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Sentences vs. words

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furrykef
Senior Member
United States
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Joined 4401 days ago

686 posts - 868 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Japanese, Latin, Italian

 
 Message 9 of 19
24 January 2009 at 7:19pm | IP Logged 
I learn Spanish and Japanese using sentences, but with an emphasis on sentence production and not recognition. I think recognition is the wrong way to do it. The theory goes something like, "In the early stages of learning a language, you don't know how to produce correctly, which means you make mistakes and reinforce your mistakes, so you shouldn't produce very much. To produce correctly, you need input, so you should focus on input, therefore your flash cards should be recognition cards." This is all fine up until the "therefore..." at the end. The conclusion does not follow from the premise! Normally, yes, you probably shouldn't produce too much (except in an environment where you will be corrected often, like lang-8) to avoid making mistakes and endlessly reinforcing them, but that does not apply when making flash cards because the card will have the correct answer, guaranteeing reinforcement of the correct way to say it. If you get the answer wrong, you mark the card wrong and try again. So "recognition first" doesn't apply to flash cards.

Now, some people argue that testing production isn't good because you generally are translating from native language to target language, and this sort of "translation" is bad. Having experimented with this fairly extensively, I haven't found this to be a problem; I can think in Spanish without having to translate from English just fine. I only have to "translate" in my head when I'm working with words and sentence structures that I don't know very well in the first place.

The other problem with testing production is there are often many different ways to say something in the target language. I've found this not to be a big deal. I typically just pick one way to say it and make a note of synonyms on the answer side of the card. On rare occasions I say an answer and I don't know if it's right or not because it doesn't match the answer side of the card. In that case I consult a dictionary/grammar book if I can, and if I still don't know, I shrug and mark my answer wrong. I don't terribly like the idea of marking a possibly correct answer wrong, but it happens rarely enough that I don't think it's a big deal; the convenience of being able to just deal with it and move on to the next question is enough compensation for me.

- Kef

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furrykef
Senior Member
United States
furrykef.com/
Joined 4401 days ago

686 posts - 868 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Japanese, Latin, Italian

 
 Message 10 of 19
24 January 2009 at 8:43pm | IP Logged 
Oh, I'd forgotten to make one of the points I was going to make. One reason to do sentences over simple "book = libro" items is because it makes you more comfortable with reading complete sentences in your target language. "El florero está encima de la mesa" is better than just "florero = vase (for flowers)" even if "florero" is the only new thing you learn in that sentence, because when you do this for every item, it all adds up and you just feel a lot more comfortable with the language, I think. Don't use too many simple sentences like that, though... don't make them too long either, just make sure they're not too easy where every sentence is just one new word plugged into a simple structure. That can get pretty mind-numbing.

- Kef


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Cainntear
Pentaglot
Senior Member
Scotland
linguafrankly.blogsp
Joined 3940 days ago

4400 posts - 7688 votes 
Speaks: Lowland Scots, English*, French, Spanish, Scottish Gaelic
Studies: Catalan, Italian, German, Irish, Welsh

 
 Message 11 of 19
25 January 2009 at 6:46am | IP Logged 
I'd just like to tell you about something that happened to me recently.

When I started learning Gaelic I got something that called itself a "course" but was in effect just a fancy flashcard program (TeachMe!). I abandoned it as ineffective and went to proper classes and taught myself out of a book in between, taking every possible chance to speak it. (Well, not quite "abandoned" -- I still used it from time to time to try to expand my vocabulary.)

I recently found my vocabulary shrinking, so I went back to the program heavily. I remembered quite a lot of the words I'd learned through the program, but I don't remember ever using many of them. Then I got to new lessons and it asked me what "eye" was. I was completely stumped, but I know what "eye" is, because I use it all the time: in Gaelic, like in English, you can "have your eye on" someone; you can "cast your eye over" something -- I knew the word, but I couldn't recall it when prompted in that way.

That convinced me more than ever that this sort of rote memorisation is completely different from meaningful learning -- the knowledge ends up in the wrong part of the brain.

So I'm in the production camp, and it has to be proper independent production. It may not be the first time you've said it, but you don't want to be parroting it. You have to produce the sentence by going through the same process as if it was the first time -- so so-called "minimal coverage" sentences (just enough to cover the language point) are not truly minimal: they're insufficient.

furrykef wrote:
Now, some people argue that testing production isn't good because you generally are translating from native language to target language, and this sort of "translation" is bad. Having experimented with this fairly extensively, I haven't found this to be a problem; I can think in Spanish without having to translate from English just fine. I only have to "translate" in my head when I'm working with words and sentence structures that I don't know very well in the first place.

Very well said.

Too many people vilify this type of work for exactly that reason, and fail to recognise that people still translate internally even when they're not doing it externally, and always will do until it makes sense. Using English helps me understand things, so I get to stop translating sooner if the teacher gets me to translate in the first place.
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Javi
Senior Member
Spain
Joined 3910 days ago

419 posts - 548 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*

 
 Message 12 of 19
26 January 2009 at 10:54am | IP Logged 
ChristopherB wrote:
I'm at a pretty good level now in French, and I've decided to use my SRS (Anki) to improve my vocab. At the moment, I'm stuck deciding between doing sentence recognition (Antimoon/All Japanese All The Time style) and simply taking words and phrases from texts I'm reading and doing production reps on those. I'm curious what other people do, as far as SRS testing is concerned.



Hi, I'm familiar with the AJATT method, but I don't really like the sentences approach. For that reason, all my cards are words, one single card for every word and every sense that have caught my eye. Depending on the kind of word, I use a different reminder, for example you can use a L1 word, a picture, an example sentence, a definition from a dictionary or whatever works for you. In my case 95% of my flashcards are either picture-word or definition+fill in the gap-word. So my cards aren't aimed at training neither production nor recognition, I use this memorisation tool to practise recall. My example sentences tend to be rather long, so I do a lot of recognition practise as well, but it's just a positive side effect, not the main point.

I've been using a SRS program for two years, and after having tried all sort of things I can't help thinking that SRS is not the right tool to practise neither recognition nor production. In the first case because you miss the whole point of SRS,   which is recalling and evaluating how well you recall. SRS is about a question and an answer, not just a question, so we could say you're using only half of the power. In the other you're forced to use your native language, which is the last thing you wanna do at an intermediate level, yes, precisely the level where an SRS tool makes sense. Just take my example: I threw away my last English course, which also happened to be my first English course, two years ago. I've been working with only English material ever since: movies, novels, TV series, blogs, I actually started learning English in the first place to do that, so how the hell am I gonna put Spanish in Mnemosyne? I won't spend a second translating from my L2 to my L1, that's mental, unless you're studying to become a professional translator.


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Cainntear
Pentaglot
Senior Member
Scotland
linguafrankly.blogsp
Joined 3940 days ago

4400 posts - 7688 votes 
Speaks: Lowland Scots, English*, French, Spanish, Scottish Gaelic
Studies: Catalan, Italian, German, Irish, Welsh

 
 Message 13 of 19
26 January 2009 at 11:17am | IP Logged 
Javi wrote:
I won't spend a second translating from my L2 to my L1, that's mental, unless you're studying to become a professional translator.

But there's translating, and then there's translating.

If I say something in Spanish, you understand it by internalising it -- making it into "thought". If you then say it in English, are you translating from Spanish, or are you expressing the thought?

I'd say that it's only really translation if you keep refering to the original sentences and consciously and analytically convert the sentence. If instead you read/hear the sentence in Spanish and then produce the sentence in English from your understanding and not from the form, that's not what most people are thinking of when they talk about "translation" in language learning.
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Javi
Senior Member
Spain
Joined 3910 days ago

419 posts - 548 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*

 
 Message 14 of 19
26 January 2009 at 12:48pm | IP Logged 
Cainntear wrote:
Javi wrote:
I won't spend a second translating from my L2 to my L1, that's mental, unless you're studying to become a professional translator.

But there's translating, and then there's translating.

If I say something in Spanish, you understand it by internalising it -- making it into "thought". If you then say it in English, are you translating from Spanish, or are you expressing the thought?

I'd say that it's only really translation if you keep refering to the original sentences and consciously and analytically convert the sentence. If instead you read/hear the sentence in Spanish and then produce the sentence in English from your understanding and not from the form, that's not what most people are thinking of when they talk about "translation" in language learning.


Maybe, but what I was saying is that even if you use translation in a safe way, it's not practical, especially once you give up language courses. One of the reasons is that you've got to spend time arranging the native version, or if you get it from somewhere, at least you have to check if it is suitable for your purposes. In my case, the first time I discovered that I'd spent ten minutes thinking of how to say some trivial sentence in my native language just to create a flashcard, even looking up words in the DRAE, I decided that from that point I would spend all my time on my target language.
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Kleberson
Diglot
Senior Member
Great Britain
Joined 4347 days ago

166 posts - 168 votes 
Speaks: English*, Portuguese
Studies: Italian, Russian, Arabic (Written), Mandarin

 
 Message 15 of 19
26 January 2009 at 3:32pm | IP Logged 
Personally, I use sentsences using my native English in the question field with the TL in the answer field. NOTHING compares to this style of learning for me [my opinion]. People can argue against this method, but I have been using this for portuguese and Italian and I CAN hold a very reasonable* convo with natives of these languages.

* An indepth convo about most topics.

Thanks

Edited by Kleberson on 26 January 2009 at 3:33pm

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slucido
Bilingual Diglot
Senior Member
Spain
https://goo.gl/126Yv
Joined 4604 days ago

1296 posts - 1781 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Spanish*, Catalan*
Studies: English

 
 Message 16 of 19
26 January 2009 at 4:33pm | IP Logged 
I think there is no best method here.

The point of this SRS software is to implement a distributed practice review. It has strong scientific evidence. Very efficient.

It doesn't matter if you mix up images, your native language, mnemonics or whatever. As long as you introduce your target language, it will work.

I use what I feel like and I change my approach now and again.








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