How hard is it to learn English, part 2

Doug points out that how hard it is for an adolescent or adult to learn English depends on what language the learner speaks now.

He’s right, and the original op ed made the same point.

The Foreign Service Institute actually has a ranking of languages in terms of difficulty for English speakers, along with an estimate of how long it takes to reach S-3/R-3 proficiency (which I assume means Speaking and Reading proficiency measured on a scale of 0 to 5).

[pause…]

Interesting.

Looking at the chart now (I’ve seen only abbreviated versions in the past), I notice that they seem to consider French quite a bit more difficult than Spanish, at least in terms of the time they estimate it takes to go from 0 to S-3/R-3. That’s certainly the way it seems to me. 

24 weeks for Spanish, 30 for French.

600 to 750 “class hours” in all.

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Greetings from Estonia

I’ve been using Lingvist as well as Duolingo to study French, and have just this week subscribed to Memrise as well.

I’m using Duolingo to study Spanish at the same time. Possibly a bad idea, but there it is.

Spanish is the language I’ve studied longest, and I’ve always wanted to finally be able to understand Spanish-speaking people, so … although I’ll be spending 6 weeks in Paris, I didn’t want to ‘give up’ my Spanish. So I’m doing one Duolingo “Experience” in Spanish each day along with 6 Experiences in French. Plus 100 French cards on Lingvist.

Oddly, the only serious interference between French and Spanish I’ve experienced so far involves the word for ice cream. What’s odd about that is the fact that I don’t remember how to say “ice cream” in either language, so why should not remembering how to say “ice cream” in Spanish interfere with remembering how to say “ice cream” in French ? 

Whenever I’m asked to supply the French word for ice cream, I recall instead that the Spanish word for ice cream begins with an ‘h,’ which makes me think the French word starts with an ‘h,’ too.

After that my mind becomes a complete blank. 

Ice cream in Spanish: helado
Ice cream in French: glacé

Why helado-starts-with-an-h should obstruct glacé-starts-with-a-g, I don’t know.

~

Sante !

I have no idea whether fanning out among multiple apps is wise. I was thinking that using different apps might give me a slightly different take on the language, or perhaps different points of entry to each word, which might make the words easier to remember.

I don’t know that I’m getting different perspectives on French, and it’s impossible to tell whether multiple apps speed up my recall of the same words.

But I’m definitely getting a whole new perspective on Estonia, the home country of Lingvist’s creator.

Lingvist takes a more sober view of French than do either Duolingo or Memrise. I mean that literally: Memrise teaches you how to say “Bottoms up” in the first 10 words.

Which is kind of funny when you think about it, since nobody says “Bottoms up” in English. 

Sante !

Lingvist’s sobriety is a lot of fun after all the green owls and health bars and space cadets and whatnots of the other two. Nevertheless, I frequently find Lingvist amusing.

For instance, according to Lingvist, I know 1,422 French words (I think that’s 1,422 words, not word families, but I’m not sure) which would allow me to read 77% of the words of any text.

To read fluently, you need to know 98% of the words of a text, so I’m months away from my reading goal. Yet Lingvist thinks it’s important for me, at this stage of the game, to comprehend the following:

Ce qui représente entre six et huit réalisations par an

Which represents between six to eight realisations per year

I have trouble envisioning myself ever wishing to say anything of this nature in French.

All the more so given that I don’t know what a realisation is in English.

Duolingo is very fun

Doug S recommended trying Duolingo, and I love it.

I don’t know whether it’s the best or the most efficient way to learn a foreign language. John McWhorter likes Glossika, which I assume means he likes Glossika better than Duolingo. It’s possible Duolingo involves too much translating from English to French and back again. I don’t know.

I wish I knew the literature on L2 learning.

In any event, I feel as if I’ve finally found an incontrovertible, absolute argument for the Wonders of Education Technology, a subject on which I have heretofore cast a No Vote: using a language app, you can hear what the words you’re learning sound like.

Plus the supposed convenience of education apps actually is convenient where Duolingo is concerned, and in a way that matters. I’ve never managed to stick with a MOOC, or watch more than one lecture from The Great Courses (which actually are great, as far as I can tell), but I’ve found it easy to return to Duolingo 25 days in a row. Duolingo is so compelling that it was one of my few daily habits that did not crash during the blackout.

Speaking of which, C. just talked to his co-teacher in Mt. Vernon … her electricity is off, and her brother, who works for Con Ed, says it will be days before it’s back on.

Days.

She has two young children.

Meanwhile, the lights just flickered off, then flickered back on.

The suspense is killing me.

And see:
The Westchester bomb cyclone and the achievement gap