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The FORCE Cycle – Phase 5

July 24, 2019



this is video number five in a series on the force strategy forces an acronym standing for focus organize rehearse communicate and evaluate these are five steps that I use to interact with the target language community and build my proficiency in new languages so I've talked about the first four stages and now we're gonna talk about the stage call to evaluate after you've finished working through the other stages then you need to take a moment to examine how it went and to assess your progress and to make plans for where you're gonna go in the future it's important to do this right away right after you've used your new language to communicate while everything is still fresh in your mind and your enthusiasm is still real strong you're probably still really enjoying the excitement of using your new language last night my wife and I went to see a movie and the person who sold us the tickets for the movie spoke to me in Portuguese and that was really fun and afterwards that's a great time to assess how that communication event went and what I might do next and maybe some new vocabulary that I would use for buying movie tickets in Brazilian Portuguese evaluation should be done with a paper and a pen not just in your head and you should ask yourself a series of questions and let me let me give you a list you may want to grab a pen and paper and record these yourself one of the questions that you want to ask yourself is was your focus specific enough or broad enough and how could it have been better for example if it's too broad then there was no focus – it's very difficult to figure out what exactly you were trying to learn or trying to practice in your new language and if it's too focused then you you may not be able to use enough of the language or be flexible enough to adapt to what happens in your communication event second question might ask yourself is was my speaking partner a good one to talk with and was the location for our conversation suitable you you want to have people who can interact with you well it's helpful to find people who are able to speak in their own language with foreigners and not everybody can do that so that's great if you can find that ask yourself if the communication phase of this cycle was too long or too short if you feel exhausted afterwards it was too long or if your conversation partner looks exhausted or falls asleep or glazes over then you know it was maybe a little bit too long if it was too short then you didn't take advantage of the opportunity as much as you could have and you could have got more value from it were the words and phrases that you prepared for your cycle appropriate and sufficient is the the organization phase of your forced cycle adequate did you have the materials that you needed were there any learning resources that would help you prepare your organization phase much better for example I love these vocabulary books that are organized by themes and you can look up for example medical terminology in French and that saves you a lot of work if you don't have one of those in your and you're preparing a four cycle you might want to run out to the bookstore and grab one of these automatic word lists and it'll do half of the work for you are there any or next question were you understood completely partly or just a little bit and what were the difficulties did the other person the the person you were talking to have any difficulty understanding you understanding you did you get the main idea across did you communicate fairly well or did it go really quite easily those are those are good ways to evaluate your 4-cycle did you rehearse enough when you got to the point where you could use your language in actual conversation were you actually prepared did the pieces of language that you had prepared roll off your tongue relatively well did you have the vocabulary that you needed did the words come out fairly easily did you anticipate the responses of the other person it's all great to prepare what you're going to say but you also have to have some idea of what the other person might say and the questions that they my task for example if you start speaking Portuguese with somebody they might ask you oh where did you learn your Portuguese or are you studying Portuguese or did you live in Brazil or did you live in Portugal you you can anticipate the questions that you'll probably be asked and that will help you prepare to respond intelligently and fairly quickly and fairly fluently and that will keep your communication stage going did you understand what was said to you and how much did you understand did you catch the main idea did you have to guess a lot or did you just understand most of what was being said was your the limitations on your vocabulary a major obstacle did you get stuck halfway through sentences I hate that feeling of starting a sentence and then halfway through discovering I can't finish it and there's just no way out of it so I try to maybe over prepare sometimes and and be sure that I have the words that I'm gonna need and not get surprised by a lack of vocabulary I would say that the most common comment that I get as a language speaker after I've talked with somebody when I'm speaking fairly well they they often say you speak this language really well you just need more vocabulary that's a really helpful bit of feedback because this is that's their impression of how I speak their language they're saying you know how the language works you've got the structures figured out your pronunciation is fine it would just go eat more easily if you had more vocabulary so I think that's really useful that tells me a lot about what I need to focus on in in several of my languages and I think you'll find that's true for yourself too mastering basic language patterns is not that difficult but collecting large amounts of vocabulary is super important to communicating well and to give them the person that you're talking with the impression that you speak their language if your grammars a little off people still think you speak their language fairly well if you're lacking vocabulary and they're having trouble conveying information back and forth then they think you don't speak their language very well vocabulary is just huge you might want to ask yourself if you were confused by unfamiliar language patterns grammatical patterns that didn't make sense to you and that even if you understood the words perhaps you didn't understand what the point was of the of the things that were said to you and that you that you were trying to decipher ask yourself if you had difficulty distinguishing words or sounds that that the other person was saying sometimes there are words that sound similar and the accent on the word or the the length of the vowel will change the word entirely or a little ending on something is quite important conveys a lot of information were able to figure that out this is a good part of your evaluation stage ask yourself if the cycle that you did was suitable to your proficiency level if you're at a low level of proficiency then you should be doing certain kinds of conversations that are are simpler in terms of their themes and vocabulary and language structures but if you're fairly advanced you should be able to argue an opinion talk about politics talk about conditional statements things like if this were true then I would do that that sort of thing those those more advanced communication events are very difficult if you're at a low level of proficiency and you you want to work at the at the appropriate level ask yourself if you exchanged real information without using English you should go out of your way to try to avoid using English and as much as possible let the other person speak to in the target language without trying to explain things to you in English way better to wrestle with it and do a little bit of hard work and and the payoff is much better the results will be better you'll learn more language if you can stay in the target language as much as much as possible now don't make it a hard and fast rule if you have to dip into English a little bit if the other person explains something to in English that's all right but switch back and stay in the target language as much as you can that really helps ask yourself if you managed misunderstandings effectively you will have misunderstandings for sure so you need to have strategies for dealing with that and some of the ones that I've discussed before are clarification repetition Confirmation paraphrasing and guessing do all of those things before you get to using English clarification you asked did you say this or I understood that was that is that what you were meaning repetition oh could you say that again please confirmation oh so it's going to be $24 for my movie tickets okay paraphrasing say it in another way use different words don't just don't simply repeat it but say it in a different way and see if that clarifies things or ask the person that you're speaking with to say it in a different way and guessing is wonderful you always will be guessing to some degree and I think that really the truth is even when we're speaking our own languages we guess we hear some words and we understand you know in our own in our own language you understand everything and we hear almost everything but we fill in the gaps we say incomplete sentences and we assume the other person is going to know what we didn't say that that should be understood this will happen a little more often when your proficiency level is low and you hear some words and some expressions that are very familiar and you have to assume that you got the idea and guess at what the rest was usually that works fine and the further along you go the more that that the more that works but guessing don't rule it out it's not wrong to guess you'll get caught sometimes guessing wrong but don't rule it out ask yourself if you're speaking coach or the person the person that you were talking with could suggest how you could communicate better and and invite some feedback as I said I love the feedback that I got from other people who said your language is great yeah it would be easier for us to talk if he had more vocabulary so then I knew what I really need to work on I also knew that my grammar and my word order and my pronunciation were made conversation really quite easy the only barrier was that sometimes I had to talk in a roundabout way and say things maybe in an unnatural way to account for words and expressions that I didn't know and so I know what to focus on so that fee back from native speakers was super helpful if you make a mistake can you fix that in your next cycle so for example if you went to a Chinese restaurant and you ordered your food and you asked how much it was and they told you where the bathroom was then you know that you probably the way that you asked for how much something is you didn't have that right so prepare and go back and and try to find out how much the bill is supposed to be in Chinese and see if you get directions to the bathroom again and that will tell you whether you got that if you've repaired that problem in your Chinese and if you've made progress in terms of your pronunciation or your vocabulary or the way that you ordered your question you want to be sure and evaluate that you are courteous and friendly in your conversation culturally appropriate with the other person remember that in many language that many languages there is a distinction between formal and informal forms of address so when you're talking to somebody in French you will say woe to somebody that you don't know so well and to to somebody who is a friend or or somebody younger than you and those those sorts of things aren't important when you're using a foreign language you should realize also that people who see you speaking their language as a as a foreign language to you will be very forgiving so if you make some mistakes and if you use the informal when you should have used the formal or you do something that you would expect a native speaker to know better that's okay don't don't sweat that too much but be sure that you appear courteous a little extra politeness in someone else's language is way better than being extra casual sometimes there's a tent there's a temptation to speak a little bit informally or to act a little extra relaxed so that you appear to come across as more fluent in the language than you are that usually doesn't work very well you usually just look you just speak badly because what seems casual and relaxed in English messes up your speech and understanding in other languages so don't don't try to fake a comfort level in your foreign language clarity is better than cleverness you should ask yourself if you noticed any new words phrases or language patterns that you need to master what are they write them down this is why it's really important to do your evaluation phase right away after your communication event make notes of things that you need to focus on for your future cycles and to improve your language skill what would have been most helpful to you that you didn't know when you went into this communication event and you think when you think back wow if I had have been able to do that that conversation would have been easier that's one of the things you want to make notes on and make plans for ending in an upcoming fourth cycle ask yourself if there's a specific focus that seems to be an obvious next step is there one that interests you may be had so much fun ordering your movie tickets in Portuguese that you want to go to an order movie tickets in Hindi or you know whatever but something that that's interests you if it's interesting to you you'll follow through on it you'll have the motivation to do it and do the work that it takes to prepare for a focus a four cycle and so you want to do stuff that that's interesting stuff that's fun stuff that's practical I always say you should be working on things that you will use soon and things that you that you will use often and generally speaking that includes a lot of stuff that just interest you if it doesn't interest you I I don't think you'll really do much work or stick with it very long you should ask yourself in the evaluation stage of the fourth cycle if you learned anything new about the target language culture so for example do they have certain rules about using eat you know eating utensils at the table or the way that you handle your food or talking with your with food in your mouth or putting your feet up taking your shoes off these are important parts of entering the target language community fully taking on another language is not simply a matter of words and phrases and syntax and vocabulary it's also entering into another culture and to do this effectively you have to be prepared to become a member of that other culture that's you'll do far better that way to simply have words and phrases and stand as an outsider talking always as an outsider with the person limits how far you'll go with the language but if you say you know I really want to be inside this target language community I'll always look white I'll always people will always recognize me as you know from wherever I'm from but I want to be welcomed as much as possible as an insider in the target language community and that means recognizing target language culture cultural items and cultural practices ask yourself if you made any progress in your new language after a communication event even if it was just a little bit what you'll find is that things that you learn in unusual situations or situations where your antennas go up and where you're really focused and really paying attention that part of the language tends to internalize much more easily so when you're talking with a native speaker and you use the language in that context it's so much fun and you're you're you're really paying attention you're listening carefully you're watching you're speaking carefully just about everything that you hear in that context will probably stick so notice that and enjoy it and ask yourself what your next focus should be and how soon you can do your next cycle evaluate your pronunciation especially in the first six months of your study some languages I'm speaking as a native speaker of English some languages are easier for us to pronounce than others I find that English speaking people can pronounce Spanish reasonably well in a very short amount of time but for us to pronounce French reasonably well takes more effort to pronounce Chinese is particularly difficult the Chinese language grammatically is not so hard but for us to pronounce tones correctly and some other little quirks of Chinese pronunciation such as a voiced and unvoiced con and aspirated verses on aspirated consonants you might not even know what that means but you know in some languages we really have to pay attention to our pronunciation and I would suggest if you're learning a language with really different sounds from English pay attention to pronunciation and put a little work into it don't let yourself be completely bogged down by it so you're afraid to speak just because you think you might have got a sound a little bit off the point is did you communicate real information in at reasonable speed you don't have to speak perfectly and you probably never will speak with a perfect native like accent but could you be understood and so pay attention to that as I say especially in the first six months if there are people who can comment meaningfully on how well you pronounce the target language invite their opinion ask them to comment on that ask them if your pronunciation is difficult to understand fairly easy to understand most of the time not not a problem or very good I mean that's four simple categories if they don't pause if they just talk with you as if they expect you to understand everything that's a good sign it's always nice to hear that you speak you speak the target language easily and they they seem to do an exchange of information with you without pausing at all or without adjusting their language too much to talk with you you have to speak clearly enough to be understood that's always the the first measure you have to you have to be able to speak that well and so being sloppy and extra casual and trying to trying to speak in a way that sounds casual in English usually sounds just goofy in another language better to speak clearly and a little a little more carefully than you might in your own language gauged not only how well you are understood but also how well you understood the other person and what they said did you did you understand the sounds that you heard did you understand the expressions that were used did you get the main idea did you get all the ideas did you get every detail or did you just sit there and stare for 10 minutes repeating the word yes over and over again that will help you evaluate you communique strategy if you had a lousy communications event don't worry about it it just tells you that you have to adjust your your cycles to be fitting to your proficiency level or it will point out some things that you're just not really ready for yet and just back it up a little bit ask yourself if you caught the main idea of what what was said to you or if it was more than that if there was a linguistic structure that confused you as I said investigate that structure right away when you're using the language regularly your mind happily welcomes the new structures that it needs in order to communicate so if you are trying to learn structures that you're not using or if you're trying to work through a book but you're not really using the language it's so difficult to get those things inside of you and what activates all of that information if you've been taking a language course oh you studied in university you worked your way through a through a teacher self kit or something what really activates it makes it work for you is when you use it in real life with native speakers so you sit around and you mumble to yourself when you talk to yourself you do that rehearsed stage of the of the fourth cycle that's all great that's all actually really important but what really brings it to life is your mind is just all fully engaged when you're communicating in real life with a native speaker if you study the same structure with the same resources but without using it for real communication it would be much harder to grasp and even harder for you to retain that information so use it in real life communication and all of this theoretical information that is might even feel a little bit difficult for you at times comes much more easily your brain is just ready for it your your mind is alert and and it's saying man I really want to communicate something and if this tool is gonna let me do it I'll take it on and it's amazing how smart you are when you want to communicate and we have that urge to engage in real-life communication with another person write down the your observations not only about the problems that you encountered but also about your successes wow this went really well I talked for 15 minutes didn't use a ward English and the other person didn't pause at all and didn't seem to have any difficulty talking with me so that is the four cycle focus organize rehearse communicate and evaluate as I said I do this all the time I prepare to go into a situation and use my target language to engage with the target language community and to improve my language skills I'm sure that this will work for you this has been a very short summary of the system this is a much larger more developed system than I've been showing you but I have to keep the videos to a reasonably limited length which I didn't really do because some of them were a half an hour long but anyhow that's as short as I can make it I hope you enjoyed these and I've got some more stuff coming look forward to seeing you again soon thanks

9 Comments

  • Reply Nomayne McIntosh July 24, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Your videos and insights should be promoted again! Even though the videos are 4-5 years old, the FORCE cycle is well thought out !

  • Reply Tullochgorum July 24, 2019 at 11:03 am

    One of the most useful and workable strategies I've found, and as a serial failure at language learning I've been doing a fair bit of research to ensure I get it right this time. Pity you don't get more viewers compared to some of the flashier YouTube language gurus. If you're still active with this channel, can I suggest a shorter overview video to get people hooked enough to follow up with the longer videos? And if you have the energy, please work up an ebook on the full system – I think it would be a useful contribution to the community of language self-learners, and that it would sell quite well!

  • Reply Dennis Wickes July 24, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Great videos! Thanks for the information.

  • Reply Nitere July 24, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Thank you so much for these very helpful videos, Professor.

  • Reply Анна Босая July 24, 2019 at 11:03 am

    родной язык для меня русский, но вся школа и институт были на украинском. so I'm naturally bilingual) практически вся Украина bilingual) I'll corect your message, if you don't mind) If you want to use ukrainian, it should be – Ви говорите українською або російською? and russian variant is – Ви говорите по-украински или по-русски? so your variant is the ukrainian-russian mix. But I'm proud of you anyway)

  • Reply CanadianLinguist July 24, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Дякую, Aнна. Ви говорите no-українській або no-російській?

  • Reply Анна Босая July 24, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Привіт з України) Thank you a lot for your videos. they are very useful both for learners and teachers!

  • Reply jolandacaterina July 24, 2019 at 11:03 am

    J:-)

  • Reply Mecklybver July 24, 2019 at 11:03 am

    great vid as always.

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