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Polyliteracy as advanced language study

  Tags: Polyliteracy
 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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Zwlth
Super Polyglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5073 days ago

154 posts - 320 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Arabic (Written), Dutch, Swedish, Portuguese, Latin, French, Persian, Greek

 
 Message 1 of 9
31 August 2011 at 6:19am | IP Logged 
Given that my efforts to invigorate discussions about the practice of polyliteracy from the Great Books perspective have become embroiled in controversy, I thought I would try to approach the matter from another angle.

I hope we can all agree that learning a foreign language is truly a lifetime commitment? I also hope that everyone will understand what I mean when I say there are a number of defining "hurdles" in the process of learning a foreign language, and that there comes a point when things finally gel and work and you are no longer a student proper of the language, but rather a user of it. However, it is precisely when you are "advanced" that you realize how much you still do not know, and even though you might have qualified for a CE C2 or an ILR IV level rating years ago, when you reflect back, you realize how much you have continued to learn.

Thus, even though you no longer have recourse to textbooks and studying proper, you always remain a student of foreign languages, albeit at the most advanced of levels.

Now, how does one get to be a polyglot in the first place? By studying one language at a time, or by studying multiple languages at a time? Surely the latter path is more likely to lead to becoming a "super polyglot" in the end? That's certainly how I got there. I never had the slightest difficulty studying multiple languages simultaneously in the textbook stage, so why should it be any different now that I am in the enjoying-the-fruits-of-my-labor-through-literature stage?

You all balk at the idea of reading more than one book at a time when focusing on it as a vehicle for content/ideas/storyline, etc. But, what if you focus on it as the most advanced level of study and vocabulary enrichment? You are reading the specific Great Book for its message, certainly, but you are nonetheless also always and inevitably reading it as an advanced student of the language.

If I did what you all seem to feel is logical and natural, I would in essence end up doing something like a week of German followed by a week of Italian followed by a week of Spanish followed by a week of Russian followed by a week of Arabic followed by a week of Dutch followed by a week of Swedish followed by a week of Portuguese followed by a week of Latin followed by a week of French.   To me, this would be very strange and very unsatisfying, and I know that I would not effectively foster the continued growth of my vocabulary by doing this.

To me, as a polyglot, it is the idea of single sequential focus at a time that is counterintuitive. Is there really no one else who feels the same way?

Edited by Zwlth on 31 August 2011 at 8:26am

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numerodix
Trilingual Hexaglot
Senior Member
Netherlands
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 Message 2 of 9
31 August 2011 at 11:02am | IP Logged 
I really see no impediment to reading several books in parallel. My reading is quite
systematic and I generally read in two languages everyday, one hour for each. Whether
they be Great Books™ or not I don't see a problem with this. I definitely prefer to do it
this way than go through books as fast as possible, because of the variety. The only
thing I frown upon is reading two books that would attempt to interfere with each other,
which applies less to fiction than non-fiction.

I also don't take Great Books™ quite so seriously as some people do. I leave it to the
book to convince me that it's worth reading. I don't fret about with background reading
or whatever to prepare for a sacred sacrament.
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Volte
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Switzerland
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4474 posts - 6726 votes 
Speaks: English*, Esperanto, German, Italian
Studies: French, Finnish, Mandarin, Japanese

 
 Message 3 of 9
31 August 2011 at 11:55am | IP Logged 
Something is apparently being lost in communication. Iversen agrees with you, as do I. Neither of us advocate a language per week, strictly rotating. That's a pattern polyglots seem to universally disdain, though I've seen occasional advocacy for daily rotation.

This week, I'm reading French novels and civics material, Italian civics material, "Kavaliro en tigrafelo" (the national epic of Georgia, in Esperanto translation), etc. My reading in English and German is lighter - a bit of forums, a bit of news, and general everyday use of this sort. The only one of these that I'd consider a Great Book is "Kavaliro en tigrafelo"; while Zola is on some lists, I'm just lightly poking at it, rather than reading it seriously, and I'm spending far more time on lighter novels and non-fiction, so I'm not counting it.

I prefer to stick to one Great Book at once, if I'm approaching it with any seriousness. This is part of why having other languages a part of my life in lower-maintenance ways (reading short articles on the web, listening to music, talking to friends) is important to me.

The closest I get to single focus over the course of a week is with L-R, or while travelling; even then, I tend to sneak in a little bit of several of my languages.

As for your question elsewhere, I have my languages listed on my profile (which, admittedly, isn't up to date). The only languages that show up next to my posts are the ones I have my level set to some sort of 'fluency' in; languages that I read comfortably in but speak poorly are listed as 'intermediate' or even 'beginner'. While I read French, for example, my mental model of the pronunciation of the language is drastically off (a simple consequence of having gained most of my knowledge of it via reading, years before I learned how to study languages), and a conversation beyond absolute basics requires a rather patient interlocutor, so I don't plan to reclassify it any time soon.

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Zwlth
Super Polyglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5073 days ago

154 posts - 320 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Arabic (Written), Dutch, Swedish, Portuguese, Latin, French, Persian, Greek

 
 Message 4 of 9
01 September 2011 at 5:33am | IP Logged 
Volte wrote:
Something is apparently being lost in communication. Iversen agrees with you, as do I. Neither of us advocate a language per week....


You say this now in theory, but when it comes to the praxis of reading, haven't you both stressed over and over again that you prefer to concentrate upon only one tome at a time? Now, you have also clearly indicated that reading is not your only means of language use. But, what if it were? And what if that reading were all of the "heavy" variety? In that case, this very preference for one tome at a time would, in praxis, force you into a rotational cycle between languages, and as "heavy" books always take time to get through, those cycles would probably average about a week in duration.   Thus, the logical and necessary outcome of one tome at a time is the kind of language per week cycle I described above.

Now, there are only two ways that I can conceptualize out of this situation. This first (your way) is: don't do "heavy" reading, either at all, or at least not to the exclusion of other activities.

The second (my way) is: develop the ability to read multiple tomes simultaneously. I really don't understand why you all are so energetically unreceptive to the possibility and the profitability of doing this. It may require some conscious application of discipline at first, but it can become a fixed habit soon enough. If you can't see the Great Books reading benefit of this, can you at least see the protracted language exposure and vocabulary growth benefits of it?

Iversen wrote:
Yes there is - believe it or not, but this time I agree with everything you say!


Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!

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Bao
Diglot
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Germany
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 Message 5 of 9
01 September 2011 at 10:02am | IP Logged 
Doesn't it depend on the amount of spare time you have for reading (and concentrating on it) at a given time?

Edited by Bao on 01 September 2011 at 10:02am

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Zwlth
Super Polyglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5073 days ago

154 posts - 320 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Arabic (Written), Dutch, Swedish, Portuguese, Latin, French, Persian, Greek

 
 Message 6 of 9
01 September 2011 at 10:34am | IP Logged 
Bao wrote:
Doesn't it depend on the amount of spare time you have for reading (and concentrating on it) at a given time?


Well, the rather overt presupposition behind the whole idea of polyliteracy is that quality reading (quality of reading matter and quality of reading time) is an essential daily activity. If you are interested in the concept, then you do not necessarily need to organize your life around it, but do need to budget a number of hours to a regular reading schedule. So, I guess the whole project presumes that you are both an avid and inveterate bibliophile as well as a polyglot.
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Volte
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Switzerland
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 Message 7 of 9
06 September 2011 at 2:39pm | IP Logged 
Zwlth wrote:

Now, there are only two ways that I can conceptualize out of this situation. This first (your way) is: don't do "heavy" reading, either at all, or at least not to the exclusion of other activities.


Enough. It's a waste of time to interact with you when you keep saying things like this - that really is not an accurate description of how I do things, and I'm wasting my breath replying. You've been consistently dismissive of everyone else doing "heavy" reading, and I'm tired of it. Bye.

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Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
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 Message 8 of 9
06 September 2011 at 4:25pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
Yes there is - believe it or not, but this time I agree with everything you say!

Zwlth wrote:
Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!


And like Volte I have lost interest in communication at this level. But just for the sake of completeness I referred to sequential versus parallel reading in different languages, which I also see as a mistake. I wrote about this in more detail in my log.

However the logical alternative isn't a fare consisting of twitter messages, political speeches and Barbara Cartland, but rather a 'mixed' program consisting of great books interspersed with other kinds of texts (which certainly don't have to be easier from a linguistical point of view). But uncle Zwlth is totally uninterested in anything except a fulltime study of great works from a list - and such a limited perspective is for several reasons not palatable for most of us. If that means that we won't be allowed into his ivory tower then that is a loss we can live with.



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