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Learning Language on Your Own or with an Informal Teacher

In Linguistics and Language Learning on July 17, 2009 at 2:14 am

Taking an ALG Approach to Self-Study

By Antonio Graceffo

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Many people who have read about the ALG Automatic Language Growth method of language acquisition. The program is listening based, and is currently being used at AUA school in Bangkok, under the direction of David Long. Since the vast majority of the world’s people can’t travel to Bangkok, students have asked if it is possible to learn by distance learning or self-study. To date, there are no specific ALG distance learning or self-study programs available. Hopefully there are some products coming out toward the end of 2009.

 

Some people have written in and asked if they could approximate the ALG experience by

watching tons and tons of hours of TV in Japanese or Chinese or a foreign language. The answer is yes, BUT only if you already have sufficient basis to understand 55 -70% of what you are hearing. If you are a complete beginner, it won’t work. The TV would just become more noise.

 

If you are a beginning student, one way of “artificially” increasing your comprehension level is to first watch a similar movie or show in English. This is what we often did while I was studying to be a translator. We would read a current news story in several international newspapers and compare them. Or, we would watch a movie or TV show in English, and then watch it in the target language. I do this in Taiwan too. I watch a lot of Disney movies, like “Mulan”, “The Incredibles”, or “Kung Fu Panda” in English and then in Chinese. Over a period of months, I go back and forth between English and Chinese, watching them over and over again.

 

The trick is to choose few enough materials that you get constructive levels of repetition. If you choose too few, you wind up hearing the same story too frequently. You will get bored and tune out. Your brain will stop “guessing.” And when you stop guessing, you stop learning. If you choose too many materials, then it will take too long before they repeat. So, you must find a balance. You be the judge. After you embark on a disciplined program of listening on a regular schedule, then you can occasionally shake things up by throwing a new movie or TV show into the mix.

 

Just as an unscientific rule of thumb, depending upon how many hours you are listening per day, maybe you want to repeat a particular movie once per month.

 

People have asked about using the ALG method to learn reading and writing, particularly in Asian languages, which employ different alphabets. When children learn to read their native tongue, they already know nearly all of the words in their reading book. They need to simply learn the reading. ALG would say that most students of foreign language begin reading and writing to early. Reading and writing should be begun only after students have sufficient language. They shouldn’t e struggling with the meanings of words and phrases while learning to negotiate an unfamiliar writing system. In the case of Thai, which has many unique sounds which sound similar to the western ear, how can you learn to read and write these sounds if you haven’t mastered hearing and saying them?

 

Learning to read and write too soon is one more way of fossilizing mistakes, taking flawed language and making it permanent.

 

When you reach a point that you are read to learn reading and writing, you will need to employ a traditional methodology in order to acquire the alphabet and how to actually read and write in say Japanese, Thai or Chinese. In an ALG classroom, the teachers often write Thai words on the board while they are teaching listening, so that by the time the students get to their reading and writing levels, they already have some passive knowledge of the alphabet and have made assumptions about how it works. Studying on your own, you may not have this benefit.

 

Once you can read, you can use Core Novel Method, which is how I learned German. You just read and read and read stories and books that you enjoy reading, without a dictionary, Or with only occasional dictionary support. Once again, chose materials you are already familiar with in English. And you can go back and forth between English and the target language. With reading, I would advise not reading the same book more than two or three times per year.

 

Again, you can’t use this method if you are a complete beginner.

 

If you are a complete beginner you can use both ALG and Core Novel type approaches with your traditional learning materials. In other words, you can listen to your CDs and tapes over and over and over again and read your learner texts over and over. The reason ALG would actually steer you away from this suggestion, however, is that ALG is about listening to real language, not synthetic language, designed for the class room. Stories and movies are good because lots of real life situations and language occur in them. Arguably the news or an interview show is best for ‘real” natural language. Interview shows in particular are largely unscripted, so more authentic. The disadvantage, of course, is that there are no pictures to help you understand. So, an interview show would be only slightly better than listening to radio.

 

What I did for Chinese was to find several series of materials and buy two sets at the same level. In other words, I bought a complete set of beginning level 1 material: textbook, workbook, character book, and CDs for both the “Far Eastern Chinese” series and the “Audio Visual Chinese” series. This way, I had more practice at each level. If you are working with your teacher, you can have him or her teach you from one series, while you use the other series for self study. Make an appointment with your teacher once a week or so to check the homework from the series you do on your own.

 

ALG shies away from books, homework and traditional teachers. So, I am not strict ALG. But I take a lot of concepts from ALG and apply them to my language teaching and learning. In ALG there is an exercise called “Cross Talk.” This is a cross-cultural or cross-lingual communication tool developed by David Long, the man who is carrying on Dr. Brown’s work. In cross talk, two people who do not share a common language sit together and communicate by drawing on a paper, while they each speak their own native tongue. The idea here is that the listener has the visual clues of the pictures, plus body language, facial expression and tone of voice to help him understand what he is hearing. For an English native speaker, there is also the assumption that nearly everyone in the world has some understanding of English. So, this will also aid the listener in understanding.

 

I have taken cross talk a step further and employed it as a language learning tool, which allows any man, woman or child, who is a native speaker to become your language teacher.

 

Living in Asia, you will hear again and again that a foreigner is hoping to learn Chinese or Japanese from his or her partner. Often the linguistic development in the couple reaches a point of frustration, rather quickly, and they just give up on learning. They generally choose communication over development, and settle on a lingua franca. More often than not, couples communicate in English. The local, Asian partner, has generally had years of school English, where the foreign partner may have had a few months, or as little as zero training in the local language. So, the couple communicates in English, and the foreign partner never learns the local language.

 

Obviously there are many exceptions to this rule. We all know numerous couples who communicate in the local language. But most of the exceptions occur in couples where the foreign partner already had sufficient language to allow for communication and growth. Again, this concept of “already having sufficient language” mirrors Krashen’s Comprehensible Input Hypothesis and the ALG concept that if the language is too far over the listener’s head, it just becomes noise.

 

If we took a random sampling of mixed relationships, foreign and local, we would find that the bulk of them communicate almost exclusively in English.

 

The other method many foreigners try to employ is the language exchange. They meet once or twice a week with a local friend and agree to speak an hour of English and an hour of the local language. The problem again is that the foreign partner is generally at a lower level than the local partner. What the foreign partner needs is a teacher. But the local doesn’t know how to teach. And since such a large percentage of the foreigners living in Asia are teachers, the local partner benefits from a free English language lesson with a real teacher. The foreign partners often get frustrated, complaining that their girl friend, boy friend, or language partner doesn’t know how to teach.

 

You give an hour of English to your partner. When it is his or her turn to give you an hour of Japanese, you actually wind up with ten minutes of Japanese, and fifty minutes of clumsy explanations in curious English. I often see pairs of people sitting in Starbucks, with a Taiwanese friend, who has no concept of teaching or grammar, explaining the Chinese language, in broken English, to a westerner. It is often clear from the face of the westerner that he or she doesn’t even understand the explanation, but he smiles and says “Thank you” out of politeness.

 

The foreigner then usually looks at returning to school to learn the language. But school has a number of draw backs, such as boredom, inconvenience, and expense. These are the exact reasons why the foreigner quit school in the first place. In the end, many westerners never acquire the language of their host country, although upon arrival, this is one of the most commonly stated reasons why someone chooses to live in Taiwan, Japan, or China.

 

To circumvent this difficulty of learning from informal teachers, I came up with the concept of Language Buddies. Similar to traditional language exchange, you meet with your partner one or ten or a hundred times per week.

 

If you want to use your traditional learning materials with your partner, who is a non-teacher, you can prepare all of your lessons in advance. Then have your native speaker partner simply read all of the lessons to you, including reading texts and grammar exercises. When he or she finishes, then it is your turn to read. It can be very frustrating to ask a non-teacher to explain the language to you, so just use your native partner as a reader and pronunciation checker. Also, as soon as you ask him or her to explain the language, he or she will generally answer in English, which will eat into your Japanese listening time. ALG, of course, strictly prohibits analyzing the language or asking about the language. ALG would also want you to stay away from traditional language learning materials because they are full of synthetic, rather than “real” language.

 

For a more ALG type of approach: You use the Cross Talk Method, to tell each other stories, while drawing on paper. When you hear words you don’t know, you just let them go. Don’t ask for a translation. You can ask questions using English, but urge your language partner to answer in the local language. This way in your one hour of Japanese, you are actually hearing one hour of Japanese.

 

You and your language partner could plan your themes in advance. This way, you will each be using similar vocabulary. For example, you could both tell a news story which is currently running in the papers, or you could retell the plot of the latest popular movie. You could tell your partner in advance what it is you will be telling, and then he or she could prepare by first reading the story in his or her native tongue or in English. And you could do the same. Find out what your partner is going to tell you, and you prepare yourself in English or Japanese in advance.

 

What if you are both fans of “Star Trek” or “The Sopranos”? You could each agree to watch the same episode, whether in your own language or in the language you are studying, and then you would go in and tell the story in English, using picture stories, inflection, and body language. Your partner would then tell you the same story in Japanese.

 

Or, you could just let it be up to the speaker what he or she tells on a given day. This way you add the real element of surprise. The beauty of this exercise is that you are each in complete control of the story, while speaking, and the listener is free to listen. More importantly, the learner is free to learn whatever he needs to, or whatever he can, on a given day. One of the reasons ALG doesn’t like textbooks is because the books decide what the learner learns. In ALG the learner decides what he will learn on a given day.

 

Departing from strict ALG concepts, I would suggest using a digital audio recorder or camera to capture the story. You could listen to it again in your spare time, as part of your daily listening exercises.

 

Antonio Graceffo is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn,” and is he host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts odyssey.” See his linguistics videos and seminars on youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkFMewAsLfU&feature=channel_page

 

Contact Antonio Graceffo on facebook.com

Send him email Antonio@speakingadvdenture.com

 

Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,martial,arts,linguistics,odyssey,

language,acquisition,ALG,theory,growth,automatic,brown,long,

david,marvin,Bangkok,Thailand,thai,Chinese,teaching,learning,

studying,linguist,TESOL,TEFL,ESL,English,Second,Foreign,

other,languages,krashen,phonics,show,tell

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Learning Language on Your Own or with an Informal Teacher

In Linguistics and Language Learning on July 5, 2009 at 5:18 pm

wms1

Taking an ALG Approach to Self-Study

By Antonio Graceffo

 

Many people who have read about the ALG Automatic Language Growth method of language acquisition. The program is listening based, and is currently being used at AUA school in Bangkok, under the direction of David Long. Since the vast majority of the world’s people can’t travel to Bangkok, students have asked if it is possible to learn by distance learning or self-study. To date, there are no specific ALG distance learning or self-study programs available. Hopefully there are some products coming out toward the end of 2009.

 

Some people have written in and asked if they could approximate the ALG experience by

watching tons and tons of hours of TV in Japanese or Chinese or a foreign language. The answer is yes, BUT only if you already have sufficient basis to understand 55 -70% of what you are hearing. If you are a complete beginner, it won’t work. The TV would just become more noise.

 

If you are a beginning student, one way of “artificially” increasing your comprehension level is to first watch a similar movie or show in English. This is what we often did while I was studying to be a translator. We would read a current news story in several international newspapers and compare them. Or, we would watch a movie or TV show in English, and then watch it in the target language. I do this in Taiwan too. I watch a lot of Disney movies, like “Mulan”, “The Incredibles”, or “Kung Fu Panda” in English and then in Chinese. Over a period of months, I go back and forth between English and Chinese, watching them over and over again.

 

The trick is to choose few enough materials that you get constructive levels of repetition. If you choose too few, you wind up hearing the same story too frequently. You will get bored and tune out. Your brain will stop “guessing.” And when you stop guessing, you stop learning. If you choose too many materials, then it will take too long before they repeat. So, you must find a balance. You be the judge. After you embark on a disciplined program of listening on a regular schedule, then you can occasionally shake things up by throwing a new movie or TV show into the mix.

 

Just as an unscientific rule of thumb, depending upon how many hours you are listening per day, maybe you want to repeat a particular movie once per month.

 

People have asked about using the ALG method to learn reading and writing, particularly in Asian languages, which employ different alphabets. When children learn to read their native tongue, they already know nearly all of the words in their reading book. They need to simply learn the reading. ALG would say that most students of foreign language begin reading and writing to early. Reading and writing should be begun only after students have sufficient language. They shouldn’t e struggling with the meanings of words and phrases while learning to negotiate an unfamiliar writing system. In the case of Thai, which has many unique sounds which sound similar to the western ear, how can you learn to read and write these sounds if you haven’t mastered hearing and saying them?

 

Learning to read and write too soon is one more way of fossilizing mistakes, taking flawed language and making it permanent.

 

When you reach a point that you are read to learn reading and writing, you will need to employ a traditional methodology in order to acquire the alphabet and how to actually read and write in say Japanese, Thai or Chinese. In an ALG classroom, the teachers often write Thai words on the board while they are teaching listening, so that by the time the students get to their reading and writing levels, they already have some passive knowledge of the alphabet and have made assumptions about how it works. Studying on your own, you may not have this benefit.

 

Once you can read, you can use Core Novel Method, which is how I learned German. You just read and read and read stories and books that you enjoy reading, without a dictionary, Or with only occasional dictionary support. Once again, chose materials you are already familiar with in English. And you can go back and forth between English and the target language. With reading, I would advise not reading the same book more than two or three times per year.

 

Again, you can’t use this method if you are a complete beginner.

 

If you are a complete beginner you can use both ALG and Core Novel type approaches with your traditional learning materials. In other words, you can listen to your CDs and tapes over and over and over again and read your learner texts over and over. The reason ALG would actually steer you away from this suggestion, however, is that ALG is about listening to real language, not synthetic language, designed for the class room. Stories and movies are good because lots of real life situations and language occur in them. Arguably the news or an interview show is best for ‘real” natural language. Interview shows in particular are largely unscripted, so more authentic. The disadvantage, of course, is that there are no pictures to help you understand. So, an interview show would be only slightly better than listening to radio.

 

What I did for Chinese was to find several series of materials and buy two sets at the same level. In other words, I bought a complete set of beginning level 1 material: textbook, workbook, character book, and CDs for both the “Far Eastern Chinese” series and the “Audio Visual Chinese” series. This way, I had more practice at each level. If you are working with your teacher, you can have him or her teach you from one series, while you use the other series for self study. Make an appointment with your teacher once a week or so to check the homework from the series you do on your own.

 

ALG shies away from books, homework and traditional teachers. So, I am not strict ALG. But I take a lot of concepts from ALG and apply them to my language teaching and learning. In ALG there is an exercise called “Cross Talk.” This is a cross-cultural or cross-lingual communication tool developed by David Long, the man who is carrying on Dr. Brown’s work. In cross talk, two people who do not share a common language sit together and communicate by drawing on a paper, while they each speak their own native tongue. The idea here is that the listener has the visual clues of the pictures, plus body language, facial expression and tone of voice to help him understand what he is hearing. For an English native speaker, there is also the assumption that nearly everyone in the world has some understanding of English. So, this will also aid the listener in understanding.

 

I have taken cross talk a step further and employed it as a language learning tool, which allows any man, woman or child, who is a native speaker to become your language teacher.

 

Living in Asia, you will hear again and again that a foreigner is hoping to learn Chinese or Japanese from his or her partner. Often the linguistic development in the couple reaches a point of frustration, rather quickly, and they just give up on learning. They generally choose communication over development, and settle on a lingua franca. More often than not, couples communicate in English. The local, Asian partner, has generally had years of school English, where the foreign partner may have had a few months, or as little as zero training in the local language. So, the couple communicates in English, and the foreign partner never learns the local language.

 

Obviously there are many exceptions to this rule. We all know numerous couples who communicate in the local language. But most of the exceptions occur in couples where the foreign partner already had sufficient language to allow for communication and growth. Again, this concept of “already having sufficient language” mirrors Krashen’s Comprehensible Input Hypothesis and the ALG concept that if the language is too far over the listener’s head, it just becomes noise.

 

If we took a random sampling of mixed relationships, foreign and local, we would find that the bulk of them communicate almost exclusively in English.

 

The other method many foreigners try to employ is the language exchange. They meet once or twice a week with a local friend and agree to speak an hour of English and an hour of the local language. The problem again is that the foreign partner is generally at a lower level than the local partner. What the foreign partner needs is a teacher. But the local doesn’t know how to teach. And since such a large percentage of the foreigners living in Asia are teachers, the local partner benefits from a free English language lesson with a real teacher. The foreign partners often get frustrated, complaining that their girl friend, boy friend, or language partner doesn’t know how to teach.

 

You give an hour of English to your partner. When it is his or her turn to give you an hour of Japanese, you actually wind up with ten minutes of Japanese, and fifty minutes of clumsy explanations in curious English. I often see pairs of people sitting in Starbucks, with a Taiwanese friend, who has no concept of teaching or grammar, explaining the Chinese language, in broken English, to a westerner. It is often clear from the face of the westerner that he or she doesn’t even understand the explanation, but he smiles and says “Thank you” out of politeness.

 

The foreigner then usually looks at returning to school to learn the language. But school has a number of draw backs, such as boredom, inconvenience, and expense. These are the exact reasons why the foreigner quit school in the first place. In the end, many westerners never acquire the language of their host country, although upon arrival, this is one of the most commonly stated reasons why someone chooses to live in Taiwan, Japan, or China.

 

To circumvent this difficulty of learning from informal teachers, I came up with the concept of Language Buddies. Similar to traditional language exchange, you meet with your partner one or ten or a hundred times per week.

 

If you want to use your traditional learning materials with your partner, who is a non-teacher, you can prepare all of your lessons in advance. Then have your native speaker partner simply read all of the lessons to you, including reading texts and grammar exercises. When he or she finishes, then it is your turn to read. It can be very frustrating to ask a non-teacher to explain the language to you, so just use your native partner as a reader and pronunciation checker. Also, as soon as you ask him or her to explain the language, he or she will generally answer in English, which will eat into your Japanese listening time. ALG, of course, strictly prohibits analyzing the language or asking about the language. ALG would also want you to stay away from traditional language learning materials because they are full of synthetic, rather than “real” language.

 

For a more ALG type of approach: You use the Cross Talk Method, to tell each other stories, while drawing on paper. When you hear words you don’t know, you just let them go. Don’t ask for a translation. You can ask questions using English, but urge your language partner to answer in the local language. This way in your one hour of Japanese, you are actually hearing one hour of Japanese.

 

You and your language partner could plan your themes in advance. This way, you will each be using similar vocabulary. For example, you could both tell a news story which is currently running in the papers, or you could retell the plot of the latest popular movie. You could tell your partner in advance what it is you will be telling, and then he or she could prepare by first reading the story in his or her native tongue or in English. And you could do the same. Find out what your partner is going to tell you, and you prepare yourself in English or Japanese in advance.

 

What if you are both fans of “Star Trek” or “The Sopranos”? You could each agree to watch the same episode, whether in your own language or in the language you are studying, and then you would go in and tell the story in English, using picture stories, inflection, and body language. Your partner would then tell you the same story in Japanese.

 

Or, you could just let it be up to the speaker what he or she tells on a given day. This way you add the real element of surprise. The beauty of this exercise is that you are each in complete control of the story, while speaking, and the listener is free to listen. More importantly, the learner is free to learn whatever he needs to, or whatever he can, on a given day. One of the reasons ALG doesn’t like textbooks is because the books decide what the learner learns. In ALG the learner decides what he will learn on a given day.

 

Departing from strict ALG concepts, I would suggest using a digital audio recorder or camera to capture the story. You could listen to it again in your spare time, as part of your daily listening exercises.

 

Antonio Graceffo is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn,” and is he host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts odyssey.” See his linguistics videos and seminars on youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkFMewAsLfU&feature=channel_page

 

Contact Antonio Graceffo on facebook.com

Send him email Antonio@speakingadvdenture.com

 

Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,martial,arts,linguistics,odyssey,

language,acquisition,ALG,theory,growth,automatic,brown,long,

david,marvin,Bangkok,Thailand,thai,Chinese,teaching,learning,

studying,linguist,TESOL,TEFL,ESL,English,Second,Foreign,

other,languages,krashen,phonics,show,tell

ALG Linguistic

In Linguistics and Language Learning on May 11, 2009 at 4:21 am

 

ALG ROC 1 raw 060_0001

 

Video Series New Video: ALG Linguistics (Part 1of 5)

Linguist and author, Antonio Graceffo, explains ALG, Automatic language Growth, a second language acquisition theory, developed by Dr. J. Marvin Brown, of the United States. The method is currently being used to teach, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese, at AUA School in Bangkok, where David Long continues Dr. Brown’s research. Antonio took the concepts he learned, while studying under David Long, and applied them to teaching in Taiwan. This video was filmed at one of Antonio’s linguistics seminars at a university in Tainan, Taiwan. The participants learn to employ an ALG tool, called Cross Talk to communicate across barriers. In the video, you will hear people speaking Chinese, English, German, French, and Thai. See parts 1 through 5 on youtube Watch it fee on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEhFCbn8f1c ALG, Automatic language Growth, is a second language acquisition theory, developed by Dr. J. Marvin Brown, of the United States. The method is currently being used to teach, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese, at AUA School in Bangkok, where David Long continues Dr. Brown’s research. Antonio took the concepts he learned, while studying under David Long, and applied them to teaching in Taiwan. This video was filmed at one of Antonio’s linguistics seminars at a university in Tainan, Taiwan. The participants learn to employ an ALG tool, called Cross Talk to communicate across barriers. In the video, you will hear people speaking Chinese, English, German, French, and Thai. ALG Linguistics (Part 2) Host Antonio Graceffo leads a group of students in Cross Talk, an ALG based communication tool, developed by David Long of AUA Bangkok, to help facilitate crosscultural and extra-linguistic communication. ALG, Automatic language Growth, is a second language acquisition theory, developed by Dr. J. Marvin Brown, of the United States. The method is currently being used to teach, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese, at AUA School in Bangkok, where David Long continues Dr. Brown’s research. Antonio took the concepts he learned, while studying under David Long, and applied them to teaching in Taiwan. This video was filmed at one of Antonio’s linguistics seminars at a university in Tainan, Taiwan. The participants learn to employ an ALG tool, called Cross Talk to communicate across barriers. In the video, you will hear people speaking Chinese, English, German, French, and Thai. Watch it fee on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5uiVkMWfHc ALG Linguistics (Part 3) Demonstration Lesson Host Antonio Graceffo presents a sample of the ALG teaching method, which is employed at AUA school, Bangkok, Thailand. ALG requires students to listen to ALG, Automatic language Growth, is a second language acquisition theory, developed by Dr. J. Marvin Brown, of the United States. The method is currently being used to teach, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese, at AUA School in Bangkok, where David Long continues Dr. Brown’s research. Antonio took the concepts he learned, while studying under David Long, and applied them to teaching in Taiwan. This video was filmed at one of Antonio’s linguistics seminars at a university in Tainan, Taiwan. The participants learn to employ an ALG tool, called Cross Talk to communicate across barriers. In the video, you will hear people speaking Chinese, English, German, French, and Thai. Watch it fee on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL9XXJwNqkI ALG Linguistics (Part 4) Comprehension Check Antonio Graceffo wraps up his German language presentation and check’s student comprehension. Students are amazed at how much the understood. Next, he invites students to come to the board and tell their own story in their own language: Chinese, Thai, and French. ALG, Automatic language Growth, is a second language acquisition theory, developed by Dr. J. Marvin Brown, of the United States. The method is currently being used to teach, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese, at AUA School in Bangkok, where David Long continues Dr. Brown’s research. Antonio took the concepts he learned, while studying under David Long, and applied them to teaching in Taiwan. This video was filmed at one of Antonio’s linguistics seminars at a university in Tainan, Taiwan. The participants learn to employ an ALG tool, called Cross Talk to communicate across barriers. In the video, you will hear people speaking Chinese, English, German, French, and Thai. Watch it fee on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqw3TN_44QI ALG Linguistics (Part 5) Lessons Learned One final Chinese language story, and then Antonio Graceffo leads students in a wrap up, drawing conclusions and talking about what they learned from the ALG method. They discus applications for classrooms and boardrooms. Watch it fee on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWJaYSEcxvg In a recent round of interviews, networks and media sent Antonio the question via email and Antonio answered on camera. If you are interested in doing a similar interview, fire off the questions to Antonio. Antonio is looking for an opportunity to study for an MA/PHD in linguistics. Antonio Graceffo is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn,” and is he host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts odyssey.” Contact Antonio Graceffo on facebook.com Send him email Antonio@speakingadvdenture.com Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,martial,arts,linguistics,odyssey,language,acquisition,ALG,theory,growth,automatic,brown,long,david,marvin,Bangkok,Thailand,thai,Chinese,teaching,learning,studying,linguist,TESOL,TEFL,ESL,English,Second,Foreign,other,languages,cross,ta

Interview on Language Mastery Web TV

In Linguistics and Language Learning on May 8, 2009 at 6:05 am

4_24_2009 2_23 PM_0001

 

 

Language Mastery, a website run by John Fotheringham did a TV interview with me and are now running it as a pod cast as well as running it on their website. It was nice to get some recognition for linguistics and not just martial arts. The link is below. You can check it out. He asked me about the secret to learning foreign languages and questions about my language acquisition theories.

Interview for Foreign Language Mastery. You can check it out here: http://l2mastery.com/featured-articles/antonio-graceffo

 

In other news, I am fine. Still teaching school in Taiwan, waiting to leave. Planning to go to Australia to film martial arts Odyssey for two months but also hoping to squeeze in some filming in Cambodia and Thailand.

 

Martial Arts Odyssey is doing really well. The viewership is growing, and I have been getting a lot more requests for these types of TV interviews. They send me questions by email and I answer on camera and mail the tapes to them. If you know anyone who might want to do an interview with me, please send them my way.

 

Here is a link to my page on youtube.com so you can see all of the newest episodes of Martial Arts Odyssey as well as my linguistics and travel videos.

 

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Turn-off Your Brain

In Linguistics and Language Learning on February 22, 2009 at 3:05 pm

bokatorNow Talk Foreign Language Good By Antonio Graceffo In a low-level English class, with children, we read a very simple story book called “Jim’s New Bike.” There were only one or two very simple sentences per page. If you transcribed the entire book, it would be about one and a half pages of text. The way I teach these books to low-level readers is: First I read the whole book aloud, and they follow with their finger. Then we read the whole book chorally. Next, we go through the book, starting from the beginning, with each child taking turns reading a page or two. If the kids enjoy the story, and aren’t exhausted or still seem to be interested, other exercises include speed reading contests. I pit two students against each other and have them read as fast as they can, and declare a winner. It is a double illumination tournament, so in a class of eight students, even the slowest student will wind up reading twice in the contest. And the winner may wind up reading four or five times. And hopefully, even the ones who aren’t reading, are listening. So, by the end of the exercise, sometimes done over a period of two days, each child has read each page at least five or ten times and heard it read twenty or more times. Before reading the story, I make each child read the title, each time. So, they have also read “Jim’s New Bike,” numerous times. After all of this reading and rereading, we did comprehension questions. Teacher: Who is the boy in the book? Students: Jim Teacher: What did he get? Students: A new bike. T: Who bought it for him? S: His mother T: Why did she buy it for him? S: He was a good boy. At this point, I had to declare that the students were all able to read the story, and that they understood it. So, the next step was to do a dictation. I had them all put their reading books away and take out their notebook. I began the dictation with the title. T: Jim’s New Bike S: What? Who? Ten? Tens? I was at a loss. How could they not have known or understood what I was saying? I even showed them the book, and told them I was reading from the same reading book we had read a few minutes ago. I continued. T: Jim was a good boy. S: A good what? Getting back to a concept I have written about in other articles, predictive logic would tell you that if you heard “Jim was a good toy” or “Jim was a good roy,” you might be able to deduce “Jim was a good boy.” Without prior knowledge of the story, it seems the students should be able to fill in the missing words, or words they hadn’t heard. But, they weren’t doing this exercise in absence of other facts. They had read the story an insane number of times, and answered comprehension questions. So, what was the problem? T: Jim’s mother bought him a new bike. S: Bought him a what? There was a picture of Jim with his bike on the front of the book. And they all knew that the story was about his new bike…. A senior foreign teacher at my school, Pierre, who has an MA in TESOL explained to me that while the story is a story for me, for the students it is just a random collection of sounds. Being Chinese students, with an incredible ability to memorize and spit out data on a test, they were able to remember the sequence of the sounds and reproduce them on command, but the sounds were not being processed as information in the brain. In computer terms, I was picturing someone sending you a college application in Word format. You are able to answer all of the questions on the form, right in your computer, and either print it out or email it back. But if someone sends you the same form as a PDF, although it looks identical, and all of the questions are there, you can’t answer them. With a PDF you don’t have a questionnaire. You have a PICTURE of a questionnaire. Could we say that students had a picture of a story in their heads, rather than the story itself/ Given the visual or pictorial nature of the Chinese language, it is not hard to imagine that Chinese students process thoughts differently than Westerners. In low-level classes, for example, it is often a battle to get students to read phonetically, rather than just memorizing the shapes, appearances, of words. More than once, I have had a student in my class for days or even weeks, who was doing fairly well on his assessments, until I found out that he couldn’t read. How did the student get through all of the individual reading aloud if he couldn’t read? The answer is, he had an amazing memory and basically memorized the story when I pre-read it for the students. The most clever of these students look for visual patterns in written questions and match them with similar patterns in the text. Visual recognition and amazing memory may be features of Chinese learners, but these are logical, intelligent people, so why couldn’t they just guess at what I was saying in the dictation? Certainly, they knew that Jim was a boy and that he had received a bicycle. Again, as Pierre said, the brain, or the logical side of it, shuts down. The data is not processed as information, just as sounds or as words with no meaning. On a greater or lesser level, this same type of shut-down occurs in all learners, from all cultures, learning any language. I walked into work the other day and, speaking Chinese, my boss said to me. “Your students shut off the lights and are hiding in your classroom.” This is really a pretty simple sentence. The only word a very basic student might not know is “hiding,” but I knew that one. And yet, I made her repeat it five times, and still, relying on my “logic” decided she was telling me to make sure to shut off the lights at the end of my class or something. When I got to the door, and saw the lights out, I had to laugh at myself. I repeated her Chinese sentence aloud. “Your students shut off the lights and are hiding in your classroom.” This was exactly what I heard. I was able to repeat it. But, for some reason, I didn’t process it as information until I saw it as a physical, tangible reality. My own stupidity, or inability to understand language which I clearly understood, reminded me of a story which General Joseph Stillwell, commander of the US forces in China, during World War II, wrote in his memoirs. General Stillwell was a fluent speaker of a number of Chinese dialects. Once, he was out on an intelligence gathering mission, when he stopped and asked some workmen “Is this the road to Beijing?” The men said they didn’t understand. So, he asked again, and again, and again. Each attempt met with the same results. Finally, he just gave up and walked away. While he was still within earshot, he heard one of the workmen ask, “What did that guy want?” The other one answered, “I don’t know. It sounded like he was asking if this was the road to Beijing.” Many teaching theorists suggest that one of the problems of classroom learning is that it’s not real. Life is real. Functioning is real. Reading “Jim’s New Bike” is not real. The students don’t know Jim. They never saw him. They never met him. They never rode his bike. If they had, probably my dictation would have gone a lot better. TPR, ALG, English only classrooms, English villages, and foreign language dorms at American universities try to make the language learning experience more real. And I agree. A real experience is easier to understand. Arguably, by definition, to be an experience, it must be real. And we all agree that we learn through experience. While creating real experiences would increase a student’s learning, the question would still be, why didn’t I understand my boss telling me my students were hiding in the classroom? Or, why didn’t the workmen understand General Stillwell? I think as learners, and we are all guilty of it, we shut-down our brains and go on autopilot, dutifully repeating what is told to us, but not processing it. I was interviewing a new student once in Cambodia, whose parents believed she was linguistically gifted because she had mastered English. I began the interview. T: What’s your name? S: What’s your name? Parents (speaking Khmer): You see how bright our daughter is? She speaks English. T: How old are you? S: How old are you? T: No, answer the question. S: No, answer the question. Parents (beaming with pride): You see, she understands everything. The interview went on like this, with the student repeating, but not answering, any of my questions, for the required ten minutes. The parents became irate when I told them their daughter would be going into a beginners class. To learn language, or anything, the brain needs to be engaged. As learners, we need to force ourselves, by sheer will, to have our brains on at all times, actively listening, rather than passively repeating and flowing along like flotsam and jetsam on the river of life. As teachers we need to constantly give the students wakeup calls. Get them out of their seats. Force the language to become a reality for them. Present them with questions which can only be answered by engaging and dealing with the language. If we don’t, we will all be students of the Tarzan school of language. “Me Tarzan, you Jane.” Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. His areas of expertise are applied linguistics and second language acquisition. See is video on “Picture Story” applications on youtube.com http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=KpLezW_rzMg&feature=channel_page His book, The Monk from Brooklyn, and all of his books are available at amazon.com. See his martial arts and adventure videos on youtube. http://ca.youtube.com/results?search_query=antonio+graceffo&search_type=&aq=f His website is speakingadventure.com Join him on facebook.com Contact Antonio: antonio@speakingadventure.com Antonio, graceffo, Brooklyn, monk, alg, linguistic, linguistics, language,

Predictive Listening

In Linguistics and Language Learning on February 17, 2009 at 5:18 pm
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English is not a Foreign Language

In Linguistics and Language Learning on February 11, 2009 at 4:42 pm

dsc08482By Antonio Graceffo

No matter what your native tongue, no matter where you come from, or what rock in a remote cave you crawled out from under, you have been exposed to English your whole life.

Riding my motorcycle down a tiny side street, in the fourth largest city, of a small Chinese speaking country, I count no less than eight businesses with signboards written in both Chinese and English. English is not the second official language of Taiwan. In fact, if they had a second official language it would probably be Taiwanese. This particular street didn’t cater to foreigners. So, the English writing wasn’t there to assist tourists. It was there, simply because it was there.

In a small village in Cambodia residents gather in a tea house, where they sit on blue plastic lawn chairs and huddle around a portable TV and DVD machine, powered by a gasoline generator. They are watching the movie, “The Fantastic Four” in English. It doesn’t even have Khmer subtitles.

Singer Robbie Williams is a bigger star in Asia than he ever was in the United States. Nearly all Japanese, Korean, and Chinese pop groups have English names, written in Latin script, which are then exported across Asia. Even in the Taklamakan desert, in the province of Xinjiang, Uyghur teenagers were wearing T-shirts displaying the image of then popular Taiwanese pop group, F-4. Tribal kids in the border region between Burma and Thailand were wearing WWE T-shirts and knew the names of all of the top pro-wrestlers.

And of course, every person on the planet knows the name of the American president Barak Obama. Even people living in isolated villages, where they would have to walk eight miles barefoot to the nearest TV, were watching the run up to the US election. As budgets are lacking in many of these countries, there is often no way to translate breaking news fast enough, so it is broadcast in English, with subtitles.

In Taiwan, with exception of Disney cartoons, all foreign movies are shown in English with Chinese subtitles. In Korea and Thailand, it’s about half and half. The movie theatre will tell you witch showings are in English and which are in the local language, and they are both popular.

Every country I have ever lived in or visited had several English language channels on their cable system. BBC, CNN, HBO…I watched “The Sopranos” in Cambodia and “Sex and the City” in Vietnam.

Unlike nearly any other foreign language, English is taught, everywhere in the world, by native speakers. Just as an exercise, open a google screen right now and google the words “teach English Central Asia.” You will find countless job ads and placement companies who will help you obtain a job teaching English in any of the “Stan” countries, which before 1989 were completely unknown to outsiders.

English is now the most widely taught language in the world. In China alone, there are 300,000,000 people attending English classes. Said another way, if every qualified English teacher in the world moved to China tomorrow, there would still be job vacancies.

When I took high school French class, my teacher was from Tennessee. He had only visited France a few times, taking students on a one-week tour of fourteen countries. We didn’t have a French cable channel to watch. We didn’t know or care who the prime minister, president, king, or Shah of France was. My school didn’t have any French movies. The schools that did were forced to watch depressing, slow moving black-and-white French films from the 1950s which depicted the tragic lives of people with one-percent body fat in such classics as “The Red Balloon “ and “The Clown of Sadness.”

French kids learning English get to watch “The Simpsons.” It just doesn’t seem fair.

McDonalds has locations in 110 countries. Coke is sold in 200. And Wrigley’s gum claims to be sold in EVERY single country in the world. There are no French products, and the town where I went to high school, in Tennessee, didn’t have a single French restaurant. When I moved back to New York, yes, we had French restaurants, but they were extremely expensive and you only ate in them once a year, or less in my case. So, they didn’t have much influence on my use of French language.

Every computer in the world has the capability to use the Latin keyboard and Latin script. Drop down menus, even in Asian computers, are often written in English. All email addresses, everywhere in the world, are written in English or at least use Latin letters.

China, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Lao and several other Asian countries have their own numbers, but they also use western (Arabic) numbers on a daily basis. Nearly all Asian countries have their own calendar with the year being dramatically different than the western one, but they all use the western calendar on a daily basis. They all have their own weights and measure but commonly use the metric system.

Even in China and Taiwan the Latin alphabet is used to organize data or books in a library because Chinese language lacks the ability to do alphabetical order. And in China, small Chinese kids, learning to write Chinese characters learn the pronunciation by writing the Latin alphabet.

That is right! Even Chinese native speakers use the western alphabet to learn to pronounce Chinese characters.

No matter what country I have been in, when I am told, “This is a beginner class. They don’t know any English at all.” Adults would generally know at least the alphabet, because it is nearly impossible to use a computer if you don’t. Adults and children, complete beginners with no prior English at all, would know how to count, and basic words and phrases like hello, good by, and my name is.

Back in Tennessee, when the freshman walked into their first French lesson they knew absolutely nothing. Arguably, English has about 25% cognates with French, borrowed words and words of Latin origin. So, maybe the kids studying French knew something. But when we walked into our first Russian class or Chinese class we didn’t know anything at all. That almost can’t happen for learners of English.

When I was studying French, some of us had a nebulous plan to someday, somehow come up money to go on a one-week fourteen-country tour of Europe, including France. None of us were planning or hoping to move there. Neither did we know anyone who had. In every English class, anywhere in the world, I always ask, “who has a friend or relative already in the US or other English speaking country?” and “who is planning to work, study or immigrate to the USA?” In the Philippines, nearly 100% of Filipino families have a relative in the States. In Taiwan and Korea the number is also extremely high.

For Americans learning a foreign language, the answered would often be zero, particularly for the immigration question. Americans may go work overseas indefinitely, but very few Americans actually immigrate to another country.

Many linguists maintain that personal motivation is the single most powerful force which leads to success in language learning. For a significant percentage of people sitting in ESL classrooms, their job and income depends on them learning English.

To be a civil servant in many countries in the world you must pass an English exam. In Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, much of the Arab world, and many, many other countries, nearly all higher education is taught in English. In some countries entire faculties, such as medicine, computer science or aviation are only taught in English.

Getting the job you want is a good motivator.

According to data published by the FBI, in 2007, they had only 40 field agents who were fluent in Arabic. Apparently, knowing you can keep your job as an FBI agent without learning Arabic takes away the motivation factor. I bet all of the Arab secret police guys speak English.

A lot of westerners living overseas say things like, “People from that country (pick a country) are all so smart. They all speak English.” In my opinion, they speak English because they aren’t stupid, not because they are smart. They speak English because they have to. They speak English because they are forced to. They speak English because they don’t want to work as a street sweeper.

In your country, is everyone over the level of street sweeper smart?

Westerners say, “If my Chinese was half as good as his English…”

First of all, English native speakers have grown up listening to people speaking our language with a foreign language. We are good at understanding them. If you spoke Chinese half as well as he spoke English, no one would understand you. Westerners attribute their inability to be understood in a foreign language to their own inability to learn. Sometimes this is the case. But actually a significant factor is the superhuman ability of English native speakers to understand people with horrible accents and grammar. Asians lack the experience of hearing non-native speakers speak their language, and so lack the ability to understand them.

Another pet peeve is when westerners say, “The people of that country (pick a country) are really gifted language learners. They all speak English so well.” Or “They all speak both of the official languages of their home country and speak English so well.”

First off, if you are raised with two languages, you speak two languages. If you are raised with three languages you speak three languages. Most of my Shan friends were raised with Shan, Thai, Burmese and one more tribal language. And yet, this doesn’t have any bearing on or give any indication of whether they are good language learners or not. In fact, I would imagine they would not do very well in a Japanese class or in my French class in Tennessee.

You don’t “learn” your mother tongue or tongues. Or maybe we should say, they aren’t taught, so we don’t know if you are capable of learning a taught language or not.

As for English, it’s not a foreign language. People everywhere are exposed to significant quantities of English and western/American culture from the time they are born. For most foreign nations, English is becoming a de-facto second language.

So, if you are struggling to learn a foreign language, don’t judge yourself too harshly. You have had months or a few years to do what “they” did over the course of a lifetime.

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. His areas of expertise are applied linguistics and second language acquisition. See is video on “Picture Story” applications on youtube.com
http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=KpLezW_rzMg&feature=channel_page
His book, The Monk from Brooklyn, and all of his books are available at amazon.com. See his martial arts and adventure videos on youtube.
http://ca.youtube.com/results?search_query=antonio+graceffo&search_type=&aq=f

His website is speakingadventure.com
Join him on facebook.com
Contact Antonio: antonio@speakingadventure.com

Antonio is currently seeking admission to and a scholarship for MA/PHD studies in Asian linguistics or a related field. If you can help, or know someone who can, please contact Antonio: antonio@speakingadventure.com. Feel free to forward this story to anyone who might be interested.
tags
Language,acquisition,theory,linguistic,automatic,growth,alg,esl,tesol,efl,second, language,EFL,TESOL,ALG,Antonio,Graceffo,linguist,martial,Taiwan,teaching

A Difficult Language or a Difficult Culture?

In Linguistics and Language Learning on February 8, 2009 at 3:18 pm

dsc04430

By Antonio Graceffo

 

Ask most English native speakers to name the hardest languages to learn and they would probably mention Chinese, Russian, and Arabic. Spanish and Italian are generally considered to be easy to learn.

 

According to data published by the National Virtual Translation Center (NVTC, a US Government organization which translates intelligence data.), Spanish and Italian would be considered category one, or the easiest languages to learn, requiring only 575-600 class hours. Russian, for all of the inherent difficulties would only be considered a category two language, which means 1,100 class hours. Chinese and Arabic, on the other hand would be considered category three. This means 2,200 class hours.

 

NVTC considers Chinese exactly twice as difficult as Russian.

 

Many linguists believe that it is culture, not necessarily the nuts and bolts of a language that make it difficult to learn.

 

During my undergraduate studies in foreign language, I took Russian as an elective. The first few lessons we spent learning the Cyrillic alphabet. For most of us, this was the first time we ever learned a language which didn’t use the Latin alphabet. At that time, I was a specialist in western European languages and had no idea that I was going to some day be learning Chinese, Korean, Khmer, and Thai.

 

For language students majoring in Spanish or French, apart from the new alphabet being problematic, Russian grammar threw everyone for a loop. The word order was often completely different than English. Russian also had six grammatical cases. That meant there were six forms for each noun, depending if it was a subject, direct object, indirect object, and three other options which English doesn’t really have. For example, you would say, “She is Anna,” but, “I see Annu,” plus four more variations of the name Anna, depending on her role in the sentence.

 

In spite of all of these grammatical or functional issues associated with learning Russian, I still found Russian easier to learn than Khmer or Chinese. Clearly the Chinese writing system is a huge gulf to overcome, but even foreigners who opt not to learn the writing system, instead concentrating on listening and speaking, don’t become fluent faster. Some experts say that the cultural gulf between the learner and the target language is the biggest obstacle one needs to overcome to become fluent. Russia is very different than Brooklyn. Actually, it is very different than the part of Brooklyn I live in, but probably pretty similar to Brighton Beach, which is now called Little Odessa. China and Cambodia, on the other hand are extremely different than any neighborhood in Brooklyn.

 

To be fluent, or even conversant, you have to not only know the words, but know how to combine them in such a way that would be meaningful for the listener. While Russia has a history which is different from England, Western Europe, or the Untied States, the basic foundation of their society, thinking, philosophy, science, and mathematics can be traced back to Greece and Rome, the same as in the English speaking world.

 

When you come to Asia, you find that what we could consider linear thinking, logical argument, building a case one brick at a time and arriving at a conclusion just don’t exist. This isn’t to suggest that Asian people behave irrationally, but just to say that what they consider logic and what you consider logic might be dramatically different. When two people’s viewpoints differ by too high of a degree, no matter how well they speak each other’s language, they completely can’t understand each other.

 

Once, my employer, in Taiwan, asked me if I had practiced Kung Fu that day. I answered, “No, I didn’t practice today. I had five hard days of training and I need to give my leg a break, because I have a knee injury.” I had had an accident a few months earlier, which my employer knew about, and I was still receiving physical therapy on my knee. The physical therapy was being administered by a doctor, who my employer recommended me to, and the employer asked every day about my recovery. So, he clearly knew about the injury.

 

“Oh, you don’t like Kung Fu anymore. I can understand that.” Surmised my employer.

 

“No, I like it. But I trained five days in a row. Now, I want to rest one or two days, and then start training again.”

 

“Yes, because you are too busy. You are teaching and learning Chinese. Obviously, you can’t study Kung Fu anymore.”

 

“That is not what I am saying. I have a knee injury, and I need to just be careful not to over-train.”

 

“Yes, because you are old, and your students need to prepare their English exams, so you want to quit Kung Fu. It is OK.”

 

We just went on and on, in circles, with me explaining and re-explaining that I had injured my leg and wanted to train carefully, so as not to re-injure it. This misunderstanding or this frustration would happen to someone who spoke Chinese perfectly.

 

It wasn’t that the employer misheard me or when I said “My knee is injured,” because of my bad pronunciation, he thought I said, “I don’t like Kung Fu anymore.” That wasn’t the problem. The problem wasn’t linguistic at all. In Chinese culture, a middle aged man wouldn’t be practicing kung fu five times a week. A person with a college education and a job wouldn’t be focusing so much time and energy on combat sports. In my employer’s logical mind, I wouldn’t even be doing Kung fu in the first place. So, all he heard was that I was quitting, which was a logical conclusion for him.

 

I have issues with my weight and periodically go on a no-carbs diet, where I don’t eat anything before 11:00 AM and I cut out all carbohydrates and sugar. In Thailand, my teachers were constantly telling me how fat I was.

 

In Thai culture, saying someone is fat is actually a kind of compliment. It means you are rich, and you don’t have to work, and you can afford a lot of food. But I hate being fat, and I hate being made fun of.

 

I was several days into my diet, which my teachers knew about, when one of them brought a rice dish for our class to sample.

 

“Thank you, but I can’t eat rice because of my diet, and I also don’t eat before eleven o’clock.” I reminded my teacher.

“Oh, you don’t like Thai food.” She responded.

“I like Thai food. In fact, I love Thai food. That’s why I got so fat. But as you know, I am on a diet, and I can’t eat rice or eat anything before eleven o’clock.”

When the assistant teacher entered the classroom, she asked, “Why isn’t Antonio eating?”

My teacher answered, “He feels sick today.”

 

Again, I never said I was sick. There was not one word in my explanation that could have been confused for the word sick. The problem was cultural, not linguistic. In Thai culture you would never refuse food. Obesity is a fairly new, although growing, concept in Thailand which only effects a small percentage of people in Bangkok. The idea of willfully refusing food wouldn’t enter many people’s minds, particularly if they are rural dwellers or recent migrants to the big city. The only logical reason for not eating would be because you have no food, or because you are ill.

 

So, my teacher heard, although I never said, that I was ill.

 

The problem exists on both sides of the fence.

 

When I was studying in Spain, my host mother told me that her son and daughter-in-law were coming to visit, along with their new-born baby. The host mother said proudly, “They are brining my grandson.” 

 

“How nice.” I said.

 

“My grandson.” She said again, as if I hadn’t heard the first time.

 

“Yes, it is nice to have family.” I answered. From the expectant look on her face, I knew I was missing something, but what was it?

 

“He is a boy.” She stressed.

 

“Yes, that was implied when you used the word “grandson.” I wanted to say. Then it hit me. In Spanish culture, having given birth to a boy baby suddenly raised the status of the daughter-in-law in grandmother’s eyes. And having a grandson, rather than a granddaughter, fulfilled the hopes and dreams of the grandmother.

 

“You are very lucky.” I said.

 

The host mother smiled. “Yes, very lucky. The baby is a boy.”

 

Most linguists would agree that learning the vocabulary and grammar is not enough to make one fluent. We also need to learn usage. But understanding the culture is a significant, if not the largest part, of learning usage. For this reason, Arabic, Chinese, Khmer, or Thai may be harder to master than say Russian or Polish, where the cultural differences may be less. Another important point may be that true fluency could never be achieved in a classroom. It could only be achieved by having significant and varied experiences in the culture of the country whose language you are studying. As a foreigner, it is often difficult to find these type of immersion opportunities.

 

I think you could learn more about a culture by working in the grocery store, helping with the harvest on a rice farm, or serving as a crewman on a fishing boat than you could studying in an international program at a university.

 

So, I guess my advice to anyone who wants to master Chinese or any category three language is, study hard on the books for 2,200 hours, then drop out of school and get a job on a construction site. Marry, buy a house, raise a family, and change jobs often. After only a lifetime, you may reach near fluency.

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. His areas of expertise are applied linguistics and second language acquisition. See is video on “Picture Story” applications on youtube.com

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=KpLezW_rzMg&feature=channel_page

His book, The Monk from Brooklyn, and all of his books are available at amazon.com. See his martial arts and adventure videos on youtube.

http://ca.youtube.com/results?search_query=antonio+graceffo&search_type=&aq=f

 

His website is speakingadventure.com

Join him on facebook.com

Contact Antonio: antonio@speakingadventure.com

 

Antonio is currently seeking admission to and a scholarship for MA/PHD studies in Asian linguistics or a related field. If you can help, or know someone who can, please contact Antonio: antonio@speakingadventure.com. Feel free to forward this story to anyone who might be interested.

tags

Language,acquisition,theory,linguistic,automatic,growth,alg,esl,tesol,efl,second, language,EFL,TESOL,ALG,Antonio,Graceffo,linguist,martial,Taiwan,teaching

 

 

Reactions to Chinese Fluency

In Linguistics and Language Learning on February 5, 2009 at 4:32 pm

shank3Everyone Agrees Fluency is Low on Both Sides of the Fence

By Antonio Graceffo

 

According to a foreign linguist, living in Taiwan, the number of foreigners who are fluent in Chinese comprises .0064% of the visitors to Taiwan and a whopping .0055% of the foreigners living in Taiwan

 

In my opinion, that’s not a lot. But, that’s just my opinion.

 

I recently published an article entitled “True Chinese Fluency, an illusive Goal,” in which I suggested that the percentage of truly fluent people on either the Chinese or English side of the fence was very low. I also alluded to the fact that I thought it was nearly impossible to achieve fluency in a language and culture so different from your own.

 

https://brooklynmonk.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/true-chinese-fluency/

 

Two linguists wrote in to say that I was basically wrong, because they were both fluent. As proof, one of the linguists said “I know dozens of people who are fluent in Chinese.”

 

According to data supplied by The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), Taiwan will play host to 3.7 million visitors this year. Scott Sommers’ Taiwan Weblog said that in 2005, there was nearly half a million (429,703) foreigners living in Taiwan.

 

While I don’t doubt that this particular linguist is fluent in Chinese, and possibly some of his friends as well, I don’t believe that the number of fluent people he knows is in the dozens. Even if it is two dozen, 24 fluent speakers would represent .0064% of the visitors to Taiwan and a whopping .0055% of the foreigners living in Taiwan. Even if Scott Sommer forgot to count himself, driving the number of foreigners living in Taiwan to 429,704, the two dozen alleged fluent speakers of Chinese that this guys claims to know would represent a fraction so small that if I were rounding it off, it would be zero.

 

One of the reasons he gave why foreigners don’t learn Chinese is not only because of the difficulty of the language and the lack of hours spent studying, but also because of the way most foreigners live in Taiwan. And I strongly agree with this part of his email. It is too easy to say, Chinese is hard and that’s why people don’t learn it. Engineering is hard too. An American University published data saying that there would be 25,000 engineering graduates.

 

Why can people learn one difficult subject, engineering, but not another, Chinese?

 

Foreigners living in Taiwan often work as teachers or have jobs where they are not required to speak Chinese. They are tired when they get home from work, so don’t feel like studying. And, they can survive speaking only English, so the motivation to learn Chinese just isn’t there.

 

Whatever the reason why foreigners don’t master Chinese, all of this man’s points lead to support my argument, that there are very few foreigners who learn Chinese to a level of true fluency.

 

The second linguist who wrote to tell me I was wrong is studying for a PHD in Taiwan. He said that he reads novels comfortably in Chinese and also writes easily. Again, I am not taking away from his Chinese ability, but to suggest that the bulk of the nearly half a million foreigners in Taiwan are in a PHD program would be sheer madness. Again, he is more or less confirming that he is part of a very small minority.

 

In a related article I mentioned how Dutch people often reached near native speaker fluency in English. I attributed this to the fact that TV and movies in Holland are not dubbed into Dutch. So, from a very young age Dutch people were exposed to real English listening.

 

Again, he told me I was wrong about Dutch reaching native speaker fluency, but then went on to attribute their superior English proficiency to the fact that movies and TV aren’t dubbed.

 

As a reaction to one of my articles, a Dutch teacher of Spanish wrote to me. He attributed his extremely high level of English to the fact that TV and movies aren’t dubbed. He then went on to say that while English is taught as a living breathing tool for communication, Spanish in Holland is taught the same way foreign languages are traditionally taught all over the world, with the same terrible results. He said, and I paraphrase, “the educators have forgotten why our English is so good, and use other methods for teaching Spanish.”

 

This was an interesting statement about people’s approach too language and their understanding of how language acquisition works or should work.

 

Certainly, one of the problems with learners and teachers everywhere seems to be some lack of understanding about how people learn language or a disconnect between this knowledge and the learning and teaching methods applied. For example, the same English teacher who tells me, “how can the students hope to learn English by coming to class three times a week for an hour?” only attends one hour of Chinese classes per week.

 

This PHD candidate apparently did know his stuff, and he said some brilliant things. For example, “The problem is most people aren’t flexible enough to do it. Most learners also do not understand the first thing about Chinese characters (which is vital to becoming proficient in their use) and try to get by on rote memorization.”

 

These statements are both true. You have to be extremely flexible to learn a foreign language, both in your thinking and in your daily schedule. And as for the characters, learning Chinese characters is like taking a very advanced test in analogies. You have to constantly look for connections between the characters, shared meanings and clues. Learning Chinese has to be a thinking experience, not one of passive memorization.

 

Again, many English teachers complain, and rightly, that Taiwanese students don’t want to use their brain and think and negotiate a real conversation. Instead, they want to memorize and give standard, set responses which they have learned by heart. In this way it will be impossible to deal with a real conversation which will constantly take unexpected twists and turns.

 

These same foreign English teachers try to memorize Chinese phrases, rather than thinking or learning to really use the language.

 

PHD also goes on to say, “Jumping paradigms is hard.” There is a branch of linguistics which overlaps with psychiatry, in which brain functions and synapses are studied. This is an area I know almost nothing about. But when we start using words like paradigm, this refers to the actual wiring of the brain and how information is processed. Apparently, if you are raised with one set of processing, like the one for western languages, it is hard to convert to the one used for processing Asian languages. If anyone is an expert on this field, please write me and educate me on this.

 

A really interesting point that he made was “I know a handful of native Chinese speakers who speak near-native English and have lived in North America for extended periods of time (as in 10 years or more). They all have one thing in common: they still read Chinese much, much faster than English.” He attributes this reading problem to the fact that they learned Chinese first, so they read it faster. I haven’t given this any thought yet. But, I enjoy watching my Hong Kong Chinese friends for clues about how one learns and uses the two languages. Of course those observations are not as valuable as they could be if I spoke Cantonese, rather than Mandarin. What I have noticed is that many of them, even in meetings where everyone speaks Chinese, take notes in English, rather than Chinese, saying it is simply easier to remember how to spell in English instead of how to write characters. 

 

Getting back to Taiwanese learning English, in Taiwan TV and movies aren’t dubbed either. I found a statistic which claimed that Taiwanese, statistically, watch more movies than any other culture. That would suggest the Taiwanese watch more movies than the Dutch. So, again, why can’t they get fluent in English? Saying that the languages are different is too easy. I believe the answer lies in deep-rooted cultural, rather than linguistic differences.

 

This morning, I heard on CNN that someone is making a documentary about the surviving empress of Iran, the wife of the deposed Shah. While the average American is infamous for not knowing a lot about the outside world, they would understand this sentence: “They are making a documentary about the empress, the wife of the former Shah of Iran.” To translate that sentence into Chinese you would be hard pressed to find, even in circles of educated Chinese, the word for Shah. Second, if you did find the word, no one would have any idea what you were talking about.

 

Taiwanese have a very ethnocentric, inward looking education system. The amount of information about the outside world that filters into them is limited. When I am planning my trips to various countries and places I must go for stories I am writing, my Chinese teachers often can’t tell me the Chinese characters for the countries or cities I will be visiting. During the Mumbai terrorist crisis, which dominated CNN for five days, many of my Chinese coworkers (all college graduates) had not only not heard of the story, but also couldn’t tell me how to say Mumbai in Chinese.

 

Many of them used excuses such as, “I have never been there” or “It’s not part of our culture.” I have also never been to India. And Mumbai is not part of Brooklyn culture, and yet I have heard of it.

 

If you don’t know something in your native tongue, it is unlikely you will learn it in a foreign language.

 

My background is more in translation, so we are taught that translations must be exact. Exact, as I mean it here, is that the sentence in English and the sentence in Chinese should have the same meaning for the listener, regardless of how many more or less words you need in the target language. Example, in German, I translate “from rags to riches” to “from dishwasher to millionaire” because it is an equivalent phrase which would have the same meaning for the listener. While every Chinese person would know the word for King, they would most likely not know the standard word for an Iranian king or Shah.

 

With these types of cultural gulfs, on both sides, how difficult must it be to become 100% fluent?

 

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. His areas of expertise are applied linguistics and second language acquisition. See is video on “Picture Story” applications on youtube.com

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=KpLezW_rzMg&feature=channel_page

His book, The Monk from Brooklyn, and all of his books are available at amazon.com. See his martial arts and adventure videos on youtube.

http://ca.youtube.com/results?search_query=antonio+graceffo&search_type=&aq=f

 

His website is speakingadventure.com

Join him on facebook.com

Contact Antonio: antonio@speakingadventure.com

 

Antonio is currently seeking admission to and a scholarship for MA/PHD studies in Asian linguistics or a related field. If you can help, or know someone who can, please contact Antonio: antonio@speakingadventure.com. Feel free to forward this story to anyone who might be interested.

tags

Language,acquisition,theory,linguistic,automatic,growth,alg,esl,tesol,efl,second, language,EFL,TESOL,ALG,Antonio,Graceffo,linguist,martial,Taiwan,teaching

 

Struggling with Khmer Language (Part II)

In Linguistics and Language Learning on January 27, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Reading, Writing, and Other Stuff

By Antonio Graceffo

 

The Khmer language is written with a Pali/Sanskrit based writing system, which is similar to the writing in Thailand, Burma, Lao, and in several of the regional minority languages. Fortunately, every single one of these alphabets is different, and learning one is only marginally helpful in learning another. So, you could study forever and still be illiterate.

 

Westerners take it for granted that we all use a Latin based alphabet, the only exceptions being Russia and Greece which use a Cyrillic alphabet. But, actually, even the Cyrillic alphabet, although the letters look different, they function exactly the same. In both alphabets, the letters have sound value. Words are written left to right. And the sounds are read in the same sequence and order in which they occur on the paper. There are spaces between words. Words are connected to form sentences, which end at the period.   

 

With the Latin alphabet, plus or minus a handful of special letters and symbols, you can pick up a newspaper and read it, anywhere from Poland to South Africa, to Australia, to Newfoundland to Tierra Del Fuego. You might not know what the words mean, but you could at least read them. You could also look them up in a dictionary. Write them on flashcards, and memorize them.

 

None of this is true of any of the South East Asian Alphabets.

 

When you start going to school, determined only to learn a little speaking and listening, they slowly turn the sales screws, until they got you coming to school three hours per day, seven days per week. Then, just when you think they couldn’t bleed one more dollar out of you, they talk you into learning to read and write. They lure you in, telling you “It’s easy, try it.”

 

You believe you’re as smart as the average Khmer child. So, what the heck? I signed up for reading and writing, and I paid more than money, I paid blood.

 

On the first day, the teacher showed me an alphabet chart and said. “You see how simple? This is how small children learn. Each letter has a picture of an animal next to it. So, if you can’t remember how that letter sounds, just look at the picture.”

 

“That is easy.” I agreed. “So, this W-looking letter, next to the picture of a pig makes a P sound?”

 

She frowned. “Well, no. It makes a J sound, because pig in Khmer is Jerouk.”

 

Duh! Now I felt stupid. Of course it would be the sound, according to the Khmer animals names. Ok, no sweat. I figured first thing I would do is just make a list of the animals, and memorize their names.

Starting at the top of the chart, I said “OK, pig?”

“Jerouk” Answered the teacher.

“Cat?”

“Chma”

“Horse”

“Sae.”

But then I hit a stump. The next picture was of a gold-colored devil-man, with a sword.

“What is this one?” I asked.

The teacher said some Khmer word, which meant nothing to me.

“No, I mean what is it in English?”

“Don’t you know?” She asked, confused. “I thought you were American.”

“I am, but we don’t have golden dragon demons in Brooklyn. So, we don’t really have a name for them.”

We skipped that one. The next one was a picture of a little girl.

“What is this one?”

“Tida.” She answered.

“Oh, Tida means little girl?”

“No, that is her name?”

“How does one know that that girl is named Tida?” I asked, thinking maybe she was a famous Khmer cartoon character or something.

“It says Tida here.” She said, pointing at the Khmer letters under the girl.

“But if you couldn’t read, you wouldn’t know that, would you?” I asked.

“Yes.”  She said.

And we continued. Next, there was a picture of a fruit.

“And what is this?” I asked.

“You don’t know?”

“No, in Brooklyn our fruits tend to be very empirical, apple, banana, orange…What is this thing?” I was beginning to loose my patience.

“The New Zealand students know what that one is.” My teacher said, with a chastising voice.

“Oh yeah, well New Zealand isn’t an adjective.”

“What is the adjective for students from New Zealand?” She asked.

Was it New Zealander students? Or, was New Zealand students correct? Now I was stumped on a question in English. My brain was short-circuiting. How the did they expect me to learn to read these ancient letters if I still hadn’t mastered my native tongue?

“All the New Zealand people know this one.” She repeated.

“Well, hurray for New Zealand!” I shouted. “It’s closer to Asia than Brooklyn is. They probably eat this fruit everyday for breakfast. But I have never eaten breakfast in New Zealand, so I don’t know what it is.”

The same was true of the next four fruits, all of which, allegedly, New Zealanders would know.

“Why do New Zealands know so many more fruits than people from American? Are the schools better in New Zealand?”

“No, its because we spent our free-time creating the first modern democracy, while New Zealand was happy to be the British colony with the largest fruit vocabulary.”

 

Now I was angry at New Zealand! Normally I didn’t even have an opinion on that country that I always confused with Australia. But on that day, I wanted to get in a boxing ring with them, all twenty-five of them, or whatever the population of New Zealand was.

 

“Maybe you should have learned more fruits.” Suggested my teacher.

“Yeah, maybe. I mean I’d definitely trade my right to vote for greater fruit identification.” Actually, thinking back on the George W. Bush years, that might not have been a bad trade. It would have meant more fruit, and no George W. Bush. Americans would have got their vitamins and the world wouldn’t hate us. And we would have some type of jolly, fatherly New Zealander for a Prime Minister. The best part would be, the Queen of England would be the ultimate head of state.

 

That would actually be cool for a couple of years, you know, just try it out till we could elect Obama.

 

The next five or six pictures were large, flightless waterfowl.

“Pigeons, I have only seen pigeons.” I told her.

“Pigeon is the only bird you know?” Asked my teacher in the same empathetic voice you would ask “And the doctor really said you only have six months to live?” She felt sorry for me.

“I know some other birds.” I amended. “There was a toucan on my breakfast cereal.” Unfortunately, toucan didn’t come up, oddly, either did penguin, which I learned from eating ice-cream sandwiches, which had Eskimos and penguins on the label.   

 

Luckily the new Zealanders didn’t have Eskimos, so I felt a slight vindication.

 

I wondered if they had ice-cream sandwiches or cereal with toucans in New Zealand? I really must go visit New Zealand when I get a chance.

 

Abandoning the alphabet chart, I asked “In just what way is this language easy to read and write?”

 

“First off it is written left to right.” Answered my teacher.

Well that was good.

When I opened my book, I just saw a huge jumble of characters, written all the way across the page. “That is the longest word I’ve ever seen.” I said.

 

In Thailand some words were so long I couldn’t even begin to pronounce them. My best friend’s name had about fifty characters in it. I still call him by only the first three. And we have known each other for years!

 

“That’s not a word.” Said my teacher, momentarily putting my mind at ease. “It is a sentence.”

“But then why is it all written together like that?”

“In Khmer we don’t separate words.”

What a nice system.

“Why are some letters floating in the air like that?” I asked.

“Those are vowels.”

“I thought you wrote left to right.”

“We do. But some vowels are written on top.”

“Some?”

“Yes, some are written under, and some are written before. And some are written after or around a word.”

Of course, boy! this does sound easy. 

 

“It’s easy compared to learning Chinese.” She pointed out.

 

That was somewhat true. Now I can read Chinese. And I have to say, it takes five hours per day of writing characters for about a year. The advantage of Khmer, of course, is that it is an alphabet. The letters have sound values and they spell out words. But, because they aren’t pronounced in the order that they are written, it is really hard at first to know when and how to pronounce things. And with the signals, similar to accent marks in other languages, which are written all the way on top, then vowels often written below the signal, but on top of the consonant, then a consonant, with a subscript underneath, you could actually have a stack of four characters, one on top of the other. And these may or may not be read in sequence. The vowels written before or after this huge stack of letters might be read first or in the middle….

 

Another issue with Khmer writing is that spellings aren’t standardized. This is probably being fixed, even as we speak, but it will be a long time before every printed Khmer document has the same spelling.

 

In Khmer, as in Thai, I really had the impression that you had to know what the word was in order to pronounce it. When I was reading, in a way, I felt like I was recognizing the physical shape of the words, the same way I did in Chinese. The phonetics were just clues to help me guess at what I was reading.

 

No doubt, with practice, you could probably master Khmer reading and writing faster than Chinese, but Chinese is much more cut and dry. You see a character and you have memorized exactly how it must be pronounced.

 

“How many characters are there in Chinese?” She asked.

“Tens of thousands.”

“And how many do you need to read a news paper?”

“About 3,000.” This was a bit of a lie. At this point I could read about 3,000 Chinese characters but couldn’t even begin to make sense of a newspaper.

“And to finish university?”

“At least 4,000.”

“OK,” She said triumphantly. “Khmer only has 33 consonants.”

“33 letters, oh, that is easy. Where do I sign up?”

 

But that’s how they get you.

Looking at the chart, I counted the 33 consonants, my teacher had told me about. But then, I noticed a bunch of other stuff at the bottom.

“What’s all that?” I asked.

“Those are the vowels.” She said, a little embarrassed that I had caught her in a near-lie.

“I thought you said there were only33 letters.”

“No, 33 consonants. But, obviously you also need vowels.”

“Obviously.” I agreed. “So, how many are there?”

“Twenty three.”

So, fifty-six letters. Yikes! That was a lot. But ok, at least it was a finite number. With Chinese you can’t even write your name with 56 letters.

 

The first word I read was composed of two characters. There was a consonant GA and vowel A.

“GA” I read, proudly.

“Very good.” said my teacher.

This is going to be easy. I thought.

The next word was consonant KA and vowel A.

“Ka.”

“Good!”

Next was consonant GO and vowel A.

Goa?” I guessed.

“No, GEA.” Corrected my teacher.

“Why GEA?”

“There are two kinds of consonants, those with A sounds and those with O sounds. We call them big and little consonants. If a vowel occurs after an A sound it has the sound you are familiar with. But if it occurs after an O sound, it changes.”

“So, there are 23 vowels, but each one has two sounds?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“So, there are 46 vowels?”

She looked at me blankly. “I never thought about it that way, but yes, I guess so.”

I was beginning to think I had made a huge mistake.

So, we had 33 consonants and 46 vowels, 79 letters. Annoying, yes, but ok, still better than 3,000 characters in Chinese. I could do it.

 

The next word that we studied was the pronoun I, which in Khmer is knyom. It seemed to consist only of one letter, Ka.

“But where is the yom sound?” I asked.

“The yom sound comes from these subscripts under the word.” Explained my teacher.

It turned out that each consonant could be converted into a subscript, which appeared below the word, and added phonemes.

Once again 33 consonants meant 33 subscripts. So, now 79 plus 33, now we had 122 characters. I wanted my money back. But we wouldn’t learn how to say that until chapter ten. And by then it would be too late.

 

The next word we learned was the pronoun ‘he’, which I knew was guat. It was no surprise that guat was both ‘he’ and ‘she’. That is very common in many languages. So, the pronunciation and usage of the word was nothing special. But the writing, of course, left me looking for some razor blades, so I could cut my wrists.

 

Guat had a ga sound, and ended in a ja sound. That didn’t exactly make sense to me. But Khmer, like Thai, doesn’t have a lot of harsh terminal consonants. A and K, J and T may sound the same to our ears. In fact, that is why when Khmers speak English you don’t know if they are offering you milk or meal. The two words would be pronounced the same. Rice, ride, and right are also pronounced identically. As it is rare that someone would offer you meal with your coffee, the milk/meal controversy is easily remedied by context. But when a girl asks you to Write her, buy you understand RIDE, the results could be catastrophic.

 

I just realized I am on my second paragraph, writing about the experience of learning the word ‘he’ in Khmer. What other language is so complicated that learning a single word would need two paragraphs? I mean I could barely make a sentence about learning the word ‘he’ in Spanish.

 

The teacher said HE is el.”

 

OOOOh! That’s riveting. What an interesting story.

 

Guat ended in a JAW sound. But it was pronounced with a harsh T. so, “Where does the harsh T come from?” I asked my teacher

“It comes from this symbol here.”

She pointed at two dots over the final consonant.

“Symbol?”

“Yes, symbols occur over words, and they change the sound of the consonants.”

“Over the words? I asked, skeptically.

“Well, also under words.”

I was too mentally exhausted to shout AH HA! But trust me, I was thinking it. “And just how many of these symbols are there?”

“Oh,” She said, looking reflectively. Then after too long a pause, “about ten.” She answered.

“About, you mean you aren’t sure?”

“Yes.” She said. The only consistency in the Khmer language seemed to be that my teacher always said “yes.”

Would you like a knuckle sandwich?

Yes.

So we were up to 122 characters. Now, we had ten more so 122. And those ten symbols changed the sounds of all the consonants, so maybe we had 155 phonemes to remember.

“And that’s it?” I asked, not believing it myself.

“Well, also dependent and independent vowels.”

When I asked how many, she just laughed at me.

 

So, why am I learning to read and write Khmer? I wasn’t so wrapped up with learning obscure languages maybe I would fall in with bad company, join a gang, and get into trouble.

 

If the nuns could see me now… At catholic school I refused to decline even a single French verb. Now, I sit for hours a day, learning to write this alphabet so I could send letters to my Khmer friends who live in the apartment downstairs. Of course, I could just call them….

 

In all honesty, given the difficulties which Khmers and foreigners alike have with the language, I really think Vietnam and Indonesia have the right idea by using the Latin alphabet. The Chinese and Thais claim that they can’t switch to Latin because their language is tonal, and there would be too many completely different words with the exact same spelling. But Khmer doesn’t have this issue.

 

Anyway, as soon as I can write Khmer I am planning to write a letter to the King to outline my reasons why I think they should Latinize.

 

Until then, I guess I am relegated to sitting in my dark little classroom, with a sixty-watt light bulb, matching Khmer letters with colorful pictures of animals and fruits, which only New Zealanders could identify. 

 

 

Author’s Note: Mark Twain once wrote a piece about his studies in Hidelburg, entitled “The Awful German Language.” The piece had a huge impression on me, and my friends and I all read it many times when we were studying in Germany. It was a tongue in cheek piece, which was actually fairly accurate from a linguistic standpoint. I had decided to write a similar series: “On Learning the Awful X Language.” The first one was the Chinese piece, which was well received.

 

This piece was number two in the series. When it was published, I received numerous death threats. In fact, one editor who published the story in his magazine was threatened by someone who basically said, “We know you have a Thai wife and child. We know where you live. Take this piece down immediately, or we will kill you.” Most of the emails were poorly written, with numerous spelling and grammar problems. Also, they missed the joke. But, to preserve my own well-being, I changed the name of the piece before reissuing it.

 

 

 

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. His book, The Monk from Brooklyn, and all of his books, are available at amazon.com. See his videos on youtube.

http://ca.youtube.com/results?search_query=antonio+graceffo&search_type=&aq=f

 

His website is speakingadventure.com

Join him on facebook.com

Contact Antonio: antonio@speakingadventure.com