20 September 2005

My diary simplified

I am going to write about myself (again). I am going to try to write using easy words.  I will also try to use short sentences.

In this way, it will be easier for beginner learners to understand. I will record my writing so that people can listening as well as read. Then learners should try to learn the words and phrases at The Linguist web site.

Today is a slow day. I just returned from two weeks in Sweden.  and I am still tired. I woke up a few times last nights. Today is a beautiful day. The skies are blue as I look out my window. I should go outside. Instead I am writing this diary.

I was in Sweden for business. We buy wood in Sweden which we sell to Japan. We also sell software systems in Sweden. We had a problem. That is why I had to go there. More on that in the next post.

20 September 2005

My Diary

I am going to start a diary (again). I am going to try to write it in normal English without making any effort to avoid difficult words. Then I will take each entry and remove all or most of the words that are not included in the most common 1000 words of the English language. I will also try to shorten the sentences in the second post.

In this way, I will produce a second entry which will be easier for beginner learners to follow. I then intend to record both of these entries as a podcast so that people can practise listening to them as well as reading them. These content items will then be integrated with The Linguist system so that learners can systematically learn the words and phrases and link them with the other learning activities of The Linguist.

Today is a slow day. I just returned from a two week trip to Sweden and I am still suffering from jet lag. I was up a few times during the night. Today is a magnificent day. The skies are blue as I look out over my little bay here. I should be on the golf course. Instead I am writing this diary.

I was in Sweden for business. We buy lumber in Sweden which we export to Japan. We also sell software systems in Sweden. We had a bit of a crisis and that is why I had to go there. More on that in the next post.

17 September 2005

A Learning Community

Classroom language teaching has the advantage of forcing the learner to do something. On the other hand it is usually an inefficient way to learn a language.

The Internet is a community with tremendous potential for people to interact with new languages and with each other and to learn languages without leaving home. The problem is that most people are not motivated enough to really apply themselves. At The Linguist we are continuing to try to develop a method for language learning that is efficient and enjoyable. We do, however, have to rely on the learner bringing some motivation.

Some people join us and do very well. Some join and to nothing. We are trying to find the ways to increase the number of people who get motivated and push themselves to learn.

We are rewriting our system right now to make it easier, more fun and more efficient. We do not know how successful we will be in converting more people into self-confident autonomous language learners. Time will tell.

Any comments out there?

25 August 2005

Learner’s views, from another website

My advice to both students is to join The Linguist.

I’ve been to Los Angeles to take some English classes, in order to take the TOEFL exam, I’ve just come back and I wanna review my expirience.
First of all I have to say I’ve been “studying” english, following the “Antimoon method” for about a year and a half(watching a lot of tv shows and movies, with or without english subtitles, reading some book, and looking up for every difficult word or strange grammar, writing some email with my american penpals. I confess I’ve never used Supermemo, ‘cause it’s pretty boring, at least in my opinion. I’ve also been studying pronunciation and the american accent, with Ann Cook’s “American Accent Training” and the useful Antimoon Forum).
Anyway I decided to take these classes to rewiev the teoric stuff (the infamous grammar!) and focus on the Toefl skills, while I would have the opportunity to speak for a whole month with natives and I could test my actual level in pratical situations.
The bottom line is that the english course has been a rip-off, for some reasons:
1)I expected to speak English all the time, but the place I lived in (UCLA) was full of Italians, who didn’t care a damn about speaking english, so I ended up speaking a lot of Italian (my native language)
2) There were a lot of foreign people, whose english was very bad. I think that talking to people who can’t really speak english can damage YOUR english, for many reason: first of all you are exposed to “bad” english, and this can reinforce your mistakes. Second, when you are talking to one of these guys you don’t care about the form, the correct grammar, the right intonation and pronunciation, you do care only about the contents of your message, because it’s hard to communicate with them; instead, when you speak with a native you’ll focus much more on the language.
3)when you are in an english-speaking country, sometimes you are in some situations that require a fast communication (resturants, stores, airports), and again, you’ll focus much more on the content than the language, and this could reniforce your mistakes.
4)The english classes were really useless: I was put in the most advanced level, and still they would stick with the same old crap (modals.. the future in the past.. the articles!!). The teachers were very bad, not really committed and not organized, and the lectures were boring, the only thing they were able to do was to read the grammar book.

I had some satisfactions, though: all the americans I talked with were very impressed about my english, especially the pronunciation and the american accent, they couldn’t recognize my nationality and they asked my how long I’d been living in the Us (I’ve never been in an english speaking country before),and they asked me if one of my parents was american.
I found that as soon as I got there I was really embarassed, I’ve never talk to natives before, and my english was really awkward. I knew I could find the correct expressions and sentences in my mind when I was alone, but when I was speaking to natives, expecially in class, my english freezed.
After a week of “trials and errors”, though, I started feeling more confident, and the right sentences started coming magically to my mind, without thinking about’em.
I think the sentences have always been in my mind, I’ve acquired them with all the inputs I’ve been exposed, like Antimoon explains, but I think that in the first place they were blocked by some psychological obstruction. At the end of the month I found myself thinking in english,and thinking about all the sentences I could use in some differnt situations. Hence, I agree with Antimoon about the inputs and the fact that speaking can reinforce your mistakes in some ways, but I also think some conversation pracitce is necessary, maybe monitored by natives, and focused on all the aspects of the language and not on the topic ( you wanna focus on “how you say it”, and not on “what you say it”).
Anyway, I took the Toefl test, scoring 275/300 without studying a single word of grammar.
I wanna advise all the Antimoon readers that intend to take the Toefl test not to waste a lot of money with this english courses, that are all scams, but to stick with the Antimoon method: watching tv, reading some book, chatting,writing, and maybe talking with some natives. I don’t know about the other exams (Cambridge, Ielts, and so on) but I think it’s the same.

tae won   Thu Aug 25, 2005 3:36 am GMT
I totally agree with you, JL Italy. I’ve been studying English for one and a half years with the Antimoon method. And now I think I’m falling in love with English. :)) In Korea, the most famous English exam is TOEIC (Test Of English for International Communication) which lots of college students need to take to get a good job with a big corporate such as Samsung, LG, etc. And some unversities require a certain point of TOEIC of their students to ‘let’ them graduate. Many students in Korea are tired of taking some English test and also studying their majors. Even students who are not interested in laguages can’t help but studying English for their career. So, actually, they do study English really hard and get some high TOEIC score before they graduate. But the problem is having a high TOEIC score doesn’t really match the real English fluency. I saw a student who got a 920/990 score couldn’t communicate with a native in a real situation. I think that’s because they focused on only the TOEIC test and its tips. I really want to introduce this method to my friends and other students. And I will. If you start to get interested in the language of English, itself, I think the TOEFL or TOEIC test won’t be a problem.

24 August 2005

The Linguist Club and The Linguist Challenge

The Linguist Club is a free area in The Linguist. The Linguist Club has limited content and limited functionality. The Linguist Club does not provide tutoring, English conversation or writing correction services. It does, however, give an idea of what The Linguist is all about. In order to join you need to go to the site and click on “contact us”.

FM 96.1 Vancouver 各位听众为了了解预言家挑战请看这个说明

This is to remind our listeners on FM 96.1 Vancouver about their chance to participate in The Linguist challenge. Click on this link to read about The Linguist Challenge in Chinese and English. To join you will need to go to The Linguist website  and click on “contact us”. Just send us an email to tell us you are interested.

23 August 2005

constant improvement without perfection

The following exchange was from our Forum at The Linguist. It might be of interest.

Question from Daniel Lautenbach, Germany.

“I think all of the above mentioned articles are very good. They explain the usage and the value of each single step of The Linguist system clearly. They are written in a highly motivating way. It is a perfect mixture of explanation, motivation, and marketing of your product and services. It also considers the basic purpose of your system: “Learning English without being forced to”.

The Linguist system has already reached a high level of professionalism. I would like to suggest two ways to improve your system further. I, and probably other students too, would like to get some more details on how to learn the huge amount of words The Linguist system recommends to learn. It is nearly impossible to click on a word, translate it, store it in the database, repeat all the words 10 to 20 minutes per day, and remember all the words and their meanings. Do you have special hints or advice on how to learn? “

My answer

“One of my principles of language learning is “constant improvement without perfection”. You will not achieve perfection so do not worry about it. Do not worry about the words you cannot remember. Just keep improving.

The goals that you set for yourself in The Linguist are meant to encourage good self-study habits. If you listen often, and read often and study words and phrases often, you will improve. You will become more observant of the key words and phrases that you need. You will notice them in different contexts. You will become more confident in using these words and phrases.You will start to use them naturally and almost unexpectedly.

But you cannot learn all the words and phrases that you are saving. The first time I save a word or phrase in another language, it just goes and sits somewhere in my brain, but I cannot retrieve it.  It is only after repeated exposure to the word that I will actually be able to retrieve it, to remember its meaning and eventually to use it.

But it does not matter! Keep saving words and phrases. Keep reviewing words and phrases.As you see your statistics of saved words and phrases growing, you can feel proud and confident that you are improving your mastery of vocabulary. You have sent these little items into some part of your brain. Through continued exposure you will gradually improve your ability to retrieve them when you need them. Keep listening and reading and reviewing. Try to save a list of words and phrases and use them in writing and speaking. Let our tutors be your personal coaches for constant feedback, encouragement and advice.”

14 August 2005

It makes it all worthwhile

I just spoke on the telephone with one of our learners in Vancouver. He is a former research scientist from China (Harbin) who drives a fork lift in a fish packing plant in Vancouver. He has been on our system for 10 days and has saved over 300 words and 200 phrases. He has studied English for 20 years and thinks our approach is the most practical and effective he has come across. He is enthusiastic and a self-starter. He says many of the immigrants from China have simply given up and accept their less than satisfactory position here and make no effort to improve their English or their social position.

He is different. He is a man of action. I will get together with him and have some Chinese 白酒 (white liquor). I have been reading three books in a row on Napoleon. Prior to that I read a biography of Ghengis Khan. We are what we make of our lives. My conversation with that student has further inspired me. People who grab a hold of opportunities in life and do not complain are the ones that make things happen for all the other followers.Thank you my student. I am your student.

14 August 2005

Fusion

A few nights ago my wife and I invited some friends. One couple were originally Chinese, one from Hong Kong and his wife from Taiwan. Their favourite country to visit was Italy, for the wine the food and the ambiente. The other two couples were of Anglo-Canadian origin, one originally from Newfoundland. My wife is from Macau of a Chinese father and a Costa Rican mother. My parents were born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, grew up in Czechoslovakia and I was born in Sweden and moved to Canada at the age of 5.

We had gravad lax, which my wife makes by simply marinating salmon in salt, sugar and dill. We eat this with a thimble or two of Akvavit. There is a song that goes with that.

Then we had a curry that was Sinified in a wok along with various salsas and tatskikis that my wife made to go with it. In the background was Paganini, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and then some Portuguese Fados. The wine was an excellent red from the Okanagan that my friend (originally from

Hong Kong ) brought because he is a wine connoisseur. It was more than excellent.

Last night I was in a restaurant in Yaletown called Shirobay. Japanese izakaya style tapas restaurant. I had negitoro and avocado on garlic bread which went really well with red wine. This was followed by sautéed scallops and squid with a side dish of kimchi and more red wine.

Long live fusion. Long live combining the creative efforts of people from all cultures. Lets stop focusing on the difference and celebrate what we can enjoy together.

9 August 2005

Anne of Green Gables phrases

For the purposes of my radio program I am going to underline useful phrases from the following text of Anne of Green Gables. You find this text both in the Main Linguist Library and in the limited Linguist Club Library. You can listen to the text and work on learning words and phrases. We will be adding new chapters every week.

It is important that learners develop the ability to discover their own phrases and use them. I have selected a large number of phrases, of varying degrees of difficulty. These phrases are all typical of how a native speaker puts words together.

Learn to look for phrases. Learn to use phrases. Get the phrases right and you will not have to worry about grammar.

Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 1, Part 1

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Chapter 1 – Mrs. Rachel Lynde is Surprised

Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a valley where it was crossed by a brook. This brook started as a fast flowing brook but by the time it reached Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s house, it was quiet. Not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard for decency and good behaviour. The brook probably knew that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, watching everything that passed, including brooks and children. If she noticed anything odd or out of place she would surely find out why.

There are plenty of people in Avonlea who concern themselves about their neighbor’s business but neglect their own. Mrs. Rachel Lynde was one of those capable people who can manage their own concerns and those of other folks at the same time. She was a capable housewife. Her work was always done and well done. She “ran” the Sewing Circle, helped run the Sunday-school, and was the strongest supporter of the Church Aid Society and Foreign Missions Auxiliary. Still, Mrs. Rachel found plenty of time to sit for hours at her kitchen window, knitting while keeping a sharp eye on the main road.

Since Avonlea was on a little piece of land jutting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with water on two sides of it, anybody who passed by had to pass over that hill road where they would be seen by Mrs. Rachel’s all-seeing eye.

She was sitting there one afternoon in early June. The sun was coming in at the window warm and bright. The orchard on the slope below the house was in pinky-white bloom, hummed over by bees. Thomas Lynde – a meek little man whom Avonlea people called “Rachel Lynde’s husband” – was sowing his late turnip seed on the hill field beyond the barn. Matthew Cuthbert ought to have been sowing his seed on the big red brook field over by Green Gables. Mrs. Rachel had heard him tell Peter Morrison the evening before in William J. Blair’s store over at Carmody that he meant to sow his turnip seed the next afternoon. Peter had asked him, of course, for Matthew Cuthbert had never been known to volunteer information about anything in his whole life.

And yet here was Matthew Cuthbert, at half-past three on the afternoon of a busy day, placidly driving over the hollow and up the hill, dressed in a white collar and his best suit of clothes, which was plain proof that he was going out of Avonlea. He had the buggy and the sorrel mare which further indicated that he was most likely going a considerable distance. Now, where was Matthew Cuthbert going and why was he going there?

Had it been any other man in Avonlea, Mrs. Rachel might have given a pretty good guess as to the answer of both of these questions. But Matthew so rarely left his home that it must be something pressing and unusual which was taking him. Matthew Cuthbert was quite possibly the shyest man alive and hated to have to go to strangers or to any place where he might have to talk. Indeed, Matthew dressed up with a white collar and driving in a buggy was something that didn’t happen often. Ponder as she might, Mrs. Rachel Lynde could make nothing of Matthew Cuthbert?s peculiar behaviour and as a result, her afternoon’s enjoyment was spoiled.

7 August 2005

e-learning

I am struck by the opposition to e-learning from within educational institutions in Canada. Rather than seeing e-learning as an opportunity to provide education of various kinds to a broader range of people than can be accommodated in institutions, teachers seem to see it as a threat to their livelihood. A recent meeting I had was only the latest illustration of this sad fact.

Our lumber company has always contributed annually to various charities. Since I launched The Linguist, I make sure a portion of our donations go to literacy education. We have been working with a local Rotary club to develop a program whereby the members of this Rotary club would record content about their careers, companies, history etc. This could be transcribed and become learning material for The Linguist that would be especially useful for recent immigrants, many of whom are struggling financially. The Rotarians could also mentor learners.This could all be done via The Linguist which we would make available free to group of learners.

Our company gave a considerable amount of money to the Rotary club to cover teachers, MP3 players and other expenses. The club arranged a meeting with a local Immigrant Services Society which is paid for by government money and from charitable foundations. The Rotary club was thinking of giving the money to this organization to administer the program.

In my first meeting with the Immigrant Service Society I was told the following.

1)Language teaching can only happen face to face, nothing else works. People need to learn the body language. ( I forgot to ask if they even bothered to look at our website).

2) Their students do not have computers. They are poor. This kind of learning would alienate them. (Well what about others in the community that they are not now serving I asked, the professional immigrants.)

2) Immigrant professionals do not need to improve their English,I was told. The only problem is prejudice against certain accents and the unwillingness of employers to recognize foreign credentials and experience. (Of course there is some prejudice against accents, not only non-native ones, but also regional variants of English. This kind of prejudice is not deep, and is only one of many factors an employer considers. The ability to communicate easily and naturally is more important than accents.)

3) The only part of our proposal that was of interest to them , they said, was the mentoring by the Rotary club members. Language learning can only happen in a class room, they said with emphasis.

4) Then they said that It should still be possible to work something out, however. (Even though they had completely dismissed our system they thought we could work together!) The problem was that there was no benefit for the Immigrant Service Society. In their words, I benefit by spreading my system, the Rotary benefits by appearing to help the community, but what about their Society? What is in it for them? (The fact that I was providing the funding for a program that might help 50-100 immigrants over 6 months was an irrelevant detail. The idea that they might develop a new outreach program to a client group that they were not serving did not seem to interest them.)

At that point I said that there was no fit here and ended the meeting.