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Frequency vocab method

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Glendonian
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Newbie
Canada
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26 posts - 37 votes
Speaks: French*, English*
Studies: German, Italian

 
 Message 1 of 55
2009 26 September at 12:00am | IP Logged 
Would anyone interested be so kind as to judge my method:

I think of myself as a weak intermediate in German. I've studied essentially all of the grammar (or that's what our
professor said - I'm currently not in a class, btw). What I need to do now is learn the conjugations of all the verbs
in all their tenses, and learn vocabulary.

In my university German courses we were given texts to read, but I knew hardly any of the words in them.
Slogging through several pages of text looking up virtually every noun and verb seems pretty tedious and
ineffective. So I've bought the Routledge Frequency Dictionary of German (about 4,000 words).

I'm drilling the vocabulary using SRS, planning to work through all 4,000 items in order of frequency in the
language. A problem with this is that I'm learning them without any context. I could include at least one example
sentence for each vocabulary word, but the problem, in turn, with this, is that I'd have to learn a couple of new
vocabulary words that would happen also to be in each example sentence. That would be good for some
learners, but in my case it would defeat the purpose of using a frequency dictionary in the first place and
learning words in that order, since only perhaps 1/3 of my vocabulary items would come from the order of
frequency.

So finally, I've decided to drill 4,000 words almost without any context, merely as a first step. I do not expect to
be very competent with these words after this first stage, except for being able to spit them out in front of the
SRS. Then as a second phase, I'll go back to the beginning, and add thousands of (perhaps 10,000) sentences to
my SRS. I hope that these sentences will be much more effective that way, since I'll already have some
knowledge of the words that are within them in the first place. See what I'm saying?

Basically:
1) Phase 1: thousands of words with very little context
2) Phase 2: thousands of sentences

My written explanations are a little incoherent sometimes, so please forgive me and ask questions if I'm unclear.
I'd be interested to hear what you guys think of this idea. I'm a native bilingual so it's my first time learning a
language as an adult.

I'll figure out something for verbs somewhere during Phase 1. I consider vocab my biggest problem right now. Best regards.

Edited by Glendonian on 2009 26 September at 12:02am

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Paskwc
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Canada
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Speaks: Hindi, Urdu*, Arabic (Levantine), French, English
Studies: Persian, Spanish

 
 Message 2 of 55
2009 26 September at 1:13am | IP Logged 
Just out of curiosity, but do you attend Glendon College?
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Glendonian
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Newbie
Canada
Joined 4999 days ago

26 posts - 37 votes
Speaks: French*, English*
Studies: German, Italian

 
 Message 3 of 55
2009 26 September at 1:23am | IP Logged 
I do! The internet's not so anonymous when you give yourself away in your user name.
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jimbo
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Canada
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 Message 4 of 55
2009 26 September at 9:00am | IP Logged 
Glendonian wrote:

I'm drilling the vocabulary using SRS, planning to work through all 4,000 items in order of frequency in the
language. A problem with this is that I'm learning them without any context. I could include at least one example
sentence for each vocabulary word, but the problem, in turn, with this, is that I'd have to learn a couple of new
vocabulary words that would happen also to be in each example sentence. That would be good for some
learners, but in my case it would defeat the purpose of using a frequency dictionary in the first place and
learning words in that order, since only perhaps 1/3 of my vocabulary items would come from the order of
frequency.


Langenscheidt publishes a "Basic German Dictionary" ISBN 3-468-49400-9 using the 4000 most frequently used
words. It has sample sentences so you can learn words in context and it translates these into English. One of
these days I need to get around to working my way through this thing. Personally, I never get very far trying to
memorize words I've never seen in context.
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Glendonian
Bilingual Diglot
Newbie
Canada
Joined 4999 days ago

26 posts - 37 votes
Speaks: French*, English*
Studies: German, Italian

 
 Message 5 of 55
2009 26 September at 9:12am | IP Logged 
I'm not worried about finding contexts when I want them. I have a frequency dictionary already, and if I need any
more clarification than it provides, the TU Chemnitz has a very good Wörterbuch online. When I fail a vocab item
over and over again I put in some sentences.

One approach I could take is still to work my way down the list of words - 631, 632, 633, 634 - but also make half
of my items verbs. I would skip ahead to get all the verbs in the 4,000 list ahead of time, while doing the rest a
little more slowly. This would be one way to boost basic comprehension.

Edited by Glendonian on 2009 26 September at 9:13am

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maaku
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United States
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 Message 6 of 55
2009 26 September at 10:18am | IP Logged 
Phase 1: Learning ~4000 words is the right thing to do at your level. Ordering them by frequency is about the worst possible way to go about it, however. Group them thematically, ideally, or at least grammatically. Even alphabetically would be an improvement. Before continuing any further you should read Iversen's recent thread on the subject from start to finish.

EDIT: There's a book "Mastering German Vocabulary" that lists about 5k words by theme. Haven't used it though, so can't comment more than that.

Phase 2: Drop it. This would be a pointless endeavor at your level. If you have grammar and vocab you can start reading and speaking. Don't go spending all your time in an SRS.

Edited by maaku on 2009 26 September at 10:21am

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draoicht
Groupie
Ireland
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89 posts - 146 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 7 of 55
2009 26 September at 1:29pm | IP Logged 
Hi Glendonian

If I were you I wouldn’t aim for the whole 4000, I would work on the first 1000.
The reason I say work on the first 1000 is that after this you could move on to native texts.

I would use the “Part of Speech Index” section that’s in the book, I have the Spanish version of the dictionary and out of the first 1000 entries, 84 are function words, 677 are nouns and verbs and 239 are adjectives and adverbs.

The function words you probably know already, so you could alternate between nouns and verbs one day and the next do adjectives and adverbs.

I wouldn’t bother with Phase 1 and instead use the example sentences to learn the words in context.
You could type them into Google Translate to get a rough translation and then enter the sentence into your SRS.

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Lizzern
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 Message 8 of 55
2009 26 September at 1:50pm | IP Logged 
First thought: Why? OH GOD WHY?

:-)

Most language courses, even the bad ones, would take care of the first 1000 words for you, easily. Assimil would be a good place to start, and would probably give you the top 1500-ish. You will probably learn them better this way, with some context around, than just trying to learn the same words in isolation.

Then once you have the first 1000+ more or less down from something less boring than simply SRSing them, just move on to real material that you enjoy. TV, music, reading, whatever floats your boat. Actually, start that straight away and continue with it while you study - it will drive you to learn more, reinforce what you already know, and give you a somewhat measurable sense of actual learning going on, because you will quickly see that you understand more and more.

I can't even imagine the mind-numbing tedium of SRSing 4000 words... There are plenty of ways to do it that are more enjoyable, and likely more effective.

Liz

Edited by Lizzern on 2009 26 September at 1:51pm



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