Babies are the alternate test case.
Yes, parents and surroundings offer high input. However, from the moment a child is born they cry, and thereafter they try to get attention through such imperfect oral communication.
Babies are the alternate test case.
If you’re doing a lot of listening, why would tones get internalized incorrectly? I’m certainly open, though skeptical, to the idea of there being some sort of feedback loop that output provides that helps with acquisition making it quicker/more efficient. Maybe some words might be incompletely acquired (maybe you just haven’t paid enough attention to which tone it is until you try to say it, but if there’s enough minimal pairs, you should still hear the difference), but incomplete is different than incorrect, and this would apply to basically any aspect of phonology, not just tones.
By special I mean I find most statements of the following form to likely be dubious “but with a language like X, it’s different, you have do something different.” Languages are languages and the human brain is the human brain. If early output is best for Mandarin, why not other languages too? Is it only an relative effect depending on L1?
Acquiring phonology is hard in any language. Every language has its peculiarities relative to your own language that might require a slight shift of focus, but a fundamentally different approach?
I would definitely say output takes practice especially with languages that don’t share similar structures or sounds. I have studied spanish and korean and can say for a fact that output practice is needed for both but the amount is determined by the foreigness. Spanish is much easier because its the same order and the sound of it isn’t super foreign (its still a eurpean language). Korean (or any eastern asain language whether its the backwards word order, weird sounds, or strange way of saying things) requires more time. I agree that the higher level one has of listening/reading the less time will be required in total, but regardless a ton of time is needed to speak anywhere near a passable level in real situations.
I have never done any conversation practice really besides natives i run into on a daily basis (spanish is very common in the states depending on the location). (I have done probably 10 hours max of this conversation practice) Most of my “output practice” is thinking in the taret language and figuring out how i would express this thing in my target language either through look ups or noticing from my input. Also, writing is great especially with languages with different word orders. Pronunciation personally I find it a great practice to say a word a billion times next to native audio (only if you already know this word) to then allow your mouth a ton of practice/repititions to learn the tongue/mouth movements/intonation etc.
They did it, it worked for them. Why wouldn’t they assume it would work again?
Not everyone will care about the same parts of it that you do. I have zero interest in Mandarin. So I apply the topics we discuss here to the language I’m learning.
“I would definitely say output takes practice especially with languages that don’t share similar structures or sounds.”
Yup. It turns out there is this thing called reality and unfortunately we live in it. Who would have thought?
I doubt you know there are “zero successful cases of learners taking this approach.” The reason? Because hardly anyone has the time to take this approach with a language so far removed from European languages such as Mandarin.
I would imagine it’d take 4-5 times longer than another European language would. That would probably amount to full time immersion for 5-6 years (or more). Who has the time to do that? That’s why you don’t know anyone who’s done it. But I bet someone, somewhere, has.
Actually, there are a LOT of people, whom I don’t personally know, who’ve done it, around 1.5 billion of them in fact. Why people constantly ignore this actual fact is baffling to me. TBH, it’s really not that baffling, it’s purely because people want a quick solution to a problem that takes much longer to solve than they want/are willing to admit.
I didn’t say I “know” there are “zero successful cases of learners taking this approach.” I actually didn’t express my opinion on that. I’m open minded but extremely sceptical, for what seem good reasons.
I issued a simple challenge to give me an example of ADULTS who have taken this approach sucessfully.
And, predictably, nobody has risen to the challenge. Yet everybody still seems to have very strong opinions on the topic.
“Actually, there are a LOT of people, whom I don’t personally know, who’ve done it, around 1.5 billion of them in fact.”
They were children not adults.
Speaking from my experience, I never really practiced when I was learning english, I didn’t even practice speaking before I taking my IELTS English test and my overall score came out to be high C1 thanks to my perfect listening and reading score. I went to an english speaking country for school and I had trouble articulating my thoughts but it took a few weeks with total immersion to get extremely comfortable. I haven’t really spoken english for almost 3 years and now it’s extremely rusty but my understanding of the language is still impeccable.
At some point in your language learning journey you just feels fluent, you don’t need a test to classify you as B2 or C2 because it can’t really get any harder, listening and reading become automatic and effortless, anyone who’s truly fluent in a language will understand what this mean. But speaking is a skill of its own, extremely high maintenance but easily improve once you can understand virtually everything.
With all of that said I truly think there’s little reason to deliberately practice speaking if you’re not using it daily or planning on soon because it’s going to deteriorate very rapidly. Even my native language became rusty when I was not using it living in an english speaking country. My native language is Vietnamese btw and for Vietnamese speakers English is as exotic as it is for English speakers learning Chinese or Japanese
“…I didn’t even practice speaking before I taking my IELTS English test and my overall score came out to be high C1…”
What were your scores for each part of the IELTS?
Also the anti output plan for AJATT and japanese is important because of the word order/way things are expressed, but also matt’s pitch accent was bad until year 5 when he realized it was a thing. So early output isn’t bad unless you force it. You think his pitch accent would have been 100% perfect if he waited till year 10 to output? No.It’s something that needs to be worked on just like anything else. Usually extreme viewpoints in anything are wrong and it appears to be true here.
Also, the finer points of any language like better accent and more complex grammatical things are usually ignored by second language learners. This includes (tones, complex pronunciation, subjunctive, and other complex grammatical features like cases etc)
Listening-reading-writing-speaking : 9.0-8.5-7.0-6.5 overall an 8.0
I have noticed this as well “it’s going to deteriorate very rapidly” the basics are always there but random things you should/would know slowly vanish while the passive abilities stay. I agree completely as well deliberate output practice should come from needing the language unless you just find these activities engaging/fun.
So a few observations on this. Refold hasn’t existed all that long, and as far as I know isn’t all that popular a method or that widely known. I’m not a true believer in the method, nor have I even read it. Just glanced and moved on.
When I look at the guide I can see it is written in Polish, English and Spanish. So already we are talking about a community of primarily western people, many of whom are likely trying to learn a language without a naturally immersive environment.
The amount (raw and percentage) of people that go from 0 to hero in Mandarin, without essentially being forced to and without living in a naturally immersive environment, is not many. And the amount that do it in a few years is even fewer. I am not convinced that enough time has passed for a Refold’er to have succeeded in the method to point to an example.
Also this isn’t their community :), the place to go to find examples, or the absence thereof, would be their Discord?
Languages are a means of communication and essentially intertwined with the culture that speaks it. Each language will naturally develop strategies for how to communicate things, and when those strategies involve things completely alien to our native language or at least one we are proficient in, those will naturally be harder to learn. Grammatical Gender, Cases, Verb Tenses, Moods, Tones, Clicks, Word Order, Modal Particles, etc. etc. etc. There is no such thing as “grammatical languages”, just how much they differ from what we already are familiar with.
Mandarin has almost no cognates to English, a key feature that doesn’t exist in Western Languages – i.e., tones, and a writing system that uses logograms. All of this adds up to a language that takes westerners a long time to learn. Those new features require active study to learn, but beyond that I don’t think you can put any language on a pedestal and say they are “unique” anymore than everyone’s situation is unique.
I am also willing to wager there are some pre-global digital age adults in Hong Kong or Taiwan that learned to speak Mandarin as an adult after having a high comprehension of it. I am willing to put in no work to verify this (and I’m certainly not asking my coworkers in Taiwan, that natively speak Hokkien/Taiwanese or a Formosan language, how they learned Mandarin).
My point in this is, people learn to speak a lingua franca (including Mandarin) all the time for personal or professional reasons as an adult, and often after having a high understanding of the language.
- I am not a Refold apologist, nor even interested.
- I do not agree that Mandarin is unique in a way that can be used to disqualify examples from other languages, so much as it is nearly impossible to generalize anything about language acquisition because everyone’s circumstances are unique.
- I do not think that waiting to speak is bad advice whole-cloth, but it does need to be understood that you will not wake up speaking the language one day, and when you begin to speak you will have a massive gap between what you understand and what you can say.
- Languages require deliberate practice to learn to speak. The longer we put off that deliberate practice, the longer everything will take.
- People can, and should prioritize, but prioritization has consequences.
“I do not agree that Mandarin is unique in a way that can be used to disqualify examples from other languages, so much as it is nearly impossible to generalize anything about language acquisition because everyone’s circumstances are unique.”
I genuinely don’t understand this point. There is a core difference between Mandarin and non-tonal languages which is absolutely essential to this question. You do not pick up tones from immersion alone so people who only input come out speaking basically atonal Mandarin until and unless they start tone training, and that can take a while.
This is a key difference between Mandarin and Japanese, where most of these examples stem from. With Japanese, learners who only immerse don’t pick up pitch accent. But that matters much less. You can still be fluent in Japanese without pitch accent but you can’t be fluent in Chinese without tones.
Nearly any language anyone could learn has features that require active study and dedicated practice to understand and use correctly. It just so happens for western learners of Mandarin, that they will struggle with tones because it simply doesn’t exist as a way to pass lexical information in the Sprachbund.
If a user does not begin studying them from day 1, that is a choice they can make, but doing so they should be aware of the consequences, namely that it will still be hard to learn after a year and a half of immersion. That doesn’t inherently mean the advice to wait on output pending that understanding is a bad thing.
Finnish has 15 grammatical cases. A learner can choose to forego learning them, but when they go to speak they can say wildly incorrect (incomprehensible) things by not using the correct grammatical case.
Swedish and Norwegian are rhythmically tonal (or have a pitch accent), and a ton of different vowel sounds. Flattening everything to schwa, and talking platt will at best make you sound Danish, and in all circumstances more or less incomprehensible.
Every language has these examples.
“Nearly any language anyone could learn has features that require active study and dedicated practice to understand and use correctly. It just so happens for western learners of Mandarin, that they will struggle with tones because it simply doesn’t exist as a way to pass lexical information in the Sprachbund.”
Some languages have features of the oral language, e.g. tones, that will prevent learners reaching fluency - or even speaking the language in a manner that is comprehensible to native speakers - through mass input alone, and some don’t. That’s the crucial distinction.
Pitch accent, accent, cases, genders - they may be all good examples of features which require additional work besides pure input. But they will usually NOT provide a barrier to comprehension. Since they are not essential, the psychological blow from not acquiring them after thousands of hours of pure input is less brutal.
I think we need to stop pretending that this distinction isn’t a) real and b) central to this discussion.
Languages have unique sounds that often times a learner will literally be unable to hear, for possibly ever.
Being able to accurately produce the sounds in the right way is a necessary requirement to speak the language. It is unusual that learners need to learn an entirely new vector which they must use to communicate lexical information (relative pitch), but also not unheard of (see any sign language…).
If you can listen to a sound, and correctly understand it reliably, I don’t see how can you say it’s not really internalized correctly. Now being able to output that correctly and reliably is a completely different matter that needs to be practiced separately.
I understand for many that inability to say anything accurately without the basic requirements may be a cruel dose of reality if they are unprepared or misled, but, again, so long as that’s not being hidden or misconstrued, I don’t see it as an issue.
If you were to get good at baseball, and as a pitcher. It doesn’t matter how long you practice pitching, you won’t wake up being an expert hitter. You will have developed instincts about hitting, and will probably get better more quickly when you start, but without dedicated practice you better hope you’re in the AL.
“If a user does not begin studying them from day 1, that is a choice they can make, but doing so they should be aware of the consequences,”
I don’t get how anyone could even attempt to learn Mandarin and end up with atonal Mandarin, it’s sort of a fundamental aspect. It’d be like going years without realizing what conjugations were. The tone sandhi of “bù” was explained on day 1 in my lessons. Minimal pairs show up almost right away, “Tā zài nǎr? Tā zài nàr” appeared on day 5 for me. You’d have to be pretty thick to not notice something’s up with pitch. Seriously, who doesn’t learn about the existence of tones on day 1? (I don’t think we’re talking about the extreme case of never having learned anything about the language, and you only learned from exposure. Everyone learns at least a few tidbits here and there. Even if you knew nothing, there’s a lot minimal pairs in Chinese, if you listen at least several hundreds hours, you’d have to realize something was up.)
Maybe if you followed a traditional skill building course that’s fundamentally backwards where you get just a couple minutes (if that) of listening a week and focus on text most of the time, you could end up with messed up, extremely incomplete results, like most language learners at school. It boggles my mind how common it is for people to think they can just read and somehow end up being able to interact orally in the language, as if phonology doesn’t require exposure to acquire. Without listening exposure, your brain can’t even segment the string of speech sounds into words, much less understand the words.
Agreed. I don’t see how it’s possible for a person to have acquired a “5” in their comprehension of spoken Mandarin without an internalized understanding of how tones work. It seems literally impossible. But to output them is still not going to be a straightforward or easy journey.
Now if the argument in all of this it’s not even possible to reach a “5” in listening comprehension from immersion alone, well that’s a different argument, but also one I’d think we’d have evidence of…
And yes, we need to listen to things to gain listening comprehension :). We cannot read and magically wake up understanding spoken language in the same way we cannot listen and wake up speaking.
Hi, random idea: do we have datapoints on tone accuracy of late talkers? Just how bad are those suckers, especially compared to precocious talkers?
I might be willing to offer a sample, that is, once I start speaking (currently planned after reaching 2k hours of listening). But maybe other LingQ users are willing to share some samples? For the sake of moving this discussion out of the realm of theory. There appear to be multiple input based Chinese learners in this thread…