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.

3 August 2005

The Linguist Challenge

The Linguist Challenge

This Challenge is only available for residents of B.C and is carried out in conjunction with the period of the radio program. it is especially conceived to encourage more recent immigrants to look at new ways to continue improving their English. There will be other promotions. Please stay posted.

You will improve your English language skills with good study habits. The Linguist website (www.thelinguist.com) will help you develop learning habits that can change your life, regardless of your age or English level. Now is the time to get started.

As part of my 13 week program at 96.1 FM radio, I am offering The Linguist Challenge to all listeners. We have created a section of our Linguist website that is free of charge. This is called The Linguist Club. (语言家俱乐部). Please register there to become a free member of The Linguist Club and start improving your English, the way I learned nine languages.

Please read all instructions carefully. Download the manual (用户指南) and read it. There is a lot of explanation in English and Chinese.

Every week the three most active learners in The Linguist Club will receive a free copy of my book, The Linguist, A Personal Guide to Language Learning, a headset microphone and the chance to take part in online discussions at The Linguist with our tutors and learners from around the world. Winners will also be able to submit a short sample of their writing for correction. Winners will be announced each week during my program.

In addition, during the first weeks of The Linguist Challenge, I will select five very active Linguist Club members and give them 3-months free Premium Membership in The Linguist system. This package is our most intense study level, with tutoring by me as well as other tutors.

To be eligible, candidates must agree to spend 90 minutes a day working on improving their English using The Linguist method. They must agree to speak on my radio show, either in person or via telephone, twice during the 3-month period, to tell the audience about their experience with The Linguist. Please email me if you are interested in this opportunity.

That is The Linguist Challenge!

“语言家”终极挑战

如果拥有良好的学习习惯,您就会轻松提高英语语言能力。“语言家”网站(www.thelinguist.com)会帮您养成能改变您一生的学习习惯,不论您的年龄或英语水平如何。那么现在就让我们开始。

作为调频96.1 FM电台第13周节目的一部分,我向所有听众献上“语言家”终极挑战。我们在“语言家”网站开辟了一个新栏目,完全免费,名叫“The Linguist Club (“语言家”俱乐部)。请在此注册,成为“语言家”俱乐部的免费会员,开始提高您的英语水平,就像我学会9种语言那样。

请仔细阅读所有说明。下载并阅读《用户指南》。这里有许多中英文解释。

每周都会有三名最活跃的“语言家”俱乐部学员免费获得一本我写的书——《我的语言学习之旅》,一副麦克风耳机,还有机会在“语言家”网站同我们的辅导员和世界各地的学员一起参加在线讨论。优胜者还能提交一份作文以供批改。每周会在我的节目中公布获奖名单。

另外,“语言家”终极挑战的头几周,我会挑选五名活跃的“语言家”俱乐部会员,奉送“语言家”系统的3个月免费高级会员资格。此会员套装是我们学习最为紧凑的会员资格,由我还有其他辅导员进行个别辅导。

想要成为幸运儿之一,您每天必须花90分钟使用“语言家”方法提高英语。您必须同意在三个月间参与两次我的电台节目,或是现场露面,或是通过电话,向听众介绍使用“语言家”的经验。如果您感兴趣,请给我发Email

这就是“语言家”终极挑战!

3 August 2005

To ESL learner on confidence

A very interesting comment from ESL learner here below to which I would like to respond here.

First let me say that every language is worth learning, whether spoken by a few people or by many. Nevertheless, at certain times and in certain places, some languages are more useful than others. English is very useful today. The policies of the

US

or

England

may be unpopular, but there is a great depth of history and literature and a great number of good people to know through English. The same was true for Russian under Stalin, Chinese under

Mao

,

India

and

Pakistan

even when they are rivals, and any other country and language. For people to ridicule others who try to learn languages is simply childish. We have a short time on this planet and should spend our time learning whatever interests us.

In my experience I was much less sure of myself in my twenties, than I am now. I am more confident in most situations now that I ever was. I guess this is experience. It is the feeling that you have seen a lot and are not easily surprised or awed by things. I recognize now that there were situations when I was younger when I could have been stronger or more confident. Maybe it is just a matter of maturity and battle hardiness.

I recommend that whenever you can, you just recognize that you are as good as any other person, although no better. If you respect others, you have the right to be respected. You have no need to be nervous.

When we are younger we are more self-conscious. We think we appear nervous. In fact, people normally do not pay that much attention. If we have good ideas or something positive to offer, whether it be a service, or friendship, that is really all people expect of us.

Take your life into your own hands and you will not regret it.