[Haskell-cafe] Re: Is Haskell a Good Choice for Web Applications?
wren ng thornton
wren at freegeek.org
Tue May 5 22:38:09 EDT 2009
Chris Forno (jekor) wrote:
> The idea is that I spent years studying different languages, generally
> with a textbook. The textbooks tend to focus on teaching rules and
> grammar, with a little bit of vocabulary and dialog each chapter. I
> think the focus should be reversed.
This varies wildly by textbook, with some bias for the language being
taught. Personally I've found too many vocabulary textbooks and far too
few grammar textbooks (that is, actual *grammar* textbooks not
> Obviously grammar is very important. But is reading about it effective
> for everyone?
In my experience learning and teaching languages, this too varies wildly
by learner. Some people do better with an "examples first" or
"vocabulary based" style where they must come to an intuition of the
grammar rules; other people (such as myself) do better with a "rules
first" or "grammar based" style where they must come to learn vocabulary
on their own.
Neither variety of person is superior nor, as far as I can tell, more
common at large; so any good teacher or textbook should balance these
"bottom up" and "top down" approaches. IMO vocabulary is easy to learn,
it just takes time, whereas grammar is harder to figure out on one's
own, and so is the better thing for a teacher to focus on. However, this
says little about reference material (as opposed to learning material),
and study guides walk a line between reference and teaching.
JGram <http://jgram.org/pages/viewList.php> is an interesting study
guide that takes a middle path, treating syntactic patterns the same as
it does lexemes. This is particularly appropriate for a language like
Japanese where it's not always immediately apparent whether something
belongs to the "grammar" vs the "lexicon".
> The only way I
> successfully became fluent in a language (Esperanto) was through
This is, hands down, the best way to learn any language. For it to work,
as you say, some vocabulary is necessary; however, I think the amount of
vocabulary needed at first is not so large as some think. Daily
small-talk for getting/giving directions, ordering food, and the like
comprise a large portion of beginner's language and requires remarkably
little breadth of vocabulary (a couple hundred words or so). Small-talk
also includes some of the most obscure and difficult-to-master
grammatical patterns like greetings, getting the right tone of
politeness/familiarity, and knowing what sorts of sentence fragments and
other "ungrammatical" patterns are perfectly acceptable.
> And of course it has very forgiving sentence and a rather simple
> grammar, but I'm finding the experience to be very similar with Japanese
> so far.
> That being said, Esperanto, and even Japanese sentence structure perhaps
> is not as different as an agglutinative language like German. I'll need
> to study it more to find out.
Actually, Japanese is agglutinative too (moreso than German is). The
basic structures of Japanese are quite simple, however the details
needed for fluency are quite intricate. Phrase order is rather free,
though it is not entirely free and it is easy to reorder things so that
they no longer make sense to native speakers. Aside from a few of the
common mistakes beginners make, if you mess up the cases/particles
you'll end up with gibberish.
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