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Has anybody tried the Gold List method?

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 Message 17 of 222
16 March 2010 at 6:10pm | IP Logged 
Huliganov and Friends Google Group

Document from the above Google Group wrote:

Uncle Davey's "Golden List" methodology for learning to the long-term memory.
1. No reliance on mnemonics and no creation of strange methods to try and "visualise" words in contexts. No "think of a cat in a cot and you'll remember that Polish for 'cat' is 'cot' ". - These are the ways by the way that Daniels gets phenomenal results over two weeks but they never last. Just as well, if they did, they would create a learner who, when he came to fluency, would not be able to say "kot" without thinking about a baby's bed. Ridiculous. Oszustwo. Don't let the oszusty deceive you by filling your shoes with the letter O at tea time.

2. No cramming, no learning against the clock. No conscious "memorizing". The long-term memory is not a conscious function. Its samples are taken automatically and subconsciously out of the material which is run through the conscious. What we decide to memorise or forget only relates to s/t memory. You cannot decide to learn to the long term memory any more than you can decide to forget to the long-term memory. Disciplines based on the 'aha!' moment of putting two and two together to understand something can use the short term memory and be sure that they will get a long-term effect, but in languages there is very little "aha!", and so short term memory is of next to no use at all.

3. Pay attention to study times. Because the l/t memory is not a conscious function, we are not aware of when it tires. This is measured to happen after 20 minutes. At that point, the sampling process will be become less than optimal, and so the learner to the long-term memory is wasting his time, although he or she may feel interested and want to keep going. The rule is, after 20 minutes, take a break of at least 10 minutes in which a completely different sort of thing is done.

4. Get comfortable when learning, don't rush, and use attractive materials. We banish unpleasant experience from the long-term memory and garnish pleasant experience to the long term memory. By all means eat and drink during the 20 minute sessions of learning. After all, when learning to the l/t memory, you don't have to work that hard. Less is more - less effort to cram means more of what you do learn actually sticks.

5. Use a variety of materials that present the content in a different way. For example, which explain the use of a particular tense or case in different ways.

6. When using the key item in language learning, the vocabulary book, ensure that all the grammar for each word accompanies the word into the book. For instance, you would not just write "to begin" but also (began, begun) to show that it is a strong verb. You would not just write "Jugend" but "die Jugend" or "Jugend f." Write the word on the right hand side of the page in your own language or the language from which you are learning the target language, and do 25 words at a time. 25 words can be comfortably written out that way in the course of 20 minutes, with time just to read the list through aloud at the end. Always work with units of twenty five head words, which should be written at the outset on the top left hand page of a double page A4 hardback writing book. You number the headword list from the beginning onwards so that the 5th such page will have numbers 101-125, etc. You always note the date you added the owrds to the list. You make an overall target of words to cover with no short-term time limit. It will be something like 2,500 words, which gets a learner up to what we used to call O level, and means that they become intermediate and most teach yourself course have roughly this number of words. I'm coming to the timing shortly.

7. You write the words into the vocab book by hand, in a beautiful hard back book, as neatly as you can, without stressing over it - so that the learner can take a pride in the look of it and not hurry over it. Write at a pace that is comfortable and natural. Do not do this in a computer, latch onto the natural memory that is linked to handwriting. It is a long-term memory function, which is why your signature always comes out the same, year in, year out, and you don't even need to think about it consciously.

8. The explanation of the grammatical models and the practising of basic sentence types goes like any other system. My system differs in how you approach the learning of the vocabulary, which is 80% of learning a language if you consider that the irregularities of grammar can and should be linked as I say to the specific words they refer to.

9. After writing out the vocab set of 25, and reading it through, a process which should take 20 minutes, you break for at least ten. You did not try to learn those 25 words, you just enjoyed writing them out in a nice book with a nice pen slowly and in pleasant comfortable surroundings. You do nothing more with them. If after ten minutes, you would like to go on to the next session, then you turn the page of the vocab book, go to the top left of that double page and do the next 25 numbered words. Then read them out aloud, and then take another break. You are enjoying the language, not cramming it.

10. Don't do more than about 10 such sessions a day. If you get anywhere near that, make sure they are spaced out with other things going on between them.

11. After no less than 2 weeks and no more than 2 months, go back to the headwords. No less than 2 weeks because the short term memory effect has passed, so anything you still remember is already learned to the long-twrm memory, and you will not deceive yourself. No more than 2 months in order to keep up a certain tempo. This should be a relaxed process, but there should be a limit to stop the laziness that is in human nature from making it ground to a halt. By 2 weeks a really enthusiastic learner may have already put all 2,500 words in their headlist but not have memorised them, resulting in words being repeated by accident, but that is really of no importance in this process.

12. What you then do with the words in the vocab book headlist that are more than 14 days old, but less than 60 days old is that you "distil" them. And this is what I call a "distillation": Hermann Ebbinghaus' experiments and the knowledge about the sampling habit of the long-term memory means that some of these words will already have been learned, despite the fact (actually because of the fact, but this is of course counter-intuitive) that all you did was try to enjoy them, not memorise them. In fact the prediction is that up to 30% of the words will be retained. You are looking to distil out the "hard to learn" expressions and obtain a concentrated, whisky-like list of distilled words that are an absolute bugger for you to learn (by which time you will, of course, actually have learned them, because they will have gone through this distillation process ten times with two weeks' break in between each time). I call that the "gold list". On the way to the gold list you will use up the first hard back book and a thinner second one.

13. The first "distillation" therefore takes the first 25 words from the top left hand side of your A4 hard-back writing book and you pick from them 70% of the words which you least remembered, and write them again on the right hand side. You can test yourself by covering over the English, but that is not the best way. The best is to say "I know that I must now discard 8 of these 25 words which are on the top of the left page and write 17 of them on the top of the right page. Which do I think I have remembered best? These you ignore, and list 1-17 the least remembered of 1-25 from the headlist. If you cannot bring yourself to drop out a full eight words, then instead in one or two places you can conjoin words to make a phrase, and then learn them together in the system from then on. When writing the words of the first distillation, you take it nice and slow and keep to all the principles of the writing of the headlist, namely easy, comfortable work, not more than 20 minutes work at once, and read the side aloud when you are finished.

14. The act of discarding words from the distillation by the way is the final stimulus to learning them, by the way. Psychologists have discovered that, just as in physics for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, for every conscious action there is a subconscious reaction. Note that we tend to lose and spend time looking for things which we intended to keep and often put in a special hiding place, but we rarely forget the things that we have thrown away or given away. We don't usually think we still have them and look around for them. So the very conscious act of discarding tricks the subconscious memory, namely the long-term memory, into being sure it jolly well has got those discarded bits. So if in doubt, discard rather than merge, when distilling.

15. Again, you do nothing with the words of the first distillation for a period of at least two weeks (this is why you always date when you do the distillations also) and not more than two months (same reasons as given above) and then, when that time comes, you go back to the first distillations on the top of the right side page, and make from them the second distillation on the bottom of the right hand page. From those 17 words you will be looking at keeping 12 and discarding or merging 5. Again, first plan and ask yourself "which 5 of these seventeen words did I remember best?" and put a cross next to them, don't write them out again. It is a game with by our brain, an exploration of how our own memory worked - in some ways a discovery of ourselves and can be very interesting as an exercise in its own right - actually it is a lot less boring than cramming the vocab for a Callan lesson.

16. It will come as no surprise when I mention that you put the third distillation on the left side under the head list at the bottom, and that it has the best remembered 9 words of the 12 on the bottom right, and that you need to leave between the two a space of no less than 14 and no more than 60 days.

17. A person can structure this so that they are working on the later parts of their headlist while bringing the early parts already into the second or third distillation, or do the whole of the headlist, then the whole of the first distillation, etc. That depends on the learner, their time available, and the number of words they plan to cover in their language learning. For really big projects, learners will be working on different distillation levels for the earlier and later parts of their vocab stock. As long as all the above rules are kept, this won't matter at all.

18. The head list and three distillations will cover the full space available on the exercise book, and so after that you take a fresh book, for distillation number 4, etc. Now distillation number 4 will have numbers 1-25 of that distillation on the top left hand corner of the first page but they will be taken from the first 36 of the third distillation which was the toughest to remember of the first 48 of the second distillation which was the toughest to remember of the first 68 of the first distillation which was the toughest to remember of the first 100 of the head list and therefore will be taken from the first four double pages of your old book.

This illustration shows a mature vocab book with the head list and the first three distillations finished.

19. So the second book will only need to be a quarter of the thickness of the first one, and will be worked through on the same principles as the first one, but in a quarter of the time. Always taking 20 minutes and taking your time and sticking to the same principles throughout.

20. The second vocab book then takes you to the seventh distillation. That would be enough for most people, but if you want to take it further then you probably don't need a book for the last bit, as the 2500 words in the headlist have become 150 words identified in this process as the toughest to remember words. by this time you already know them better than most people anyway, but of out of interest you wanted to continue than in little time engaged you could keep going on and distil this away to nothing. If you get to the seventh distillation you cannot be less than three and a half months from the beginning of learning even if you learned it to the max, as two weeks should be rested in between, or the short-term memory will deceive you.

21. Because you are in for the long haul with the long-term memory system, use the fact that you have numbered the words to motivate yourself. You will know that you are 40% through your target of 2500 words when you have 40 pages of headwords. As the number of repetitions on average that are needed in order to learn the words to the end is 3.3 (some are learned after one but some will only be learned on the tenth reiteration or 'distillation') then we know that having 40 percent of one's head list in place is equivalent to 13 percent of the whole work. Use these numbers and statistics to motivate yourself, and note that even a small learning session can represent a small but irreversible advance on the road to learning the language. The s/t memory method makes huge advances at the beginning which are forgotten and the learner goes backwards, despairs, and drops out of class. The l/t method means that you are only ever going forwards, so the method is a more effective use of time, and much more motivating once the student understands memory in language learning and understands what is going on.

22. Need to activate - language learners using the long term memory will obtain a large passive knowledge of the language. They will quickly move towards being able to read newspapers and novels in the language. But they may have difficulty and be discouraged when placed in a situation where they have to "activate" their knowledge and start talking. They will feel tongue tied, and not be able to find words that, when someone tells them, they know they knew. The activation of a language learned well in my method by means of immersion in the environment of the language takes a maximum of three days. In this time, the person who has spend the hours with his vocab book doing what I suggested above, and doing grammatical exercises, suddenly starts speaking the language with fluency, and the experience of this "activating" can be very exhilarating, actually. The person who thinks that they will learn by immersion and have not put the hours in beforehand will not have this, and will learn to the short-term memory, and forget it all on his return out of the milieu, and not achieve the results of the learner to l/t memory, who is able to reactivate his language every time he goes into the milieu for a few days, for the rest of his life. He appears to be someone who has learned thousands of words in a few days - a claim which not even the boldest short term system would make - but of course he knows them, he is only bringing them "to the front of his mind", which is a different matter to putting them there in the first place. Some people, witnessing the remarkable effect of immersion on activating the language ability of the long-term memory optimising student, and not giving full credit to the work this student did in his own time beforehand, think that the immersion method is a great way to "learn languages". So you get people trying to combine Callan and immersion, then doing more Calan and more immersion, and then more of the same, and never getting off the ground with it. One Callan victim I knew had done the callan-immersion mix three years running, and when her boss came from England the first thing she said was "would Meester like the cup off tea?" and we're talking about an otherwise educated person whose knowledge of her mother tongue is nothing short of eloquent in both speech and in writing.

Any questions? Please contact me!

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 Message 18 of 222
16 March 2010 at 7:06pm | IP Logged 
I wish he would cite something in his claim that we'll remember 30% of the words even
without trying -- after two weeks.

He claims Ebbinghaus was the one to "discover" this -- but I don't know anything in
Ebbinghaus' research that supports such a claim, nor could I find anything (in an
admittedly very casual search). The primary discovery which Ebbinghaus is famous for is
the Forgetting Curve, which, if I understand it correctly, actually lends itself more to use
as evidence against his claim.

If anyone knows of any studies (or even personal experiences) that support this method,
I'm very interested in hearing them.
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 Message 19 of 222
16 March 2010 at 7:19pm | IP Logged 
In the comments on one of his videos he mentioned something about SRS and how closer repetitions getting progressively farther apart were to some extent more in line with Ebbinghaus' theories than what he actually recommends, but his general summation was that regardless, this is what he's found to work best in practical terms. I had never even heard of Ebbinghaus before this was posted, so I have nothing to add myself.
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 Message 20 of 222
17 March 2010 at 9:39am | IP Logged 
That was a very interesting read, thanks for posting it. I still don't think I'd be able to properly follow through on it, but somebody might. Meanwhile, I think there are a lot of good tips contained within it.

I think you learn more when there's less pressure and when things are fun. Taking breaks is also great. I usually try to get up every half hour and just walk around the room at least, especially after a period of intense concentration. It gives you a chance to process the things you just learned.

I don't often use mnemonics, since I think intensive context is much easier and better (like writing down sentences you found in an interesting story, or from a tv show). Mnemonics are much more important for something like chinese characters though. I spent a lot more effort learning those than I do on German and Swedish vocab, which tends to just come naturally to me through exposure.

Another thing I take from this is the idea of being less worried about the words. Important words will come around again from somewhere else anyway, so don't be so super intense about remembering each one. If it's easy, then discard it. For me, this means more frequently rating my SRS cards as "easy", putting them further into the future. I think I tend to be more conservative in my ratings right now, which leads to more unnecessary reps. Instead, I should be throwing more of them further into the future. If I happen to forget some, then oh big deal. Better than slaving over more cards for a few more percent of recall.

I also think it can be valuable to cover more material, with less effort put into each piece. Reading lots of words is usually more helpful than intensively studying a few. Personally I'd rather do this as part of reading a story though, instead of going through some list of vocab words. You can gain a surprising amount of vocab just by reading, even while doing very few dictionary lookups.

Overall though, I think I'd rather stick with SRS, or similar style exercises. I don't have to remember when to go back over anything, and I think that the memory model matches the other stuff I've read more. This method does sound sorta interesting though, and it has some structure to it, which many people might like. I would go so far as to say that it probably doesn't matter much which one of SRS or Gold Lists is more efficient, but which one *you personally* would find yourself doing more work on. If the process and rules of the Gold Lists really gets you interested and motivated, then stick with it and get as much out of it as you can. That's probably more important by far than what percent efficiency it theoretically gets compared to SRS or something else.
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 Message 21 of 222
17 March 2010 at 11:27am | IP Logged 
One thing I'm not really clear on with this method is, when you distill a word list, what do you do with words you remembered well? Just let them sit from there and rely on exposure to keep them in your long term memory? Or just rely on the two repetitions (one when you initially made the list and one when you reviewed that list) you've done with them to keep them there?
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 Message 22 of 222
17 March 2010 at 12:04pm | IP Logged 
ALS wrote:
One thing I'm not really clear on with this method is, when you distill a
word list, what do you do with words you remembered well? Just let them sit from there
and rely on exposure to keep them in your long term memory? Or just rely on the two
repetitions (one when you initially made the list and one when you reviewed that list)
you've done with them to keep them there?

I get the impression you are partly relying on the fact that 1) if the word has come up
in the 2 week span, you will remember it, and 2) if it did come up, it's likely to come
up again.
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 Message 23 of 222
17 March 2010 at 12:19pm | IP Logged 
Arekkusu, that's actually not the impression I get at all. I think the point is that if you can recall the word more than two weeks later, after one exposure, you don't need to review it ever again because you know it. It's in the LTM for good. Being exposed to it in the interim actually corrupts the process, because it keeps the STM involved.
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 Message 24 of 222
17 March 2010 at 3:33pm | IP Logged 
Woodpecker wrote:
Arekkusu, that's actually not the impression I get at all. I think the point is that if you can recall the word more than two weeks later, after one exposure, you don't need to review it ever again because you know it. It's in the LTM for good. Being exposed to it in the interim actually corrupts the process, because it keeps the STM involved.

That's been my understanding as well

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