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Directions/advice for 10+ aimers?

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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Senior Member
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 Message 25 of 37
11 April 2008 at 6:17am | IP Logged 
For "Quo Vadis?" in Polish, various audiobooks are available.
83-87974-67-6 : Quo vadis - książka audio na kasecie; Wydawnictwo: RTW , Styczeń 1999
5906409190166 : Quo Vadis - książka audio na 2 CD-MP3; wydawnictwo: Agencja Artystyczna MTJ - KSIĄŻK

978-83-60313-09-1 : książka audio na 2 CD format mp3; Wydawnictwo: Aleksandria , Lipiec 2007

"Faraon", by Bolesław Prus:
5906409190135 : Wydawnictwo: MTJ Agencja Artystyczna

In the spirit of teaching you to fish, here is how I found the Quo Vadis audiobook.

My first step was to stop by the thread on how to say audiobook in many languages to see how to say audiobook in Polish.

Then, looking at the site: %C5%BCacy+audioksi%C4%85%C5%BCka+OR+%22audio-ksi%C4%85%C5%BC ka%22+OR+%22ksi%C4%85%C5%BCka+audio%22+OR+audiobooki+OR+%22k si%C4%85%C5%BCka+d%C5%BAwi%C4%99kowa%22+OR+%22ksi%C4%85%C5%B Cka+czytana%22 (that is, the result of the following query to google: "Quo Vadis?" Krzyżacy audioksiążka OR "audio-książka" OR "książka audio" OR audiobooki OR "książka dźwiękowa" OR "książka czytana"), several sites instantly pop up, all claiming to sell audiobooks of Quo Vadis.

There are two key elements. One is that I asked for exactly what I wanted (that is, an audiobook of "Quo Vadis"). The other is basic google syntax: using "" to surround complete phrase, and the use of 'OR' (which MUST be uppercase). The 'OR' keyword is extremely useful when there are multiple possibilities. Using it can eliminate a lot of unnecessary searching, and find results that would otherwise be filtered out because they didn't contain exactly the right keyword.

Further techniques are possible, for filtering results, finding ISBNs, etc. One useful one is to substitute "Quo Vadis" by intitle:"Quo Vadis", which restricts the search to web pages which have 'quo vadis' in their title (ie, what appears at the top of your browser when you view the page). Similarly, if you're looking for an ISBN, adding the term 'isbn' to your query helps; a few online stores don't make the ISBN obvious, and this filters them out. Overall, though, for finding in-print commercial material, especially in non-English languages (which have less spam sites), this approach is usually sufficient.

At this point, you should be able to find the ISBNs of most Polish audiobooks in under a minute each (go to the above google query, and substitute "quo vadis" with the name of the book). The major remaining issues are whether a given audiobook is unabridged, and choosing where to order it from.

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 Message 26 of 37
11 April 2008 at 11:14am | IP Logged 
ProfArguelles wrote:
Ms. Volte,

Obviously it is the heavy dose of auditory input that you get from L-R that makes you like it so. This is well and good as a simple preference. However, I fear that you may be making a detrimentally wrong turn in the development of your linguistic abilities in openly espousing a pedagogical approach of input-before-output. Why do you believe this is desirable? Is it not akin to studying a language with an exotic script using Romanization? In my experience, attempting to separate output from input either a) just plain does not work, or b) brings no particular benefits even if it does work and in general is just not as effective as a holistic approach, and c) may even have the negative effect of fostering the natural psychological inhibition against venturing to speak a foreign language.

Much as I hesitate to argue with someone with as much experience of learning languages to a high level as yourself, there is considerable evidence now for an 'input first' methodology of learning languages. Stephen Krashen is the most high profile exponent of this viewpoint. See his website for copies of papers and his book ( His views have been discussed on this forum, though I can't find the references. He claims the most effective input is i+1 where i is your current status. Obviously it can be difficult to define this. He considers that output can be delayed for some time, not indefinitely, but at least until the learner has enough confidence to express him/herself. He uses a wide variety of simple reading materials eg comics and teen literature in his EFL classes.
In addition, studies of how people learn languages in multilingual societies in places such as the Amazon have shown that a typical strategy is to sit quietly in the corner of the marketplace of a new language community for several days or even weeks before attempting to reproduce what is heard.
The problem I can see with L-R as described on this forum is that the input is far from i+1 in the purist form of the technique. It would seem to be preferable to use the method with simple texts first, which is why Little Prince is so popular. Even with a translation, the volume of new concepts can be overwhelming if complex literature is used straight off. Unfortunately, the materials simply do not exist to do L-R with most teen lit. Dan Brown or Harry Potter is probably the nearest equivalent, though as (I presume) atamagaii in his/her latest incarnation has implied in this thread, Camus has actually a fairly simple style and probably could be used profitably. There is still a need for grammar and phonetics study to clarify points and solidify knowledge.
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 Message 27 of 37
13 April 2008 at 1:55pm | IP Logged 
The discussion between Volte and Prof.Arguelles is very interesting, but also so detailed that it is difficult to comment on everything in it. I would like to take a bird's eye view on the comparison between the L-R method and the methods of ProfArguelles, most notably the shadowing and the scriptorium methods.

In the L-R method (formulated here) I see two new ideas, though one is only quantitative: the immensely long period you are supposed to work at a single thing in one go. As far as I remember ProfArguelles has always advocated much shorter periods with each single activity, and I prefer this, - though my personal optimum is somewhere between one and two hours with a certain activity (excluding background listening).

The other utter novelty for me was the idea of reading a translation while listening to a completely foreign language, - I tried it out with several languages from the GLOSS site and discovered to my amazement that it functioned: it was indeed possible to follow a foreign language and absorb its sounds and its melody while reading a translation, - though I never tried it for more than maybe a quarter of an hour in a row. Doing the same thing with a transcript of the original text is something completely different: you do it to grasp how the language is written, not to absorb its spoken form. Besides, if I have to listen to something I normally also want to know what it is all about. I may listen without a transcript trying to parse the streaming voice on the fly, but this is better done without a transcript .. and at a much later stage, just before I can understand what is being said. Reading an interlaced bilingual has something of the same effect as listening with written translation, but only when the sounds connected with the writing are alfready well defined even for unknown words. However interlaced texts have another more important role: they are extremely useful when you try to understand how sentences are constructed in a target language. So that is what I got from the L-R method. It solves the problem of how to listen attentively to a new language for a person that easily gets bored.

However as ProfArguelles has pointed out you don't learn to speak just by listening. One function of the shadowing is to force you to physically talk even before you can formulate your own sentences. As I have written elsewhere I have found listening and talking at the same time to be difficult, though I have forced myself at least to read aloud and to repeat things I hear. But basically I prefer to reach the point where I can think fluently in a language before I try to speak it - even in private. Of course I wasn't allowed to follow this rule while I was a pupil in elementary school nor during my later university studies, but I always hated being forced to speak out before I felt I was ready. And speaking while listening is against all my instincts.

The main obstacle to thinking in a language has in my experience (i.e. with the Indoeuropean languages I have studied) always been an insufficient vocabulary, and it also makes reading a slow and cumbersome process. So from the moment I took responsability for my own linguistic training acquisition of vocabulary has been the main focus for my studies, at least until I can read freely without a dictionary. In this respect I have been squarely in opposition to Siomotteikiru, and even ProfArguelles has not written much about vocabulary (maybe because he has had less problems remembering words than I have had?), but to me it is cornerstone of my language learning. For some people learning words before they see them in a text seems preposterous, but to me it is like undermining the walls of a medieval fortress until they crumble - it is a global process, and when you have enough words and phrases it is not one corner of the language that opens up to you, it's more or less the whole thing. One important consideration in this is that memorizing words is difficult and tiring in the beginning, but somewhere along the road you will find that all these words - even those you would classify as new - are somehow good old friends, and from that moment learning them becomes much easier. Learning idiomatic phrases and idiomatic uses of single words in context is also much easier if the words are known beforehand - not necessarily with the same meaning.

Learning morphology (or rather everything in grammar that can be easily and comprehensibly formalized) can be done by sheer memorizing, but I prefer getting my tables right by analyzing how they are put together, drawing my own line between general cases and exceptions and finally formulating my own version of them which I then use for reference during active and passive reading until I know every single form by heart. I do the same thing with patterns of subordinate phrases and other subjects, but there is no fixed border betwwen syntax and stylistics, and grammatical studies will eventually grow into stylistical studies AND free experimentation.

To learn both grammar and stylistics I copy authentic texts (preferably not too difficult, but truly comprehensible input tends to be truly boring). At first I make these into biligual translations, later I just note down unknown words and interesting grammatical features, and finally I just make notes and read the text - at which point it has become ordinary passive reading. I have been thinking about the relationship between this process and the scriptorium method of ProfArguelles, and I have come to the conclusion that it must be beneficial to read aloud while copying at any stage. Reading aloud has not only the effect of forcing you to actually emit sounds, but it also serves to make the phrases stick in your mind. In practice I only do this for short periods, then I fall back into my usual silent habits. But even this is better than just copying the text like I did before reading about the scriptorium method. Ideally I should also hear the text I'm copying, but I don't have that organized yet - at least not with the texts I prefer.

And finally - what about Krashen and the idea about learning languages only from comprehensible input (the term made popular by formerly active member Linguamor)? Well, if somebody claims that he or she has learnt a language without using a dictionary and a grammar, then congratulations! You have accomplished something that is beyond me, and which in my eyes is much more difficult than learning from a combination of genuine texts and linguistic tools.

Edited by Iversen on 14 April 2008 at 4:01am

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 Message 28 of 37
07 August 2008 at 11:03am | IP Logged 
I have loved languages ever since I was a child, but in my country monolingual children do not get a chance to learn another language until they are about 11 years old, unless their parents buy them study materials. I am one such children. I come from a fully Dutch family, with only some far German roots, and I started learning my first real foreign language, English, at primary school, when I was 10 (I had picked up some Spanish but it was all lost, though my love for Spanish was not). At age 11 I went to secondary school, and encouraged by my passion for linguistics I chose to go for bilingual education (Dutch/English). I could have gone to a gymnasium for a few Greek and Latin classes, but I felt and still feel that for my adventurous spirit I'd better become fluent in English than gain a slight knowledge of classical languages.

I reckon I am quite fluent in English already, and apart from that I also get taught French and German. Spanish never really let go of me, and by listening to Latin music, which I enjoy very much, I started to introduce myself to it again. I have recently restarted studying it actively with a book and a CD which I borrow from my mother, who took on a basic Spanish course 1,5 year ago.

I am now 14 years old and I hope to become a polyglot, but I only get little pocket money and language courses are extremely expensive (good books and tapes cost at least 60 euros and can go up to 200). I was wondering if you know any way of studying a language more cheaply? I am currently using internet courses, and my library owns one basic Italian and one basic Spanish course, but I would like to go for a challenge such as Japanese, Russian, Swahili or some other African language. Unfortunately these are far more unknown.

I thank you greatly for reading this. Your story has been of great inspiration to me, especially because you learned most, practically all of your languages after childhood. I have always been told that as people grow older they tend to have a lot more difficulty studying languages but you are living proof that this is not always true!
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 Message 29 of 37
09 January 2009 at 7:50am | IP Logged 
I've been afraid of early output because I know that what I produce is incorrect. Then, the theory goes, I hear my own incorrect output, which becomes incorrect input. If, however, I shadow correct sentences, then there's no need to worry.
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 Message 30 of 37
30 January 2009 at 4:32pm | IP Logged 
Dear Professor Argüelles;

I apologize for having been remiss about updating this thread.

First, a confession: until the end of November, I largely neglected my language studies, for reasons beyond the scope of this forum. However, since then, I've been studying quite a bit (how much, and how regularly, depends on what boundaries are drawn around the definition of studying vs simply being exposed to and interacting with a language).

I'm currently aiming to solidify my active use of a number of languages, one language at a time. I am aware of the shortcomings of this (as compared to studying several languages at once), but consider the benefits to outweigh the drawbacks, for me, at present.

My initial project, starting near the end of November, was to become actively fluent in Esperanto, after some attempts to use it actively showed me clearly that I wasn't properly formulating a number of extremely simple sentences, to the point where I couldn't communicate. Following the advice of the forum member 'Sprachprofi', I started with a serious study of the Esperanto affixes. I then supplemented it with extensive use of's grammar explanations, grammar exercises, and dictionary, reading relevant parts of "Plena Manlibro de Esperanta Gramatiko" when I felt the need for more substantial grammatical explanation, etc. Via this study, I went from giving up on reading "Fajron mi sentas interne" (a relatively simple Esperanto novel, which nonetheless uses the language more creatively than most Esperanto literature I've encountered) after three paragraphs, to being able to read it in its entirety, which I did. After this, I listened to quite a lot of podcasts, and had a lot of text-based conversations. In the space of a few weeks, I was 'conversational, but halting' (able to talk about most things I wanted to, but having to pause to agglutinate affixes, compound words, etc). By the end of December, I was 'fluent' in Esperanto (able to participate in individual and group discussions for an arbitrarily long time, on any topic that came up, while generally speaking 'flowingly'; I demonstrated this to myself to my general satisfaction while spending a week at an Esperanto conference). I intend to maintain my Esperanto, and gradually improve it through extensive reading. I also intend to work out my remaining grammatical weaknesses; while they are minor (and not all of them have a consensus as to the correct usage among competent Esperanto speakers, although some do), I would like to speak more correctly.

My current project is to significantly improve my German. Thus far, it seems to be going well. My primary methods of learning, during January, have been listening to "Die Blechtrommel" while reading a parallel text, supplemented by text-based conversations with several friends who are willing to correct my errors; I'm supplementing this with a small amount of shadowing and phonetic study (most notably, I had to learn to pronounce back vowels; my particular regional variety of English turns u into a front diphthong). My reading ability started out at "being able to extract some factual information, but not being able to get through a few pages of fiction with a reasonably high level of comprehension"; this has improved, to the point where I read my first German novel today, in about 2 hours ("Die Kleine Hexe", a 127-page illustrated children's book). My listening comprehension is also increasing; I've started being able to understand large amounts of some songs the first time I listen to them, easily follow TV shows such as "Türkisch für Anfänger" (while missing some details and words), etc. My active use is lagging behind: I can largely correctly express very limited things, or get my actual thoughts across while sacrificing correctness. Sprachprofi estimates that my active use is around A2, and my passive around B2; I'd tend to agree. I'm still thinking about how to systematically address German grammar.

I have several open questions. In no particular order:
a) I am wondering how far to dive into each language before proceeding to the next. "Basic fluency" (the ability to converse on essentially any topic) is an absolute lower bound, but I consider it a relatively low target; however, I'm quite undecided about any other specific targets. I should clarify: I fully intend to solidify my knowledge beyond this (for a 'final' target before I consider a language solidly in maintenance/deepening mode, I consider the airplane test a lower bound); what I consider an open question is "when".

b) I consider how to best systematically approach a language - for me, personally - an open question. This is an issue I'm currently sidelining, in favor of trying a rather eclectic mix of techniques and ideas, based both on what I consider it most important (and effective) to study at any given time, and the advice of a number of language learners I respect and whose advice I find helpful (primarily you, atamagaii, and Sprachprofi).

c) I continue to consider which languages to learn an open question - and one which I spend, if anything, too much time thinking about. Consequently, I'm intentionally minimizing time spent on this question as well, with the idea that every time I decide it's time for the "next" language, I'll pick the language at that time.

d) I also wonder about how, when, and how much to maintain languages. Thus far, I haven't felt much need for explicit maintenance - I can switch into Esperanto, Italian, or English with no warning, converse, etc, and my passive abilities also don't seem to be suffering; I wonder if/when this will change. I should note that I do use each language fairly often, though not every single day.

I realize the above are not formulated in a way which makes giving advice straightforward; rather, I'm presenting them as a summary about topics which I'm currently giving some thought to, but intentionally keeping in the background to minimize interference with actual studying.

Lastly, a note about shadowing: I find it extremely useful in some contexts, but I seem to have one major problem with it: when I have trouble integrating a phoneme into a steady stream of speech and attempt to shadow something including that phoneme, I generally replace it with an entirely different one, with results ranging from 'foreign-sounding' to 'incomprehensible'. Is this something you've found to be a problem, and if so, what have you done about it?

Catalin Martone.

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 Message 32 of 37
17 February 2009 at 10:40pm | IP Logged 
Dear Ms. Martone,

I am very happy to receive your update and I apologize in my turn for not getting right back to you with some feedback.

You yourself note that your questions are not formulated so as to facilitate straightforward responses from me but are rather articulations of themes that have been occupying your mind, themes that you attempt to keep in the background so as to minimize interference with actual studying. Therefore, rather than attempting to answer your questions, I would like to attempt to probe deeper into what makes you tick. You seem to be on a quest to determine the best study methods and techniques beforehand so that, when you actually do settle down to study, you will do so most efficiently and effectively. Is that fair to say? If so, then in its conception this is an extremely logical long-term planning strategy. However, when will you ever settle down to study? What now is your ratio of contemplation or even experimentation to actual studying? Frankly, I suspect you could be doing a better job of keeping the former in the background so as to minimize interference with the latter. You would probably actually discern the best methods for your learning style much more accurately by truly delving into the learning process rather than remaining on the outside, however accurately you observe what others do, and however much you experiment with this or that particular technique for overcoming this or that particular problem. It seems to me you are well on your way to becoming theoretically conversant on an academic level with how others have gone about becoming polyglots, but that in spending so much time on this, you risk never actually learning 10+ languages to a meaningful level yourself. I myself never spent any time contemplating learning strategies in the abstract; rather, I developed what I know about them as I went about learning languages.

If you are still serious about attaining your originally stated goal, then it really seems to me that what you need is not answers to any kind of further conceptual questions about how you should approach learning languages, but rather to work on developing the discipline to go about systematically learning a series of languages in a sustained fashion. Stop thinking about it and just do it. Let the languages that captivate you the most sweep you away such that you make real progress in them.

Yours with best regards,

Alexander Arguelles

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