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Scriptorium demonstration video

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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 Message 1 of 25
10 March 2008 at 10:49am | IP Logged 
I have made a short video to demonstrate the proper form for transcribing languages by hand as I do in my “scriptorium” exercise. In order to do this properly, you should:

1.     Read a sentence aloud.
2.     Say each word aloud again as you write it.
3.     Read the sentence aloud as you have written it.

The whole purpose of this exercise is to force yourself to slow down and pay attention to detail. This is the stage at which you should check all unknowns in grammars or dictionaries, although that would have been too tedious to show in the video.

Whenever I have taught this technique to groups of college students, they have inevitably found it difficult to develop proper form. They tend to rush through the exercise all too swiftly, and to write silently and carelessly. In truth, copying large numbers of pages mechanically is still a better language learning exercise than many other forms of studying, but it is only a fraction as effective as doing the scriptorium exercise properly. If you can develop the habit of doing the scriptorium exercise with correct form, I believe you will find it to be an excellent means of refining and polishing your knowledge at the intermediate and advanced levels. You can also use a variant of this exercise at the beginning level while doing translations by reading the English sentence aloud initially as well.

In the context of a college class meeting twice a week, it generally takes most students at least a month under my tutelage in order to develop good form in this exercise. However, I think that more motivated students learning it under more intense circumstances could certainly learn it more swiftly.

In the video, I chose to write a sentence each in three different exotic languages in an endeavor to hold the viewer’s interest in watching someone write long enough to demonstrate the technique. In order to do this actual exercise meaningfully in terms of improving you overall functional command of a single given language, you should do the exercise for at least 15 minutes, in which time you will probably be able to transcribe an entire page.

Moreover, if you should be interested in Polyglottery as a scholarly and spiritual discipline, you will want to pay particular attention to Latin as well as to Arabic, Sanskrit, and Chinese (the characters themselves more than any particular form of the language), for these are the four great etymological rivers of human thought, and if you can understand their elements on a deep level, you can attain deep understanding indeed. I myself have only all too belatedly taken to beginning my every day by transcribing two pages in each of these languages, which I have found to be the best of centering, focusing, and orienting exercises.

Edited by ProfArguelles on 11 March 2008 at 4:25pm

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 Message 2 of 25
11 March 2008 at 5:37am | IP Logged 
Professor Arguelles,

Previously you provided 2 language lists that you cycle through for your scriptorium exercises. I was just wondering if you could provide a list of what texts you use (or have used in the past) for these exercises. Also, any general guidelines/tips on selecting an appropriate text for use as a scriptorium text would be helpful.

Dustin Hampton
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 Message 3 of 25
11 March 2008 at 11:18am | IP Logged 
I tried this with one lesson (68) of Assimil Japanese. I spent about 30 minutes working on it, but decided to stop before the end of the lesson.   Then I have listened to the audio of this lesson several times throughout the rest of the day. While I didn't quite understand everything, I would find the more that I listened to it, the more I would remember words that I didn't recognize initially. While I don't comprehend everything in the lesson 100%, the percentage is quite high.   Thank you for the instruction. I will try this with the new lesson each day.     
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Marc Frisch
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 Message 4 of 25
11 March 2008 at 5:04pm | IP Logged 
Very interesting video. I couldn't help noticing that you are left-handed. So am I and among the people I know, relatively many of those who enjoy learning languages are left-handed as well. Until now, I thought that this was probably a coincidence.

Have you noticed a correlation between left-handedness and an interest for languages among your students?

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Marc Frisch
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 Message 5 of 25
11 March 2008 at 5:33pm | IP Logged 
I can see that the scriptorium is very good for practicing exotic scripts, but what about languages you already write well (for example, those using the Latin alphabet)? Wouldn't free composition be a more efficient use of your time than copying texts?

Edited by Marc Frisch on 11 March 2008 at 5:33pm

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 Message 6 of 25
11 March 2008 at 6:36pm | IP Logged 
I have started using this in my own studies from a previous written explanation of the technique, and I'm happy to be able to confirm that I have understood correctly.

I do have one question; you have said that the purpose of this technique is to force yourself to pay attention to detail. However, if for example you presented yourself with a page of a novel which you felt you already understood very well or which is quite simple, would you still employ this technique? This is to say, do you copy texts in their entirety regardless of difficulty, or reserve it only for passages which require further analysis?

Edited by rob on 11 March 2008 at 6:37pm

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 Message 7 of 25
13 March 2008 at 7:49am | IP Logged 
Hmmmm, I thought I posted this, but it probably didn't get through. I hope I'm not creating a duplicate post.

Firstly, what kind of texts would be ideal for this sort of scriptorium work? I know no Arabic nor Sanskrit (yet) unfortunately, but your Mandarin example seems to be from one of the Assimil dialogues, which you shadowed in the other video.

Secondly, you mentioned Sanskrit, Arabic, Latin and Chinese as the four great etymological rivers of human thought; what about Greek, Professor? Surely, with the works of Homer being the oldest works in European literature and with the tremendous influence of Greek philosophical systems, Greek should be added to the existing four to form five great etymological rivers of human thought? This topic is interesting, methinks, in its own right, would it be possible for you to write on this in a separate thread?

Edited by amphises on 14 March 2008 at 2:29am

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Quadrilingual Heptaglot
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 Message 8 of 25
15 March 2008 at 6:50pm | IP Logged 
I wholehearted agree that Greek ought to added to the list. The Romans themselves would readily admit it, since they always looked up to the Greek language and literature.

Professor, this video has given me a good idea of how I ought to proceed with my Arabic and Japanese studies. I am becoming more convinced by the day that the connection between mind-hand and paper is superior to that of mind-eyes and monitor. Thank you for the videos.

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