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This is how you overcome a language barrier

Don't worry about grammar rules at first. They'll only trip you up.

STEVE KAUFMANN: People are patient. People aren't judging you.
How do you get to speaking? We are all nervous of course when we start speaking. Of course, you haven't done it before. You don't know what you're going to be able to say. To me I think there are a number of things that we can do. First of all don't start with grammar because if you have a grammar heavy type of learning process you're going to be forever thinking about grammar rules when you try to speak and that's very bad. Because it's very difficult to speak and get your ideas out and at the same time try and refer back to your recollection of what the grammar rule was. You have to develop habits naturally so I get back to this idea of listening and reading. And in particular I find to sort of make it easier to get into speaking I have found our mini stories at LingQ, for example, these repetitive, these stories with a lot of repetition, they get me going. We measure the number of words we know at LingQ so I used to wait.

With Russian, I think I went like nine months before I started speaking. Czech I went six months and I wanted until I had like 10,000 words. But once we have the mini stories where I listen to stuff repetitively and it's high frequency verbs and I listened over and over again, I found that I was able to start speaking after 3,000 words. Now when you start speaking you're going to struggle. However, if you have invested in a lot of listening and reading you have a better chance of understanding what the person says and that's the absolute most important thing. If you don't understand what they're saying you can't have a conversation. If you understand what they're saying you feel more comfortable. Now you can struggle to try and piece back an answer using the words that you are able to use. And if you continue doing that you'll get better and better at it. But in any case you should never worry about making mistakes. Obviously if you're with a teacher or you're paying a tutor online you're paying them so making mistakes doesn't matter.

But even if you're interacting with people for real, you're going into a store or something, people are patient. People aren't judging you. And the thing is that if you don't make mistakes you won't improve so you have to be prepared to make mistakes because you'll remember the mistakes, some of them. You'll remember what you had trouble saying and then you'll notice that when you next listen and read. So you have to continue the listening and reading and then you go out there and it's like you play a game now you've been practicing. You play a game, you made a few mistakes, you withdraw, go through your listening and reading again. You start to notice things and that's just the process of developing fluency in the language. But you're not going to start off just fluent. However, the more you invest in listening and reading initially before you start speaking in my opinion, and even after you start speaking you have to continue investing in the listening and reading so that you can improve your level of familiarity with the language so that you develop good habits. And don't rely on remembering the grammar.

  • Learning a language can be a tricky process, but it's important to remember that it is a process.
  • Having learned 20 languages so far, Canadian polyglot and LingQ founder Steve Kaufmann's advice is to not focus on the grammar. Constantly thinking about the rules while attempting to speak only makes it harder.
  • Investing time (often several months) into listening, reading, and practicing words before trying to speak a language will help you feel more comfortable with it. You will make mistakes, but you will learn from them and people will be patient with you.

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    • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

    The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

    In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

    That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

    70 data points and machine learning

    nurse wrapping patient's arm

    Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

    Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

    "For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

    The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

    Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

    Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

    Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

    On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

    Going forward

    person leaning their head on another's shoulder

    Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

    Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

    "Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

    The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.