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emk
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 Message 713 of 1317
06 October 2013 at 5:07pm | IP Logged 
Le Pont de la riviére Kwaï, by Pierre Boulle

This is a classic French book, which was latter made into an award-winning film. You can find more details about the book on SensCritique.

I was scared away from book for several months by the second sentence:

Quote:
Peut-être n’est-il que la représentation conventionnelle d’un lieu commun sans base solide, un jour perfidement travesti en aperçu piquant, dont on ne peut même pas invoquer la qualité de vérité première pour justifier l’existence ?

Fortunately, this is just a rhetorical flourish, and everything that comes after is much easier. It's an excellent book, at least as of page 50 or so. :-)

Anyway, I'd like to use this as book as an example of my current level, and how I use Anki. As I've been reading, I've been looking up unknown words and highlighting the sentences in question. I hope to convey what my vocabulary looks like after 8,000+ pages of reading, and about 2000 total Mnemnosyne and Anki cards.

The words marked in bold were unknown. This covers about 30 pages of the book.

Quote:
"Que cette discipline spartiate eût été en général acceptée par les hommes, et qu’ils se fussent ainsi soumis à une autorité qui n’était plus étayée par aucun pouvoir temporel, émanant d’un être exposé lui aussi aux vexations et aux brutalités, c’était ce qui faisait parfois l’admiration de Clipton."

"Il expliqua qu’il avait fait son possible pour éviter cette humiliation, et ne s’était incliné que devant la contrainte brutale, pour éviter des représailles dont tous auraient pâti."

"Il avait dit que les Nippons ne leur gardaient pas rancune à eux, qui avaient été égarés par les mensonges de leur gouvernement"

"Clipton parlait ainsi, avec une nuance d’ironie pessimiste, parce qu’il craignait fort que l’appel au bon sens ne fût pas suffisant. Quelques échos lui étaient parvenus sur le caractère de Saïto, à l’escale qui avait coupé la marche dans la jungle."

"Occasionnellement accessible à la raison lorsqu’il était à jeun, l’officier japonais devenait, disait-on, la plus abominable des brutes lorsqu’il avait bu sans modération."

"Réveillés dans la nuit par les coups de sifflet et les cris des sentinelles, les hommes s’étaient rassemblés de mauvaise humeur, encore fourbus, sans avoir pu récupérer leurs forces, à cause des moustiques et de leur misérable installation."

"Il était urgent de faire quelque chose, comme disait le soldat, de lui expliquer qu’il ne pouvait pas sacrifier ainsi une vingtaine d’hommes, par entêtement et par amour des principes ; que, ni son honneur, ni sa dignité ne souffriraient parce qu’il se serait inoliné devant la force brutale, comme tous l’avaient fait dans les autres camps."

"Saïto rossa même le garde. Il ne se connaissait plus lorsqu’il était dans un de ces accès, et l’accusa de se montrer trop doux. "

"Aucun être ne pouvait prévoir si Saïto allait discuter raisonnablement, ou bien se laisser aller à un nouvel accès de folie."

"Rendu furieux par le traitement infligé à leur chef, dont ils avaient apprécié la fermeté et le courage, exaspérés par le chapelet d’injures et de coups que les gardes faisaient pleuvoir sur eux, enragés de devoir travailler comme des esclaves à un ouvrage précieux pour l’ennemi, désemparés d’être séparés de leurs officiers et de ne pas entendre les commandements habituels, les soldats britanniques rivalisaient à montrer le moins d’entrain possible ou, mieux encore, à commettre les bévues les plus grossières, en feignant la bonne volonté."

Normally, each of these sentences would go on the front of an Anki card, with a definition in French from the Wiktionnaire on the back. But since not everybody reading this log studies French, I'll give the definitions in English:

Quote:
étayer: to prop, to hold up
pâtir: to suffer from
rancune: grudge, hard feelings
escale: stopover, port of call
à jeun: on an empty stomach, sober
fourbu: exhausted
inoliné: (misprint? not in any of my dictionaries, but gets a few Google hits)
accès: (here) bout, fit or attack
chapelet: (here) succession, series
bévue: blunder

So in 30 pages of an adult book, I ran into about 10 puzzling words. Most of them made sense in context, so it wasn't like I needed to know the definitions. If I encountered them on any kind of regular basis, I'd learn them without any trouble. All in all, I'm pretty pleased with how my vocabulary is doing, and I won't even necessarily add all these words to Anki.

Even here at HTLAL, a few some people will occasionally express disbelief about extensive methods. Is it really possible to build a decent vocabulary by reading comic books and science fiction novels? Isn't it ultimately necessary to do lots of brute force memorization and suffer a bit?

Well, sure, I do look up interesting words (though usually I just keep reading instead) . I do throw sentences into Anki (when I can be bothered). But I haven't really suffered for my vocabulary since I threw away my 1,000-word Mnemosyne deck about 4 years ago, which was full of L1<->L2 flash cards with single words on them. And my vocabulary is nonetheless large enough to be useful.

At a minimum, this suggests that the Super Challenge (10,000 pages of books!) is pretty effective way to learn vocabulary, at least for some people. Real books aren't necessarily desert, once you reach A2 or so; they can absolutely be the main course. And a good grammar book can be the seasoning or perhaps a side dish. :-)

Edited by emk on 06 October 2013 at 5:09pm

4 persons have voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
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United States
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2615 posts - 8805 votes 
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 Message 714 of 1317
07 October 2013 at 10:14pm | IP Logged 
I read another big chunk of Le Pont de la riviére Kwaï yesterday, and I'm really impressed by the story. It's quite a good military tale, but it's more subtle than that: there's honor, and courage, and action, but there's also a strong undercurrent of dark comedy and commentary on the costs of war. I don't know how much of this came through in the movie, which I've never seen. But I'm definitely going to read Boulle's other famous book, La Planète des singes.

I've been extremely pleased with Moon+ Reader Pro for Android. Not only does it integrate with a French dictionary, and allow me to export highlighted sentences, it also synchronizes reliably between my phone and my tablet. Even my Kindle has trouble with that.

The default fonts, colors and controls of Moon+ are rather awkward, but everything is fully customizable, and it can be made to work more like the major ereaders. This is a major improvement to my extensive reading workflow.
1 person has voted this message useful



akkadboy
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Senior Member
France
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264 posts - 497 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Yiddish
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 Message 715 of 1317
07 October 2013 at 10:30pm | IP Logged 
"inoliné" seems to be a misprint for "incliné".

I really like Pierre Boulle's books, La planète des singes even more than Le pont de la rivière Kwaï. I hope you'll like it too.

Edited by akkadboy on 07 October 2013 at 10:35pm

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emk
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 Message 716 of 1317
08 October 2013 at 8:57pm | IP Logged 
Thank you, akkadboy! It's on my bookshelf:



Now that I've finally got a decent ebook setup, I've been buying a bunch of ebooks now, before French vendors notice I'm in the US. That shelf contains:

- 3 translations of old favorites.
- 2 classics by Pierre Boulle.
- 2 light fantasy novels by Gabriel Katz (I devoured the first book in this series).
- Le Déchronologue, a popular pirate/time-travel novel I picked up on a whim.
- La Horde du Contrevent, which is apparently a major work of French science fiction. I already own this in paperback, but it's hard going, because the protagonists aren't human, the world is nothing like our own, and there are about 24 characters, each of whom is identified by a novel punctuation symbol. Even native speakers have been known to complain. I do want to read it, but not without a popup dictionary!

That should be more than enough to finish the Super Challenge. And now that I can capture sentences into Anki efficiently, I should get some good vocab out of it, too.

Once upon a time, vocab was really challenging, because there was so much to learn. But once it dropped to a few words per page, my brain started learning it very naturally and automatically. But now I'm running into another problem: The unknown words are getting rarer and rarer, and I don't see them often enough to acquire them quickly. And besides, pulling sentences from fun books and dumping them into Anki is actually quite fun, so why not?
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geoffw
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 Message 717 of 1317
08 October 2013 at 10:22pm | IP Logged 
Based on that amazon.fr review (hilarious, btw-it makes the book sound like some sort of Finnegan's Wake in space), the pop-up dictionary might not do much to help!

EDIT: If any other US readers are hoping to read it without having to go through emk's complicated online dance, the ebook is available for download from epagine.fr, FYI (currently listed at 9 EUR), and amazon.com has used copies for sale from 3rd party vendors.

Edited by geoffw on 08 October 2013 at 10:32pm

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kanewai
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justpaste.it/kanewai
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 Message 718 of 1317
08 October 2013 at 11:35pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
   Attempt 2: Purchase a 1-month VPN account through
VPN France, and stay logged in. Create a new Amazon
account using a new email address and Chrome's "Incognito Mode", to prevent cookie
leakage. Fund the new Amazon account using email gift cards purchased on Amazon.fr. Set
the billing address to "My name chez someone I know in France." Buy books over the VPN,
and read using Kindle software (with the VPN still active).


I wish I understood what this all meant! I really enjoy reading French on my kindle.
Hard cover books are nice, but more challenging - I agree with you that they're much
less efficient from a language-learning perspective. I can read without a dictionary
now, but I skip over a lot of words that appear irrelevant to the main story, and I am
sure that I am missing a lot of color and detail.

I looked up Pierre Boulle on Amazon, and he's available in Kindle ... in
Catalan. Go figure.
1 person has voted this message useful



jayjayvp
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Newbie
Netherlands
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Studies: French, Spanish

 
 Message 719 of 1317
09 October 2013 at 12:33am | IP Logged 
My Somme book is published by Editions Perrin, by the look of it they have a tremendous selection of
historical lit you might be intereste in
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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3577 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
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 Message 720 of 1317
09 October 2013 at 12:56am | IP Logged 
geoffw wrote:
Based on that amazon.fr review (hilarious, btw-it makes the book sound like some sort of Finnegan's Wake in space), the pop-up dictionary might not do much to help!

It's not quite that bad. :-) This sort of science fiction is essentially a game: the story starts in media res, and the reader needs to puzzle out the how the world works using clues in the story. There's usually a linguistic element, too. One of the better literary tricks in this sort of book is to take startling things for granted—the characters never say anything so improbable as, "As you know, Bob, we live in a hive society with specialized castes on a planet swept by ferocious winds." No, the characters just assume their world and their culture are normal, so why explain anything?

On some level, it's almost a scaled-down version of the typical extensive reading experience.

Unfortunately, this sort of book is a royal nuisance in an L2, especially if it uses highly poetic language (which is typical), and human nature is sufficiently distorted. Because if your narrator is a a detached unit of a artificial hive mind, and even some L1 readers are struggling, then it's going to be extra hard for L2 readers.

But La Horde du Contrevent has piles of 5-star reviews everywhere, and I'm rather fond of this sort of thing, so I figure it's worth a shot.

kanewai wrote:
I wish I understood what this all meant!

The key concept here is a VPN, a "Virtual Private Network". This is normally used when telecommuting, because it makes your laptop look just like an internal part of your company's network. VPNs are very popular among certain groups of language learners, because they can also make your computer look like a part of the French network. This allows you to bypass all those irritating "This book/TV show/video is not available in your country" messages.

For French learners, I have to say that VPN France seems like an excellent choice so far. You can buy a 1-month subscription for 6€, and it comes with reasonable setup instructions. If you know how to open zip files, edit text files using Notepad (or whatever), and copy files between folders, you can have it running in 5 minutes. They provide tech support (in French), and they even have a list of places to watch French TV channels online.

Once you've got the VPN set up, the rest is simply a matter of not blowing your cover. :-)

kanewai wrote:
Hard cover books are nice, but more challenging - I agree with you that they're much less efficient from a language-learning perspective. I can read without a dictionary now, but I skip over a lot of words that appear irrelevant to the main story, and I am sure that I am missing a lot of color and detail.

These days, I can often read quite comfortably without a dictionary. But you're right, it's clearly less efficient—if there's 100 interesting, unfamiliar and opaque words in a book, why not make fun Anki cards for the 50 most useful? I love it when these cards come up for review, because I remember little bits of the story.

I figure that the occasional use of Anki could shave millions of words of extensive reading off the tail of the vocabulary acquisition curve. But I'm a big believer in not typing sentences if at all possible.

Which reminds me, I have a ~70 card review backlog in French (trivial), and a 175 card backlog in Egyptian (ugly). Egyptian is a pure experiment: Can Anki keep a difficult language alive with no external input? The answer at the 9 month mark was, "More or less, but the reviews start getting tough." Anki will keep the knowledge alive far longer than ordinary human memory, but if you never use it, it starts to get stale as review intervals stretch beyond 6 months.

jayjayvp wrote:
My Somme book is published by Editions Perrin, by the look of it they have a tremendous selection of historical lit you might be intereste in

Thank you for the recommendation! I'm following your Somme reading with great interest, and I'm impressed at how quickly you're picking up the knack of reading real French.


1 person has voted this message useful



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