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German: massive input in Berlin

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rtickner
Diglot
Groupie
AustraliaRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 1817 days ago

61 posts - 95 votes 
Speaks: English*, GermanB2
Studies: French, Spanish

 
 Message 273 of 295
11 June 2015 at 2:15pm | IP Logged 
Congratulations on your achievements to date, sound like your comprehension of native
materials has really improved over the last 12 months. I look forward to reading about your
adventures in production.
1 person has voted this message useful



Sarnek
Diglot
Senior Member
Italy
Joined 2514 days ago

308 posts - 414 votes 
Speaks: Italian*, English
Studies: German, Swedish

 
 Message 274 of 295
11 June 2015 at 2:30pm | IP Logged 
Congratz, mate!
I have one question, what is your approach to reading? Especially in the beginning, did you
look up every word you didn't know or only the ones that hindered comprehension? Has your
approached evolved over the years?
Thanks!
1 person has voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3831 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 275 of 295
11 June 2015 at 3:32pm | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:
Although Hammer seems like a particularly dense grammar, I find it intuitively quite clear, which is an advantage of having had so much input prior to starting more formal study. Most of the grammatical points being made just make sense of what I already know from experience.

This has been my experience, too—grammar can't really be counterintuitive if you've already head something a thousand times. :-)

patrickwilken wrote:
So overall I am pretty pleased with my progress. It is frustrating not to be able to communicate more effectively, but this is something I am sure I'll be able to make really significant improvements on in the coming year.

I guarantee that if you throw yourself into talking with the same enthusiasm with which you threw yourself into reading and movies, your speech will improve at a breakneck speed. My experience is that it's pretty easy to turn passive skills into active skills (at least up to a point, assuming you have the right environment for advanced skills, etc).

Your listening comprehension is stronger than mine because of those 900 movies. My speaking is stronger than yours because I've probably spent over a thousand hours trying to express myself in French. :-)

My current theory is speaking really is a separate skill than comprehension. But if your comprehension is high enough, all you need to do is open your mouth, try to say something, and cringe when it sounds funny to you. The L2 comprehension model can be used to rapidly tune the L2 production model, basically. This would explain all of those heritage learners who are very strong passive bilinguals.

Sarnek wrote:
I have one question, what is your approach to reading? Especially in the beginning, did you
look up every word you didn't know or only the ones that hindered comprehension?

I suspect that most people between a strong A2 and C1 would be served well by reading large amounts of interesting stuff and skimming the hard bits, only looking up stuff that seems particularly important or annoying. Sometimes it can be useful to get more aggressive with a dictionary and/or Anki, but that sort of thing seems to work best in moderation.

In my experience, real reading fluency comes from reading large quantities of stuff that you can already more-or-less puzzle out.
1 person has voted this message useful



patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2832 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 276 of 295
11 June 2015 at 3:33pm | IP Logged 
   
smallwhite wrote:
Thank you for the detailed information. I hope you can reach your goals soon.


Thanks. My long term goal has always been something approaching C2 in German, so I am not in any particular hurry. If I can my writing/speaking up closer to my listening/reading in the next year or so then I'll be pretty happy.

rtickner wrote:
Congratulations on your achievements to date, sound like your comprehension of native
materials has really improved over the last 12 months. I look forward to reading about your
adventures in production.


I should say that my production has also improved over the last year, just no where near as fast, which is not surprising given how little I have done towards it. Are you still studying German?

Sarnek wrote:
Congratz, mate!
I have one question, what is your approach to reading? Especially in the beginning, did you look up every word you didn't know or only the ones that hindered comprehension? Has your approached evolved over the years?
Thanks!


I started reading books after about six months of study, using a Kindle (with cursor) to look up words I didn't know. I pretty much looked up every word I didn't know in a sentence, and over time just learnt the vocabulary as I went.

At the beginning I used a lot of SRS to build up some basic vocabulary, but if I would do this again I'd probably use Readlang to semi-automatically generate sample sentences from text I am reading for SRS. My impression is that I learn just as effectively without SRS, though I can see it's value at the start for getting the first 2000-3000 words. I also read a basic grammar over the course of a month before starting reading, which was essential for my being able to parse text properly.

EDIT:

emk wrote:
I suspect that most people between a strong A2 and C1 would be served well by reading large amounts of interesting stuff and skimming the hard bits, only looking up stuff that seems particularly important or annoying. Sometimes it can be useful to get more aggressive with a dictionary and/or Anki, but that sort of thing seems to work best in moderation.


I agree.

I guess my basic approach is that I read for enjoyment, which means I read for meaning, not for grammar or vocabulary.

My approach has been to replace media that I would consume in English with media I consume in German. So I still go out and see a film like "Masters of the Galaxy" or watch "Breaking Bad" on Netflix or read a scifi novel or a newspaper - I just do it in German. This has become so second nature now that it feels really odd and a little awkward to read a book in English and basically unthinkable to see an English language film. HTLAL is basically one of my last big sources of English. :)

I think that's probably one of the reasons why I am not so keen on SRS. As it creates additional work (i.e., it's no something I would normally do) and makes the learning more painful.

Edited by patrickwilken on 11 June 2015 at 4:36pm

2 persons have voted this message useful



patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2832 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 277 of 295
11 June 2015 at 4:29pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

I guarantee that if you throw yourself into talking with the same enthusiasm with which you threw yourself into reading and movies, your speech will improve at a breakneck speed. My experience is that it's pretty easy to turn passive skills into active skills (at least up to a point, assuming you have the right environment for advanced skills, etc).


I guess the problem is that my grammatical errors are now at a level they don't really affect my communication with my wife, so they mostly pass unnoticed. And although I do talk German with every German I meet, the opportunities to talk German are not anywhere as great as you might think, as I work from home and spend a fair amount of time with my nine-week-old daughter.

I think what I really need to do is get my writing up to a certain level, which I agree should be fairly straightfoward. It's just a matter of doing lots of writing. I suspect I'll see a huge jump in my speaking once my writing gets fairly fluent, and then I can work on pronunciation issues more systematically, perhaps by getting a tutor.

emk wrote:

My current theory is speaking really is a separate skill than comprehension. But if your comprehension is high enough, all you need to do is open your mouth, try to say something, and cringe when it sounds funny to you.


That would be nice if it turns out to be true in my case. :)

Receptive skills require a weaker grammar than productive skills (e.g., gender and declination for instance don't matter too much; you can ignore other things like word order etc).

I have the sense that I have learnt a lot of (unnecessary) grammar from reading, but not enough that I can effortlessly speak or write without a fair bit of effort yet.

Edited by patrickwilken on 11 June 2015 at 4:29pm

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BAnna
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 2921 days ago

409 posts - 615 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Spanish
Studies: Russian, Turkish

 
 Message 278 of 295
13 June 2015 at 2:34pm | IP Logged 
Congrats on your progress. It's always interesting to read of your perseverance and challenges (many of the ones you describe I share especially with productive skills and the *cursed* writing). What sort of texts are you planning to write? Do you have a professional goal in mind or is it to use writing as a method to develop speaking skills? That is actually a good idea. In the past when disciplined enough (rarely) to consistently write, I've found speaking immensely easier though did see some weird patterns develop in my English when doing a lot of German, such as much more complex and odd-sounding sentences. I'm fairly often writing emails in German with my work colleagues, but nothing more.

I just spent 3 weeks (mostly on business) in Germany and Switzerland, so now have some fresh motivation to re-ignite my language study. At one point, I had to go to a doctor and pharmacist, neither of whom spoke English and managed quite well, which was definitely a confidence booster. Also had lots of social interactions in group settings, which was a challenge, but I expressly let everyone know ahead of time I didn't need them to switch to English so the conversations were idiomatic, fast and quite humorous. I also did some speaking with immigrants from other countries who speak German but not English, which forced me to be really clear about what I was saying because they didn't fill in the gaps they way a native speaker would. And hurrah! I'm finally developing an ear for the Swiss pronunciation of Hochdeutsch. You've probably got your ear for Berlinese well-developed at this point, I'd guess?

Most German-speakers are so amazed Anglophones can speak any German at all, they excessively praise one's ability, which, though very nice for the ego, doesn't help with getting a reality check or corrections. Perhaps when you move to Leipzig you'll find there are fewer English speakers and will be able to get into more in-depth conversations with people outside the family. Perhaps a play group once your daughter is a bit older? Or possibly start up conversations with seniors who may not have learned much English. I bet some elderly folks would love talking to you and maybe even give you friendly advice about your daughter! By the way, she is really beautiful. Thanks for sharing the photos and of course your insights into language learning. Your log provides me lots of food for thought, even when I don't always follow through. You are an inspiration!
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Bakunin
Diglot
Senior Member
Switzerland
outerkhmer.blogspot.
Joined 3429 days ago

531 posts - 1126 votes 
Speaks: German*, Thai
Studies: Khmer

 
 Message 279 of 295
14 June 2015 at 8:48am | IP Logged 
I also wanted to stop by to say that I appreciate your 3-year summary entry. It's always interesting to read entries which put things a bit in perspective, and I really like your relaxed approach to learning German. I'm curious to see how you go about improving your active skills over the coming years, and I wish you all the best on this journey!
4 persons have voted this message useful



patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2832 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 280 of 295
17 June 2015 at 11:08am | IP Logged 
BAnna wrote:
Congrats on your progress. It's always interesting to read of your perseverance and challenges (many of the ones you describe I share especially with productive skills and the *cursed* writing).


Thanks. Though I always feel you are at least two years ahead of me in progress.

BAnna wrote:

What sort of texts are you planning to write? Do you have a professional goal in mind or is it to use writing as a method to develop speaking skills?


Actually working out what to write about is one of my stresses! I just want to write enough each day to fine tune grammar. I am lucky in that I don't have to pay a tutor - my wife Kristina is happy enough to read and correct a short text.

I am talking now, but I am not really fluid in my speech. Some of that will improve as I read and listen more (I still have annoying holes in my vocab), but alot of it comes from not having a fine enough sense of grammar. It's not terrible, I can mostly communicate, but it's not great either.

BAnna wrote:
Perhaps a play group once your daughter is a bit older? Or possibly start up conversations with seniors who may not have learned much English. I bet some elderly folks would love talking to you and maybe even give you friendly advice about your daughter! By the way, she is really beautiful.




Lucy and Papa at the playground

It's funny as soon as you become a parent you are suddenly you are part of a club, and invited to playgrounds to meet with other parents. It's actually quite pleasing that I am to understand and talk to other parents in German. My German is not great, but I can certainly take part in conversations, which is reassuring. I just feel I am butchering their language a bit as I speak. :)

One thing that I found a bit disturbing the other day was meeting with a couple who will a baby any day now. The wife is American, the husband German. They are planning to live here in Germany indefinitely. The wife's German is not terrible, perhaps somewhere at B2 level. But unlike me she refuses to improve/use her German. She had find a English-speaking midwife, English-speaking paediatrician. She watches English language shows on Netflix and reads lots of English language books. She only speaks English with her husband. I am not sure how she is going to find the whole birth experience in hospital where English won't be automatically spoken by all the nurses/midwifes. But what I really didn't like is her idea that the daughter will learn English to speak with her, rather than she learning German to speak with her daughter. This is dressed up as something to do with the virtues of bilingualism, but ultimately I think it's just laziness, in part because it's too easy to get by with English here in Berlin.

On the other hand, I had a very nice interaction with an old school friend of Kristina's who coincidentally lives 10 minutes walk from us (they grew up on the other side of Germany near the Dutch border). Kristina's friend Yildiz has parents from Turkey, so she talks only Turkish with her 1.5 year old daughter, but daughter and mother switch effortlessly to German to speak with us (the daughter learns German from her father and the Kita).

We are no where near so disciplined. Switching between English and German all the time. Whether this will make a big difference to Lucy or not I guess we'll start to find out in about nine months time.

Bakunin wrote:
I also wanted to stop by to say that I appreciate your 3-year summary entry. It's always interesting to read entries which put things a bit in perspective, and I really like your relaxed approach to learning German. I'm curious to see how you go about improving your active skills over the coming years, and I wish you all the best on this journey!


Thanks. You have been a real inspiration for my own German learning.

I guess my own language learning philosophy is simply that I learn best by doing rather than studying. So rather than studying grammar or vocabulary out of context, I prefer to read/listen, and now that my skills are more solid speak and write to improve my grammar. I am not pure, I am reading a pretty dense grammar at the moment, and I am not against using SRS to improve vocabulary at the start, but I am most comfortable just using the language as much as possible to learn. not going to do drills, just start writing as soon as I read through it once, and try to fine-tune output as a go along. This desire not to "study" is why I have focussed so strongly on input at the start so I could minimize the amount of explicit grammar study later, which for me was definitely the correct decision.

I ultimately don't really care how effective this sort of approach is (so long as it works at some point). It's really an aesthetic judgement of how I want to approach learning the language. It just feels right to grow into it slowly overtime.

Edited by patrickwilken on 17 June 2015 at 11:28am



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