More on wine

I will continue with my views on wine.

First of all lets talk about categories.

The different kinds of Chinese ?????? are not wine. They are spirits or distilled alcohol or eau de vie. In this they are similar to Whisky, Vodka, Akvavit, Grappa, Gin, Cognac, Calvados, Slivovitz and so on. This kind of fire water exists in many cultures and is drunk in many different ways.

My preferred eau de vie depends on circumstances.

A Scotch with a little water before dinner. A straight single Malt Scotch with a book in the evening. Calvados, Cognac or Grappa after a meal as a “digestif”.Akvavit with Swedish pickled herring or salmon cured in anis and dill. Or many rounds of ??????with?????????at a joyous Chinese dinner, only to be regretted the following morning!

????????? and Japanese Sake are rice wines, and the ideal accompaniment to certain cuisines. I still remember the exquisite meals I last had accompanied by ????????? at the ????????? restaurant in Beijing or on the shores of the ?????? in ??????. In Japan I have had cup after cup of warm Sake while sitting on the tatami and playing silly games with Geishas, and I have had ?????? poured to overflowing in a Sake cup in an “Izakaya” or Japanese tapas restaurant.

But normally when I say wine I mean the wine of the grape. The next post will discuss wines.

A good wine

This evening I finished a bottle of very mediocre Italian wine from yesterday and wanted just a drop more with my gorgonzola cheese so I opened a bottle of Cotes du Rhone. Now I am normally more partial to Bordeaux grapes (Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, or even a Rioja or a Mourvedre like Bandol) but I was really impressed by this Cotes du Rhone. It was a bottle of E. Guigal, the year was 2001. Since I do not normally buy Cotes du Rhones, I must assume this bottle was given to me. I have no idea of the price tag.But it was good. I just had a little bit and am looking forward to continuing with it tomorrow with dinner

Repetitive listening

I have always believed that repetitive listening and reading of interesting content helps to reinforce learning of words and phrases. This is especially true if the repetitive reading and listening is combined with a systematic approach to reviewing new words and phrases as we do at The Linguist. However, the repetitive listening and reading can be overdone. A learner should move on to new content, even before the old content is fully understood. It is important to be exposed to as much new content as possible.

There several reasons for this and for making sure that the listening and reading is “extensive” enough. First of all it makes the input activity more interesting. This is key to motivation. Second, it makes sure that the learner is exposed to as much language as possible, and to many new occurrences of the words and phrases he/she is learning. Extensive listening and reading is also developing the ability of the brain to interpret and process the new language.

So repetitive listening and reading is important but should not be overdone. Nor does the learner need to fully master one bit of content before moving on to the next. Perfection or total mastery is not the short term aim of language learning, although it can be the long term aim, even if that aim is not likely to be reached!

The Natural Approach

I was visiting antimoon and came across a reference to the Natural Approach to language learning which took me to a very interesting site about natural language learning.

The assumption is that the student should spend the first 1000 hours of their learning only on input, just listening and reading. The theory is that any attempt to write or speak before the learner is ready will “contaminate” the learner. Speaking too early will introduce incorrect patterns in the brain and will create “affective filters” or emotional barriers to comfortable communication in the target language. I am a strong believer in the importance of input. However I think it is impractical to expect most learners to forgo the pleasure of trying to use what they have learned.

I do, however, agree that for a beginner or early intermediate learner to sit in a class with other beginners, all speaking poorly and getting frustrated is a counter productive activity. Learners are best advised to spend most of their time alone with input, audio and text. This input can be provided by a teacher or by recordings and text in various formats.

At The Linguist that is what we do. We also provide an effective way for the learner to really focus on the new words and how they are used. This input will eventually find its way to the learners sub-conscious and make him/her a more natural user of the target language.

A brief summary of The Linguist principles

Something I wrote recently on language learning:

I believe that the most important thing for language learning is a lot of exposure to the language, spoken and written. This exposure should take place in the form of content that is interesting and authentic, except in the very beginning. The exposure should be repetitive and should consist of short doses at first with the length of the content items gradually increasing.

The learner should use a computer when reading text (which ideally comes with audio for repetitive listening) in order to instantly see the meaning of new words and phrases and to be able to store them for systematic study and review. The learner should be automatically directed towards content where the words and phrases he/she is learning reappear frequently. For the beginner there are a lot of unknown words, but eventually the number of unknown words should settle down to between 5-10% of any passage. All of this can be controlled by a computer program. This input activity should constitute at least 75% of the time spent by the learner.

There should be a minimum of grammatical explanation. There should be a minimum of additional isolated examples of these words and phrases in use, synonyms, related vocabulary etc. presented out of context. There should be a minimum or no quizzes and exercises and all the other teacher oriented activity that is the norm today.

Up to 25% of the learner’s activity should be in speaking and writing. The learner should use his/her newly learned words and phrases as much as possible and get credit for doing so. Inappropriate use of words and phrases will be the major problem for the learner. The learner should be encouraged to speak and not corrected too often while speaking.

Writing should be corrected more severely than speaking. Problems with the use of words and phrases should be identified systematically and the learner should be directed to become observant of how these words and phrases are used during his/her listening and reading. In other words, the output is not only an exercise in expression but also a chance to provide focus for the all important input activity.

Pronunciation Exercise

Here is a recent pronunciation exercise I published in our newsletter. Click this link?? to access the audio version of the text.

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Read this daily. Say these phrases to yourself many times a day.

I like to speak English. It is pleasant to make the sounds of English. I know that I need to practice. I know that I need to listen often. I know that I need to repeat the words and phrases to myself. I do not mind doing it. I find it fun.

Yes. It is fun to imitate the pronunciation of a native speaker. I know that I can learn to pronounce better. It is not hard. I enjoy slowly repeating the sounds that I hear. I have to keep doing it every day.

The sounds of English are soft. I listen to these sounds and then I repeat them to myself. I imagine myself talking like a native speaker. When I speak out loud in English, I pretend I am a native speaker. Sometimes I read out loud. Sometimes I repeat what I hear on The Linguist. I talk to myself many times a day in English. I repeat sentences from this short passage every day. .

Once a week I record myself. I can do this at the PRONOUNCE page of The Linguist. I also listen to a paragraph from The Linguist content. Then I read the paragraph out loud. Then I record myself to compare with the native speaker.

I will learn to pronounce better. It is up to me. I know I can succeed. I know I do not need to be perfect. I know that I can have a pleasant accent. I know that I can learn to pronounce so that everyone can easily understand me. I am certain that I can do it. I will talk to myself, early every morning, during the day and late every night. I will practice often. In this way I will reach my goal.

My diary simplified

I am going to write about myself (again). I am going to try to write using easy words.?? I will also try to use short sentences.

In this way, it will be easier for beginner learners to understand. I will record my writing so that people can listening as well as read. Then learners should try to learn the words and phrases at The Linguist web site.

Today is a slow day. I just returned from two weeks in Sweden.?? and I am still tired. I woke up a few times last nights. Today is a beautiful day. The skies are blue as I look out my window. I should go outside. Instead I am writing this diary.

I was in Sweden for business. We buy wood in Sweden which we sell to Japan. We also sell software systems in Sweden. We had a problem. That is why I had to go there. More on that in the next post.