Order of the four basic language skills
I would like to ask for your opinion concerning the following issue:
As a language learner with quite some experience, I have decided to start learning Spanish, but this time I plan to make as quick a progress as possible. Although I already understand a lot of it passively, I plan to re-learn it from the very basics, with the help of as much authentic material as possible, to supplement a self-study course. I live in a small countryside town in Hungary, without an opportunity to use it with anybody directly (except perhaps on the Net), and a limited access to spoken input. Given this situation, I have been wondering what is the best order in which I could start developing the four basic skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing). Based on a classical methodology course, this order would most likely be:
listening - speaking - reading - writing
However, based on considerations of my own, partly under the influence of the Antimoon method, I would prefer this order:
reading - listening - speaking - writing (I also consider chatting as a combined skill: using colloquial spoken language through a written medium, therefore the last two may overlap a little)
There may be some variation with regard to the order of the first two (they can also run parallel), but the main thing is that I consider it more effective to absorb as much spoken and written (at first especially written) input as possible, before using the language actively. In short: receptive skills first, productive skills later. I would appreciate any comments on this.
By the way, I would also welcome suggestions as to the most effective Spanish self-study course (of course then I still have to check if it is available here, but this would also be helpful).
you've got to be off your rocker! the order of importance is as follows.
speaking, listening- equal importance
if that doesn't shizzle your nizzle I don't know what will.
I wish you well..if your Spanish writing skills turn out as well as your English then you will have succeeded big time. I would say with all honesty that your standard of English in here is superior to that of a very high percentage of Brits. I don't think that is any exaggeration at all.
I saw part of a TV program the other evening in which a British woman swopped places with a German lady in their respective houseolds, which were identical.....mum, dad and three kids each.
The German family, down to the youngest male child who was about 8 I think, spoke excellent English. The Englishwoman in Germany naturally knew not one single word of German, and her native English, and that of her family, wasn't as good as that of the Germans either. The equivalent male English kid mostly mumbled and stumbled over his words when he wasn't stuffing crisps and burgers down his throat and glued to the TV.
Thank you for the compliments!
What you said is the normal way of learning, as I have also outlined. But my situation is special, because I can have only limited contact with native speakers - if any, that is mostly through the Net, and I want to learn entirely without a teacher. Spanish pronunciation is not a problem for me, if all else fails, I can watch subtitled South American soap operas for verbal input (I don't really like them, but I like watching them for learning purposes, because they present simple, straightforward everyday speech). What I need most is building vocabulary and attaining fluency in speech.
On the other hand, relying on reading and writing as the principal skills when learning a language has proven effective. We had a famous interpreter in Hungary (she died not so long ago) who was fluent in sixteen languages and literate in eleven more. Her method was basically reading in the target language (she did not like the artificial dialogues in language books). So she started reading authentic books, relying on context, and also kept a diary in the language she was learning, as well as discursing with herself in it, if there was nobody else. She stressed motivation as the principal factor, and she was reading mostly because she was genuinely involved in the book (motivation!), not vasting time on trivial vocabulary details, concentrating on the gist instead. And she did learn those languages in the end, including Ivrit or Chinese!
By the way, I do think you need sufficient verbal or written input before you actually start speaking or writing. My favourite method is spending time with comprehension of written and recorded spoken texts (getting the gist), and I refer to a dictionary only if I really get stuck (along with a little study of grammar points). I start communicating only about a month or two of studying authentic input, taking my time. Of course then there is always a risk of using incorrect language, but by that time I am confident enough to check my skills with native speakers, who are ready to help most of the time.
First of all, one day I would like to find you in your Hungarian village and quaff some baracs palinka (or however if is spelled) together and talk of language. If you come to Vancouver I will offer you our excellent BC wine and the same subject of conversation.
Your Hungarian translator lady is right. I once knew a Japanese student in France (almost 40 years ago) who could write fluently and rapidly in 16 languages in reply to any question. He was deaf. And they say the Japanese have trouble learning languages! Motivation, authentic content, lots of input..these are the keys.
Of course it is a bonus to be able to speak with natives. It is not a condition for learning.
There is no order. I claim that to learn a new language quickly you should spend 75% of your time on input and 25% on output.
The input consists of a cycle, which I call the "language learning engine." This refers to listening, reading and reviewing words and phrases, all based on the same content, and repetitively. The content should be interesting and the voices pleasing. You gradually increase your vocabulary of usable words and phrases as the range of your authentic content expands.
The output can consist of both writing and speaking, depending on circumstances and goals. Speaking is the goal, and the ultimate reality, the game, so to speak. All the rest is practice, but it can and should be enjoyable practice.
Well, I will risk to get the blame for the opposing most of you.
When we learn a foreign language we live mostly in our own country. Then listening input is very limited and is interfered with our own language.
I think that the only way is to learn reading/writing, spoken language may be limited to the classical pronunciation.
If we want to get good spoken abilities we need to spent at least 2-3 years in the country of the language we study.
Listening refers to repetitive listening to interesting content on CD, MD or MP3 downloads from the web. Ideally all this audio content comes with transcript and is tied into a word and phrase learning system.
Even if it is not, and even if the content is artificial learner content, you just listen, many times a day using the convenience and high sound quality of modern portable listening devices.
reading - listening - writing - speaking
Writing before speaking.
>>First of all, one day I would like to find you in your Hungarian village and quaff some baracs palinka (or however if is spelled) together and talk of language. If you come to Vancouver I will offer you our excellent BC wine and the same subject of conversation.<<
Steve, you got it almost right, it is spelled "barackpálinka" (a spirit made of peaches by distillation). By the way I never drink spirits, just occasionally wine, but Hungary also has good wines. I'm also curious about BC wines. :-)
Regarding your remarks and garans' , I also agree that you don't necessarily have to spend time in the target country to learn the language really well - it may be of help, but it is not a prerequisite. Think of it, there are immigrants who have spent decades in the USA or Canada without having mastered the language properly, including accent. The key factor here is definitely motivation, and it is not very difficult to find authentic content to back that up once motivation is there. I have only made short trips to some European countries, but that has not hindered me to learn a few European languages on an acceptable level (I wouldn't miss France though at any cost). The only problem I have encountered (understandably) is making sense of some unusual accents or quick speech (especially in French, due to its phonetic peculiarities, and especially on the phone), but that can be corrected through practice. On the other hand, I do have to admit that spending time in a target country and being forced to use the target language can help you make visible progress in a short time.
"reading - listening - writing - speaking
Writing before speaking."
Thanks Tom, this is originally what I had in mind, but thought it would be too "revolutionary". Actually writing before starting to speak in a new language is better, because it does not force you to produce immediate output, you have plenty of time to correct your own mistakes. I mentioned that interpreter lady before, who also wrote a diary in the target language, and I think making quick, informal notes in the target language can also be very helpful (this is what most native speakers do in writing most of the time, only a minority of them write essays, poems or any other complex written work regularly, and even this not every day). Anyone ever considered making their shopping list in the target language (of course if you have a habit of making shopping lists, I usually don't ... :-) )? Or you may keep a diary... Then you could try IM chat, if you have the opportunity, and start speaking just after this phase. It is generally more useful for adults to develop literacy before verbal skills, partly because this gives you more confidence, and partly because being ahead in understanding written texts compared to productive skills can serve as a trigger for developing your productive skils to catch up with yourself. :-)
What I would also stress is regularity. You have to spend at least one or two hours with the target language every day, but it is your responsibility that this should not be tedious - actually you can make it interesting in a variety of ways.
"The German family, down to the youngest male child who was about 8 I think, spoke excellent English. The Englishwoman in Germany naturally knew not one single word of German, and her native English, and that of her family, wasn't as good as that of the Germans either."
That sounds quite typical. LOL :)
I often make notes and shopping lists in English.
I agree with just about everything that you wrote. Since the beginning of Antimoon, I've said that input should come before output.
Sanja said (referring to Damian's story): "The German family, down to the youngest male child who was about 8 I think, spoke excellent English. The Englishwoman in Germany naturally knew not one single word of German, and her native English, and that of her family, wasn't as good as that of the Germans either.
That sounds quite typical. LOL :)"
I know what you're saying; many non-natives speak flawless English. However, this does not automatically make one sound like a native speaker and it can often sound a bit unnatural or awkward. I've encountered many non-natives who can speak beautifully, but they talk as if they were writing an essay. Being an Antimoon regular, you're sure not going to hear me complain about well-spoken English, but I think it's important to be profficient in casual speech as well as formal speech if one wants to converse freely with natives.