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How to learn a foreign language Options
Helenej
Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 4:29:53 PM

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Location: Kiev, Kyiv City, Ukraine
daftpunk wrote:
I'd like to offer my perspective on how to learn a foreign language.

Don't think about how fast other people learn and how their brains look like, forget about little children learning the language effortlessly and similar ideas. Forget about the language you learn being hard, full of exceptions, esoteric thing that is learnt by some inscrutable divine force, and all that sort of superstitions that you'll find people waffle about in this thread and anywhere else. Don't waste your time on that. Purge it all out of your system and learn about the hard facts of language.
I can't help thinking about how fast other people learn. I wonder how long it took you to learn English. I also wonder how long it took Shivanand, Jagadeesh Bangalore, rogermue and many other forum members. You all must have been working hard and have strong will power.

daftpunk wrote:
Accept 99% working rate of the grammatical pattern as 100% correct.
What do you mean by this, daftpunk?

daftpunk wrote:
Read a lot. Listen a lot. Repeat what you hear people say when you watch a tv programme. Speak to yourself aloud. And finally the best advice you'll ever get in learning a new language - Embrace frustration. Learn to accept that you will be frustrated over and over again over forgetting vocabulary, failing to understand particular language structures, and many other things in the process of your acquiring the language. Being frustrated will push you forward, it will make you put in more effort into learning the language.
Frustration pushes you forward? Frustration discourages, that's what it does. It is success that encourages us.

I often have to encourage my frustrated pupils. I ask them what is English for cat and they answer. For dog? For boy? For girl? After they answer, I say, "You see how many words you already know. You answer without thinking a moment. If you learn, you will know thousands of them and extract them out of your brain that easily". This comforts and encourages them, as I can see. At the same time I often get frustrated myself over forgetting what I've already known and failing understand structures. Difficulties with understanding spoken speech top everything.


justina bandol
Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 5:30:06 PM
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In my experience, people who learn a foreign language very well are either those who are (more or less) forced to work with it for a long time (years in a row), including those who live for a long time in a country speaking that language, or those who put a lot of intellectual effort and yes, willpower into it. Or both.

The first type will not learn the language very well if it doesn't also make some intellectual effort - I have an acquaintance who has been speaking English for 15 years at least, living in the US, and he still makes lots of grammatical mistakes, some very basic, though his language is far from primitive now. The second type will not learn to speak if it doesn't have the opportunity or doesn't make a strong continuous effort to speak. Most others learn the language to some degree or another, but never very well. But, on the other hand, they might not need to know it very well (I know Romanian people who have been reading English books for a long time without learning the language really well).

In any event, reading helps immensely. For advanced students it is, in my opinion, THE best tool to learn. Listening comes close, but doesn't surpass it.

Maybe it's actually not that correct to speak about learning "a language", because you can be able to read or write a language and not to speak or comprehend the speech, or the other way around, but well, I guess we are taking some kind of a holistic approach here.

Besides, as with everything else, a combination of frustrations and successes is probably the normal path of learning. On condition that you act on the frustration, of course. There's always some frustration to resolve, even in your own native language.


PS One more pleasant effective tool: use the FDL forum!
rogermue
Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 6:03:11 PM

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An interesting question. I'd say one of the most important of all. Basically the answer is simple.
It's work and time. And there are effective ways of working and ineffective ways.
Ineffective is learning words from lists by heart. And I consider as ineffective doing exercises from
books containing hundreds of exercises.
The most important thing is to be able to use the tools for learning languages, dictionaries and grammars.
And to be able to figure out on one's own things one does not understand or that are new when reading by consulting
dictionaries and grammars.
When I was young I had to use dictionaries in book form. Today I work mostly with an electronic dictionary, simply because
it's faster. But electronic dictionaries are a new development and still have deficiencies. So I still have to use dictionaries in book form or dictionaries on the internet.
A pity that there are no electronic grammars comparable to electronic dictionaries.But I think that's just a matter of time.
In the meantime I'm building up my own electronic grammar on my smart phone.

Another important thing is the reading matter. When I'm studying a new language I begin with simplest texts, picture stories
for young children, then graded readers from various publishing houses. Bible stories, comics such as Tintin. The reading matter must correspond to the level one has in the foreign language. If the texts contain too many unknown words on one page
it is only frustrating.

Then it is important to know how to work with the reading matter. I always tried to make notes when reading, notes about the words I looked up, notes about the grammar problems I found in the text. This way I could read and repeat a text after some time and when I had forgotten words or grammar points I could look them up in my notes. Today I don't make my notes on paper,
I use my smart phone.

How much time did I spend learning English? Difficult to say. I'd say ten years till I could read a normal novel in some days. But I must say studying a foreign language is a process that is never finished. Every day I find new words or new uses of words I already know and now and again I find grammatical things which are new to me. So I'm still learning or studying, even though I read a novel every week.
Peter O'Connor - Dundalk
Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 6:19:33 PM

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Immersement.
Peter O'Connor - Dundalk
Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 6:19:34 PM

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Immersement.
justina bandol
Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 6:19:54 PM
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rogermue, I agree with most of what you've said, but not with the inefficiency of repetitive exercises and learning words from lists. Repetition is the mother etc - awfully true, even today, when people get bored so quickly. And I know people who learned words from lists and they did remember and use them.

With me, something else worked: I sometimes tried to get into texts significantly more difficult than my level allowed. If you struggle with that for a while, it helps a lot. I remember, after about 8 or 10 years of learning Russian in school (and loving it - but don't imagine I had anyone to talk to, so I wasn't able to speak it; just doing lots of exercises and reading, not even listening), I got Crime and Punishment one day and read it with a pencil in hand, looking up every single word I didn't know, ten times, if necessary. It took me a month and it was a wretched reading experience, but after that I could read Russian literature much more surely.

So lots of different methods, to each one his own.
rogermue
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 6:22:12 AM

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There are two more things I would like to add. One important thing is
to develop the capacity to make up one's own exercises about things you find in reading
- structures which you feel you should master.

Of course, it is important to study and understand what grammars tell us about the grammatical system.
But if I have understood a grammar point, then I don't need to do exercises about this point.
Mostly the examples the grammar gives are sufficient, But sometimes it is necessary to arrange what the grammar says
in one's own way so that it is easier to remember.

Another important thing is to develop methods to train one's capacity to formulate one's ideas.
Understanding reading matter is one thing, but we also want to be able to formulate and communicate with others.
Inventing formulation exercises is a task where everybody has to find his own way. It can begin with simple word
explanations as we find them in dictionaries. Another possibility is to tell in four or five sentences what was told
in a certain passage of a novel we are reading. Later you can summarize a whole chapter of a novel or even give
a summary and comment on the whole novel.

One should try to find topics for formulation exercises you are interested in. That can be history or music or
education of children, anything. And Internet forums where you can communicate with others are an excellent way of training
to formulate one ideas.
TheParser
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 8:04:17 AM
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***** NOT A TEACHER *****


1. I think that the key word to learning a foreign language is Motivation.

a. If you move to a foreign country, one of the first words that you will demand to know is the word for "bathroom," "restroom," or "toilet"!

b. I started studying Mandarin Chinese in 1960. I can now read very easy articles with a dictionary. I can now write a horribly ungrammatical letter that will make the reader laugh his head off at my bad Chinese. But I cannot speak it, and I cannot understand it when spoken. I am not motivated to do so.

c. Some of the best students in the United States are adult immigrants who attend ESL (English as a Second Language) classes.

i. Those students do NOT receive any academic credit.
ii. They are MOTIVATED to learn English because it will help them find employment.
iii. Some of them will attend classes at 5 a.m. (Yes, 5 A.M.) so that they can study English before going on their jobs later that morning.

2. I have just learned that you, Helenej, are a teacher. So you already know that MOTIVATION is the key word.
Romany
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 11:16:06 AM
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My experiences couldn't be more different.

I speak a few languages fluently (i.e. no hesitation; pauses; and with accurate comprehension; etc.) but I can't really write them. (I can read them ok).

I first spoke a Sri Lankan dialect, while at the same time assimilating Arabic, before I started speaking English. But these were the 3 languages I spoke at home so I never studied them. Hence, I now how very little recall of the first; while only random words remain of Arabic - although every once in a while, when I'm not thinking about it, I find I completely get the gist of it when others are speaking; but the moment I realise "Hey, they're speaking Arabic and I can understand them!" it suddenly becomes a mainly incomprehensible foreign language again.

Every other language I've learned I've done the same way - immersion, I guess. I know that when I mentioned before that it had taken me 3 months to learn to speak French fluently someone accused me of telling porkies! - but I'm no prodigy. I've met many people all over the world who are speaking and answering properly after just 6 weeks and plenty others who learnt in a matter of weeks. Because if not one person around one says a word you understand you get to understand pretty damn quick!

As to speaking it grammatically? I was always lucky in that I had friends who would correct me. One gets to recognise patterns, or to see the logic, very quickly for oneself.As one does with one's native language ...learnt in the same way. You just have to learn to accept the fact that every once in a while, people will scream with laughter at something you've said. Just as we do to kids when they make funny mistakes learning to speak their native language.

So, without doubt I would say that the best way to learn a language is immersion. But without actually going to the country of the language one is trying to learn, for me, personally, the best way I would learn a new language is still verbally.
Helenej
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 12:35:21 PM

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Location: Kiev, Kyiv City, Ukraine
It sounds that no method or even immersion itself guarantees a good command of a language unless you work hard. The recommendations that you all have listed here are, in general, effort, time and motivation. Well, it's comforting to hear that, because what you said proves that my slow learning is typical so there's nothing tragic in it. (Sometimes it occurs to me that it's even pointless to start learning if you have a bad memory.)

That's so impressive what you guys say about your results and your work. I envy your ability to make plans and fulfill them, like reading a novel in a few days or reading Crime and Punishment! My problem is that I can't make myself work hard. Sometimes I say to myself, "Oh, that's a good film. I have the subtitles, so now I'm starting to watch it, look up all new words and expressions and learn them. I am going to make it in a week." I usually end up going through the first 15 minutes of the film only. It always seems to be such a difficult work. As a result, I've never watched a single film in English to the end. The same is with reading and listening: I find interesting articles, stories or audio books. I feel excited and determined to go through them, yet I have never succeeded. They are so hard and I'm so lazy! Now I'm thinking to take a course at an English school where they teach in English only. Long ago, I took a year's course and I wasn't satisfied with the results. I wonder if this one helps.

rogermue wrote:
Ineffective is learning words from lists by heart.
I agree if the words are just words without a context. If they are all from a text you've read, I think it's useful to learn them remembering the context.

TheParser wrote:
I have just learned that you, Helenej, are a teacher.
I'm not a teacher, just an uncertified tutor who can't speak. :)

rogermue
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 1:40:14 PM

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Hi Helenej, I would recommend to take smaller bites, if a story is too long.
Sometimes I take only a dramatic scene from a novel, which I like, a page or two,
put down my notes and, of course, the title of the novel and the page. And I make up a kind of introduction
about the contents of the scene. You can do it in an hour or two, without stress.
I never read the notes I had written, my test was only the text, which I read several times. Reading word lists
is boring, even if they are your own lists and you know where they are from - reading good texts is fun. I read the text so often, till it was as if it were a text in my mother tongue.
That's the way to learn words, word groups and sentence structures.

But, to be honest, I had Latin at school. Nine years, and the first six years were horrible. After
the first six years I found my way how to work and it worked. With Latin as a basis the English vocabulary is considerably easier to understand and to retain. As a German with reading and writing knowledge of French my understanding of the English vocabulary is a bit different from a learner who does not know Latin, German and French, and I really understand that such learners struggle with the English vocabulary. So etymology is really very important and every learner should have a dictionary which gives the etymology, especially the Latin one. If you have to learn an adjective such as inaccessible it can be a monster
of a word. If you know the parts of the word in/not, ac/at or to, cess, a form of ced-ere/to go, +ible, roughly possible , then you know that an inaccessible area is an area that is not possible to go to. -ible goes with Latin verbs ending in -ere, -able
goes with Latin verbs ending in -are.

Sorry for this excursion into etymology, but it is my passion.
daftpunk
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 2:06:04 PM
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Quote:

daftpunk wrote:
Read a lot. Listen a lot. Repeat what you hear people say when you watch a tv programme. Speak to yourself aloud. And finally the best advice you'll ever get in learning a new language - Embrace frustration. Learn to accept that you will be frustrated over and over again over forgetting vocabulary, failing to understand particular language structures, and many other things in the process of your acquiring the language. Being frustrated will push you forward, it will make you put in more effort into learning the language.
Frustration pushes you forward? Frustration discourages, that's what it does. It is success that encourages us.



I personally avoid getting too metaphorical when speaking about language in any context, but in this context I can't resist comparing learning a second language to hurdling in athletics. If you want to end the race you are supposed to jump when you get to the hurdle, getting around will disqualify you. So jump. That is what I'd tell a learner. When you hit a hurdle in learning a language you'll necessarily feel at least a little frustrated but that is ok, that will make you try overcome that hurdle. Being frustrated comes with learning a new language, so don't let that bother you, don't think you are not talented, don't think of little children who learn the language effortlessly or similar stuff people are often being delusional about. The point of learning grammar is not only to help the learner understand any particular language usage but also to reduce the number of hurdles to a manageable number by dealing with clear language patterns instead of individual phrases or sentences. What you put in your learning process is what you will get out of it. That is true of everything in life and it is surely true of learning a second language.

The whole point is that by learning grammar we want to speed up the learning process, and also get a better proficiency in language as a result. It is not to say that it can replace reading, listening etc - learning about language patterns is only a tool that helps us do the job. We don't want to be a person with a fork in the world of soup. We need a spoon and grammar is that spoon in learning a language. When you have a solid grasp of the basic language structures you always know where you come from - you always have a point of orientation. In the end, it is self-confidence in the use of the language that is ultimately important.

My experience tells me that most people are satisfied with having enough grasp of English which allows them basic comprehension of things they need to know about, almost invariably connected with their respective professions. Being able to produce a very few run of the mill phrases used in basic business correspondence, or in casual encounters with foreigners on top of that will more than suffice for their needs. Most people see learning English as a practical thing, rather than approaching it academically. It is true of course that once the learner has acquired very basic vocabulary and grammatical patterns, learning the language becomes more about aesthetics than it is really about his communicative needs. I mean, if you enter a furniture store looking to buy a swivel chair, asking for a chair and making a pirouette may well serve the purpose. But, should you wanted to sound smart, witty, jovial, flirtatious etc at that, it will obviously take more developed verbal skills to serve that purpose.

Which is really the starting point where one needs to decide if going down the road of seriously learning a language is worth spending time in the first place. Does he/she want to reach a basically functional level of fluency in English? Or they want to reach a decently functional level of fluency? Does he/she want to become a proficient user of English? Or they maybe want to become a very proficient user of English?

One needs to be motivated enough to go beyond the basics, have enough time to put aside for that, preferably have a good teacher etc. to make reasonable progress in acquiring a second language. Most people I know never opted to go that way, which of course won't prevent them from strongly voicing their opinions on how the language should be taught. As we all know politics and language (and the politics of language) are the two subjects that people are generally never shy expressing their opinion of. But that is a whole another story.

What I said previously is naturally conditional on the learner's personal life situation and applies mostly to learners who study English in their home (non-English speaking) countries. If we speak of people learning English while living in an English speaking country, their fluency in English will obviously depend on whether they rely on English in their everyday life as their primary means of communication and to what extent their being fluent in it affects their life.


Quote:
daftpunk wrote:
Accept 99% working rate of the grammatical pattern as 100% correct.
What do you mean by this, daftpunk?



What I wanted to say is that insisting on details may do more harm than good to a learner. It may happen that they can't see the wood for the trees, to put it figuratively. For example, the systematization of the present perfect uses into "present perfect of result, experience and hot news" and "continuative present perfect" can immensely help a learner get the hang of a very complex area of English. If he/she fails to see the clear connection between a situation expressed in the present perfect in an individual example and any of these notions, that shouldn't bother him/her. There may be examples where it is objectively difficult to either draw a line between different sub-categories or even recognize any of them in the sentence, but there's no point discarding the whole idea because of that.
It is also important to foreground the pronounced uses of a grammatical pattern to what is less typical of it. In the thread on the use of the present perfect, progressive and non-progressive I tried to separate what would be pronounced usages of the progressive and non-progressive perfect variants respectively.

In its core use the present perfect non-progressive presents a situation occurring in an indefinite past as either having a present result, or we are heavily stressing the fact that such situation occurred some time prior to now, or we are presenting it as as a news to a listener/reader. None of these uses is typical of the present perfect progressive - the progressive component stretches a past situation expressed by the perfect up to this moment. We use it to say that the situation persisted up to now or how long a situation lasted up to this moment. In reality we can use the present perfect progressive with a "resultative" connotation and we want to say that of course, but we'll give that as its marginal use . Other than that, the present perfect progressive can hardly be used in any other sense typical of the non-progressive variant.
The non-progressive variant can be used to indicate how long the situation lasted or that it lasted up to now, but its use in this sense is restricted in more than one way. Some situations are completely excluded (accomplishments) from this use of the present perfect non-progressive, some are limited (activities) and only stative situations are used more or less freely in this sense.





Elvandil
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 11:56:54 PM

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What does "learn a language" mean? I am still learning every language that I have ever come in contact with and expect to be still doing so for the rest of my life.

But a language can never be learned well without a deep and abiding knowledge of the history, culture, and beliefs of the persons speaking it. There is hardly a single word that can be directly translated between languages that is not somehow colored by the thinking patterns of those who use it.

A good example would be the word, "violence", as used in a recent UN report. It was found to be extremely difficult to translate that simple word into many of the world's languages. It implies a sort of loss of control, but control over emotions and the movement of people is an Anglo-Saxon idea not shared or understood by most of the world. In Russian, for example, separating the violence from the people who create it is very hard. After all, how can there be "violence" if no one is involved? How can the concept be separated from its causes and sources? How can there be a loss of control over something that is by definition beyond our control in the first place? When is it "violence" and not, for example, "unrestrained dancing"?

Every utterance in English is colored by the reality that was socially constructed within us since birth.





(議思不の界世) pןɹoʍ ǝɥʇ ɟo sɹǝpuoʍ ǝɥʇ ɟo ǝuo sı ǝpoɔıun
Helenej
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2015 2:11:09 AM

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rogermue wrote:
I would recommend to take smaller bites, if a story is too long.

I've come across this advice somewhere and I was thinking about it while complaining about my never completed attempts to read through a several page story or watch a film to the end. They suggest that in any work or activity that seems difficult to you, you should set smaller tasks for shorter periods of time, which are psychologically easier to carry out, compared to a global task set for a longer period of time. Also, completing any task, even the smallest one, is a success that inspires you and allows you to believe in yourself. Thank you for reminding it, rogermue.

rogermue wrote:
As a German with reading and writing knowledge of French my understanding of the English vocabulary is a bit different from a learner who does not know Latin, German and French, and I really understand that such learners struggle with the English vocabulary.

Your knowledge of other languages, which is a good help for learning English, can only be envied. But in my case I have no other choice but to embrace struggling: it would be silly to put English aside and start learning French or Latin as a basis for English. :)
rogermue
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2015 2:22:34 AM

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Helenej, it might help to have sometimes a look at etymonline, an Internet portal of etymology.
If one understands the origins or the parts of difficult words they are easier to remember.
http://www.etymonline.com

And forget feelings of frustration. It is normal to forget words as a learner or student of a foreign language.
I forget words too. For me, it's only a sign that I have to note it down again, even if it is the fifth time.
Doesn't matter. But I begin to think about the reasons why I can't remember a special word. And sometimes I invent memory aids.
Helenej
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2015 2:30:28 AM

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Location: Kiev, Kyiv City, Ukraine
rogermue wrote:
It might help to have sometimes a look at etymonline, an Internet portal of etymology.If one understands the origins or the parts of difficult words they are easier to remember.

Yes, it is a useful and very interesting tool. It even provides the etymology of my country's weird name!
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=ukraine&searchmode=none

I've made a link to it. Thank you very much, rogermue.
rogermue
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2015 2:40:39 AM

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Russian krai meaning border, frontier might even be related somehow with
German GREntze. I didn't do any research, just an idea.

By the way, if you click on the small picture of the blue book after a word, eg Ukraine,
you get a dictionary article about that word.
Helenej
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2015 2:47:40 AM

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rogermue wrote:
Russian krai meaning border, frontier might even be related somehow with German GREntze. I didn't do any research, just an idea.

They say you did borrow the word from us! Granica and Grentze sound so much alike.
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Grenze
daftpunk
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2015 4:59:15 AM
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It may often happen that you spend a considerable time trying to figure out a particular use and you do not feel you're understanding it any better after all the effort. It's happened to me a lot. It is only natural that you won't feel happy about it, but the effort is never for nothing, on the contrary. I may not have managed to understand what that use is all about, but I learned about what parts of it were difficult for me to understand. Coming up with the right questions is equally important as getting the right answers. The point is that learners need to work on it by themselves, go through all the struggle of understanding grammatical concepts, otherwise no one can help them and no grammatical generalizations will be of much use either. To take our mammoth present perfect thread as an illustration:

Quote:
Oh, this is a new turn in your classification. So far we had "indefinite", "up to now" and "continuous" readings. Now we have the experiental reading. Why don't you think it's the resultative reading, like it was with a spade in the hall? "I've studied English for four years" might as well mean "I've studied for four years, therefore I have correct knowledge on the matter", why not?


This is a good question, you have obviously thought it through before you asked about it and I think that the answer you got was helpful. "I've studied English for four years" does receive a pronounced "experiental" reading, which, at least how I read it, is not much different from "I've studied English (in the past)". In the three-part categorization of the present perfect uses that I cited in the thread, we would think of this use of the present perfect as "indefinite" (experiental, resultative, hot news readings of the present perfect are understood as belonging to this category) rather than giving it "up to now" reading. The later reading is characteristic of the present perfect progressive: "I've been studying English for four years". Reinforcing the non-progressive variant with "now" like: "I've studied English for four years now" would, again how I read it, approach the meaning conveyed by the progressive alternative of the same sentence, which foregrounds the "up-to-now" component of the situation.

Quote:
They say you did borrow the word from us! Granica and Grentze sound so much alike.


Or from us maybe:) Granica is the word for a border in Serbian too. The verbal use is "graničiti" for "to border", and by tweaking this stem we get two derivative meanings: ograničiti, which has a slew of associated meanings (limit, bound, confine, restrict etc) and razgraničiti, which is less versatile (differentiate, to mark off, mark the border between countries)
Helenej
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2015 5:32:39 AM

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daftpunk wrote:
In this context I can't resist comparing learning a second language to hurdling in athletics. If you want to end the race you are supposed to jump when you get to the hurdle, getting around will disqualify you. So jump. That is what I'd tell a learner. When you hit a hurdle in learning a language you'll necessarily feel at least a little frustrated but that is ok, that will make you try overcome that hurdle. Being frustrated comes with learning a new language, so don't let that bother you, don't think you are not talented, don't think of little children who learn the language effortlessly or similar stuff people are often being delusional about.

I feel like I'm already starting to embrace frustration. :)
I also think I'll have to encourage my pupils with similar words and the hurdle metaphor.


daftpunk wrote:
The point of learning grammar is not only to help the learner understand any particular language usage but also to reduce the number of hurdles to a manageable number by dealing with clear language patterns instead of individual phrases or sentences. What you put in your learning process is what you will get out of it. That is true of everything in life and it is surely true of learning a second language.

The whole point is that by learning grammar we want to speed up the learning process, and also get a better proficiency in language as a result. It is not to say that it can replace reading, listening etc - learning about language patterns is only a tool that helps us do the job. We don't want to be a person with a fork in the world of soup. We need a spoon and grammar is that spoon in learning a language. When you have a solid grasp of the basic language structures you always know where you come from - you always have a point of orientation. In the end, it is self-confidence in the use of the language that is ultimately important.

I've never questioned the importance of learning grammar in the process of acquiring a language and I completely agree with you here. Grammar is like the traffic code: you can start learning driving by watching and copying what other drivers do, but that will take you a huge amount of time and a lot accidents.

daftpunk wrote:
Helenej wrote:
They say you did borrow the word from us! Granica and Grentze sound so much alike.
Or from us maybe:)

Let's not argue: from the Slavs. :)

daftpunk
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2015 7:34:51 AM
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Quote:
I feel like I'm already starting to embrace frustration. :)
I also think I'll have to encourage my pupils with similar words and the hurdle metaphor.


Good!

Quote:
Let's not argue: from the Slavs. :)


That is most probably the correct answer :)

Quote:

I've never questioned the importance of learning grammar in the process of acquiring a language and I completely agree with you here.


Ok Helen, those were my general observations, I wasn't confronting anyone's views in particular.


I've recently had an opportunity to join a discussion in a more academic setting, which involved native English speakers and people who live in English speaking countries. Anyway, a participant in the discussion (who, in her words, has been living in New York for 11 years) used "Hell, no!" a few times during the discussion. It sounded distracting and off-putting, the more so as it was uncalled for in the contexts where regular "no" was expected. "Hell no!" is of course a highly emphatic way of saying "no" and it sounded almost unsettling in the wrong context. Also, the word "hell" in general was inappropriate on a formal occasion like that. I'm not saying that we need to sound stiff but there is certainly an appropriate language for any situation. Her language was pretty fluent (broad accent aside) but still my impression was that there was a lot of substitution going on, that both the vocabulary and the grammar were limited and that the change of the context and the subject might cause her a problem in expressing herself precisely. Another person used a phrase "put his shit together" which of course made some of the people there feel awkward. But other than that, his standard of English was similar to that of the other person.

I'm mentioning this as an example of people who most probably took an entirely different approach in learning English from mine. I'd always sacrifice learning stock phrases like "put one's shit together" or "Hell no!" to learning more substantial stuff in language. Learners focusing entirely on internalizing such phrases may on the face of it appear to be learning faster without putting in so much effort in it, but that is a false impression in so many respects. I'm not saying that those phrases is all they know, but it reflects an approach in learning a language which results in relatively inferior overall language skills.

We want to read newspapers, books, join conversations on important issues in life etc in English, and if we do we'll need more than "hot-dog and a beer" English. We'll need to use more subtle English than that for such purposes. As I said earlier, the question of the purpose of learning the language is really paramount in deciding on the right course of action for any individual. If we aim high, it will take more patience and more deliberate intellectual effort. Learning the language deliberately and systematically will result in incomparably better language skills in an incomparably lesser amount of time, than learning it solely by ear.
daftpunk
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2015 1:19:36 PM
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I've come across this language blog http://elt-resourceful.com/tag/emergent-grammar/page/2/, where an English teacher shares similar observations to mine the previous post:


Quote:
In a recent IELTS exam, I had to assess someone who lived locally, with a British passport. I’m not sure if she could have been called a native speaker, but I’m pretty sure that most people meeting her would have made that assumption. She had a local accent, and her language was pretty fluent. It was also mostly accurate. However, what was missing was complexity.

There was a lot of repetition, using the same simple phrases again and again. She tended to use mostly present tenses and simple linkers, such as and, but and because. Overall there was a tendency to avoid more complex sentence structures. She produced language confidently and with ease, didn’t make many mistakes, but still couldn’t be said, I thought, to be producing a ‘full range of structures’ or to be using vocabulary ‘with full flexibility and precision ’.

If we focus solely on achieving communication, some students will stay stuck at a certain level of complexity. Therefore we also need to provide opportunities for students to focus on form.
------
We need to find a balance between base-line communicating (with whatever means possible) and being too focused on form, so that we are not genuinely communicating at all.



Helenej
Posted: Friday, May 01, 2015 12:34:20 PM

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daftpunk wrote:
Insisting on details may do more harm than good to a learner. It may happen that they can't see the wood for the trees, to put it figuratively. For example, the systematization of the present perfect uses into "present perfect of result, experience and hot news" and "continuative present perfect" can immensely help a learner get the hang of a very complex area of English.

Well, I see the matter the other way round. From my point of view, introducing learners to the present perfect as a set of the three uses (result, experience and hot news) equals to showing them trees. Learners can hardly see the wood. Your theory presents "wood" as a rather indefinite, shapeless and subtle idea of "spanning the past and present", "connecting the situation to the present" or "a link to the present". It is not wood. It is something indistinguishable in a very thick fog. Those "definitions" don't provide any key to selecting between the past simple and the present perfect. With such an approach, students are doomed to memorize all those three uses which will never make a single picture for them.

In my opinion, a teacher should, in the first place, introduce the general idea of the present perfect, which should be more concrete that "spanning", "connecting" or "linking". After that and a dozen of examples, students can start practicing without any need to differentiate between results, experience and hot news. Learners should only be guided by the general idea of the present perfect and the only skill they should build is to identify whether they narrate or not. Of course, all the examples with the present perfect can fall into "resultative", "experiental" and "hot news" uses, but all the examples with the past simple can also fall into these categories ("I bought apples", "I was there with Mike" and "He left a minute ago"). Therefore, learners are not certain whether they see trees or bushes. And for each use, you are going to prove them when "there is a result and it's relevant for the future" ("I've bought apples") and when "there is a result, but it is not relevant" ("You know, I went to Walmart today. I bought meat and apples.") The same with "hot news". You teach learners that the news is hot and relevant for the present in "Mum, I've been given three A's today!" and teach them that the news is also "hot" but not relevant for the present in "I was given an A in Maths today".

All in all, I don't think we should confuse students with the so called three uses and teach them how the situation in each of them can be different from the situation in similar sentences with the past simple. I do not introduce my students to the three uses at all. I just teach them to understand when they narrate and when they don't. All those uses may have academic interest, but I think they do more harm than good to learners.

You know, of course, I may be dense and dumb in reality, too dumb to embrace your point of view, but, honestly, as I feel it, the more we discuss the matter the more I become confident of my original point of view on the present perfect and the ways of teaching it in school. So, the discussion was certainly useful. :)


daftpunk wrote:
The non-progressive variant can be used to indicate how long the situation lasted or that it lasted up to now, but its use in this sense is restricted in more than one way. Some situations are completely excluded (accomplishments) from this use of the present perfect non-progressive, some are limited (activities) and only stative situations are used more or less freely in this sense.

I'm afraid, that in the case of the present perfect progressive, too, I'll have to keep to my point of view, though I wasn't initially certain about the difference between inclusive and exclusive versions, as well as about the readings with time indicators versus readings without them. Actually, I'd never thought about the tense deeply, so this part of the discussion was much more productive for me.

I'm grateful to you and the others for sharing your opinions on the matter. If I ever change my opinion, I'll let you know. :)

daftpunk
Posted: Friday, May 01, 2015 3:30:45 PM
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You're welcome Helen. I've put in my two cents but I'm no expert on the subject of language acquisition, just took part in discussion is all.


Quote:
Well, I see the matter the other way round. From my point of view, introducing learners to the present perfect as a set of the three uses (result, experience and hot news) equals to showing them trees. Learners can hardly see the wood. Your theory presents "wood" as a rather indefinite, shapeless and subtle idea of "spanning the past and present", "connecting the situation to the present" or "a link to the present". It is not wood. It is something indistinguishable in a very thick fog. Those "definitions" don't provide any key to selecting between the past simple and the present perfect. With such an approach, students are doomed to memorize all those three uses which will never make a single picture for them.


They first should be introduced to the uses of the present perfect that are clearly used to indicate a result, experience or hot news in the literal senses of these words. The present perfect in any of these senses is solely concerned with the fact that such and such situation occurred in the past, and in the latter two senses that is all that we want to communicate by using the present perfect. We don't want to say in what manner, when, or how the situation in question was connected with any other event preceding or following it or anything else that tells about the context in which it occurred in the past: you don't relate it to any other situation, you only want to say that it occurred.
The "result" use is most common and its sole purpose is to heavily point to the present result of a prior situation. All we say is that such situation happened and we invite the reader/listener to consider the present result of its occurrence. In the most obvious cases it will create a clear mental image in their mind of the present consequence of that situation (broken leg, open door, apples in the place where we usually store them etc) The image of the present state of things may be as clear as that but it can also be more abstract, and it will just as same invite the listener/reader to consider that result - I have changed the password will point to the different characters of the password now, resulting from the situation of my changing it. I have knocked on the door will point to even more abstract result - I have produced a sound and I'm pointing to the fact that it had to be heard by someone as a result, if there is anyone in there. In any case my sole communicative purpose is to draw your attention to the present state of things resulting from a prior situation.

Experience and hot news perfect communicate less than that - all we say by these uses of the present perfect is - such and such situation occurred in the past and that is all. We don't want to point to the present state of things or anything similar, that is all we say by using the present perfect to such purposes. This is best illustrated by using situations which convey a literal personal experience: I have climbed this mountain (on the salient reading) means the same as I have the experience of climbing this mountain. Starting with examples that clearly illustrate the usage is always a good idea.


Quote:

In my opinion, a teacher should, in the first place, introduce the general idea of the present perfect, which should be more concrete that "spanning", "connecting" or "linking". After that and a dozen of examples, students can start practicing without any need to differentiate between results, experience and hot news. Learners should only be guided by the general idea of the present perfect and the only skill they should build is to identify whether they narrate or not. Of course, all the examples with the present perfect can fall into "resultative", "experiental" and "hot news" uses, but all the examples with the past simple can also fall into these categories ("I bought apples", "I was there with Mike" and "He left a minute ago"). Therefore, learners are not certain whether they see trees or bushes. And for each use, you are going to prove them when "there is a result and it's relevant for the future" ("I've bought apples") and when "there is a result, but it is not relevant" ("You know, I went to Walmart today. I bought meat and apples.") The same with "hot news". You teach learners that the news is hot and relevant for the present in "Mum, I've been given three A's today!" and teach them that the news is also "hot" but not relevant for the present in "I was given an A in Maths today".


This categorization allows learners to neatly arrange the objective facts of the use of the present perfect into mental drawers, instead of approaching it chaotically. When they go through, say, result uses of the present perfect you won't need to tell them "relevant for the future", "spanning" or "connecting" past and present and other blurred notions, which are not easily translatable into practical knowledge. If you intend to point me to those apples and all you want to tell me is that you have those apples and nothing else you will say "I've bought apples". This purpose is not clear from your saying "I bought apples in the grocery this morning" - you are now telling me about your "buying" not about "apples". In other words you are sending me in the past to tell me about how that purchase went - you're focusing "buying" and defocusing "apples". "I've bought apples" is not concerned with where, when, or how buying those apples happened, all you want to say is that they are here now.

Quote:
All in all, I don't think we should confuse students with the so called three uses and teach them how the situation in each of them can be different from the situation in similar sentences with the past simple. I do not introduce my students to the three uses at all. I just teach them to understand when they narrate and when they don't. All those uses may have academic interest, but I think they do more harm than good to learners.

You know, of course, I may be dense and dumb in reality, too dumb to embrace your point of view, but, honestly, as I feel it, the more we discuss the matter the more I become confident of my original point of view on the present perfect and the ways of teaching it in school. So, the discussion was certainly useful. :)


How they explain the uses of the present perfect in grammars is obviously a pretty analytical way to deal with this, but this part is arguably the toughest in learning English, especially for learners coming from languages which handle these ideas in completely different manners, so it takes a bit of elaboration. The way the authors of the textbooks I linked to in the thread on the present perfect explained it makes complete sense and, you can take my word for it, it doesn't take a genius to understand that stuff. It does take some mental effort but what doesn't?
There's room for different interpretations, so if you find that your approach is working, that's the way to go. And please forget about dense and dumb, learning this stuff never comes easy to anyone. The only question here is whether you see the value in putting in mental effort into it or not, that is, whether you think it may help speeding up the learning process or not. Time is always the commodity which is of paramount importance and we measure everything against it.
Helenej
Posted: Saturday, May 02, 2015 12:44:44 PM

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daftpunk wrote:
The present perfect... is solely concerned with the fact that such and such situation occurred in the past, and ... that is all that we want to communicate by using the present perfect. We don't want to say in what manner, when, or how the situation in question was connected with any other event preceding or following it or anything else that tells about the context in which it occurred in the past: you don't relate it to any other situation, you only want to say that it occurred.

This is exactly how I see the present perfect. I only use other words, saying that we do not associate the action with any particular circumstances in the past, which means that we are mentally in the present. Apart from this definition, I give my students a very simple technique for indicating the speaker's mental time ("up to now" vs. "then"). And I'm sure that is quite enough for making the correct choice between the present perfect and the past simple. I see no need to teach students the three uses of the present perfect.

daftpunk wrote:
This categorization allows learners to neatly arrange the objective facts of the use of the present perfect into mental drawers, instead of approaching it chaotically. When they go through, say, result uses of the present perfect you won't need to tell them "relevant for the future", "spanning" or "connecting" past and present and other blurred notions, which are not easily translatable into practical knowledge.

Those "relevant for the future", "spanning" or "connecting" were all your words that you used in the "mammoth" thread to define the present perfect. I have always been against using them.

daftpunk wrote:
Time is always the commodity which is of paramount importance and we measure everything against it.

I agree. That is why I offer my students the quickest and easiest way to learn the present perfect as a tense opposing the past simple. Unlike you, I only give them the general idea and some technique for indicating a speaker's mental time ("up to now" vs. "then"). Next, by this way of thinking, my students will also save time every time they make their choice between the two tenses.

Let's take an exchange, where the sentence in question is the one said by B.

A: Martha and I spend the weekend at Jahorina.
B: Oh, I've been there, too.


What do my students do? They try to attach either "then" or "up to now" to the sentence. What fits better for this sentence is "up to now", so they pick the present perfect.

What do your students do?

1. They open the result "mental drawer" and start looking for some either concrete or "more abstract" result that B's having been at the resort has at the moment of speaking. There's no result (the good time he had there once is in the past). Of course, if your desire to find a result is rather big, you can say that B's knowledge of Jahorina's location is an appropriate result. But in that case any action in the past can have a result of knowing something, like in "I looked up", the result might be that I knew what was above.

2. So, your students close the "result drawer" and open the "experience" one. They start thinking if the phrase "I experienced being at the resort" makes sense and it does.

3. After that your students look at the sentence from any sides trying to become certain that "we don't want to say in what manner, when, or how the situation in question was connected with any other event preceding or following it or anything else that tells about the context in which it occurred in the past" (your description of the present perfect above). And finally, if we come to the conclusion that we don't want to say "in what manner, when or how...", then we pick the present perfect. Otherwise we pick the past simple.

Which way is simpler and shorter, yours or mine?

All in all, with your advice to take into account the three uses of the present perfect, I feel like a person who is being made to walk on crutches while he/she is able to walk on foot, fast and effortlessly.

*******************
Back to the thread subject, could you tell us your story with English, daftpunk? Your English is exellent. How long did you learn it or, rather, how long have you been learning it? (I think one can't stop learning the language since it is an infinite and constantly changing thing.) Have you lived in an English-speaking country?


daftpunk
Posted: Saturday, May 02, 2015 3:21:43 PM
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Quote:
I agree. That is why I offer my students the quickest and easiest way to learn the present perfect as a tense opposing the past simple. Unlike you, I only give them the general idea and some technique for indicating a speaker's mental time ("up to now" vs. "then"). Next, by this way of thinking, my students will also save time every time they make their choice between the two tenses.

Let's take an exchange, where the sentence in question is the one said by B.

A: Martha and I spent the weekend at Jahorina.
B: Oh, I've been there, too.


Comparing the present perfect with the simple past may help, but we won't focus that primarily in explaining its role in English. If we want to draw a parallel to the simple past we'll first want to say that the difference between the two is in the way the past event is presented. In this document here ttp://tinyurl.com/o2h4cd6 the author says that "restrictions (on the use of the present perfect) serve to highlight the target state at the expense of the event". It is the other way around with the simple past: we are focused on retelling the events as they happened, we are not focusing the target state caused by the event's occurrence, we are focusing the very event we are talking about. When we use the present perfect to indicate the result we are concerned with communicating the fact that such and such event brought about certain state of things which is apparent right now, and we are focusing on this current state of things rather than on how the event came to be in the first place and under which circumstances.
When we use the present perfect to indicate "experience" our motivation for using it is different. We don't want to point the listener/reader to the present effects of the past event, we want him/her to know that such and such event occurred in past. That is all we want to say.



Quote:
1. They open the result "mental drawer" and start looking for some either concrete or "more abstract" result that B's having been at the resort has at the moment of speaking. There's no result (the good time he had there once is in the past). Of course, if your desire to find a result is rather big, you can say that B's knowledge of Jahorina's location is an appropriate result. But in that case any action in the past can have a result of knowing something, like in "I looked up", the result might be that I knew what was above.

2. So, your students close the "result drawer" and open the "experience" one. They start thinking if the phrase "I experienced being at the resort" makes sense and it does.


3. After that your students look at the sentence from any sides trying to become certain that "we don't want to say in what manner, when, or how the situation in question was connected with any other event preceding or following it or anything else that tells about the context in which it occurred in the past" (your description of the present perfect above). And finally, if we come to the conclusion that we don't want to say "in what manner, when or how...", then we pick the present perfect. Otherwise we pick the past simple.



Most of the native speakers of any language never think in grammatical terms when they produce the language. Any grammatical concept we use as native speakers we use it with a specific purpose and, speaking in broad terms, that purpose naturally cannot be anything very complex. When a native English speaker uses the present perfect, the last thing he has on his/her mind is the present perfect, verb tenses or anything even remotely similar to it. The notions he/she has in mind are simple and grammar aims to provide learners of English with clear and usable explanations of those notions. That is the point of speaking of "result", "experience", "hot news" perfects - we want to emulate the purpose that makes a native speaker use the grammatical form of the present perfect. We're making sense out of what feels like an utter chaos to a learner freshly introduced to the language. In doing so, we just have to use terminology which is not part of the everyday vocabulary. We don't use the grammar terminology to make it more difficult for a learner, we use it out of necessity. To help a learner distinguish between different language concepts we need to group similar things together, and we need to give every individual category a name so it can be distinguished from other categories.

What we discussed in this thread is an issue people are sharply divided over. In practice people can choose between learning systematically by making sense of things in language (which would correspond to what people call "learning grammar"), or learning on a case by case basis, relying solely on memorizing and imitating the language they are exposed to (which corresponds to what people often call "immersion") . I think that the former approach is incomparably more efficient, both time-wise and in regard of the achieved quality of the language skills. Relying only on the latter is much like building in the sand. The results a learner achieve that way may give a deceptive impression of speed and easiness in acquiring the language, but it is only a mirage of course. That always reminds me of a joke with the Chinese inventing a 20l container..only it is this tiny, or about producing a lot of energy with a tiny amount of energy and similar stuff people are sometimes deluded into believing. The point is that hard facts of life contradict stories about miraculous and effortless learning of language and it will remain wishful thinking as much as 20l containers will still have to be a certain size and the energy will still remain constant. The only thing that will change is that people who live off writing books, or advertise language courses like "English in 28 days", "English in 10 minutes a day" will be better off.

Quote:
All in all, with your advice to take into account the three uses of the present perfect, I feel like a person who is being made to walk on crutches while he/she is able to walk on foot, fast and effortlessly.


If I have to use a metaphor, I'd compare using language instruction in learning a language to using training wheels when learning to ride a bicycle.

Quote:
Back to the thread subject, could you tell us your story with English, daftpunk? Your English is exellent. How long did you learn it or, rather, how long have you been learning it? (I think one can't stop learning the language since it is an infinite and constantly changing thing.) Have you lived in an English-speaking country?


I'm self-taught and have learned English for almost ten years now. I believe that with a little help from a professional I (and most other people in my place) would have reached this level of proficiency in English much sooner than that, probably in less than half that time. At one point, I developed an interest in language and English soon became my pastime. Except for an occasional translation work, I haven't been professionally engaged as a language professional. And I've never visited an English speaking country.

NKM
Posted: Saturday, May 02, 2015 10:24:45 PM

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In one of his posts in this thread, daftpunk offered a quote from a blog, which included:

"There was a lot of repetition, using the same simple phrases again and again. She tended to use mostly present tenses and simple linkers, such as and, but and because. Overall there was a tendency to avoid more complex sentence structures. She produced language confidently and with ease, didn’t make many mistakes, but still couldn’t be said, I thought, to be producing a ‘full range of structures’ or to be using vocabulary ‘with full flexibility and precision’."

This sounds very much like a description of someone who has learned by immersion alone. She's listened to, and learned to emulate, the typical speech of ordinary people in everyday situations. Most people, most of the time, speak in exactly that way: lots of short sentences, plenty of "and's" and "but's" and "because's", only the most rudimentary use of simple past and present-perfect tenses, and almost never a dependent clause.

If you listen to the casual conversations of native speakers, that's most of what you'll hear.

daftpunk
Posted: Sunday, May 03, 2015 6:28:55 AM
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It will always come down to the question of time and purpose of learning the language. If language teachers find from their experience that learners can achieve the level of fluency in language which a native speaker would judge as fairly good and they can do that in, say, five years, without having to spend their time learning about subjects, objects and that kind of stuff, I'd say go for it. Even if their language is judged in terms the teacher judged the candidate's language as previously quoted, I'd still consider it a great success and I'd suggest people take that road. Learning about language structures takes intellectual effort and if one can go without it, and achieve the same results in the same amount of time or even quicker, then why bother. Finally, once learners are fairly fluent in language they can always opt to start learning grammar from that point on, if they feel that might interest them or that they may need a better grasp of the language, for whatever reason.
I once had a university professor of English telling me that teaching grammar only confuses learners, and that all the teacher needs to do is to encourage them to use what language they know and correct them along the way. To this day I'm still not convinced of that. I still think of grammar instruction as a useful complement in the learning process, which can dramatically increase the efficiency in acquiring the language. It is an intensive way of learning a language which presupposes, rather than precludes a learner's exposure to language in all sort of ways.

daftpunk
Posted: Sunday, May 03, 2015 7:25:32 AM
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Interestingly, the author of the document I linked to previously http://tinyurl.com/o2h4cd6 says this in the elaboration on what she calls "strong resultative":

Quote:
a) The Strong Resultative does not allow adverbs of quantity or cardinality. (13)only has an Experiential reading;

(13) I have locked the door twice.

There can be no target state of doing something twice; for (13) to be true the door would have had to be opened between the two locking events


To me, reading this sentence "resultatively", that is, as "I have turned the key twice" would first come to mind. "Twice" is the count of "turning the key" not of "locking the door" instances. (a Google books example: We got into the dry storage part and I locked the door, twice. I was the only one, at the time, that had a key to that outside storage area and I was taking full . ) The "experiental" reading is also probable, but of course, as the author says, the door should have been opened between the two locking events.

The classification of the present perfect uses into categories which I discussed at length on the forum is widely accepted in the linguistic literature, it is not my invention. It really helps in learning how to use the present perfect correctly if one understands it as a polysemous grammatical construction, in the way words can be polysemous. Here's how an author of a book on the verb aspect put it in her book:

Quote:
Grammatical structures may mean what they mean in the same way that words do—via convention rather than composition. Therefore, grammatical constructions, like words, may be polysemous. -------
I provided grammatical evidence that the present perfect is polysemous, and showed that on one reading (the resultative reading), the present perfect participates in a discourse-functional contrast with the preterite.



The author of this book on aspect here http://tinyurl.com/k6mtbj3 says the similar thing:
Quote:

Consonant with the approach defended in Leech (1971a,1971b), Comrey (1976), Dahl( 1999), Dahl and Hedin (2000) and Lindstedt( 2000),the stance taken in this study is that the perfect is a polysemous or, to use Petersen's (2004) terminology, non-monadic verbal category. It differentiates between as many as four established meanings (or senses) which can be described in terms of its basic use types



daftpunk
Posted: Sunday, May 03, 2015 11:03:35 AM
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I've just read this http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=18825 Language Log article about a woman who's learned Mandarin to, according to this specialist, a phenomenal level. The part about how people manage to achieve that level of fluency is something people never fail to comment on, here's that part from the article:

Quote:
The big question for me is how Jessica's Mandarin got to be so good. I do not know Jessica, but just judging from the nature of her near native fluency, I would guess that she — in learning Mandarin — paid far more attention to speaking and listening than to reading and writing. In fact, she can probably say a lot more than she can read or write. Learners of Mandarin tend to fixate on the characters, and they are often encouraged in this mistaken approach by their teachers, as though the number of characters one has memorized were some sort of index of the level of one's ability in the language. Quite the contrary, paying undue attention to the characters, especially during the first months of the learning process, often cripples one's ability to learn the language. It is far more important to master the pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar first, and then worry about the characters later (or never, if reading and writing is not what you're after). Learn Mandarin like a baby, like a native — without reference to the characters until you are fluent.

According to this Washington Post article of September 14, 2011, when Jessica was already completely fluent and famous in China for her Mandarin ability, this Ohio girl had only been studying the language for five years by that time:

"‘OMG Meiyu,’ a breakout hit Web show, schools Chinese in American slang ".

With the right methods, it can be achieved; with the wrong methods, it will never happen.



There must be some personal aptitude and talent of this person involved, but this story only goes to say that one can achieve a perfect fluency, (in a language which can't be more different than one's mother tongue at that), in as short space of time as five years. As the author says, one can pick to become perfectly verbally fluent, as opposed to being perfectly skilled in writing, but once that point is achieved it becomes easier to expand one's language proficiency in any direction possible.
Speaking from the standpoint of non-Asian learners, learning Mandarin must be very specific in more than one way, which obviously adds to the importance of choosing the right learning method.
Helenej
Posted: Sunday, May 03, 2015 4:52:51 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/24/2013
Posts: 1,720
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Location: Kiev, Kyiv City, Ukraine
daftpunk wrote:
I'm self-taught and have learned English for almost ten years now. I believe that with a little help from a professional I (and most other people in my place) would have reached this level of proficiency in English much sooner than that, probably in less than half that time. At one point, I developed an interest in language and English soon became my pastime. Except for an occasional translation work, I haven't been professionally engaged as a language professional. And I've never visited an English speaking country.
It's amazing that you have so much willpower and patience to push through all those difficulties and huge amount of information, daftpunk. I envy you.

daftpunk wrote:
Comparing the present perfect with the simple past may help...
What does it mean it may help? When speaking about past events in English, we constantly need to decide between the past simple and the present perfect (while not speaking about processes in progress, of course). We need to keep in mind the difference between them to make the correct choice. That's why I try to attach "then" or "up to now" to a sentence choosing by this technique between the two tenses. By the way, to be accurate, what I actually try to attach is not "up to now", it's something more like "in general", but I'm not sure. Anyway, this word corresponds to the Serbian "uopšte", as I've just looked it up. It's much easier to make the choice with "uopšte" than with "do sada" ("up to now").

daftpunk wrote:
When a native English speaker uses the present perfect, the last thing he has on his/her mind is the present perfect, verb tenses or anything even remotely similar to it. The notions he/she has in mind are simple and grammar aims to provide learners of English with clear and usable explanations of those notions. That is the point of speaking of "result", "experience", "hot news" perfects - we want to emulate the purpose that makes a native speaker use the grammatical form of the present perfect.
To me, "I've bought nice apples today" only means that the speaker isn't recollecting how and when she bought them, as well as other details. Being thus mentally in the present, she doesn't send the listener to the past either. By using the present perfect she tells the listener not to bother imagining when or how it happened. The speaker has no purpose other than that.

Mainstream grammarians are trying to find something more behind that simple message. Most often they do manage to find a result. It's quite natural as most actions have results: buy, find, take, build. When they fail to find any plain and obvious result, they try harder and find different indirect and remote results, like knocking on the door, as you say, has the result that someone should have heard it. It seems to me that after some practicing, anyone will be able to find a result of any action. You bet I could find a result in 100% of sentences. I don't think they will be more weird and refined than that of the knocking. :)


daftpunk wrote:
To help a learner distinguish between different language concepts we need to group similar things together, and we need to give every individual category a name so it can be distinguished from other categories
Do you realize that the three different uses of the present perfect are not similar at all and yet you refer them to the group called "The uses of the present perfect"? Result, experience and hot news have as much in common as smell, ruby and earthquake. I consider this categorization artificial.

*********
In my previous post I described the ways my and your students think while choosing between the present perfect and the past simple. I said that knowing the general idea of the present perfect is sufficient for that purpose. I showed that my "system" allows a student to take a literally instant decision, while yours takes more time and includes unnecessary steps. I've heard no criticism so far about how badly my system works. The only backdraw you find about it is that it doesn't include the popular categorization. I don't find considering the uses of the present simple necessary for selecting the correct verb form.

All in all, you may keep believing in what is written in your Bible... oops... in the traditional grammar, and I'll keep saying, "And yet it moves". :)


Newagenda
Posted: Sunday, May 03, 2015 8:12:01 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/27/2012
Posts: 196
Neurons: 1,957
I was told that the best way to lern the language fast is to pretend as if you were a baby, just listen to the sound of the natives and slowly get to the point of understanding. Soon enough...as you grow..you'll or maybe perfect that language sand sounds like a native.Boo hoo!
tunaafi
Posted: Monday, May 04, 2015 2:10:11 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/3/2014
Posts: 4,453
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Location: Karlín, Praha, Czech Republic
If there were one proven 'best way' of learning a language, everybody would use it. Learners have different learning styles, and need to acquire the language for different purposes. A translator, for instance, may have no need or desire to speak the language at all, while an interpreter may never need or desire to write it.
Helenej
Posted: Monday, May 04, 2015 4:07:55 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/24/2013
Posts: 1,720
Neurons: 8,754
Location: Kiev, Kyiv City, Ukraine
Newagenda wrote:
I was told that the best way to lern the language fast is to pretend as if you were a baby, just listen to the sound of the natives and slowly get to the point of understanding.

You would succeed with this method if at least a couple of natives pretended to be your parents and spoke to you constantly unless you are asleep. :) Real parents and other relatives repeat the same things for their baby numerous times. They comment on every action and every thing that is going on. And when at last you say your first words, they correct you by repeating the words themselves and encouraging you to speak more. Who would want to busy themselves with "being you parents"?
Helenej
Posted: Monday, May 04, 2015 4:24:11 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/24/2013
Posts: 1,720
Neurons: 8,754
Location: Kiev, Kyiv City, Ukraine
daftpunk wrote:
The classification of the present perfect uses into categories which I discussed at length on the forum is widely accepted in the linguistic literature, it is not my invention. It really helps in learning how to use the present perfect correctly.

That classification is as helpful for learning the present perfect as the classification of meals as breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper is helpful for learning how our digestive system works. :)
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