Sunday, December 06, 2009

Tell me a story...

The other day, I wrote about using bilingual texts to get to know bits of a language the same way a child comes to know the content of a story book. There's another possibility, of course, and that's getting your iPod to read you the same story over and over. I've been doing this with the first ten lessons or so of Lingva Latina. First I follow along as the text is read to me, understanding what I understand and not understanding what I don't. Then I go through the text more carefully (though not what you'd call an intensive reading) to make sure I understand fairly well what's going on. After that, in spare moments, I put on a lesson and listen. If I'm not understanding, I'll go back and look up the text, but usually that's not the case.

What I'm talking about here is, of course, nothing new. But I'd like to think I have one thing to contribute here: I'm being completely unscientific about it! No log book, no documented number of hours listening, no careful shadowing of the phrases. The idea is to get to where I follow (extremely simple) Latin in the background, as though someone else were listening to it on the radio and I caught a snippet, for example.

We all need exposure to comprehensible input. What could be better, then, than content you've already worked out? You just need a way to get exposure without being bored to tears.

I'd like to tip my hat to Steve the Linguist a little bit here. In the past, I've been agitated that there aren't a lot of good resources for learning to speak languages likes Latin, Ancient Greek and Old English. I'd add Sanskrit (resources exist but I'm largely unimpressed; suggestions in the comments?) and Old Irish to that list (though they're working on Gothic!). And in the long run, I still think it would be neat to be able to chat in them. But right now, that's not where I am. In fact, at the moment I'm delighted to be able to pick up some Latin and get a sense of what's going on. And the other day, after painstakingly working through a Sanskrit lesson at EIEOL I was thrilled to feel a bit of the Rig Veda seeing the ways words related to Savitar's name echoed through the text. Seeing as I have no plans to be a Vedic or Latin scholar and no Romans or Ancient Indo-Aryans are due in town next week, these are not languages I need to start producing speech in and so I'm really just enjoying the content and the fun of language learning.

Reading and listening a set number of hours can be good things. First and most important, it's a good motivational tool - it lets you document that you're doing something and it drives you to do something during the slow periods. Learning to speak is also a good thing - the active side of language knowledge is important. That said, language learning burnout is pretty common, and one of the reasons is that people forget they're doing it for fun. As the holidays approach, a lot of people will be busy traveling, preparing for guests, squeezing in all the stuff at work that needs to be done before year-end, etc. It's a rough time for steady work at a hobby. So if things start to slip, don't worry about it. Instead, find yourself some audio or simple text, listen and read when you can, and make sure you're enjoying your time with the language(s) you're learning.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jared Grubb said...

There's a language club in Boston that learns language this way... they pass out CD's of songs and stories in all sorts of languages, and the idea is that you go through stages, listening until you can mimic the sounds and then slowly learning the meanings. They believe you can learn six or seven languages fluently this way... It's a neat concept. http://www.lexlrf.org

8:28 PM  
Blogger William said...

This is something I've been planning to do with some Japanese 'readers' I've picked up. I haven't gotten around to it, but I'm glad to know that it seems to be working for you... Maybe now I can force myself to find some time for it.

3:51 AM  

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