Saturday, January 21, 2012

this is fluency in Japanese

I found a new hero for Japanese language learners. Watch this video! This guy is fluent in Japanese. His speed of speaking matches the speed of native Japanese. It is really impressive. In this, his first video on YouTube, he is speaking without a script. He pauses to think about what he wants to say, not how to say it, nor does he pause to recall any words. The second video he posted is much more impressive, however it is longer and is audio-only, with him and two other people. But if you listen to that one, you will think it is a Japanese guy speaking. Here is a link to that video.

So, what did you think?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

does time-boxing work for language learners?

Do you use time-boxing for language learning? Does it work for you? I wonder how many language learners are time-boxing.

Time-boxing means to set certain lengths of time for working on tasks. You might have 30 minutes for your French and 20 minutes to work on another language and so on. You manage your time so you are able to work on all of the things you want to do instead of getting carried away with one and not having time for the next one.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

number of known words

In English, it seems the average native speaker knows about 17,000 word families. A study of vocabulary comparing Dutch students entering university to non-native Dutch students found that the average vocabulary size of the Dutch was approximately 18,800 words.

The Common European Framework for Reference of languages (CEFR), appears to cover the most frequent 5,000 words at the C2 level, which is the top level of the test. You can check here on page 186. To pass C2 in English, one needs a vocabulary of around 4,000 or more words. For French, the learner should know 3,300 - 3,700 words to pass C2. These figures are a far cry from what the native speaker knows but apparently enough to perform well on the most advanced level of the CEFR test. So I wouldn't quite call C2 mastery of the language, nor equivalent to a native speaker.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

dedication to language learning

I think one of the most important requirements to learning any language successfully is dedication. Without dedication, there can be no success. The best method doesn't work without dedication. That's really where the off-the-shelf language courses fail. Courses like Pimsleur probably do a great job until the course ends. After that, you can't really apply the Pimsleur method any more. And you certainly aren't finished learning. So you're left to your own devices trying to figure out what to do next. For experienced language learners, this isn't a problem. But I think the average language learner doesn't know what to do.

Monday, January 09, 2012

speaking fluently vs. being fluent

Guess what?! They are different. That's right! In case you have never thought about it before, "being able to speak fluently" and "being fluent" are 2 different things. You have probably never seen this argued before, so I hope to clearly explain this as well as to cover what fluency really is.

Speaking fluently is something that every fluent speaker should be able to do, but every person speaking a foreign language fluently is not necessarily fluent in the foreign language. Speaking fluently can be accomplished with practice speaking. That means that from the beginning, you could be speaking fluently even if you only know a little of your target language. But a person with an extremely limited knowledge of the target language could not be considered fluent in the language even if he speaks very fluently.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

words vs. sentences

If you review your newly learned items in a foreign language by use of flashcards, what is the best way? Should you put a target word on the one side and a translation word on the other? Should you use whole sentences instead of individual words? If so, then what do you put on the back side of the card? A translation of the whole sentence?

Here's an idea. Put a target word on the front and a sentence using the word on the back. This way, both sides are in the target language. When you test yourself, look at the target word and recall the sentence written on the back. If you can do that, you will be able to remember how to use the word in a sentence. When you don't remember the sentence, you just look at the back side, of course, but seeing the sentence should remind you of what the word means. Assuming, of course, that you understood the sentence before putting it on the back of the card.

I believe it is much easier to remember the meaning of an entire sentence than an individual word. The individual word has no context; nothing to clue you in to what it means. The sentence, however, can remind you of the entire situation that it came from, thereby making a translation on the card obsolete.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

how many hours are in 3 months?

If you were going to try to achieve some kind of significant level in a new language in 3 months, how many hours would you put in? What could you accomplish in 3 months? What kind of fluency would you have, if any, after 3 months?

I'm asking the questions here, so feel free to give me your ideas. I won't be answering my own questions today, but I'd like to think about it for a moment.

Let's break it down into some different hypothetical situations. Three months is usually about 91 and 1/4 days. That makes a full 13 weeks.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

your language level assessment

Have you ever noticed how quickly people are able to judge your level in a foreign language?  Even people who can't speak a foreign language have this incredible ability to classify your linguistic skills.  I once had a cat with a Japanese name and when my landlord heard me call the cat she remarked with surprise how good my Japanese was becoming.  All I had said was the cat's name!  And no, the woman didn't know any of the Japanese language herself.

Most people seem capable of certifying your language proficiency after you've only spoken one sentence.  I've had that happen to me many times here in Japan.  So what am I supposed to say to them? "Oh, well you're the native speaker so I guess you would know, wouldn't you?"

If you can write your own address in Japanese you are sure to wow them.  This is my address, for crying-out-loud! I live here! I'm not a visitor. Do they expect me to be forever illiterate? Have so many of the other foreigners made such a poor impression?  It's just a bunch of squiggly lines, so get over it.

Of course, the evaluations will not always be good ones.  People who will not be relying on you in any way may rate you extremely high, but those who are thinking about using you are going to be a lot more critical. Whichever the case may be, they are always wrong!

You'll be appraised too high and appraised too low.  Your value may be up one day and then completely drop the next.  They can't all be right.