15 September 2011

I’ve had some more great feedback today for lesson three. I won’t post on this every time, just when I realise something that I think is important or at least made a difference to me. The feedback is still really helping me and it’s the small things that do it.

When a real person analyzes your work, especially if they’ve taught the subject before, they can really quickly highlight the mistakes and correct them. However the really nice thing is that they likely know why you are making that mistake and how you can go about fixing it. After explaining the same thing a hundred times it’s no wonder they’re getting good at it!

So, do not underestimate the value of a correspondence course regardless of which course you decide to do :)


In a previous post I mentioned that I needed to be more careful with my spelling. I then went ahead and made a couple of spelling mistakes in the very next lesson. Again I think this is mostly down to a mix up between the brain and the hands but at this stage, I don’t have enough language experience to be able to tell when a word looks funny. If for example I typed an ‘e’ when it should be an ‘a’, chances are I won’t be able to pick that up even if I check it again when I’m done (which believe it or not I did).

I can’t believe this is just me being dense so if you come across a similar problem, rest assured that it seems to be normal. The couple of people I’ve spoken to on it seem to agree that learners of all languages have to face this challenge and that it only gets better. I hope that’s true!

I did get some wrong which were really word endings and getting them to agree with each other. Mostly this was because I didn’t really get it but thanks to the feedback I think I’ll be able to handle it. One part of it was simply that the question was phrased in a strange way. There is no equivalent in English, so the sentence looks unnatural to start with. So you have to sort of guess what the question means and unfortunately I guessed wrong.

Other new wordy bits

I’ve also learned that the adverbs qualify only the verb and are unaffected by the noun. This is probably completely obvious to anyone who understands grammar, but it turns out I don’t know all that much. Then again I never needed to until now.

Esperanto puts a great emphasis on word endings and building logical and robust sentences. Before you can do this you do need to understand basic grammar and by understand I mean it needs to come naturally to you. It’ not enough to vaguely know that a noun and adverb exist, you need to know what they do, how they do it and why. It’s pretty much essential for Esperanto because you need to know this in order to build words and vocab.

Now, before you point out that Esperanto is supposed to be easy to learn, it really is. The grammar is relatively simple, logical and has no exceptions. That is, once you learn the handful of rules, everything else “just works”. No other language has this (though perhaps Lojban does).

The upshot of this is that it makes understanding Chinese grammar easier. By being aware of the different parts of speech, I’m already seeing some of the things I do know in a much clearly light. This is really useful and will greatly improve the speed at which I can build my own sentences.

I know people say that grammar isn’t really important, that you can get your point across and that you really should be focusing on just communicating. I agree. However for a small investment in time and effort, a little bit of grammar goes a hell of a long way, will improve what you say and give you more confidence.

Having the vocabulary to talk about languages is important for other reasons too. Once you know how a language works and by that I mean any language, you can put it into context. This builds on what Chris Lonsdale calls the adult advantage _in his book _the third ear _(I’ll write a post on this later). Okay sure I learn like a baby but I’m not convinced that’s the best approach - after all I have 28 years of knowledge and real world experience - surely I can leverage that?

Being able to talk about language requires its own language - grammar. Knowing grammar or at least the basics will make a difference. It’s not the be all and end all I agree but I reckon it is pretty damn useful all the same…

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