budz
Octoglot
Senior Member
Australia
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118 posts - 171 votes 
Speaks: German*, English, Russian, Esperanto, Ukrainian, Mandarin, Cantonese, French
Studies: Italian, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, Bulgarian, Persian, Hungarian, Kazakh, Swahili, Vietnamese, Polish

 
 Message 192 of 221
28 March 2013 at 6:41am | IP Logged 
Yes, there's no doubt that A2 in 30 languages is amazing... and worth achieving. But there's no way that Moses has achieved that yet and I have to wonder why he's left study of French and German almost to last, almost as an after-thought. He needs to kick-start his other languages the way he's kick-started his Cantonese. But he's probably found that quite easy with his knowledge of Mandarin.

Anyway, with all that time-wasting. practising a phrase here or there in malls and take-away shops hour after hour I don't see him having enough time left over to really make much progress in that many languages. It might generate some business for him but it is a huge waste of time for the viewer. I suspect that the gushing comments on youtube are from people that have given a language or two a go but have made no progress themselves.

As for the comment about going up to random people in America and assuming they speak some language or other... I agree. I wouldn't go up to an Asian and start speaking Chinese for example. I would consider that rude. But in the context of a Chinese restaurant I think it's acceptable. Same goes if a shop is selling, for example, imported goods from Russia and Russian videos and Russian magazines. I suspect many of their customers would only speak Russian once in the shop so I think from the 'leveling-up' angle, it would be a big mistake to start off in English hoping to change over to Russian. The workers probably speak pretty good English and probably at a much higher level than the level of Russian of the Russian learner so the switch to Russian is artificial. And you'll notice that often Moses will speak in the foreign language and the native speaker will continue with English. I suppose it's a bit like actors being in and out of character.

As for his latest idea of ringing up places to level-up... I can't see that working very well. It'll work with his level of Mandarin and Cantonese but I think it's something that he's recommending for learners to try out and I think it will just lead to frustration and discouragement for the average learner. That's what skype is for. Trying out a foreign language on the phone is really difficult.


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