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Calling out the polygots

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uvwxyz
10 hours ago, AaronUK said:

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.

What you're describing is essentially C2 on CEFR. Most Youtube/book-selling polyglots are B1-B2 on average. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_European_Framework_of_Reference_for_Languages#Common_reference_levels

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happy_hyaena
8 hours ago, uvwxyz said:

What you're describing is essentially C2 on CEFR. Most Youtube/book-selling polyglots are B1-B2 on average. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_European_Framework_of_Reference_for_Languages#Common_reference_levels

 

No, you do not need to be at C2 for a Chinese speaker to be able to explain things to you in Chinese. An example of C2 would be if you first go to the hospital for a check-up and the doctor explains your condition to you using specialized Chinese terminology, then you go to work and discuss your work in Chinese with your colleagues, and finally after work you attend a museum exhibition about some emperor and you can understand everything (signs, guides, brochures, etc) perfectly.

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Lumbering Ox
20 hours ago, happy_hyaena said:

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

Spoiler

 

 

No spoiler above, I messed up and can't delete it.

 

Add about another 70% for study time, those numbers are classroom only. Also I believe that is to get to roughly a C1 level.

That doesn't change the point you are making as the ratios stay the same. Just being shallow and pedantic like Lois Griffin's meatloaf.

 

20 hours ago, AaronUK said:

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 read an article of someone who passed the hsk 6 in a year.

She had this powerful secret. I am not sure if I should share it here as it is worth so much.

Ah screw it, here it is.

She worked really really hard. Gasp!

Pretty much every waking hour of the day either studying Chinese or speaking to Chinese people or whatever in Chinese. She IIRC was doing a year long course and spent her time out of class working the language instead of watching Big Bang Theory in the English or getting drunk with fellow nationals.

365 hours a day, say 14 hours a day of work, that's about 5000 hours. I would hazard that she was fluent in HSK Chinese and the real deal.

I've read of a Chinese girl who basically did the same thing in German. A full year of all German all the time.

But who does that in reality.

Challenge accepted anyone? Any legendary Chinese learning Barney Stinsons out there?

 

4012225.jpg?543

 

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Wippen (inactive)

@happy_hyaena Do you not think it is a lot more to do with understanding all idioms, turn of phrases, rarer words,  academic language, , rather than necessarily a medical conditions.  And above all, it is about being able to employ These phrases, not just passively understand. Natives do have problems when the doctor is diagnosing a condition and is using technical terms, in all languages. But a C2 Level and a native speaker can probably deduct what the technical terms mean,.

 

I think the paper Beyond the Plateau by prof Jack C. Richards explains the attainment of higher level well and why it is difficult. I am copying a section to illustrate an example

 

"Multi-word chunks

"There are many factors that can contribute to the naturalness of speech. One

important factor is the extent to which the learners are using what are sometimes

called multi-word “chunks,” as well as conversational routines or fixed

expressions. Random patterns of words do not occur together in speech, but

often occur as multi-word chunks" Source.

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Shelley
3 hours ago, Tøsen said:

understanding all idioms, turn of phrases, rarer words,  academic language

I think you should consider fluent the point at which you can converse in the second language as well as in your mother tongue, so this depends on whether  you know al of the above in your first language. I couldn't discuss some technical things in English so i wouldn't expect to in Chinese.

 

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Wippen (inactive)
10 minutes ago, Shelley said:

couldn't discuss some technical things in English so i wouldn't expect to in Chinese.

Some people have a broader vocabulary in their second language than they do in their mother tongue, for example if a profession has taken them abroad. They may find themselves not knowing technical terms from that Profession in their mother tongue. Furthermore, the longer you stay in another Country,  which has a different language than your mother tongue, -if you are no longer exposed to your mother tongue-, the second language may be at a higher level.

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happy_hyaena
10 hours ago, Lumbering Ox said:

365 hours a day, say 14 hours a day of work, that's about 5000 hours. I would hazard that she was fluent in HSK Chinese and the real deal.

I've read of a Chinese girl who basically did the same thing in German. A full year of all German all the time.

But who does that in reality.

Challenge accepted anyone? Any legendary Chinese learning Barney Stinsons out there?

 

This poster did it:

https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/43939-independent-chinese-study-review/

One of the most interesting posts on this forum, it's by a guy (experienced language learner/polyglot) who spent 4 months in Taiwan.

 

10 hours ago, Tøsen said:

Do you not think it is a lot more to do with understanding all idioms, turn of phrases, rarer words,  academic language, , rather than necessarily a medical conditions.  And above all, it is about being able to employ These phrases, not just passively understand. Natives do have problems when the doctor is diagnosing a condition and is using technical terms, in all languages. But a C2 Level and a native speaker can probably deduct what the technical terms mean,.

 

You're right, idioms are also important. My point was just that you could be considered "fluent" in a language way before you're a C2. C2 means being able to understand "virtually everything one hears or reads", so I just listed a bunch of different situations where a technical knowledge of some sort, even if somewhat shallow in some cases, is necessary.

 

It is worth pointing out that, according to the definition, not every native is a C2 in their own language

 

Everyone has their own idea of what being "fluent" in a language means. It doesn't mean that you can deal with every situation - there are many people who can do extremely well in an engineering programme taught in standard and proper English, but who are unable to handle themselves in a group conversation between natives. At some point we have to draw a line. To me, and to many others online, (upper-)B2 is where that line is drawn.

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i__forget
20 minutes ago, happy_hyaena said:

C2 means being able to understand "virtually everything one hears or reads",

This may be the definition of C2, however in my opinion this definition in reality doesn't hold true for most native speakers of a language. I can't understand everything i hear not even in my native language. Let alone everything I read. A better definition would be "someone who can pass/has passed the C2 examination."

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happy_hyaena
2 hours ago, i__forget said:

This may be the definition of C2, however in my opinion this definition in reality doesn't hold true for most native speakers of a language. I can't understand everything i hear not even in my native language. Let alone everything I read. A better definition would be "someone who can pass/has passed the C2 examination."

 

As a well-educated speaker of my native language, I would say that I can understand virtually everything, keyword being "virtually". I couldn't go into Master's level course in law and expect to understand much, but I could definitely do a Bachelor's level course by relying on what I learned in High School and life in general.

 

With that said, while C2 is a useful measure to have, I'm also a little skeptical about the ability of some the tests out there to adequately test and capture the breadth of someone's capabilities at that level. It's more of a "you know it when you see it". 

 

 

---

 

Edit:

Btw, I just came across this TED talk in Chinese by an Australian polyglot called Stuart Jay Raj and felt like sharing it:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_MrHIX0KQw

 

He basically talks about the similarities between various 方言 and other Asian languages. Really fits well in this thread about polyglottism. Cool dude with an interesting life story!

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Xiao Kui
12 hours ago, happy_hyaena said:

Btw, I just came across this TED talk in Chinese by an Australian polyglot called Stuart Jay Raj and felt like sharing it:

 

He's known for his amazing Thai - does he also speak Chinese?

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happy_hyaena
52 minutes ago, Xiao Kui said:

He's known for his amazing Thai - does he also speak Chinese?


Why don't you open the link and find out?

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Xiao Kui

I can't use my vpn right now - you could have just answered or ignored my question. ;)

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Lu
13 hours ago, happy_hyaena said:

I just came across this TED talk in Chinese by an Australian polyglot called Stuart Jay Raj

Didn't listen to the full thing, but it's an entire talk in Chinese. He starts of with reading a classical poem in Middle Chinese, which is awesome (and then reads the same poem in six or so other dialects and/or languages, which is also pretty cool). On one hand I'm impressed that he can give a TED talk in Chinese, his Chinese is clearly very good. On the other hand, he says 有的听得懂,有的不听得懂 in his first few seconds of non-poetry reading and follows up with more occasional mistakes (nothing serious, small mistakes), which makes me wonder why he didn't have the whole speech corrected by someone before learning it by heart (because from what I know you're supposed to know your TED speech by heart forwards and backwards).

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Xiao Kui

Thanks for the link, hyena, and for the summary, Lu - I look forward to watching it.  I started learning Thai just six months ago, and other learners and even Thai folk like to post his videos in a facebook group for Thai learners I belong to.  I think his Thai is considered to be native/near- native - anyway I'm really impressed by it, ven more impressed now that I've learned he's learned advanced Chinese as well.

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somethingfunny

I know most people on this forum love talking about polyglots, so I thought there might be some interest in an article I read recently:

 

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/09/03/the-mystery-of-people-who-speak-dozens-of-languages

 

The article is not specifically about Mandarin, but does involve a fair amount of content on Richard Simcott, which some people might find interesting.

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Lu

I just read that this morning! The author does some serious reporting and it's interesting to read her report on her trip to Malta with a polyglot to see how he does it, but the main point she is missing, in my opinion, is that there need to be standards for speaking/knowing a language. Any standard would do. B1, B2, but for all I care A1. Some standard.

 

When I was eight (or so) I would happily claim I spoke five languages, by which I meant that I knew at least one word in those languages. And I wasn't wrong: Sayonara is a Japanese word, so if you use the word sayonara, you are speaking Japanese and thus you can say you can speak Japanese. Hence, we need standards.

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mungouk

Great find @somethingfunny and a very interesting read.

 

25 minutes ago, Lu said:

the main point she is missing

 

The way I read it, the author is synthesizing/reporting what has been said to her by some of her experts, i.e. Rojas-Berscie, Jovin, Simcott, rather than something she is missing:

 

Quote

However they differ, the hyperpolyglots whom I met all winced at the question “How many languages do you speak?” As Rojas-Berscia explained it, the issue is partly semantic: What does the verb “to speak” mean? It is also political. Standard accents and grammar are usually those of a ruling class. And the question is further clouded by the “chauvinism” that Ellen Jovin feels obliged to resist. The test of a spy, in thrillers, is to “pass for a native,” even though the English-speaking natives of Glasgow, Trinidad, Delhi, Lagos, New Orleans, and Melbourne (not to mention Eliza Doolittle’s East End) all sound foreign to one another. “No one masters all the nuances of a language,” Simcott said. “It’s a false standard, and one that gets raised, ironically, mostly by monoglots—Americans in particular. So let’s just say that I have studied more than fifty, and I use about half of them.”

 

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Lu

Sure, but then I still think that 1) the 'experts' should get some standards already, and 2) the reporter could have looked for an expert on second- (or third-, or nth-) language-learning. 'I've studied more than fifty' is just as meaningless as 'I speak five languages' if you don't specify what exactly you studied (phonemes? Tone structure? Vocabulary?) and for how long and how succesfully. I've studied Dutch, English, French, German, Latin, Ancient Greek, Italian, Spanish, Esperanto, Mandarin, Taiwanese and Cantonese. Ooh ooh I'm a superpolyglot or whatever. But I only put five of those on my resume and even that is a stretch.

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Publius

Last time I checked I was able to say I love you in 11 languages. Can I claim the title hyperpolyamoureux? :lol:

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Shelley

When I was young, 2,3,4 I was exposed to Hungarian, German, English, and French.

 

I went to a Hungarian nursery from age 6 months to the age of 3. I spoke Hungarian to the standard of a 3 year old. My parents thought I was a late starter when it came to talking, until one night a babysitter we had was Hungarian and we had a great conversations about the baby squirrel she was nursing in her hand bag. When my parents returned the baby sitter remarked on how talkative i was, my mother said oh no she doesn't speak much, oh no said the baby sitter, she speaks perfect Hungarian.

The penny dropped and I was whisked out of that nursery and put in an English one and never looked back. The word perfect was used but it was probably only as perfect as a 3 year old speaks any language, the point being that, yes a standard is needed, but I tell this tale to show that it can depend on age, context and other environmental factors. 

 

My mother was bilingual in English and German, I would say truly bilingual because she learnt both at the same time as she grew up. She spent some time at the United Nations doing simultaneous translating, and later another job that used her languages.

 

My grandfather was a professor of languages and spoke, read, and wrote 7 languages and another 7 that he could read and write only. 

 

I think the standard to apply is probably how much use is your knowledge and that can only really be decided by an exam. 

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