Japan the sick man of Asia? I don’t believe it.

I have heard so much doom and gloom about Japan, but arriving in Narita, and being ever so efficiently whisked away by efficient people to Haneda, driving by the spectacular construction along Tokyo bay and now checked in to the Excel Hotel at the modern Haneda airport. If I think of the Tokyo I knew in the 70’s, it has changed beyond anyone’s imagination. I look forward to really getting a feel for what is happening here over the next 2 weeks. And now I am going to go to bed!

Educated immigrants do poorly in Canada – but do better if they invest in language improvement. Wow!

Highly educated immigrants are more successful in the US than in Canada, according to a recent study. Immigrants to Canada earn 50% less than native-born Canadians with similar education or training. The author of the study had this to say:

“The answer remains a bit elusive, but there are a few possible explanations that need more research. One is that there???s been a much more rapid increase in the supply of university-educated new immigrants in Canada than the U.S., so supply may be an issue. The second is language ability,??? Ms. Bonikowska said.

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Wow! Language skills. No kidding.

In my experience, most immigrants’ efforts at language improvement consist of attending ESL class and then going home to watch videos in their native language. The government spends $3,000 per immigrants on “settlement services” , and language training is supposedly the key component of these services. The results, obviously, are very poor.

To improve in language skills, doesn’t require hundreds of millions of dollars in “immigrant settlement”. It is just a matter of the three keys.

Attitude:

In my experience, immigrants from our major immigrant source countries in Asia are most motivated to learn English before they arrive. Once here, they settle into living in their own communities and mostly in their own language. You have to want to do it, and to believe you can do it, and you have to rely on yourself, not on a teacher.

Time with the language:

There is evidence in many places including the Tadoku (Japanese) or tadoku (English) program in Japan, that extensive reading and listening is the fastest way to improve language skills. Easy and inexpensive to do, but most immigrants aren’t willing to put the effort into it, or don’t realize how effective it is. It is easier to go to language classes, even if not much is achieved there.

Noticing:

There are many techniques for becoming more attentive to a language, or noticing. LingQ is a great place for that, but a quick visit to a book store or a little searching on the web will uncover many others. But it all starts with Attitude.

Do "you" learn foreign languages, or does your "brain" learn foreign languages?

Here is an interesting thread on our Forum at LingQ on this subject.?? There are a number of interesting comments on the thread.

I had this to say amongst other things.

“You tell your brain you want to learn another language and that you think you can do it. Then you feed the brain a lot of interesting and enjoyable content. Occasionally you help the brain by reviewing some words or rules or tables, but mostly the brain learns on its own, if you treat it nicely. “

What do you think out there?

Travel plans in Japan have slightly changed.

It now looks like I will be in Osaka Friday and Saturday night, Jan 21 and 22. I suggest we aim to get together on Saturday the 22nd, possibly evening but I am open.

??Nagoya will Sunday night and Monday night, Jan 23 and 24. Perhaps we could aim for Sunday Jan 23 in Nagoya. Again, I am open.

I will now be in Tokyo until Jan 28. It looks like Jan 26 evening is the most popular time for a get together in Tokyo. We need someone to suggest a time and place.

I would appreciate any ideas on whom I might meet, whether in the media, or education, or amongst companies that are interested in developing?? staff English skills.

Japan meet up!

How about the following possible dates for evening meet ups.?? Please let me if these work and who might be available. My schedule is still subject to change.

Also any suggestions re hour and place would be appreciated. Or should we combine Nagoya and Osaka?

Friday?????????? Jan 21 Nagoya
Saturday?? Jan 22 Kansai
Tuesday or Wednesday?? Jan 25 or 26 in Tokyo

Grammar focus versus input focus in language learning.

The old grammar versus input debate has flared up on one of our Forums at LingQ so I thought I would post my recent comment here to see what others think.

I tend to agree with Krashen that learning languages via too much emphasis on grammar creates a “filter” that inhibits us when we speak. We then try to pass everything we want to say through the grammar “filter” rather than just developing natural reflexes.

I do not recommend spending no time on grammar, or on some explanation of how the language works, just that we should not take it too seriously, nor expect to remember the rules and declension tables that we see.

Given that most of us have limited time available for language learning, the question is where our time should be spent for greatest efficiency. I find that spending time on meaningful input gives a better return on time expended, and it has the added benefit of helping us understand the language sooner.

Grammar is a description of usage. The rules can be easy, but very often they are not, and they are certainly not mathematical. Yes adverbs end in “ment” in French . That is easy and easily identified while reading. It is also easy to note that in Spanish masculine nouns often end in “o”and feminine nouns in “a”. But how about the rules for gender in German. Google it and see. I defy any beginner to make sense of it without already having had a lot of exposure to these nouns. Or the rules for cases like the following:

“Pr??positionen mit Dativ

Certain German prepositions are governed by the dative case. That is, they take an object in the dative case. Many dative prepositions tend to be very common vocabulary in German: nach (after, to), von (by, of) and mit (with).

In English, prepositions take the objective case (object of the preposition) and all prepositions take the same case. In German, prepositions come in several “flavors,” only one of which is dative.

There are two kinds of dative prepositions: (1) those that are always dative and never anything else, and (2) certain “two-way” or “dual” prepositions that can be either dative or accusative???depending on how they are used. See the chart below for a complete list of each type. ”

In Russian things are even more complicated. It is not the simple explanation of cases that causes the problem, but the exceptions and rules governing the use of cases behind prepositions and verbs. And then you still have to remember what the case endings are!!

Even the simple rules are easily forgotten as is proven by all the Chinese people who regularly confuse “he” and “she”.

As for how many languages we want to speak, that is another question. Since each language opens up a wonderful new world of culture and tradition and opportunities for communication, I would not let grammar angst inhibit my language learning. I doubt if most of us learn languages in order to make presentations at conferences, but to make presentations you need words. So even if that were your goal, I would go with an input based learning approach.

It is not that we ignore correct usage at LingQ. I believe that saving LingQs is a great way to make yourself aware of usage patterns. You can ask questions on the forum here. And as you progress you can write, and have your writing corrected, and speak with tutors and have you errors pointed out in the discussion reports. You can achieve whatever level of accuracy you want. And I do suggest that learners keep a short grammar book around for regular, but cursory, review.