quinta-feira, 9 de agosto de 2012

LEARNING LANGUAGES IS HER LIFE-LONG PROJECT


Fasulye, 51 years old, from Germany 
Fasulye is her internet name. she uses this name for her internet-activities such as writing her blog or making YouTube – videos. Her native language is German. Professionally, she has a background as a student of Law, Dutch and Romance Philology. And she has two professional office diplomas. So she is formally qualified to do officejobs where she can use her foreign languages skills, and as you are going to find out, she is highly skilled on them. Besides this her preference would be to do language – teaching. She has already teaching experience ingiving private language lessons to children and adults. Brazilian Polyglot has invited her to share experiences and give us some tips, and Fasulye accepted, I am sure you are going to enjoy quite a lot what you are abouty to read:

Brazilian Polyglot: I have some students inmy school who give the excuse that they are too old to learn a new language,and that they cannot learn anything beyond the basic. What is your opinionabout this?

Fasulye: Generally, there isno age limit for language learning. For me it looks like an “easy excuse” for not wanting to put enough work into the learning process. For me personally I see no difference in my learning capacity when I was 20-30 years old and now atthe age of 51. My advantage is of course that I have never stopped the learning process, so it was not difficult for me to obtain a professional language diploma as a foreign language correspondent for English and German at age 46.For example in my language course of Danish the oldest participant is 80 andother people in my class are around 60, so I have seen enough other people ofan advanced age besides me learning languages.
If you haven'tlearned a language after your school age and you are let's say 40, 50 or olderyou may need a bit more time to develop good study methods but there is really no hinderance why you can't learn a language succesfully.

BP: What is your family'sopinion about your love for languages? Was it always like that?

F: I am a singleperson, so you mean the family in which I was born. When I was a child of the elementary school age, we lived for 2 years in the United States, so I had tolearn my first foreign language English at the age of 7-8 years. When Iattended grammar school in Germany, my parents allowed me to participate in aschool language exchange with France and sent me twice to a holiday course for children in Great Britain. This was of course very helpful for my school languages French and English. As well my parents financed my second universitystudies of Romance Philology (Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Latin andPedagogics). Later in my adult life my own motivation and preservance to study several foreign languages was bigger than the support of my family for it. My personal wish would be to receive more family support for my life-long journey of foreign language learning.

BP: How many hours do you spend daily studying languages?

F: You have to differentiate between “studying languages” and “using languages”. In my case it makes much difference because I use my foreign languages all day long 7 days aweek, but my concentrated study sessions I do perhaps 2-3 times a week forlet's say 90 minutes. This additionally to attending my Danish language courseonce a week for 90 minutes. Plus vocabulary learning when I am sitting in thetram, in the train, in the doctor's waiting room or at the bus station using myA5 – handwritten vocabulary books. But using my languages all the time meansthat I have a polyglot lifestyle. So I do normal daily things like thinking,writing my shopping lists, using cooking recipes, writing letters and e-mailsor watching cable TV in Dutch, English and French. Especially foreign language thinking is a very important factor for me: It's cheap because it costs nothing and I can do it everywhere!

BP:  Being a polyglot demands too muchtime to maintain the languages, what is your strategy to maintain all of themupdated?

F: The more languages you speak the more time you need to keep them all up to date. With intermediate and advanced language levels it's easier to keep them fresh because you can usethese language for all kinds of activities. As I said I do language – cooking, write letters and e-mails, communicate in the internet in different langages, speak with people from different countries on Skype and so on. Only with the languages on the beginner level it is demanding because at that stage you needto do active study. So it's absolutely necessary to get beyond the beginnerlevel to pick up further languages.

BP: How do you choose a language tolearn that is under which criteria do you pick them to study?

F: My principle isthat I should have multiple reasons to choose one special language, one reasononly would not be enough. I find this necessary to get a stable motivation forstudy. So, if one of my reasons falls off, I will still keep on studying the new language. My newest target language is Danish and I chose Danish because I visited Danmark in 2001, I was born in Schleswig-Holstein near the Danishborder, I wanted to visit the Universala Esperanto Kongreso in Kopenhagen in2011 and there is a person on the HTLAL – language forum who inspires my Danish. Of course for different languages my reasons to choose them are also different. There is no “One criterium fits all” solution for my languagechoices.

BP: Among all the languages you havemastered till now, which do you think was the hardest to learn and which wasthe easiest and why?

F: I would adviseeveryone not to speak about “mastering a language” because I find thisexpression misleading. Language learners and polyglots speak differentlanguages on different levels. So do I! The language level of my Dutch is C2 (=the highest level) and my target language Danish is on the A1-A2 level. Myother languages are in-between. Let me begin with the easiest language: This is Esperanto with its typical phonetic pronounciation and simplified grammar structure. It took me three months of having private lessons twice a week to beable to speak it actively on an intermediate level. The most difficult studylanguages I found Ancient Greek and Russian with their different writing systemand their irregular grammar. I decided to drop both languages, the dead one because I had no use for it after finishing school and Russian because I foundit too difficult and there was no suitable language course offered for me atthe adult education center at that time. I should add that the difficulty of alanguage in general always depends on the native language of the speaker. Thereis no absolute language difficulty! For speakers with Portuguese as theirnative language it's easier to learn other Romance languages like French,Spanish or Italian than for me with German as my native language. But for me based on German it was easier to learn English and Dutch than it would be fornative speakers of Portuguese.

BP:  I have passed a time infront of myiPad watching your videos on You Tube, your videos are really very useful toeverybody, your attempt to help people with new books and methods is reallygood. I really think YouTube videos are a great tool for both sides, the one who makesthe videos learns a lot with those who watch them and vice versa. What is yourrelation with the camera? That is aren't you shy when you put a video there?

Fasulye working on her internet projects.
F: No, I am not at allcamera-shy, on the contrary I enjoy very much speaking to an invisible audiencewhile being filmed by a camera. When I make videos myself it's my choice to decidewhat I want to say and what I want to be shown in the picture. I get a lot of positive feedback from people from different countries who are watching myvideos. My geatest motivation to make these videos is to inspire other peopleand show them that language learning is something you should enjoy because it'sfun. Without making these videos I could only inspire my private friends in real life.

BP: I really know that the nextquestion I am about to ask is a little bit hard to have an accurate answer dueto the complexity of our studies, but let us try, how many languages do you know and speak? As we know, there are different levels of knowledge in the different skills.

F: I find it notprecise enough to describe my language skills with the terms “beginner”, “intermediate”and “advanced”. The CEFR – levels of the European Framework of Languages aremore precise and therefore better to use. So beginner = A1 or A2, intermediate= B1 or B2 and advanced = C1 or C2. A1 is the lowest and C2 is the highestlanguage level.

To know more about CEFR - Click to enlarge
My language-levels:
German: native
Dutch: C2
English: C1
French: B2
Italian: B2
Esperanto: B2
Spanish: B1-B2
Danish: A1-A2
Turkish: A1
Latin: only passiveB1

But I should clarify that any language levels are never static but they are developing constantly.Like other polyglots I try to keep ALL my languages active because I don't wantto “forget” languages. Especially with Latin this is very difficult because Ican't cook with Latin recipes, watch Latin TV or talk with people in Latin onSkype. Of course with living languages it's much easier to keep them active.

       BP: Sometimes theterm “speak” does not always mean that you can also “understand” the languageat the same level that you can speak. How do you overcome this,especially with languages that are not related to your native language like Spanish or Italian?

Language skills ingeneral can be devided into two active skills and into two passive skills. Theactive skills are speaking and writing and the passive skills are reading andlistening.

From my experienceit's easer to aquire passive language skills than active language skills. Thatmeans for example that I can understand a foreign language more easily thanthat I can speak it. I observe this with my new target languages: First I learn how to read, listen and understand them, but my speaking ability which is in mycase dependant on my thinking ability in the foreign language will developlater on. So people should not loose hope, if they find speaking a new language at the beginning very difficult. To overcome typical difficulties with a newlanguage in general I do a lot of listening and reading at the same time.Mostly, I use the audio CDs of my textbooks and workbooks and I espeically listen to dialogs while reading the texts. And it's important to do this very,very often to develop a good feeling for the sound and for the writing of thenew language. At the end you should be able to hear the sound of the newlanguage in your mind while reading texts in this language.

BP: We have in the market severallanguage courses like Assimil, Teach Yourself series, Hugo, Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone, Pons and so on. If you could chose just one of themwhich one would you choose and why?

F: Unfortunately, I am not the suitable person to answer this question as it is asked here because Iam not familiar with these these internationally used language programs basedon the English language because I buy my textbooks, workbooks and audio CDs inmy local bookstores here in Germany. Besides Assimil the here named language programs are not availble in Germany, so I stick to good quality language resources based on the German language. My favourite publishing house fortextbooks, workbooks and audio CDs is Hueber, for the bilingual dictionariesbased on German I prefer Langenscheidt and for the my verb tables and concisegrammars I prefer Pons.

         BP: As you told mebefore, your most recent language was Danish, that is a little bit similar to  German and Dutch, what is your strategy not to mix them up?

F: Indeed Danish issimilar because all three languages named here belong to the Germanic language group. But I don't mix these three languages up because I have a native levelin German and a near-native level in Dutch, so my language levels of these twoare too high to get them mixed with Danish. The danger to mix languages upwould occur, if I studied for example Danish and Swedish on both a beginnerlevel at the same time. My general advice is that, if you want to study two languages on the same beginner level, choose two languages which are significantly different. For example for two years I studied paralell Danish and Turkish, which have no linguistic relationship. If you want to study two closely related languages, it would be wise to have different language levelsin them or to be already fluent in both of them.

BP.  What will your next language be?And why?

F: This is of coursean intereresting question to ask! My current project is now “10 years of Danish” and I have almost 3 years of Danish studies behind me. So it it will take quite a lot of time until I will decide to choose a new target language. I see only two possible choices: Either I will pick up my studies of Turkishagain or I will start learning Portuguese from zero. My reasons for choosing Portuguese would be because it's a European language and I live in Europe andmy previous knowlede of Spanish grammar and vocabulary would make it for meeasier to learn. Should I study Portuguese, I would adapt the pronounciation of Portugal but I would also famliarize myself with Brazilian Portuguese.

BP: To finish, what message would you leave to those (like my mother) willing to learn a foreign language, but theythink themselves to be too old for this?
F: Your age is not a valid excuse for not learning a foreign language. An excellent motivation to learn a language and the amount of work you put into the learning project are essential. If you are really interested in the language, and if you study regularly, your age will not be of any hinderance. If you are 40 , 50, 60 oreven 70 it doesn't matter. Maybe you will have to practise more than the veryyoung people who have just left school, but that shouldn't at all discourage you. For me personally it means that I will just keep on studying my languagesfor the years to come as I did it in the years before. I will just stick to the methods which have worked for me well in the past and perhaps modernize something here and there, if new tools are availble such as an MP3 -player orthe internet, which were not availble for me 20 -30 years ago.
As readers of this interview, I wish you all good luck with your language studies!
To know more about Fasulye and see her videos check the links below:


30 comentários:

  1. Nice interview! Thanks for posting it. I just wondered about one thing:
    "Besides Assimil the here named language programs are not availble in Germany, so I stick to good quality language resources based on the German language."
    This is not true! All of them (Assimil, Teach Yourself series, Hugo, Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone, Pons...) are available!!! Rosetta Stone even has a strong campaign on TV currently. You can buy these resources in book stores and via internet... I've never tried one of them out, but they're definitely available in Germany too.
    Regards, Mae

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  2. Hi Mae,

    Thanks for commenting! These English-based resources may be availble via internet in Germany. But I am not an internet book purchaser, so I always go to the two big bookstores which we have in the city and there I haven't even seen Rosetta Stone, nor Teach Yourself in English or Pimsleur. Hugo and Pimsleur I don't know at all. Rosetta Stone I only know from You Tube and OK, I have some study experiece with Assimil "Türkisch ohne Mühe".

    Kind regards,

    Fasulye

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    Respostas
    1. You could ask at your local bookstore to please order the resource you want to buy. I haven't met any bookstore yet, that wouldn't do that for their clients. I even asked for Michael Erard's book, and as they didn't have it, they offered me to order it within 2 weeks.
      Good luck!
      - Mae

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  3. I have received another feedback on the interview and indeed it's possible to order language resources based on the English language via Amazon.de which cooperates with Amazon.com. So should I want to study L3 via L2 (it's the method where you use a language which you speak at an advanced level to study another foreign language) I will have the possibility to order textbooks and workbooks based on English via Amazon.de.

    Fasulye

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  4. This is a very good discussion, I really agree that we can definitely learn a foreign language without using our mother tongue i.e by using another foreign language, in fact almost all the languages I speak I learnt through English or French, and not through Portuguese due to the lack of good resources in my mother tongue. When a person in my country asks me an advice about being a polyglot, the first one is for sure "learn English" even if you are not interest on it, it will help you to learn any other language, because the best resources are available in such language, and by doing this you can practice your L2 at the same time you learn your L3, L4 and so on..

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  5. Learning languages L3 via L2 is also a fovourite method of mine but I rather use it with bilingual dictionaries. For all my languages I have bilingual dictionaries based on German (mostly Langenscheidt but also some Pons), based on Dutch and based on English. I can enlarge my vocabulary, if I look up the Dutch or English translation of Danish or Turkish words. But for this method it's necessary that I already have an advanced level in my L2 - languages that is in Dutch or English.

    Fasulye

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