80 / 20 Rule - The Pareto Principle

I just came across this video by “FluentCzech” - Become a Polyglot in Minutes not Years - YouTube

According to the video, you can get 80% of the reward from 20% of the effort. And as an example, he’s stated that it does (or might) take 10 years to “master” a language (i.e. be at a native-like level), based on 3 hours per day.

Although I wasn’t really aware of this concept, I feel that it does make sense to me. I had already decided that I wasn’t going to try to “master” French or Spanish (or any other language) unless I either end up living in the country longterm, or if I have some other strong motivation to keep studying it. I’d say with French I’m at approximately 83% and with Spanish perhaps 80%.

Whatever language I learn, I think my aim will be to get to 80% (or 85% if I’m extra motivated), which means I can have conversations, read etc. But I’d much rather do this in many languages and have that “base” in each one than try to get to 100% in one language, unless I’m very motivated to keep going (e.g. establishing a “life” in the target country).

How do others feel about the 80 / 20 Rule/Concept and their own language learning?

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This is quite an interesting one. I understand that 80/20 is a hard rule of nature (something which can be observed with the crop-yields of certain plants, for example.)

But does it apply to human learning too? Hmm…

It sounds like a nice idea, however I don’t know whether there is any kind of study to back it up?

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Imyirtseshem, is there any hard evidence that the 80/20 ratio applies to the field of learning at all…?

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@Imy: “…I refuse to live in a ‘science-only bubble’ […] Why do we need ‘hard evidence’?..”

I would be the first to agree that what “science” preaches is often massively biased, political, and just plain wrong (the continuing gibberish about climate change being the obvious example of this.)

Nevertheless there are some things which can be simply observed and shown to work or not work. For example it can be shown quite easily that my car’s engine will not run on orange juice (even though I can!) So I’m not going to start putting OJ in my car’s tank! :smiley:

If there is a careful study to show that a particular approach to learning does work, then I personally would be much more likely to invest time in taking it further.

But (as always!) each to his own :wink:

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@IMY - Interesting point about Spanish and Portuguese, but I wouldn’t necessarily take it quite so literally in this case.

I don’t interpret a Spanish speaker learning Portuguese as being truly “from scratch” because they have already “learned” things that will take a long time for a non Spanish speaker to learn. So a large portion of the getting to 80% part has already been (unconsciouly) done, meaning it won’t take very long to get there. Even the remaining 20% should take a lot less time than it would for a non Spanish speaker.

@JayB - I doubt it’s something you can really prove, but it makes sense to me based on my experience with languages (and other hobbies I’ve had).

@JayB - Please, let’s not get started on climate change, it’s scary how much doubt the “sceptics” have been able to generate in the minds of many people… :frowning:
(if you want to have a discussion on this, please start a new thread :))

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“They” have much more than that !

I just read this page from wikipedia : Brasil – Wikipédia, a enciclopédia livre (the history of Brazil, in Portuguese).

I am a native French speaker, and I can understand more than 80%. Maybe 90%.

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It scares me how many people can be brainwashed by biased notions dreamed up by a closed shop of politically motivated anti-Capitalist nutters - that really and truly does scare me, buddy!

But I guess most folks (including me) don’t come here to argue about climate change dogma.

So let’s all be nice and cool - just like the climate! ;-D

@JayB - Those are some very cocky, aggressive and, of course, false mini-statements. If you want to keep going, start a thread, no need to get aggressive here on mine about languages :slight_smile:

@IMY & JujuLeCaribou - Yes, but listening is another story. Most Spanish speakers that I’ve asked can’t really understand spoken Portuguese, even though the transcript might be almost completely intelligible. Still, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly it comes after studying another romance language :slight_smile:

@ Peter

As you said, listening Portuguese is not easy at all, even for somebody whose native language is French/Spanish/Italian.

I am doing this experiment since a few weeks : I listen to the Brazilian podcast “Cafe Brasil” of Luciano Pires everyday.
I don’t read the transcript, only listen the audio.

At the beginning, my oral comprehension was very very low.
Now, after about 40 hours of listening, I understand more.

How much time will I need to understand 80% of the podcast ? No idea…

I don’t operate on the basis of the 80/20 rule, but rather am driven by interest and need. I enjoy listening and reading, acquiring new vocabulary and engaging in conversation with natives. My level in a language is what it is.

@JujuLeCaribou - I doubt this 80% - 20% idea, at least based on how I understand it, is just related to your level of comprehension. I look at it as an overall feeling about the language, assuming that an educated native speaker is 100%, where do you position yourself based on that (overall). I’d say 80% would be approximately a strong B2 or a C1, and 90% could probably be C2, with 95% being near-native and 100% being native-like. That’s just my interpretation, others might see it differently. And when I say B2, C1 or C2, I go by my definition of those [i.e. having the required level to (even potentially) pass the equivalent exam].

I agree. Who knows what 100% is, let alone 80%? If we enjoy interacting with the language, why would we stop? Even a little knowledge of a language is beneficial, interesting and its own reward.

It’s not a very powerful aim for language learning because of how much variance they is in projections, but it is a decent idea when you have raw data you can interpret.