On Mon, Apr 28, 2008 at 5:06 PM, Jens Wilkinson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> On Mon, Apr 28, 2008 at 4:41 PM, MacLeod Dave <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> > Actually it's not. Grammar, collocation and word order take the
> > longest. That's why German is harder for English speakers than
> > Indonesian. Knowing that the word neu is like the English word new is
> > no help when you have to remember to turn it into neue, neues, neuer
> > and all the rest. With Japanese you just remember the word atarashii,
> > put it before the noun and you're done.
> >
> >
> To me, this seems like a really difficult argument. Just to give an example,
> I think that one of the hardest things about French, technically speaking,
> is that you have to remember whether nouns are masculine or feminine (OK,
> the verb conjugations can be tough as well). But actually, what is difficult
> and what is not depends on the context. Is it for being successful on a
> test, for being to read a book, or for being able to communicate verbally?
> If you're trying to read a book, remembering whether nouns are masculine or
> feminine is almost meaningless, and even for communicating, it doesn't
> matter though you'll sound funny to a native speaker. But it really doesn't
> impede communication to say "le table."
> But not knowing words can be deadly.

No it's not when you have a native speaker-like command of the
language. If you say hydrostatic equilibrium to a guy in a bar he'll
laugh and tell you to speak English. He knows you don't need that
word. Only L2 speakers don't know whether a word is necessary or not.

There's a point where you get good enough at a language that you can
ask somebody to explain a word, in the same language, and you'll
understand what they mean. That's good enough.

> And OK, collocation is important, but
> that's going far, and you can also say, "you know, the hardest part about
> learning a language is learning to make a good sentence." And yes, idioms
> are hard, for example. But I think we'd normally divide it like this:
> -learning how to pronounce things. Can be really hard, and can impede spoken
> communication.
> -learning how to hear things. Ibid.
> -learning words, phrases, collocations. Is a constant process, that you
> never really master, and can make all kinds of communication hard.
>  -learning proper grammar. Is hard to get perfectly, and can really mess you
> up on a test, but is generally not all that important for communicating.
I'd only disagree with that last part. Grammar is the soul of a
language, and not knowing how it works is a severe impediment.