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Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Make up Your Own Linguistic Rules

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2015 at 11:26 am

By Antonio Graceffo

I love when people make up their own little linguistic rules, not based on any sort of research or significant experience, such as: a detractor on the internet claimed that native speakers of Spanish learned Vietnamese faster than English natives “because of the similarities in the languages.” The ONLY similarity that he was referring to was putting adjectives after nouns. Apart from that, a Spanish speaker would have no advantages at all. And at this point in the world’s history, the bulk of loan words in almost any language are from English. So, English would be better than Spanish as a basis for any non-Latinate language. Another point is that when you start talking about Asian languages there isn’t a lot of data on non-native English speakers as learners. For Vietnamese, there is undoubtedly data on French speakers, but beyond the US and France, which western countries has Vietnam had a lot of involvement with? Apart from US soldiers of Latin extraction how many Spanish speakers have ever studied Vietnamese?
Another one I have heard repeatedly is that Koreans learn Chinese faster because of similarities in vocabulary and because of the Korean government’s Chinese character exam, which a significant percentage of young people have passed. In practice, I have found that Koreans and Vietnamese are the absolute least fluent students at the Sports University. Even students preparing for their graduation speak Chinese at an incredibly basic level. Much of the reason why Koreans fail to learn Chinese, but many Africans succeed, is probably cultural, rather than linguistic. But that is a central theme in my linguistics writing. I believe that with very few language combinations, the bulk of the difficulties or advantages people have in learning a foreign language are cultural, rather than linguistic. Another anecdotal proof would be that 60% of the vocabulary of the Vietnamese language could be traced to China. And yet, Vietnamese are among the worst Chinese learners at the university.
Today sitting in my hotel room, in Phnom Penh, hearing the Indians across the hall talking way too loudly, with their door open, I could catch about every tenth word, because of the shared origin of some of the Khmer, Thai, Bahasa, and Filipino vocabulary. And yet, these guys couldn’t speak Khmer. And when they tried to communicate with the hotel staff, they did so in absolutely atrocious English, rather than broken Khmer. My point, once again, is that people put too much emphasis on words, when it comes to language learning. Since Indians would already have 10-20% of the Khmer vocabulary, you would think they would find it easier to learn the language. And yet, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Language learning is much more about culture than linguistics.

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a lecturer at Shanghai University. He is also a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of sport, writing his dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. He is expected to graduate his China MBA, from Shanghai Jiaotong University, and his PhD in Spring, 2016. Antonio is also a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia, the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
The Monk from Brooklyn, the book which gave Antonio his name, and all of his other books, the book available at amazon.com. His book, Warrior Odyssey, chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia, including stories about Khmer and Vietnamese martial arts as well as the war in Burma and the Shan State Army, is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Twitter
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Brooklyn Monk fan page
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Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1
Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Children Vs. Adults, Language Learning vs. Acquisition

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2015 at 3:15 am

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By Antonio Graceffo

I largely reject the notion that children learn languages more easily or that if they do, or that this somehow gives them an advantage when learning a foreign language. David Long, the director of AUA Bangkok and the world’s leading proponent of Automatic Language Growth Theory (ALG) said, “We don’t believe children learn physics faster. So, why do we believe they learn language faster?”

All over the world people begin learning English as a child. Across Asia and Europe, English is a core requirement of the school curriculum. And yet all of the professional translators, linguists and people who speak English at a level appropriate to their age and education learned THAT level of English as adults and through study.

My belief is that culturally, our society, all societies, are set up in such a fashion that you teach things to children. I watch a mother playing with her child and she holds up an object and says “ball, ball” a million times. then maybe she says “This is a red ball.” I wish I could pay someone to do that for me. But even with this constant input, it takes years for children to acquire their native tongue. And, acquiring a language is very different from learning a language. Acquiring language generally only happens for the first language is learned in this manner. Here, I am using a loose definition of “first language,” to include all languages widely spoken in the child’s home country. For example, a Swiss person who speaks high German, Swiss German, and French is simply speaking the languages he or she is exposed to and which he or she acquired. Statistically, Swiss are terrible language learners.

At the ALG school in Bangkok, we tracked people by nationality and evaluated who learned Thai the fastest. Swiss were among the lowest scorers. Acquiring language and learning language are very different concepts. I actually had a person who was a PhD in anthropology telling me that he believed Africans learned languages faster. He said, “Africans are such great linguists. I have been in villages where everyone spoke six languages.” First off, a linguist is one who studies language, not languages. Secondly, these people acquired these languages. The test on whether or not an African can learn a language faster than say a Singaporean would be to send them both to school in Latvia.

As an adult, you can use your intellect, discipline, self-control and knowledge of what a language is, to learn a second language faster than any child.

In both Taiwan and Thailand I had friends who were missionary families. The parents went to language classes, while the children attended the international school. A year later, the parents poke the local language, but the kids didn’t. To a thinking man, it should be a no brainer that the one who attended classes learned, but the ones who didn’t classes didn’t. But there is a magical belief that children simply acquire language out of the air. This is clearly untrue.

As for adult discipline, in Taiwan, back in 2002, Chinese textbooks are generally only available in English medium, or occasionally in Japanese. Two Italian priests, who spoke no English, were attending Chinese classes. So they could neither understand the explanations or translations in the book, nor could the teacher help them very much. Where I was able to complete a chapter per day, they could only do one page per day because it took them about 8 hours each evening, to go through the following day’s page, using a paper dictionary, translating each and every word into Italian. Most children couldn’t do that. Had you put 2 ten year-olds in that class, they would simply have failed.

I have had a standing offer, which no one has taken me up on, but I challenge anyone in the world to send me and a 10 year old to a country chosen at random, where neither of us speaks the language, and test which of us learns the language faster.

Welcome to Brooklyn Monk on Youtube

In Uncategorized on March 13, 2015 at 4:38 am

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I’m Antonio Graceffo, the Brooklyn Monk, and welcome to my youtube channel. My two main areas of interest are second language acquisition theory and martial arts.

I am currently a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of Sport where I combine both my interests, taking them to a new level.

I am writing my dissertation, in Chinese, the topic of which is a comparison of Chinese traditional Shuai Jiao wrestling and modern, western wrestling.

As part of my field research, I train daily in several wrestling styles as well as san da and judo. Although I am nearly 50 years old, I still fight in competition from time to time.

Watch Welcome to Brooklyn Monk on Youtube

My channel Brooklyn Monk1 is largely about my own journey though Asia, exploring and documenting languages, martial arts, and ethnic minorities. Beginning in 2001 through the present. I have lived in about 7 countries, learned 5 languages and studied and documented countless martial arts. Along the way, I also fought professionally and amateur, I wrote six books, several hundred magazine articles, published academic papers, appeared in movies and TV shows, and produced hundreds of videos which are available here on my channel. I have play lists dedicated to the various phases of my research including: Martial Arts Odyssey, Linguistics and Language Learning, Interviews, and the War in Burma.

I hope you enjoy my channel and if you’re doing research and need some help. Please shoot me a message and let me know. Also, don’t forget to follow Brooklynmomk1 on Twitter.

I’m Antonio Graecffo from Brooklynmonk1 reminding you to get in the gym do your reps, do your sets, do your round work, keep training and fighting, and please get in the libery and read a book.

Follow Antonio on Twitter https://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

Contact Antonio@speakingadventure.com

See Antonio’s books on amazon.com

Subscribe to https://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

This language is easy or difficult because I said so

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2015 at 4:05 pm

An American kid I met in Phnom Penh today told me Korean language was not difficult. He said, “Easy to read, easy to write.” I told him, “The alphabet is easy. But Korean is the single most difficult national language in the world, rated category 6 by Defense Language Institute.” He disagreed, and repeated that Korean was easy. This is a pet peeve of mine. People who tell you Korean is easy are either: lying, insane, comparing it to nothing, or, as is the most common case, speak it at an incredibly superficial level. With 12 registers of common speech, Korean is incredibly complex and difficult to learn to any significant level of fluency. But, to determine the difficulty of learning a particular language we don’t need my opinion or his. Every expert source I have checked has listed Korean in the highest band of language learning difficulty.

The National Security Agency (NSA) classifies Korean as one of the most difficult languages to learn. Defense Language Institute (DLI) ranks Korean as category 4, the highest level of difficulty, requiring 64 weeks to learn. Arabic and Pashto are also category 4 languages, but somehow no one ever says that Arabic and Pashto are easy to learn. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) rates Korean as a category 5, the hardest category in their system, requiring 88 weeks to learn. On the same scale, Pashto was category 4, requiring only 44 weeks to learn. Apparently, some experts think Pashto is easier than Korean, and yet no one ever says that Pasto is easy. The Cranberry Letter rates Korean 9/10 in difficulty. On the same scale, Mandarin was only 8/10 and Pashto only 7/10. Anyone who tells you Korean is easy could probably master Pashto in a matter of weeks.

Most people who tell you Korean is easy are generally basing this evaluation on the writing system. The Korean alphabet, Hangul, is a phonetic writing system, which includes only 24 letters, and can be learned in a day or a week, misleading beginners into believing Korean language is easy. English also has an alphabet of less than thirty letters, as do most western languages. Does this mean that if you have knowledge of the Latin alphabet you can say Hungarian is easy?

The guy is lucky he still has his teeth

While claims that Korean is easy will set me off like a firecracker, another way to send me into a ballistic fit is to tell me that a language is difficult which is actually easy.

An American friend of mine bought a house in the Dominican Republic and has been living there several months per year, for the last decade or so. At a dinner I was attending, he told his family, most of whom don’t speak a foreign language, ‘Spanish is so hard. There are so many words, more than English.” And as proof, he gave the example, “In English there is one word for ‘eat’ but in Spanish there are four.”

It is common knowledge that Spanish is one of the easiest languages for English native speakers. Actually Dutch and Afrikaans are the easiest major languages (Major language being the national language of a country) for speakers of English. But Dutch and Afrikaans aren’t languages widely studied outside of their home country. For most US Americans the first choices for language learning are French or Spanish, whereby Spanish is the easier of the two. Spanish is linguistically easier than French, easier to spell and pronounce, and the cognates are more obvious. A lot of research has been done on the influence of culture on language learning. Many experts believe understanding a culture makes learning a language easier. Most Americans have a lot of exposure to Spanish language and culture, between Spanglish songs on the radio to TV shows and movies which deal with Mexico or Latin America. Or, they may have been exposed to one of the 54 million Hispanics who live in the US.

All of the above factors make learning Spanish particularly easy for US Americans. But, once again, we don’t need my opinion. Let’s check with the experts. The NSA ranks Spanish as the easies of the critical languages. DLI categorizes Spanish as category 1, needing only 26 weeks to learn. FSI ranks Spanish as category 1 and requires only 23-24 weeks to learn.

As for my friend’s claim that Spanish has more words than English, this is also false. Nearly every reliable source you can find will tell you that English has more words than Spanish, by a tremendous margin. The Global Labguage Monitor sets the number of words in the English language at 1,025,109.8. “It has been estimated that the vocabulary of English includes roughly 1 million words” (Merriam-webster.com, 2015). A CNN report claimed that “web 2.0” which was officially added to the English language in 2009 was the one millionth word. (Sutter, 2009).

If we look at the most authoritative dictionaries of the two languages, we can see that The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words; 615,100 definitions, whereas, Diccionario de la Real Academia Española has 100,000 words. Centro Cervantes recognizes DARE as a source, suggesting that there are 93,000 words in the Spanish language. (Bernárdez, 2014) The same article goes on to explain the obvious difficulty of counting how many words there are in a language, do plurals and singulars of the same word count twice? What about verb conjugations? Given the various methods of counting, Centro Cervantes came up with a variety of figures, the largest of which was 500,000 words, still only half the number in the largest estimates of the English language.

Spanish has four words for eat and English only has one? True, if you ignore ALL of the synonyms: attack, binge, bite, chew, chow, consume, devour, dine, feed, inhale, nibble, pick, swallow, absorb, banquet, bolt, breakfast, cram, digest, dispatch, gnaw, gorge, gormandize, graze, have a bite, have a meal, indulge in, ingest, lunch, masticate, munch, nibble, nosh, overindulge, ruminate, scarf, scoff, snack, sup, wolf, break bread, chow, down, dispose of, feast upon, gobble up, have a meal, make a pig of one’s elf, partake of, peck at, pig out, polish off, pork out, put away, stuff ones-self, take food, take in, take nourishment…

Learning any language takes a lot of hard work and dedication. And most people won’t master more than one second language in a lifetime. So from that standpoint, we could say that all languages are hard to learn. But the relative difficulty of one language over another is not based on opinion or personal experience. Experts have spent years and years comparing and analyzing languages and have come to very similar conclusions. By any ranking system in existence, Spanish is one of the easiest and Korean is one of the most difficult major languages to learn. And without any doubt, my Amercan friend who said Spanish is hard, should NEVER attempt to learn Pashto.

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of sport, writing his dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. He is martial arts and adventure author living in Asia, the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
The Monk from Brooklyn, the book which gave Antonio his name, and all of his other books, the book available at amazon.com. His book, Warrior Odyssey, chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia, including stories about Khmer and Vietnamese martial arts as well as the war in Burma and the Shan State Army, is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Twitter
http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk
facebook
Brooklyn Monk fan page
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1
Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

When up is down, Perceptions in Linguistics

In Uncategorized on January 18, 2015 at 4:31 am

By Antonio Graceffo

On a map up, we have all accepted that up is North (Actually, as a map is 2D, we have accepted that forward is both up and consequently North. Up would take you into a third dimension and off the map.).There is no reason for that. We just all agreed on it. But, when you go to a culture that isn’t familiar with maps, not only will they not know this, but they will ask you “why?”. And you will be unable to explain it, because you simply take it for granted.

Once, when I was teaching class in Germany, I went to point something out on a world map and was very embarrassed because I was having trouble orientating myself. This, of course, confirmed for my students, the prejudice that Americans are ignorant of world geography. The issue, I eventually figured out, was that in the US, America is at the center of a world map, and all other countries orient off that center. When I explained this to my German students, they attributed this fact to American nationalism, as everyone knows Germany is meant to be at the center of a world map.

Linguistically, we can see how our place in the world effects our perception and how that, in turn effects our language. On an American map, the Middle East is far away. In fact, it’s half-way to China, which is why we call it “The Middle East.” On a German map, the Middle East doesn’t seem all that far away. And thus, in German, the Middle East is called “The Near East.”

If the Middle East were nearer, would we have a different relationship with the policies we make?

Eventually, after having taught in so many countries, I realized that each country places itself at the center of its world map. Now that I know this, it makes perfect sense. Since, you would generally be looking at the world from your own country, facing out, the world is oriented off of your starting point. But knowing this still made it difficult to use maps when I later lived in Asia. Picture a world map where East Asia is the center, Europe is on the extreme left and America is on the far right. The first time I saw that, I asked “America is East of Taiwan?” But, the globe is a circle. I guess we could argue that any point is East of any other point.

There is one more perception for you. Where does East end and West begin on a circular object? And why? Let’s add to this that the Earth is not actually a circle, we have just decided it was convenient to draw it that way.

WE?

In the truest sense, the way a country makes a map demonstrates how that country perceives the world.

In the West, we read left to right, top to bottom. In other cultures they read right to left. And the front cover of the book is the back cover. But even in the west, the left to right across the page rule doesn’t always hold. A newspaper, for example, is read in vertical columns. I once had a class in Cambodia whose reading level was quite high, but the whole class failed a reading comprehension exam which was based on a newspaper text. They didn’t know to read a newspaper in columns, rather than straight across the page, left to right.

On the highway in America, arrows telling you to continue straight ahead, are actually pointing up into the sky. “Next rest stop, this way.” Does America have flying cars?

In Chinese, the word for “up” is “shàng” and it’s represented by a character that looks like an arrow pointing up into the sky 上. The word for “down” is “xià” and it’s represented by a character that looks like an arrow pointing “down”, into the Earth 下. And that all makes sense to my Western brain. But the Chinese word for next week is “Xià zhōu” 下周. In my mind, next week should be “up”, not down. But I guess, just like “North” being “up” there is no reason for me to feel that way. And yet, it seems counter intuitive that in Chinese next week, next time, and next month are all represented by a “down” character. The one logic I came up with for this might be because on a calendar, whether Chinese or Western, next week is down the page, and next month is down the page. In which case, the West is “wrong?”

Obviously, there is no wrong or right. But these types of perceptions, these prejudices that we have are so deeply instilled that we aren’t even aware of them. And, when we encounter a culture which sees the world differently, we either can’t understand or can’t imagine that people perceive the world in other ways.

An endless collection of these types of perceptions compose our relationship to and understanding of our native tongue, and to language in general. We carry these perceptions with us into foreign cultures, and then wonder why we have difficulty understanding our foreign friends or learning a foreign language.

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of sport, writing his dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. He is martial arts and adventure author living in Asia, the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

The Monk from Brooklyn, the book which gave Antonio his name, and all of his other books, the book available at amazon.com. His book, Warrior Odyssey, chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia, including stories about Khmer and Vietnamese martial arts as well as the war in Burma and the Shan State Army,  is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey

See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on  http://www.blackbeltmag.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

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

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

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Violated Linguistically, Keep Your Tongue to Yourself

In Uncategorized on September 17, 2014 at 1:18 pm

By Antonio Graceffo

Substitute teaching in a high school, I was a little vague about when class started. When I heard a bell, I just went. The principle said to me in Chinese, “No, your class starts at eight twenty-five.” I said, “OK, thank you,” and sat down. But then the English teacher had to show off how good her English was. She came over to me and said “You can play your class at twenty-five minutes past eight, ten minutes later. But as you can see, according to this clock the time now is only eight twelvth.” Ah yes, the dreaded “eight twelvth” I would have to “wait ten minutes later” to “play” my class. Va fan culo!

This is so typical that to show off or to “practice” Chinese say the longest most convoluted sentence they can. I often hear them using the specific dialogue from chapter seven, like, “Will you eat in our school cafeteria, or do you prefer to eat such delicacies as fresh leafy vegetables, legumes, meats, and savories…” As soon as you use the word “savories” I know you’ve been memorizing dialogues again. And I don’t want to be your partner.

I gritted my teeth and said, “Yes, I understand the concept of telling time.” Since then, I have played and replayed the situation over and over in my head, wondering if I should have ripped into her in English and made her cry. I think the reason I react so badly to Chinese people making long statements from the vocabulary list in chapter eight, is that, one, she is calling me an idiot by suggesting I didn’t understand the principle. Two, she is not very observant, since I answered the principle appropriately, which would suggest I understood. Some people argue that people like this aren’t trying to insult me. They are juts practicing. Well, I don’t understand how this is practicing. Since no native speaker would use that many words to convey such a simple message. And since she obviously already knew these words….What exactly was she practicing? I guess she will get better and better at THIS and next time, she will cram “robust peaches at the peak of freshness” into the sentence.

That night, when I went out to get some food, I bumped into one of the newly arrived German students. I stopped to ask how he was getting on, when I noticed he had an Asian girl with him. Thinking he couldn’t possibly already have a girlfriend, after two days in country, I asked her in Chinese, “Where are you from?” I thought maybe she was another foreign student. As expected, she didn’t answer. So, I said in English, “Where are you from?” He answered for her, saying, “She is from here. She’s my language buddy, assigned by the university to help me learn Chinese.” Now, I was confused why she didn’t answer me. So, I asked again, in Chinese, “Where are you from?” She just smiled and said “Yes” in English. So, I switched to harsher Chinese and asked, rather forcefully. “I just asked you twice, where you are from. Why didn’t you answer?” She replied in English. “I am sorry, but I can’t understand your Chinese.” So, I asked in Chinese, “Why don’t you understand me? Everyone else does.” But she didn’t budge. She said, “Sorry, your accent…” I exploded, and started shouting in English (maybe I should have done it in Chinese, but I wanted the German guy to know what I was saying.) I am a doctoral candidate in this university. All my classes are in Chinese. All my classmates are Chinese. Everyone understands me but you.”

I just didn’t see how this was going to end well. And I felt embarrassed for the poor German guy who probably had no idea what to do. So, I just mumbled under my breath, in Chinese, “Forget about it. You have no manners.” As I stormed off, she called after me in English, “I understood that. Your Chinese is so good.”

I know people think I get mad about nothing and fly off the handle, but this person intentionally made me lose face. I can’t imagine she did this to help me. I don’t think she cured famine or Ebola by doing this. She wanted to make me look bad and make herself look smart. Also, she is supposed to be helping this guy with his Chinese. Obviously, his Chinese won’t be as good as mine. So, will she constantly shoot him down, till he gives up and speaks English with her? I actually had a language exchange partner in Korea who laughed at me every time I spoke Korean. And I know he did this so I would give up and we could just speak English, for his benefit. Instead, I told him to go f— himself, and possibly I threatened him physically, I don’t remember. I probably did threaten him physically. Sounds like something I would do.

And very much like Fred, I have to ask, why is this ok? Why does she get away with this? Why is it that if I stopped typing right now, scoured the campus, found her and ripped into her verbally, I would be the bad guy?

Well, wait till tomorrow night’s post, because, I am planning on being the bad guy.

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of sport, writing his dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. He is martial arts and adventure author living in Asia, the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey

See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on  http://www.blackbeltmag.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

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

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Misdaventures in ESL: Married to a Dictionary

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2014 at 3:00 am

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By Antonio Graceffo

Language learners can be intelligent and even have a fairly large vocabulary, but cultural barriers may still prevent them from learning. In Asia, for example, because students have been forced, since childhood, to memorize long lists of vocabulary, it is very common for them to be married to the concept that each English word has exactly one meaning, regardless of context, and exactly one translation into their mother tongue. And this belief is often so ingrained, trained over a period of decades, that in spite of my education and being a native speaker I cannot dissuade them of it.
Here is an example from a high level group of adult students in China. We read a text about the threat of a pandemic wiping out most of Europe. They knew the word “epidemic”. So, I explained that the “demic” in “pandemic” was similarly related to a disease. And they were fine with that. Next, I asked if they knew the word “pan.” Instantly, they all said “frying pan.” I commended them on knowing ‘frying pan,’ but pointed out that in this context, pan had a different meaning. To which, they responded, “frying pan.” So, I told them that ‘pan’ meant ‘across.’ And that a ‘pandemic’ was an epidemic that went across national borders.
“Yes, because the frying pans are dirty.” explained one of the more intelligent students. In fact, he even rethought “dirty” and said “un-san-i-tary.” Once again, I was very supportive. “Nice word.” But I went on to explain that ‘pandemic’ had nothing to do with a frying pan. In the end, I had to simply move on. Not only did they not learn the meaning of “pan”, but they think I was lying to them, and they will never trust me again.
In another class, with an intermediate level, private Japanese student in her fifties, the article said “After seeing the film in the cinema, the star felt it was a real work of art.” So, I asked my student, “What does it mean when they say “a real work of art?” The student didn’t know. So, I explained, “It means the actress didn’t think this was just a movie for entertainment. It was something special.” So, the student asked “Art mean special?” I tried several more times to explain, in vain. “She meant the movie was beautiful.”
“Art mean beautiful?” she asked.
An interesting point about older Japanese students is that they often speak in very broken English, well below their level. But their reading comprehension is exactly on level. Apart from this one hang up, the student understood the complex text about the making of a short film which won awards.
“The movie was meaningful.” I tried again.
“Art mean meaningful?”
It was one more example of students looking for, even needing, each English word to have exactly one meaning and one translation. “Yes, it means special, beautiful, and meaningful all at once.” I conceded. And we moved on.
Another example was a text that said someone had accused someone else of murder. The student didn’t know “accuse.” So, I simplified by saying, “It means you say someone did something wrong.” She responded “accuse mean say?”
“Not exactly, it means to say someone did something wrong.”
I went through several examples of accusing someone of murder or bank robbery or rigging the votes in Florida. After going through a number of examples, the student said “Understand now. Accuse mean tell.”
The absolute worst example of this phenomenon I have ever encountered was in Cambodia. In an intermediate class, mostly full of college students and young professionals, We read an article which began something like this “If you think baseball is boring, you should try cricket. A cricket match can last three days and end in a tie score of zero-zero.” I confirmed if the students knew what baseball was. And they did. Next, I asked if they knew what cricket was. One girl quickly said, “A small animal that makes music.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “That is the common use of the word cricket. But here, it has a different meaning.” We reread the opening sentence. Then I asked “Can anyone guess what cricket refers to here?” I wasn’t expecting them to know it was a British game, or have a picture of the game in their heads. They had obviously never heard of it. But since cricket involved a match and could end in a tie score, and it was being compared to baseball, I just wanted to see if they would guess that it was some kind of a game or sport.
I went around the room, asking, “In this text, IN THIS TEXT, specifically in this text, can anyone guess what cricket means?” The first three students all said, “A small animal…”
I tried to use logic. “Let’s test your theory that ‘cricket,’ in this text, refers to a small animal.” I read the text aloud, using a substitution. “If you think baseball is boring, you should try a small-animal-that-makes-music. A small-animal-that-makes-music match can last three days and end in a tie score of zero-zero.”
After I finished reading, I asked “Does that make sense?” To which, the whole class dutifully replied, “Yes, teacher.” I just decided to scrap the text and move on. This wasn’t a class on insectology. Entomology maybe, but insectology, NEVER!
Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of sport, writing his dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. He is martial arts and adventure author living in Asia, the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Twitter
http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk
facebook
Brooklyn Monk fan page
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1
Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

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Chinese Presentation: Chinese and Khmer Martial Arts (Chinese language) (Parts 1 and 2)

In Uncategorized on March 21, 2014 at 1:35 am

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A PhD research presentation (in Chinese), from Shanghai University of Sport, comparing Cambodian and Chinese martial arts. Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is writing his doctoral dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. Along the 3 year road to his dissertation, he is also writing shorter papers on various forms of comparative martial arts.

Watch: Chinese and Khmer Martial Arts (Chinese language) (Part 1)

Watch: Chinese and Khmer Martial Arts (Chinese language) (Part 2)

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Email Antonio
Antonio@speakingadventure.com
website
http://www.speakingadventure.com
Twitter
http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk
facebook: Brooklyn Monk fan page
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Antonio Graceffo, Speaking Italian

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2014 at 10:04 am

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo loves studying languages. He has published about 200 articles and over 30 videos on second language acquisition and other aspects of language. He is currently a PhD student at Shanghai University of Sport, China, where all of his classes, exams, and research are conducted in Chinese.
Watch: Antonio Graceffo, Speaking Italian

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Email Antonio
Antonio@speakingadventure.com
website
http://www.speakingadventure.com
Twitter
http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk
facebook: Brooklyn Monk fan page
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Antonio Graceffo, Speaking Spanish

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2014 at 10:02 am

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo loves studying languages. He has published about 200 articles and over 30 videos on second language acquisition and other aspects of language. He is currently a PhD student at Shanghai University of Sport, China, where all of his classes, exams, and research are conducted in Chinese.
Watch: Antonio Graceffo, Speaking Spanish

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Email Antonio
Antonio@speakingadventure.com
website
http://www.speakingadventure.com
Twitter
http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk
facebook: Brooklyn Monk fan page
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com