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My Study Plan

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
DavidW
Hexaglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 6373 days ago

318 posts - 458 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, French, Italian, Persian, Malay
Studies: Russian, Arabic (Written), Portuguese, German, Urdu

 
 Message 1 of 6
28 December 2007 at 5:37am | IP Logged 
I'm reader of your posts, from which I've learnt a lot and adopted many ideas. I'm a 22 year old engineering university student, and I'm currently studying in Malaysia on an exchange program from the UK. I would like you to comment on my study plan. Please excuse the long post, I know you don’t have a lot of time.

Here's what I've managed so far:

From the Romance languages I know Spanish the best, a couple of years ago I spent the best part of a year in Costa Rica speaking the language for several hours a day in a social context, and last year I read lots of newspapers and a few novels as part of a university module. Although I would like to read more literature and expand my vocabulary further, it's rare that I'm short of words. I spent a lot of time last year working on French, reading from many sources, and working with different courses. I have a good command but I find my active vocabulary is lacking. I think more real exposure is called for. Then comes Italian, I used a linguaphone course and the assimil advanced course, but, I have had only a little real interaction with the language. Portuguese is similar.

I have studied Russian, which I gave a great deal of time, over a thousand hours over a couple of years, but unfortunately not used the time to the greatest advantage. Last Christmas I spent a month in Russia, in an intensive language course. My active oral ability was very low on arriving, but on leaving it was improved, but still lacking. This summer I spend about 2-3 hours a day for two months using 'lingnet' Gloss online bilingual texts with audio, and my reading ability has improved somewhat.

Arabic I have been giving most of my attention recently, I have shadowed the linguaphone course intensively, as described in your posts, and now I can 'play' most of the dialogs in my head. I am now finishing 'Elementary Modern Standard Arabic' audio-lingual course, of which I have practiced mostly with the recorded oral exercises, and have left the written exercises, as I feel my time is better spent. I am also using 'Assimil Tome 2', although, more as a reader than really shadowing. Telenovelas dubbed in MSA are quickly becoming within my grasp. I think if I could broaden my vocabulary by a couple of thousand words I could claim ‘basic fluency.’

Persian is the most recent language I’ve started, I'm nearly done with the Assimil course, and I will have, hopefully, many opportunities to talk with Iranian friends on campus. I like the language, and it has been helped along by my Arabic.

I would like eventually to bring my Arabic, Russian and Persian up to a good conversational level. I would also to reach a level of 'basic fluency' in Urdu, German, Serbo-Croat and Polish, which, I think, once I improve upon the languages I know already, should not present many great difficulties. I understand from your posts Urdu has many loan words from Persian and Arabic, and the Slavonic languages are quite closely related.

I am undecided as whether to attempt any Mandarin, although if I did, I would primarily be interested reaching a spoken level of ‘basic fluency’, I’m not sure I would really read enough Chinese to really justify learning all the characters. I don’t know how many hours of study that would take. From your comments I understand it would take comparatively more time to reach a given level that for Arabic, although, ignoring the written language is this still true? I have heard that the spoken language is actually quite ‘easy.’

The coming semester I will have about 4 months during which I can put aside about 5 hours for language study a day, including weekends. I’m planning on:

1hr/day Russian w/ Gloss bilingual texts w/audio. **
1hr/day Arabic using bilingual texts.
30mins/day Persian. I will have the chance to talk with Iranian friends on campus also.
Possibly: 3hrs/day Mandarin (using the ‘Defense Language Institute/FSI’ course)

In the summer I will have a couple of months available during which I might be able to do a language course at a university or language school in China, Moscow, or Egypt. A lot of Mandarin is spoken here is Malaysia, also.

Next academic year (~6 months) I plan to be shadowing Assimil courses:

2hrs/day German
45mins /day Serbo-Croat
45mins /day Polish
1:30hr/day Hindi/Urdu

I am trying to find ways to increase the number of hours I can study a day. I have been unsuccessful in trying to change my sleeping habits, and my schedule is always all over the place. It is a source of frustration.

After this, some languages will still be in need of more work, surely. Hopefully I’ll have more time available to travel, and improve on the languages as I get to know the countries; I’m not really planning a ‘career’ as such.

My questions are:

-Should I try to get some real exposure to Arabic before seeking attempting to study more advanced texts and broaden my vocabulary? Will it be better use of time to put off the next stage of my studies in this language? I have an advanced textbook, ‘Al-kitaab Part III’, ‘pour mieux conaitre l’arabe’, materials for colloquial Egyptain dialelct etc.

-Am I overstretched?

-When I use bilingual texts with audio, I generally listen a few times until I can understand everything I can, and ‘isolate’ the unknown words. Then I read along a few times out loud with the recording, and then I look and the translation for the meaning of the unknown words, and read out a few more times. Is this a good strategy?

-Do you have any ideas about how to better organize my studies and any techniques I should be using?

-When I want to embark on the study of a language's litrature, where is a good place to start to find authors/titles? I would like to read at least a small sample of books representative of the litrature of each language.

Thank you for your time, your comments will be greatly appreciated.

David
4 persons have voted this message useful



ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
Joined 7103 days ago

609 posts - 2102 votes 

 
 Message 2 of 6
30 December 2007 at 4:52pm | IP Logged 
In answer to your questions:

Given the situation of diaglosia that exists in Arabic, you do not need real-life exposure to it before you seek to study more advanced texts and broaden your vocabulary. If contact with the living language will cement your relationship with the tradition, then this will be worthwhile, but it will propel you into colloquial dialectical studies that will not really be of assistance in your literary aspirations. As it seems that your desire to read texts is paramount, then the better you can do this, the more you will profit from real-life exposure to living dialects when you meet them.

Are you overstretched? Only you can answer this question. What prompts you to ask it? If it is an internal voice, then you may well be. You have accomplished an impressively admirable amount in your short life, especially considering your field of study, but you surely know that really mastering languages, and especially the kinds of exotic ones you are chasing, is always a life-long task. It takes time for them to really take root, and you do not want to overcrowd your cerebral soil. On the other hand, if it is an external voice that makes you wonder this, you should certainly ignore it. The voice of general common sense and expectations in this world would insist that what you have done already is impossible, and of course it will try to dampen your spirit to continue. You appear to have great talent and potential, and you must not let those without these hold you back with their fears and limited horizons.

Your strategy for using bilingual texts with audio sounds fine given what you have done with it. If you desire, experiment with slight variations on the practice to see if you can tailor-make it to better suit yourself, but do not loose study time doing this.

As for ways to better organize your studies, you are to be commended for maintaining 5 hours a day for your language studies—you will go very far with this! However, as your comments indicate you already know, the more regular and systematic your study times can be, the better, and the world seems to conspire against this kind of planning. The simplest and most effective thing, if you can do so, is to go to bed early and wake up early—there are fewer disturbances around dawn than at any other time. Apart from that, many of your blocks of time—1.5 to 3 hours—seem rather large. I do hope that these are total amounts of time you commit, and they are in fact broken down into smaller chunks?

Regarding additional techniques you might use, please investigate returning to the oldest technique of them all, namely transcribing by hand. If in my first incarnation on this forum I was the apostle of shadowing, this time around I feel the most important thing I have to share is a testimony of the efficacy of handwriting. I suspected—no, I actually knew—that this was a most valuable technique for years before I finally put it into practice. I held back because I was impatient with the slowness of it, compared to typing as a means of writing, and, overall, after the initial rush of learning by shadowing. I also refrained because I was displeased with my ugly and irregular letters, and because of the physical difficulty, for while scribes could write all day, I, as an unpracticed modern who had years before converted to the computer, felt real physical pain and strain in my hand after less than an hour. I have finally preserved, however, and the benefits of doing so are geometrically greater than those of typing texts, and incomparably greater than not writing at all. I most strongly encourage you to try this.

Finally, the best place to embark upon the study of a language’s literature is generally in a book whose title will include the word “reader,” such as (actual titles seen glancing over at my shelves) Russian Intermediate Reader, Modern Persian Prose Reader, or A Reader of Modern Arabic Short Stories.

6 persons have voted this message useful



DavidW
Hexaglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 6373 days ago

318 posts - 458 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, French, Italian, Persian, Malay
Studies: Russian, Arabic (Written), Portuguese, German, Urdu

 
 Message 3 of 6
21 January 2008 at 8:04am | IP Logged 
I'm sorry for the delay, it's been exam time and I've been a litte under the weather. It's nice to have some support from someone with your experience, and also I was very pleased to finally converse with you after reading your many posts. I'm already putting into practice what you have suggested here, and, as to the time blocks, yes they are to be divided up into several chunks. Thank you for your comments.
1 person has voted this message useful



ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
Joined 7103 days ago

609 posts - 2102 votes 

 
 Message 4 of 6
29 March 2008 at 10:46am | IP Logged 
DavidW, how are your language studies coming along? Well, I do hope, but I wonder if I can offer you any further assistance? In any case, I am curious, and I would simply be appreciative of periodic progress reports from those who have sought my counsel in this regard.
1 person has voted this message useful



DavidW
Hexaglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 6373 days ago

318 posts - 458 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, French, Italian, Persian, Malay
Studies: Russian, Arabic (Written), Portuguese, German, Urdu

 
 Message 5 of 6
28 August 2008 at 10:19am | IP Logged 
Hello Professor,

Here’s an update on my studies:

My Persian is quite functional now, for everyday things at least, I’ve had a good deal of practice speaking and can read simple stories easily enough. Next year I’m sharing a house with two Iranians and things should continue to improve. I’ve also got a reasonable hold on spoken Malay/Indonesian, by working with the linguaphone courses, which I know well now, and a short stay in Indonesia. I’ll be finishing my last year of studies next year in Malaysia, although I don’t have any plans to take this language to a very high level. I will certainly make an effort to use it when I can, although more English and Chinese are spoken on campus.

I had a motorcycle accident in May and have been having a few problems getting around since then, so I didn’t get away for the summer, on the other hand I did a fair amount of language study. I’m planning on starting to study Hindi/Urdu and German shortly.

Here are the materials I have collected for Hindi/Urdu:

Spoken Urdu (SLS) – this course looks very comprehensive, has drill exercises and comes with 12 cassettes.
Assimil le Hindi
TY Urdu
TY Hindi (1989 edition)
Linguaphone Hindi

In the Urdu books I have found that a lot of the words look familiar from Persian. In the Hindi materials I have, I don’t recognise many at all. I’m thinking the best strategy may be to focus on the Urdu materials first, as progress will be faster with the familiar vocabulary, and then start with the Hindi materials, already having mastered the structure. Many of the new Urdu words will also be of immediate use in speaking Persian too I think.

German – Here I will use the 60’s linguaphone course with the Assimil course, followed by drills, if necessary. I really like these old linguaphone courses, they are comprehensive and a systematic effort has been made to make sure you have all the words you might need for a practical command of the language. I have German relatives and I hope to make more contact with them.

For the next eight months or so, this is what I’ll try and study:

2 hours Arabic
1 hour Urdu/Hindi
1 hour German
1 hour Persian (working with readers)
30mins French/Portuguese (working with audiobooks, to keep things fresh)
30mins Russian (Old Assimil course, ditto)

This schedule may be a little optimistic, and I might reduce the study time to 4:30 – 5:00 hours, but I’ll see how it goes.

For Arabic, I will continue using the DLI drill tapes, and then pass on to the Al-kitaab series. I’m beginning to realize now what a time-consuming language it is, compared with Persian, I’ve put in 2-3 times the amount of time and my progress is less. But, there is definite and steady progress, I didn’t have any expectations for progress when I started to study it, and I enjoy it.

I have decided to put off studying Chinese, I don’t think it’s wise to be taking on another language that would require so much time at the moment, even though the conditions are ideal in Malaysia for doing so and I find it quite interesting. Polish and Serbo-Croat can wait until my Russian is better.

I recognize that while I’ve found strategies to learn languages that work well for the beginner-intermediate phases of learning, I’m less confident about how to systematically take a language to a very high level. I took a great interest in your offer to coach students on your website, I’m sure it would be immensely worthwhile, and if I am in that part of the world in the future I will certainly try to get in contact.

Regards

David

2 persons have voted this message useful



DavidW
Hexaglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 6373 days ago

318 posts - 458 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, French, Italian, Persian, Malay
Studies: Russian, Arabic (Written), Portuguese, German, Urdu

 
 Message 6 of 6
06 June 2010 at 8:19pm | IP Logged 
Hello Professor,

I thought I would give you an update as to how things are going. It's been nearly two years, I think, since my last post. My studies have progressed more or less as I had planned. During my last year in Malaysia, I spend probably more time on my universities studies than I anticipated, but managed to get in a solid couple of hours daily, spent on German and Hindi, as well as quite a lot of practice with Farsi.

The summer I was at home for about half the time, where I worked on the drilling Hindi and Russian (with the 'Modern Russian' books, by Clayton), and the other half I spent in Belgium, where I have relatives, working on my French.

Last September I started on a masters course in Engineering in France, where I stayed until February, leaving the course. During this time I had pretty much ideal conditions to polish my French, which is probably my strongest foreign language now, and I continued to work about an hour a day on my German. I also shadowed, and know well, the content of the first cassette of the linguaphone Norwegian course, although I have now put this language to one side for the time being.

At the beginning of April I've been studying at the Minsk State Linguistic University, attending daily group classes for three hours a day. After class I've been working with the Modern Russian drill course for a least a couple of hours, and now, after two months, I am beginning to replace this with reading literature in a parallel text format with the audiobook (I'm working on Orwell's 1984.) This is a technique I read about in the L-R threads, and I'm finding it very effective to expand my vocabulary effectively and pleasantly. I also do about an hour and a half of German a day. I think in a few weeks I will have finally mastered the content of the Assimil and the 60s linguaphone course, and I will start drilling with the FSI course. In general, I have been very impressed with the university and their teaching techniques, and they run courses in Middle Eastern and East Asian Languages.

While I still base my life mostly around language study, over the past year I've been listening to lectures on the humanities, mostly from 'the teaching company,' for about two hours a day, on modern history, economics, psychology etc. I do this while walking outside, and I think it's been worthwhile. I also continue with my engineering studies, mostly via the internet. Many universities have put complete video lecture series online (see for example http://see.stanford.edu/ of http://nptel.iitm.ac.in/ ) greatly facilitating independent study, I suppose much in the same way that the audiocassette has facilitated independent language study. At the moment, all in, I typically study 7-9 hours day, taking a day off a week.

I've also continued collecting language books for different languages, such as Greek, Hebrew, Japanese and Chinese. I have accepted that I want to 'specialise' in European and Middle Eastern languages, although I think I should learn something from East Asia, to get to know more about the culture in that part of the world. I could imagine someone could learn a lot about the Middle East in general by studying one of Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Kurdish, Turkish etc., so I suppose the same holds true in East Asia.

In the same line of thought, I have been tempted to study something 'African' (..sorry, I know it's a culturally diverse place.) Something like Lingala would seem to make sense, there's a large community living within ten minutes walk of my relatives in Belgium, or perhaps Nigerian Pidgin English or Swahili. European languages go long way to in this part of the world, but maybe people do not identify themselves with this these languages. The same maybe holds true for many African languages with large numbers of speakers on paper - most of these people do not speak the language as their native language. I suppose it's complicated and varies from place to place. I will try to find a way to find out more before I decide on a strategy.

Over the years, I've picked up a certain amount of know how as to how to approach language learning, and I continue developing these ideas. But often when I try to give advice as to how to use their time better when studying languages, they often get defensive or don't take my advice seriously. People are often incredulous that I speak a language (mostly) only by self study. I suppose this is because in many places people associate education with something that comes 'from above,' i.e. schools and universities. It would be nice if I could instead recommend them a book, written by an established learner like yourself. Please try to finish the book, not least because I would like to read it :-).

One other major change to my study habits was due to acquiring a motorised satellite dish. This meant I could all of a sudden receive television from all over Europe and the Middle East. I made a thread about this a little while ago, and when I am at home I usually spend a couple of hours a day watching documentaries in different languages.

Well, sorry for the long post.

Take Care

David


Edited by DavidW on 06 June 2010 at 11:08pm



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