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studychinese

Calling out the polygots

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Wippen (inactive)

 

11 minutes ago, Shelley said:

I think mainly because that topic just started to go round and round and it wasn't really achieving anything.

 

I guess we exhausted that topic.

If people want to discuss it why not let them? Who decides if a topic is not worthy of discussion?

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DavyJonesLocker
8 minutes ago, Tøsen said:

Who decides if a topic is not worthy of discussion?

 

The Mods I assume ;)

At least he got attention.

As Oscar Wilde said

 

"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."

 

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Wippen (inactive)
7 minutes ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

The Mods I assume ;)

I guess I should check the guidelines to see what we may discuss and what is taboo. I accept certain sensitive topics maybe taboo.

I think it is ok to discuss this subject regardless of whether it goes in circles or not. If I am not at liberty to discuss Benny Lewis here, let me know please.

 

A forum lives off people's contributions, all kinds of contributions.

 

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imron
50 minutes ago, Tøsen said:

why may we not discuss on these forums?

I'm not saying you're not allowed to bring up Benny at all, just don't rehash that same thread.  Benny hasn't really done anything with his Mandarin in the last several years, and people who have something to say about him, have probably already said it. 

 

I mean do you have anything particularly new or insightful to add beyond the discussion in that thread?  By page 16, not many people did, and it's not productive to turn every thread on polyglots in to a hate on Benny thread.

 

11 minutes ago, Tøsen said:

Who decides if a topic is not worthy of discussion?

Admin usually (there's a section on Moderation in the T's&C's that goes in to more detail).  I mean we're generally pretty easy going and regularly let troublesome discussions go on far longer than they should, but ultimately this is a moderated forums, and that is part of the attraction to many members here, so once discussions degenerate (or start to look like they might) then we step in.  Certain topics are more polarizing and tend to degenerate faster than others.  There's no exhaustive list, it's more "I'll know it when I see it".

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Wippen (inactive)
2 hours ago, imron said:

people who have something to say about him, have probably already said it

This is a bit biased to people who have been a member for a long time. I feel a forum should be open to new Input. That way it can grow and does not get stuck in old ideas.

 

2 hours ago, imron said:

I mean do you have anything particularly new or insightful to add beyond the discussion in that thread? 

I feel the same way as others about Benny Lewis. It is though fun to point out the scam. However, I will add that after his learn chinese in 3 months claim and the subsequent stick he got, he did appear to show some humility.

 

2 hours ago, imron said:
2 hours ago, Tøsen said:

 

Admin usually (there's a section on Moderation in the T's&C's that goes in to more detail).  I mean we're generally pretty easy going

I had a look at the guidelines. There is certainly "a don't suffer fools gladly" tone in there. That may or may not deter some new members.

But let's not turn this into a discussion about how you run things on the forums. That is entirely your decision.

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studychinese
8 hours ago, Tøsen said:

why may we not discuss on these forums?

 

It seems that people got sick of discussing Benny. I suppose that is the reason for Roddy's negative reaction to this thread. I, however, was unaware of that thread from 2012.

 

Besides, this isn't about Benny and I don't want to make it about him. Rather we are talking about a set of ideas pushed by many (not all) polyglots that are not true.

 

One of the big ones discussed over on that thread was the concept of language distance, and accordingly the difficulty of the target language depending on the native language of the learner and the distance (in linguistic terms not geographical distance, although they often correlate) to the target language. 

 

Back to Benny because we can use him as a model for the YouTube polyglots in general. Benny lists one of the languages that he is fluent in as "Chinese mandarin". He also sells a Chinese learning product, extolling "loopholes" and "short cuts" that will allow a person to learn mandarin faster than in a standard Chinese course, supposedly never thought of by more experienced scholars of the Chinese language. There a few problems with this. 

 

1.  Benny speaks about as much Chinese as I speak Vietnamese, yet he calls himself fluent in Chinese. If I said that I was fluent in Vietnamese, I would believe that to be a lie. So Benny is either mistaken or lying about being fluent in Chinese. 

 

2. Despite having "loopholes" and "short cuts" unknown to the dunderheads on this forum, at the end of 3 months in China, Benny did not have higher Chinese language ability than a normal monolingual person doing an in-country Chinese course in a language school after three months. Far from discovering a more advanced technique than the regulars on this forum, his technique doesn't seem to be better than conventional learning and his own abilities after three months were nothing special. 

 

3. He had a forgone conclusion about the relative difficulty of the Chinese language compared to European languages for an English speaker. His position then and now is that Chinese is no more difficult for an English speaker than a European language. Much research has been done into this subject and the findings are that Chinese is more difficult, and it takes far more time to become proficient in Chinese for an English speaker than a European language. Benny says that he dispelled this "myth" but has no evidence, and certainly his own poor Chinese ability is not evidence. 

 

4. Most of his "loopholes" are stuff that people on this forum were already doing long before Benny appeared on the scene. Things like italki. 

 

My assessment is that Benny doesn't know much about Chinese at all, whether that be Chinese language ability, or teaching people how to learn Chinese. 

 

Polyglot Richard Simcott seems OK in the sense that he actually talks about language distance and accruing benefits from acquiring language mastery within the same language family (although I doubt that he is fluent in most of the languages he “speaks“) 

 

My final detailed thought on the polyglots is that their abilities in various languages are exactly what you would expect given the amount of time that they put into learning the languages. For the most part their learning is wide but not deep, although some appear to have developed mastery within a particular language family, not surprisingly clustered around the languages rated easiest for English speakers to learn according to The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US State Department. 

 

There is nothing surprising going on with the polyglots. I don't see any autistic savants among them. Their language acquisition is subject to opportunity cost like any other activity. And when studying several languages comes at the cost of focusing on a single language, that means that the opportunity cost is not achieving mastery in any language. 

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imron
4 hours ago, Tøsen said:

I feel a forum should be open to new Input.

Sure, but is there really any *new* input or just rehashing the same old points?  The former is welcome, the latter not so much, especially for topics that have historically been known for going in circles.

 

4 hours ago, Tøsen said:

There is certainly "a don't suffer fools gladly" tone in there. That may or may not deter some new members.

Only the fools :mrgreen:

 

For others, they might find a respite from fools welcoming.

 

36 minutes ago, studychinese said:

this isn't about Benny and I don't want to make it about him

That was my entire point.

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Wippen (inactive)
11 hours ago, studychinese said:

Back to Benny because we can use him as a model for the YouTube polyglots in general. Benny lists one of the languages that he is fluent in as "Chinese mandarin". He also sells a Chinese learning product, extolling "loopholes" and "short cuts" that will allow a person to learn mandarin faster than in a standard Chinese course, supposedly never thought of by more experienced scholars of the Chinese language. There a few problems with this. 

 

1.  Benny speaks about as much Chinese as I speak Vietnamese, yet he calls himself fluent in Chinese. If I said that I was fluent in Vietnamese, I would believe that to be a lie. So Benny is either mistaken or lying about being fluent in Chinese. 

 

2. Despite having "loopholes" and "short cuts" unknown to the dunderheads on this forum, at the end of 3 months in China, Benny did not have higher Chinese language ability than a normal monolingual person doing an in-country Chinese course in a language school after three months. Far from discovering a more advanced technique than the regulars on this forum, his technique doesn't seem to be better than conventional learning and his own abilities after three months were nothing special. 

 

3. He had a forgone conclusion about the relative difficulty of the Chinese language compared to European languages for an English speaker. His position then and now is that Chinese is no more difficult for an English speaker than a European language. Much research has been done into this subject and the findings are that Chinese is more difficult, and it takes far more time to become proficient in Chinese for an English speaker than a European language. Benny says that he dispelled this "myth" but has no evidence, and certainly his own poor Chinese ability is not evidence. 

 

4. Most of his "loopholes" are stuff that people on this forum were already doing long before Benny appeared on the scene. Things like italki. 

 

My assessment is that Benny doesn't know much about Chinese at all, whether that be Chinese language ability, or teaching people how to learn Chinese. 

 

Polyglot Richard Simcott seems OK in the sense that he actually talks about language distance and accruing benefits from acquiring language mastery within the same language family (although I doubt that he is fluent in most of the languages he “speaks“) 

 

My final detailed thought on the polyglots is that their abilities in various languages are exactly what you would expect given the amount of time that they put into learning the languages. For the most part their learning is wide but not deep, although some appear to have developed mastery within a particular language family, not surprisingly clustered around the languages rated easiest for English speakers to learn according to The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US State Department. 

 

11 hours ago, studychinese said:

 

 

I am copying this out and quoting as I thought your analysis was very useful. I also liked the eloquent (if you can use "eloquent" about writing) way you wrote it: Your choice of words and the flow.

 

I understand your point about the autistic savants. Everybody can learn another languge.

 

I continue to think that some people are able to learn some things quicker than others and that sometimes it does not depend on the time you have invested, but you or someone else mentioned that I think. For example being able to produce accurately something they have heard once (vocab, Intonation etc) and therefore they can produce that parrot fashion. This is what appears to impress other people.

 

Compare it to native speakers. They know their mother tongue, but not everyone speaks it equally well.

 

 

 

By the way if it was easy as Benny, Kaufmann et al (those who are selling something) says everone would be doing it.

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Lu
35 minutes ago, Tøsen said:

I am copying this out and quoting

Please don't do that, we're trying to avoid long walls of quotes here. That's the reason there is no quote button.

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Wippen (inactive)
Just now, Lu said:

Please don't do that, we're trying to avoid long walls of quotes here. That's the reason there is no quote button

As a new user I am still finding my feet. There seems to be a lot of rules and sometimes criticism. I kind of feeling my creativity is being stifled, a bit, if I am honest. But it is your forum.

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Lu
5 minutes ago, Tøsen said:

As a new user I am still finding my feet.

As a new user, you probably didn't know this preference (it's not a hard rule). That's why I explained it to you.

But I see now that this is the second time in this thread you're asked to not do something, so I can see that can be annoying. Please be assured that neither I nor Imron was trying to criticise you or stifle your creativity.

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Wippen (inactive)
1 minute ago, Lu said:

neither I nor Imron was trying to criticise you or stifle your creativity.

Glad we got that one out of the way without any smileys

:-)

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roddy

Creativity welcome. If you have any questions or comments about how the site runs, ask away.

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Shelley

IMHO copying out and pasting someone else's post is hardly creative - creating something new is creative. To be honest I didn't even bother to re-read it.

 

However I do welcome your continued efforts to post interesting titbits and include the vocabulary - that's creative.

 

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Xiao Kui

I don't mind the polyglot/hyperpolyglot crew, and I'm even somewhat of a fan, though I don't have those aspirations myself. Personally, I'd rather study a few languages deeply than be able to hold a conversation in 6+, but that's a personal preference.  I think that some of the polyglots are really language hackers.  They have learned how languages work so they are able to hack and use a new one in a relatively short amount of time.  One true polyglot that I am very impressed with is Tim Keeley.  He has attained to a high level in  both Romance and  Asian languages. He is a professor in a Japanese university and lectures in Japanese.  He is also fluent in Nepali, Chinese, Polish, Spanish, Thai, and several other languages. He has not achieved this through superficial language hacking, but through immersion and diligent study, living 2+ years in different countries around the world over the course of his adult life.

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uvwxyz
On 6/21/2017 at 11:31 PM, studychinese said:

What these people are doing is selling dubious or derivative study methods. Perhaps I have been set off on this rant because I have met a few people like this randomly, people that have come up to me and announced that they speak such and such a language. So I said "oh, here is a native speaker right here, have a chat", and saw their ability completely fail outside of rehearsed lines.

It is absolutely clear that all these people do is sell snake oil. This is only human, and the motivation such "fluent in 3 months" courses may or may not provide, disappears after the first contact of a learner with reality / native speakers. The few common-place "secrets" like using Anki can be put on, and probably not even fill, a single page.

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happy_hyaena
On 2/28/2018 at 1:10 PM, Xiao Kui said:

One true polyglot that I am very impressed with is Tim

 

I'm also very impressed by him. I watched one of his talks and it made me realize something that maybe some of the people here haven't yet, and that is just how "difficult" Chinese is in comparison to other Western languages (to Westerners). 

 

If you're a native English speaker who spent 4-5 years fervently studying Chinese to a high level, you probably could've reached a similar level in multiple Romance languages during that same time period. A famous polyglot, Professor Arguelles, talked about learning Spanish, Italian, French and German in 5 years. If you speak English, you automatically know a big number of vocab if you go into French or Spanish, and once you know one of those languages in addition to your English the next will be an order of magnitude easier. Check out the Wikipedia article on Lexical Similarity - French-Italian and Portuguese-Spanish both have a similarity of 0.89. What Tim Kelly specifically said was that, after having studied multiple Slavic languages like Russian and Polish and maybe one more, an hour in Slovak was the equivalent of "50 days of Sherpa or Nepali". The Foreign Service Institute also put Chinese at 2200 hours for fluency, whereas languages like French, Dutch or Swedish might not even require 600 hours.

 

Another polyglot I like is Vladimir Skultety, who has also talked about how much he has struggled with Chinese. He now works as a translator from Chinese into English and Slovak, but even after 8 years he's still not happy about his level.

 

Okay, I know I'm coming across as a little full of myself here by praising ourselves for learning Chinese, but maybe these polyglots aren't so bad... At least when it comes to speaking highly interrelated languages.

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AaronUK

I was thinking about this post. You know it’s only really the 'polyglots' i come across online that claim fluency in Chinese.

 

While thinking about studying Chinese in a Chinese speaking country, I never really see any blogs/reviews/feedback saying 'I studied in university X for 1 semester/year' and achieved X level of fluency in that time. People usually just say are 'can get around/get by' level or passed an HSK exam, but thats not necessarily helpful to understand their fluency, especially as you don't need to be fluent in HSK vocabulary and grammar in everyday use to pass the exam.

 

I don't know if it’s just the general humility required by those who advance in Chinese that they would never make a fluency claim or if it’s just considered standard that if you study for 2 years in China (actively trying to acquire language) of course you would become fluent so it doesn't require mentioning?

 

If more people claimed to simply have obtained fluency based on a normal study of X period of time. it might make polyglots lose some of their marketing strength. Their methods generally involve getting away from their mother tongue as quickly as possible and only using the target language.

 

I would probably consider fluency the point at which you have conversations in Chinese and Chinese speakers would feel comfortable explaining using Chinese language the things you don't understand. I don't think polygots really reach this level in the period they describe, although they are clearly working towards this.

 

 Does anyone have any idea how long that usually takes people to get to that level through a regular study like university or classes? Wondering peoples own experiences.

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Flickserve
4 hours ago, AaronUK said:

Does anyone have any idea how long that usually takes people to get to that level through a regular study like university or classes? Wondering peoples own experiences.

 

University as in a non China University or a China University?

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AaronUK

haha I mean a China University for full time language program.

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