a big learning curve

AlexanderIII

Senior Member
Russian

Hi, everybody!
This phrase from the film Murder of Crows is pronounced by an Austrian scientist in German. In the script I have it in translation into English. White wing is a name of a crow taking part in the experiment.

White Wing is starting to master some of the skills of being an omnivore. Clearly, it’s a big learning curve.

Does " a big learning curve" mean that nothing is learnt by her easily, that to master this skill she has to learn many other things, so to say to go a long winding (curved) way?
 
  • ekbatana

    Senior Member
    German Austria
    Hi AlexanderIII. Since this phrase was uttered by a countryman of mine, I feel quite inclined to answer your question.

    Learning curve is the rate of a person's or animal's progress in gaining experience or new skills, so a big or great learning curve means that the craw in question learns really rapidly.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Here in the U.S. we usually say "steep learning curve" in my experience, and it means that there is much to be learned in a rather short time - as opposed to ekbatana's suggestion.

    The metaphor is the graphical presentation of time related to the amount of information to be learned.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm not sure that any of this has much to do with the learning curve, which usually has number of units made on the x axis, and average time of manufacture on the y axis, which is often on a log scale, I think, so that a continuous percentage decrease in time taken will be represented by a straight line.

    A big curve would probably mean that a lot of units have been made, i.e. we have a lot of data; a steep curve would mean that the person or people are learning fast.

    In popular mythology about the learning curve, as here, I think a big learning curve is just a pretentious and supposedly zappy way of saying that the person has a lot to learn in a short time.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    In popular mythology about the learning curve, as here, I think a big learning curve is just a pretentious and supposedly zappy way of saying that the person has a lot to learn in a short time.
    Alternatively it could just be that the translator wasn't aware that we (in the UK too:)) habitually say steep learning curve, Mr.T.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Alternatively it could just be that the translator wasn't aware that we (in the UK too:)) habitually say steep learning curve, Mr.T.
    A steep learning curve actually means that the person is learning quickly. Most learning curves flatten out - don't forget that they fall; it's easy to cause improvements in the early stages, but fewer and fewer means of increasing efficiency through learning become available as the workforce becomes more familiar with the processes of production. Learning effects usually are measured with other things, like the level of technology, i.e. the machinery, held constant; otherwise it would be hard to separate learning effects from improvements in technology.

    I think, returning to the mythological learning curve, that the people who say that someone is on a steep learning curve mean that the person is learning fast against time.

    But then there are also the people who talk about there being a steep learning curve; in prospect, one is led to imagine. These people imagine learning curves to be rising; the ones I know fall, as people take less time to do things. If you imagine it to be rising steeply - as though there is a serious hill to climb - I think you are saying that there is a lot to learn. This second mythological interpretation is almost the opposite of the first mythological interpretation, notice.

    My conclusion is that this piece of technical language should have been left in the decent obscurity of technical language. In everyday use, it appears to me to be ambiguous and often, therefore, misleading, when it is not, as it usually is, laughable.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Retrospectively, a steep learning curve represents rapid learning by someone, good performance.
    This is how you performed. Didn't you do well.

    Prospectively, a steep learning curve represents either a very easy task ahead OR the need to learn very rapidly, perhaps at a pace that is too challenging for many.
    This is how you are going to have to perform if you are to survive. It will be difficult.

    Of course I hate the term and do not use it. This is only how I interpret the thing, based on vague memories of how it was used decades ago :)
     

    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I see. Thank you very much. The necessity for the young crows to learn rapidly is just the thing they discuss in the film. Now everything about the curve is absolutely clear to me.
     

    Irelia20150604

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I'm puzzled with "learning curve" in the context below:

    The Battle of the Somme was a huge learning curve for the British high command. They had formulated a plan which was to all intents and purposes very well thought-out and had every reason to succeed. The plan was to annihilate the entrenched German soldiers facing them and contrary to the perceived wisdom that the British officers used men as cannon-fodder, the first part of the plan was to destroy the German trenches in the greatest bombardment the world had ever seen -- so that taking the tranches would be literally a "walkover".
    Was the battle of the Somme a failure because of the bad planning of the British?
    ===
    Does it mean "the British high command learned much from the Battle of the Somme "?
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Yes, it does mean that the British Command learned a lot from the Battle of Somme; they learned that the ordinary assumptions on which the based their plan were wrong. They would have to think about battle strategy differently in the future.

    It's a somewhat what odd use of 'learning curve'. I would not have used it here. I would have said that the command learned a lot, or that the battle of Somme taught them a tremendous amount.

    As people have said above, 'learning curve' is not always used in a way that makes sense.
    On the other hand, the person who wrote that paragraph seems to know a lot about history. :)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top