IELTS, TOEIC, Compelling Input & Acquiring Good Language Habits
So now your focus shifts from sort of deliberately learning the language to, you know, consuming a lot of interesting, compelling content in that language. Hi there Steve Kaufmann here. Um, today again, I'm going to do this question and answer thing that I did last week. Uh, people seem to enjoy it. Uh, I am able to deal with a number of different subjects.
Uh, remember if you enjoy these, um, videos, please subscribe, click on the bell for notification. And if you listen to me on podcasts, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify or wherever, uh, please leave a review. I'll make sure we put links to those podcasts in the description box. Without further ado, and here my people seem to like these glasses, they're clickable glasses.
I Googled, I bought two pairs. I have one pair down in Palm Springs, one pair up here. They're quite inexpensive and they're, you know, different strengths, 1.5, 2, or whatever you need for reading. So now here are the questions that I got, uh... says Gujarati has been awesome to study, blah, blah, blah. When the joy dwindles I switch to French.
So, uh, The point here is that we have Gujarati at LingQ. I don't know how many people are studying it. Uh, I'm not, I may, one day it's not the major Indian language, but someone volunteered to do the mini stories and that's our condition for adding a new language. It's also interesting that, uh, having a major and a minor language sometimes can be good for maintaining interest. I'm struggling a bit right now because I have my Persian and my Arabic, and I've even started into a Egyptian Arabic. So I've got three sort of languages bouncing around and there was some suggestion that I might do a video, uh, with a Russian person who lives in Turkey. And so I went back and tried to refresh my Turkish.
So all these languages bouncing around in your brain is an obstacle. It is confusing, but it also is this element of things new and interesting. And, uh, you know, I'm a debutante. So I enjoy doing that. I think, uh... is doing it for fun. Obviously, if you're going to go for IELTS or something, uh, TOEIC, then you really want to focus on one language.
All right. Next person, Capacitor says the problem is that when you reach an advanced level, it becomes more difficult to learn more because you already know so much. And thus it becomes more difficult to stay motivated with the learning process. I mean, I've said it many times, the word frequency declines very, very steeply.
So the more words you learn, the more difficult it is to learn new words, because these new words will appear less and less frequently in whatever you're listening to or reading. So, you know, I've sometimes said that when we start in a language, we have that initial, I talk about the upside down hockey stick.
We have that initial period: wow, we're learning a lot of words because the most frequent words show up so often and all of a sudden we understand some things. And, uh, you know, we can even say a few things, but then we discovered that there's actually a long road before you reach sort of a decent level of fluency, because unfortunately we need a lot of words to understand books, to understand movies, to even understand conversations that native speakers are having because native speakers actually have a lot of words because they've been with that language since they were kids. And that they say as a rule of thumb, that you add a thousand words for every year of your life.
So someone who's 40 years old has 40,000 words. As a learner to acquire all these words, it takes a long time. The secret therefore is to not be so conscious of the words you're acquiring and forgetting and reacquiring and re-forgetting. But if you can find content of interest that you are motivated by learning about the country or learning about some aspect of the country, Some subject that may not even be related to the country, but it's a subject of interest to you and you're learning it in the language that you're trying to learn.
So now your focus shifts from sort of deliberately learning the language to, you know, consuming a lot of interesting, compelling content in that language. And I did say earlier that it's difficult to start with compelling content, but when you reach the level of where you already know a lot of words, the content has to be compelling or it's hard to continue, even though, as I also said, I sometimes go back to my mini stories, especially if I'm preparing to speak and to use the language, because that helps me to train. It's kind of like my gym, it's my core exercises, but yeah, you need that compelling input in order to keep going. For sure.
Uh, ... says I have a question for people who are learning the language and living in the country where the target language is spoken. So I've been learning English, I don't have a chance to use spoken English currently. I'm going to go to Germany. My level is A1, I'm wondering whether their learning will be easier and faster because of the environment of German native speakers.
All right. A warning. I have always found that when you go to that country where the language is spoken, you have to have a level of B1, B almost B2 in order to take advantage. Uh, because not everyone you deal with in a shop or on the street, and of course this depends on the level of your language or a language that you know, what that level is in the country.
So if you go to Germany where the level of English is quite good, uh, the average person you encounter will have a level of English that is higher than A1. So you either, either you have to find people who have practically no, uh, English, and they will then humor you in German, or you have to get a teacher.
So my advice always is to do as much as you can before you go. And even when you are in the country, you have to work hard on your input activities. So when I lived in Japan, I did a lot of listening and reading, this is course 45 years ago, on my own because the amount that I was able to use, you know, in the early stages was very limited.
So you can't rely on being surrounded by the, by the language. Of course you turn on the TV, you can listen to the radio, you can read newspapers, all of that, which you can do in your home country, too, in whatever language. But the more you can build it up before you get there. And the more you continue your input activities so that you can get yourself up to almost a, I would say B1 and a half in terms of your comprehension, the better you're going to do.
And the more likely people will speak to you in the language you are learning, in the target language. So Mac says, uh, what do I have to do in order to take IELTS or TOEFL, if I'm learning on my own, what kind of techniques? So many people need these, uh, tests of English. Like IELTS, TOEFL, they need them to get into a good school or they need them for work.
My feeling is that you can get copies of those tests so that you have some sense of what the tests are all about. You can even do, you know, example tests. All of this material is available on the internet, but fundamentally you have to raise up your overall language skills. You have to become a better reader.
You have to read fast, or you're going to run out of time in the test. So again, it comes back to listening and reading. Personally, I think LingQ is a great way to work on TOEIC or IELTS because it's, it's all about comprehension, vocabulary, and you listen to so much and you read so much that you have...
you get a better sense of what's correct grammar and not correct grammar. You don't have to scratch your brain as much. And many of those questions on those tests, comprehension questions, or questions about what is correct and not correct usage. If you, if you can read quickly and if you can understand well for the parts where you have to listen to content, the better you comprehend, the better you understand, the better you're going to do. The better your'll feel for the language, the better you're going to do. I don't think it's that useful, uh, to study, you know, the 5,000 words that will show up in TOEIC. You can do that, and there's nothing wrong with doing that, but it should be done against the backdrop, backdrop of having elevated your overall level in the language, listening, comprehension, reading skills, vocabulary.
Uh, okay. What about reading the dictionary from page, from the front to the back? It's not something that I would do, uh, you know, it's one of these activities, it's like studying a list of words. Um, you know, you think you're doing something, you think you're learning. I don't think you're learning very much, so it can be interesting.
And if you see a lot of words that you already kind of have no idea, Sort of reinforce what you are still trying to learn, but I don't think it's a tremendous strategy and it's hard to keep doing, but any exposure to the language is good.
Now, here's a question... Says, is finding out... he learns the conjugations in Spanish, but how are they used, you know?... in other words, the different pass forms. Well, this is true in any language. In English when do we say I, I have done it. I did it. Simple past versus a, the sort of whatever it's called in English...
Uh, these are things that have to do with usage, and it's not just when you use these different conjugation forms, it's even a matter of which words are used together with which other words. Word usage, word usage. These are, this is a matter of developing habits in the language. And I believe that a lot of listening and reading, hearing the language starts to create patterns in your brain.
So certain forms, certain conjugation forms are going to seem more natural. There are always sort of trigger words that trigger the tense because we're here talking about tenses in the case of this conjugation forum. And so, you know, Just now I did... okay. "Just now" suggests simple past, uh, while, uh, "while I was watching TV, I was also..." so the "while" tends to suggest a more, a continuous form, sort of the imperfect.
So you should look at words that surround these different tenses, whether it's in Spanish or English or any other languages, and you will see that certain tenses are suggested by certain trigger words, and you should notice those and maybe save them at LingQ. And all of this helps you notice. And once you notice things, you can develop the proper language habits so that the usage will seem more natural.
That doesn't mean you'll always get it right. And in many cases, it may not even matter what you use. Uh, in English sometimes it's just best to use the simple past. Can't go wrong kind of thing. Uh, but you want to develop a feel and that's only achieved through lots of listening and reading and eventually using the language.
Um... starting in Mandarin the same as everything else, except you have to learn the characters. What do you think about negative motivation? Like if people aren't nice to you, I, you know, he goes on, uh, make fun of immigrant students and stuff. I mean, you have to turn that off. Like there are going to be nasty people in this world.
There are people who will make fun of you in any situation, not just having to do with language. And you can't take these things too seriously. The majority of people are nice. The majority of people are encouraging. Some people are not. And I just turn off the people who are... I try to have a very selective memory. When I was in Japan everyone was nice to me. That doesn't mean everyone was nice to me. That means I only remember the people who were nice to me. And I think you have to focus on the positive. Um, you talked about reading, reading, reading, but do you do this silently or out loud? Okay. Reading I read, I think I'm reading silently and I'll often depending on where I am in the language, I will listen while I'm reading.
I think when we learn another language, when we're reading, we're also sub vocalizing, because when we read our own language, it's instant, meaning we don't need to sub vocalize. We Don't need to say it to ourselves, but when we're reading in a foreign language, I find that I'm saying it to myself, but I very rarely read out loud, out loud.
It's tiring. But I tend to sub vocalize. And that's why combining listening with reading is so important because it gives you that momentum, it gives you that sense. It gives you greater confidence that you are self vocalizing with the right pronunciation and the right intonation. Person says I never thought of listening while exercising.
I mean, come on, you can listen while you're doing anything. Washing the dishes, driving a car, exercising, working in the garden, you name it. Someone here says that the voice is too low. I've had this comment before. I, I don't know. Uh, I think when I listened to my videos, the audio sounds fine. Please let me know if the audio is a problem.
Here's what we call a soft question. What is the best app or program to learn a new language. Well, of course, I'm going to say LingQ L I N G Q. And finally here's one from Nikita who says, uh, how do you go into self limited vocabulary in German? When I read interesting stuff, I don't understand it. So this is a constant issue of, you know, the beginner stuff is easy because the word frequency, declines very quickly. So in an initial period, you have contact with a lot of high frequency words, like our mini stories, and then as you move into natural content, of course, now all of a sudden you're dealing with far more low frequency words. So what do you do? Well, it's a bit of a...
I believe that that the lack of intermediate content is a problem in many languages. I experienced it in Arabic and in Persian. That's where I'm grateful to Sahra who has created a lot of excellent content in Persian. I've mentioned, you know, if Français Authentique or Inner French, which are great sources of intermediate content in French.
But it is a problem. And, uh, I think at LingQ, for example, if I can find content that has 10, 15% new words, that's a comfort zone there. I'm learning a lot of new words because some of those 10, 15% are in fact names. So it's actually less than that. And so that to me is good content. I'm coming across new words, and yet I have enough known words that it's not painful. But I have gone through Russian for example, in the early days when I was with Russian and LingQ was much slower than it is now. And I had material with 40% new words, and I just fought on because I wanted to learn this language and I was interested in whatever it was that I was reading.
It could have been, you know, tolstoy or something, and I just struggled on, so it's a function of our, you know, Pain threshold. So, and, and I tend to find myself bouncing back and forth. I fight my way through a difficult content, lots of new words. And ah, I'm tired of doing that. I get back to my mini stories and this kind of gives me a little more confidence.
And then I go back and fight with the more difficult content. And you just have to find a proper mix of easy content and difficult content so that you maintain your motivation. You get enough fluency because you're dealing with easier content and yet you're acquiring new words and you're fighting way fighting your way through to, uh, eventually getting enough vocabulary so that you can deal with more authentic content more easily.
Okay. I'm just going to deal with those questions today. I hope that was of interest. I see I've gone on a bit longer. Um, leave you a few videos kind of relevant related to this. And let me know if this is of interest to you. Thank you. Bye for now.