Learning by immersion and the effect of other foreign speakers
I recently experienced an interesting effect. Maybe it is a personal thing, but I got the feeling that my Chinese degrades significantly as soon as I know that there is someone around who is either a native English or German speaker or who is at least reasonably fluent in one of those languages.
It seems to make my brain lazy - as soon as I get that security net of a possible translation below me, the vocab didn't come. In situations when there was/is no possible help around, the flow is much better.
Even the possibility of a translation taints the learning effect. I wonder if that is just me.
zhenlijiangAugust 03, 2010, 07:37 AM
No Henning it's not just you. Laziness, sure. I think also self-consciousness in the presence of such bilingual people, a(n unfounded probably) feeling that you're being judged to very high standards and found short, will significantly block your flow. I've been asked (nicely) to leave the room for instance, by somewhat less fluent workmates when they had to make a phone call in English. I assured them I wasn't listening, but they said they really didn't feel like speaking with me around.
bodaweiAugust 03, 2010, 09:33 AM
Henning, I do know what you mean but I wonder if this more perception than reality. Looking at the other side, when forced to speak Chinese because the other person can't speak English/German you do feel that your Chinese goes up a level. (Actually it is just that you respond to the challenge.) Looked at this way your brain is not lazy after all.
Someone close to me always said that their Chinese improved markedly during a fierce argument. Again I think that this is not a case of becoming super-human, just losing your inhibitions.
I was SO tempted to add "Which explains how my dad could yell at me in three different tongues". But then I thought it might be insensitive to people who really had abusive parents. And now I wrote it anyway.
Yours was a lot better, though. Well witticised, my friend!
So all I need to do is get drunk and mad and mix with Chinese sailors (or pirates or a Mandarin version of Simon's dad...) and my abilities will explode. Seems like a simple recipy although I might need to check for side effects. :P
bodaweiAugust 04, 2010, 12:20 AM
That last thread really got to the nub of the matter, thanks guys. :)
I think Henning has raised something quite interesting and while this has been discussed before I will try to put a little system into it:
Situation 1: Where speaker A (the Chinese person) is much more fluent in English than speaker B (the non-Chinese person) is in Chinese. [The Henning Scenario, or something like it.]
Situation 2: Where speaker B is much more fluent in Chinese than speaker A in English.
Situation 3: Where the speakers are at roughly the same level in each other’s native tongues.
In Situation 1 speaker B is overwhelmed and Chinese fails them. Conversation reverts to English, a practical outcome. But speaker B feels that they have in some way failed, which possibly undermines their attempts in Chinese. (I think that Henning’s case is a variation of this: the situation where another English/German speaker is present who would be able to translate the Chinese for Henning – apologies Henning if I have your point wrong.)
In Situation 2 speaker B is forced to use Chinese to communicate and they rise to the challenge, whether or not fighting and drinking. J
In Situation 3 you can have a stand-off. Sometimes these stand-offs can be amusing, sometimes painful. One possible outcome is that speaker A continues in English and speaker B continues in Chinese. This is not a bad outcome for both parties – at least speaker B gets speaking, if not listening, practice.
Actually it is Situation 3 where I think that fighting and drinking is most helpful. At the time. The drawback is that you have no recollection later about all the wonderful Chinese you learnt.
"The drawback is that you have no recollection later about all the wonderful Chinese you learnt.
...hehe, touche. Actually I guess you could make a study of it. Perhaps you could graph it and work out the ideal bac. Perhaps your Chinese steadily improves to 0.0875398 and then rapidly declines thereafter. ...or maybe it plateaus after that point but there's a fundamental shift in the vocab that comes to the fore and then it reaches another point where it declines rapidly.