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Does fluency involve an "epiphany moment"

  Tags: Epiphany | Fluency
 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
47 messages over 6 pages: 13 4 5 6  Next >>
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 Message 9 of 47
12 March 2007 at 3:31pm | IP Logged 
Siberiano wrote:
I have had something like this with my study of Italian, but it has never come in such a contrasting way to me. More like a fog that clears away and you constantly see a bit more and more details.

This effect is partly psychological, so the sharpness of the epiphanic experience may depend on the circumstances of how one studies and how one gets to use the language.

I don't remember if there was a single event with my English studies, although I do recall waking up in awe after having a dream in English for the first time. However, there was a period when I hit the flashcards pretty hard, so while there wasn't a single specific moment, the progress was so fast in the span of just two to three months that it felt like one extended epiphany, contradictory as it may sound.

With Spanish, while studying, it was also fog slowly clearing away, but then I got a chance to go to Spain for a couple of weeks. I don't recall having spoken the language to anyone else before, yet the first thing I had to do upon landing was to call my host from the airport. The fact that that phone call presented no problems, and that I was then able to deal with the taxi driver, buy train tickets, receive instructions from my host about the arrangments upon reaching the destination, etc., pretty much made for a day of epiphany. As did the next day when I made a brief introductory address in Spanish to an audience of a couple of dozen before switching to English. That moment I won't ever forget. (It also had the side benefit that people didn't talk to me in English outside the classroom.) I'd say those two or three weeks were all one big linguistic excitement. As a result of that trip, even though I don't speak Spanish well until this day, I got to have my special moments with it.

So, if you have studied for a while and have cleared enough fog, but haven't had your epiphany yet, take a trip abroad if you can - it just might happen.

Edited by frenkeld on 12 March 2007 at 5:31pm

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 Message 10 of 47
12 March 2007 at 3:37pm | IP Logged 
I'd agree with frenkeld that epiphany moments are more likely to occur in a country where your target language is spoken.

Perhaps the epiphany moment is as close as we'll ever get to a real definition of fluency. We'll never truly agree about how many words it takes. Besides, I'd rather learn new words than count them but that's just me.
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 Message 11 of 47
12 March 2007 at 4:22pm | IP Logged 
I think the post on "I thought I spoke Japanese"
is more akin to my experience - a series of negative epiphanies more
than one big positive one!
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 Message 12 of 47
10 April 2007 at 3:07pm | IP Logged 
About six or seven months after I started to learn Welsh, With plenty of practice at speaking in social situations, I went on a weekend immersion course. I was sharing dormitory with several people including the tutor. I told him one morning that I had been dreaming in Welsh the night before.
His answer was that he knew because he had heard me speaking it in my sleep! The teaching had been that good that I was actually pretty fluent by then, but it was still a wonderful feeling that I was dreaming in the language.
I use it regularly and dream in it regularly.
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 Message 13 of 47
11 April 2007 at 9:21am | IP Logged 
I'm not yet fluent in any foreign language, but I'm proficient enough in written Spanish that I've been writing to a pen pal in Mexico for a few months. Although he is learning English, most of our correspondence until recently was in Spanish, and we've had little difficulty understanding each other. Right now I tend to write half of my e-mails in Spanish and half in English. I've been having difficulties with writing (but not reading) Spanish for the past couple of weeks, but only because I haven't been studying... I plan to resume my studies today.

Anyway, I had a weird breakthrough that isn't really an epiphany, because it wasn't a single defining moment, but it wasn't a gradual result from constant labor, either. I took Spanish for three years in high school and was never any good with the language. I did pass all my Spanish classes, but probably only because most of the other students were doing just as bad (or worse). Between then and last summer (which was a few years), I had flirted with the Japanese language, though without too much success there, either. During that time I occasionally ran into Spanish on the web, and each time I realized I still remembered more than I thought I would from high school -- even if I didn't learn that much. So I picked up Spanish again, this time studying it my way... and lo, I'm speaking it far better than I ever have! I can finally say with confidence that I'm out of the "beginner" category and firmly in "intermediate" territory, and I've got my eye on "advanced"! I'm still absolutely terrible with the spoken language, but I'm more interested in the written language anyway, and it'll still provide a base to work from when it's time to learn the spoken language.

I'm not sure what exactly was the cause of my breakthrough, although I am certain that an interest in grammar, plus a means of finding the answers to my grammar questions, is largely responsible. I think flirting with Japanese had something to do with it, too. I think looking at the grammar of a very different language can sort of rewire the language-learning part of your brain, even if you don't actually learn that different language. I'd certainly recommend it.

- Kef

P.S. "Epiphany moment" is kind of redundant, really... just "epiphany" will do. :)

Edited by furrykef on 11 April 2007 at 9:26am

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 Message 14 of 47
12 April 2007 at 4:23am | IP Logged 
My reading in Spanish is very strong, with about 80-90& comprehension on BBC Mundo news items.

My listening is my weakest skill, but the other day I was browsing YouTube for speeched by Spanish language politicians, as I've always found politics interesting. I listened to a 90 second speech by Fidel Castro as he welcomed Pope John Paul II to Cuba, and with the exception the first two or three words, I understood everything, which brought a huge smile to my face.
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 Message 15 of 47
14 April 2007 at 9:54am | IP Logged 
A nice collection of stories here.

I agree that having these special moments is probably just part of the normal process of language learning.

For Spanish there is one I remember especially: I was staying in a private flat during a visit to Madrid, and happened to overhear across an inner courtyard a couple of workmen trying to fix a broken lift - "... just try keeping this bugger steady now ... Oh sh*t ... etc.", when I suddenly realised I could understand every word of the conversation.

Edited by Hencke on 14 April 2007 at 7:02pm

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Bilingual Triglot
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 Message 16 of 47
16 April 2007 at 2:46am | IP Logged 
I'm not fluent in German by any means, but I knew I came to a turning point when I started to forget what things were called in English and could only remember the German name!

Not even hard, specific words. Things like 'electric current' or 'influence' would always come out as 'Strom' or 'Einfluss' in English scentences. That, and I had a phase where I capitalized all my English nouns. That confused the hell out of a lot of people :)

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