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杰.克

A Normal Persons Guide to becoming Fluent in Chinese

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Demonic_Duck
33 minutes ago, 杰.克 said:

DD are you for real?

 

Sounds like complete and utter BS to me. Im with summit on this one.

 

Yes I'm for real. But the emphasis of my post was supposed to be on the part you didn't quote.

 

The benefit to language-learning capacity of having zero external responsibilities, including the responsibility to make sure you and your family can eat and pay rent, is difficult to overstate. If he (or anyone else) claimed this would be possible with an unrelated full-time job and other responsibilities, then yes I'd definitely call BS.

 

1 minute ago, amytheorangutan said:

He was being employed and paid to learn the language

 

Yeah that'd do it too. If the eating/paying rent is contingent on your learning the language, maybe that's even better still.

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timseb
3 minutes ago, Demonic_Duck said:

If he (or anyone else) claimed this would be possible with an unrelated full-time job and other responsibilities, then yes I'd definitely call BS.

 

Precisely. I would rate Kaufmann as the most frank polyglot out there. The site is run by his son since ages and he is more their mascot. On his YouTube channel he's been talking a lot of his experience of learning Chinese and Japanese, and is very open with his limitations. Especially with Japanese where he's said he has trouble following modern TV, since all he did was business talks. I doubt he reads very well anymore though, I remember him saying he hasn't read a Chinese novel after he left Hong Kong (which was in the 60's if I recall correctly).

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杰.克

Cool well perhaps Kaufmann did achieve this.

 

More to the point though, for anyone normal reading this thread. Please don't put this level of expectation on yourself. It's really exciting to assume this kinda of progress is possible (the dream of maybe, just maybe if you get your arse in gear, maybe you might be able to achieve it)

 

But it is better to be realistic , in order to have stable consistent improvement! In 9 months no matter how much effort you put in (24/7 in a mandarin Monastery with your eyeballs taped open), you will not be reading and comprehending novels! You may read a page of a novel, or some children's stories (and with looking up a lot of characters in the dictionary). But a novel? as in an adult novel, with complex storylines, characters and prose AND understand it? No !

 

https://www.chinesethehardway.com/  

 

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timseb
Just now, 杰.克 said:

More to the point though, for anyone normal reading this thread. Please don't put this level of expectation on yourself.

 

Telling people they are going to learn in six months is potentially going to break their motivation. But so is telling them it's going to take ten years.

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Moshen
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If I’m not mistaken I heard an interview with Steve Kaufmann about him learning Chinese. It seems like his path was not at all normal. He was being employed and paid to learn the language so he said he had a duty to dedicate almost all of his time to learn it. I believe he was also taught privately and not in a classroom which I think would make a huge difference. If I have 2-3 hours private lessons 5 days a week and dedicate 5 more hours everyday to learn it. I think it’s might be possible to achieve that.

 

In some of the spy novels I've read, people are sent to language school by the armed forces or the CIA or the State Department, but even with nonstop learning for 9-12 months they don't come out fluent! 

 

Actually we don't need to turn to spy novels as I just did a little bit of research, and the US State Department has classified languages based on 70 years of teaching diplomats.  Near the bottom of the page, look how they classify Chinese:

https://www.state.gov/foreign-language-training/

 

From their real-world experience, it takes 88 weeks, which is 1 year and 8 months, to achieve "proficiency" in Chinese.  I believe that's a lower level than "fluency."

 

I suspect that if there were shortcuts, the State Department would have found them.

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timseb
38 minutes ago, Moshen said:

I suspect that if there were shortcuts, the State Department would have found them.

 

Your own link specifically includes the following sentence:

 

Quote

These timelines are based on what FSI has observed as the average length of time for a student to achieve proficiency

 

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Moshen
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These timelines are based on what FSI has observed as the average length of time for a student to achieve proficiency

 

That is true, and most of us, by definition, are average.  And this is the average for full-time, intensive study.

 

My point is that if there were a good way to speed up the average, they would most likely have found it in 70 years of trying.

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timseb
9 minutes ago, Moshen said:

That is true, and most of us, by definition, are average.  And this is the average for full-time, intensive study.

 

 

I thought your post was about Kaufmann since that's where the quote lead to. If were discussion the main topic then I can only agree, and will say again: it's about how many hours you spend (and obviously how). Years won't give us much information, since life situations are vastly different. Some can cram out fifteen minuts a day, some can spend all their waking hours.

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7 minutes ago, Moshen said:
My point is that if there were a good way to speed up the average, they would most likely have found it in 70 years of trying.

 

I'm nintey-nine percent sure a guy like Stephen Krashen would say the State Department's teaching is anything but state of the art. There still seems to be a lot of debate out there. I'm not going to delve deeper into that though since I don't know enough about it.

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suMMit

according to a friend who is a Steve Ksufman fan:

 

Steve Kaufman started to learn Chinese before he went to Hongkong to be a diplomat. And after he got to Hongkong, he began to study Chinese systematically in a university. He married a Chinese woman, and that also helped. He said it took him 9 months to be able to do that, but actually before that back in Canada he had already studied chinese on his own for quite some time.

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Lu
10 hours ago, timseb said:

Telling people they are going to learn in six months is potentially going to break their motivation. But so is telling them it's going to take ten years.

I think I've said this elsewhere, but I have the impression that this 'must be fluent [whatever that means] in 6 months!!!' thing is very much an English speakers thing. I've never heard Dutch people with these kinds of expectations. My father took a Chinese class for a while. I think he had one classmate who expected to become 'fluent' at some point. Usually these classes tell you in advance what you can expect to learn: some characters, pronunciation, introduce yourself, basic travel vocab. And that is what learners here in the Netherlands then expect. (And that is what my dad learned. After a year or so of classes he could call the waiter, say 结账 and understand the answer if the waiter spoke slowly (which they did, because they liked it that he was making an effort).) There is no 'learn Chinese in 10 weeks' or 'learn Chinese fast' snake oil on offer here. I think because we all learn languages in secondary school (English, French, German), so we have a pretty good idea of how much work is required and what kind of results to expect, and we know that Chinese is more difficult than German to us and so will need more effort for less results.

 

So yah, expectations need to be managed; people who claim that they can teach you Chinese in x months are lying; people who believe them have no clue about language learning and if they are from a country that doesn't teach its children languages, that is not those people's fault.

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timseb
11 minutes ago, Lu said:

So yah, expectations need to be managed; people who claim that they can teach you Chinese in x months are lying; people who believe them have no clue about language learning and if they are from a country that doesn't teach its children languages, that is not those people's fault.

 

I agree. I would also argue such services are quite rare. I also agree with most other things you said, and it would make a lot of sense. Those who know at least two languages (like most in Western Europe) know English (or other) at such a level that they know that this complete social, native like fluency is far from necessary to do almost everything you need to do with a language.

 

I think the main reason this thread gets so many difference reactions is that the use of the word average doesn't make any real sense.

 

I thought at first that average commitment was the point, and then I would say any language would take a lot of time to learn.

 

But if we're talking average competence, as seems to have been the point, I just can't get away from the fact that the roadmap is more about hours spent. An average learner wouldn't only know colors in their second year, and wouldn't take ten years for fluency, if they spent a huge amount of time with the language in the right way. An average learner would never in their life become even close to fluency if they only spent ten minutes a day on their lunchbreak.

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杰.克
41 minutes ago, Lu said:

So yah, expectations need to be managed; people who claim that they can teach you Chinese in x months are lying; people who believe them have no clue about language learning and if they are from a country that doesn't teach its children languages, that is not those people's fault.

 

Very very interesting point! I'd honestly never thought of this. They have absolutely no experience (say like learning english as a non native - as many others do) so they have no judge of just how much time it takes to master a language.  How many years and levels difference their are between being able to hold a conversation with your language partner, and being able to go to work in that language and consume adult content without issue etc. Im sure after 9 months of learning mandarin, i could have spoke to my friends, or read a basic newspaper headline, and they would say WOW - you are so fluent!

 

Thats for the post Lu. Added a new dimension to why my thinking on this somewhat warped view on progress speeds exist! 

 

 

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Jan Finster

This thread started with the "normal person" and ended up discussing Steve K, who is not normal at all (and I mean this in the most positive sense). 🙃 I do believe that very gifted people can achieve a lot in 1 year (e.g. HSK 6 in 1 year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhofBLyIeh4) but I also agree with Timseb, it is all about the hours spent, not the years.

 

Maybe is is fair to say the "normal" person never becomes fluent, because he/she runs out of steam or life has other plans for them. The ones that are fluent are either: a) very gifted, b) obsessed with Chinese, c) have spent several years studying it and/or d) have lived  in China for several years.

 

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timseb
7 minutes ago, 杰.克 said:

Very very interesting point! I'd honestly never thought of this. They have absolutely no experience (say like learning english as a non native - as many others do) so they have no judge of just how much time it takes to master a language. 

 

That's not my takeaway looking at the average Swede. Many of us have learned English outside of school and at an age where one didn't really think that much. Few have learned it by actively studying it. So I think Swedes too have a skewed way on what a grind language learning can actually be. I think the more relevant takeaway is that it gives people a more nuanced understanding of language competence. I rarely encounter situations where my English hinders me, and I think that goes for many in my generation. I also am fully away that I'm not fluent. And that's fine. I *guess* that monolingual people are more prone to thinking complete fluency is what you need to really enjoy everything you want in the language. It isn't.

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Lu
16 minutes ago, timseb said:

Many of us have learned English outside of school and at an age where one didn't really think that much. Few have learned it by actively studying it. So I think Swedes too have a skewed way on what a grind language learning can actually be.

Really? I'm sure you, like we, are helped by English-language music and subtitled Hollywood movies, but don't you have to learn vocab and get tested on it?

 

As to 'fluency', I think many monolingual people have no idea what they mean when they use that word. Some measure of 'good', sure. The closest definition seems to be 'notably better at [language] than me'. The word is almost worse than useless in any conversation about language-learning.

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timseb
7 minutes ago, Lu said:

Really? I'm sure you, like we, are helped by English-language music and subtitled Hollywood movies, but don't you have to learn vocab and get tested on it?

 

 

I doubt subtitled Hollywood movies makes much of a difference and the research seems to back that up.

 

I remember watching a lecture by a professor in Swedish who mentioned that the most obvious factor to determine English comprehension levels among Swedish students is whether or not you're a gamer guy. My brother and I, and my friends too, were all gamer guys. I was at the computer all day (and still is). Perhaps the average comprehension of English among high school students isn't as high as I think. Since I don't have anything to back it up, I won't argue against you.

 

I think I agree with your thoughts on fluency.

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timseb

This thread has run away in so many different directions and I think I'm one of the reasons why. I do apologize.

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Demonic_Duck
11 hours ago, Moshen said:

Near the bottom of the page, look how they classify Chinese:

https://www.state.gov/foreign-language-training/

 

From their real-world experience, it takes 88 weeks

 

Or 2200 class hours, which you could do in 9 months at ~8 hours a day 7 days a week (or ~11 hours a day 5 days a week).

 

Intensive? Sure. Doable with the resources and motivation? Absolutely.

 

11 hours ago, Moshen said:

to achieve "proficiency" in Chinese.  I believe that's a lower level than "fluency."

 

As @Lu says, "fluency" in the colloquial sense is basically meaningless, so it doesn't really make sense to compare it with "proficiency" (which, without a qualifier, is another equally vague term).

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杰.克
1 hour ago, Jan Finster said:

This thread started with the "normal person" and ended up discussing Steve K, who is not normal at all (and I mean this in the most positive sense). 🙃

 

Certainly agree with this. In this globalised world we are exposed the exceptional abilities of not just the best of our local school, our local town, but the local globe. Its really interesting, and engaging to discuss what is humanly possible. But often this comes at the expense of altering peoples expectation levels of what they are going to achieve, in the time they have. 

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杰.克
1 hour ago, timseb said:

That's not my takeaway looking at the average Swede. Many of us have learned English outside of school and at an age where one didn't really think that much. Few have learned it by actively studying it. So I think Swedes too have a skewed way on what a grind language learning can actually be. I think the more relevant takeaway is that it gives people a more nuanced understanding of language competence. I rarely encounter situations where my English hinders me, and I think that goes for many in my generation. I also am fully away that I'm not fluent. And that's fine. I *guess* that monolingual people are more prone to thinking complete fluency is what you need to really enjoy everything you want in the language. It isn't.

 

The average swede is the exact opposite to the people I'm referring too. They are famed for their astonishingly good level of english (2nd language). I'm talking about my fellow Brits or Americans, who aren't as economically/culturally/educationally pressured into learning a 2nd language and as such by and large have now concept of just what it takes. Which was a comment on Lu's point about these concepts of 90 days to fluency being more prevalent in these counteries. 

 

1 hour ago, timseb said:

This thread has run away in so many different directions and I think I'm one of the reasons why. I do apologize.

 

Yeah it has seemed like you have been intentionally derailing the thread. You are welcome to go write a thread titled "A Genius Polygot's Guide to becoming Fluent in Chinese" and discuss the prevalence of threads and content that demotivate and undersell the progress that one can make at Chinese.

 

Apology accepted though. 😉

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