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emk
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 Message 769 of 1317
02 November 2013 at 4:29pm | IP Logged 
tastyonions wrote:
Learning Spanish! ;-)

Maybe someday. :-) I'd actually like to learn Spanish, but right now, my goal is still a solid C1 across the board in French, with the specific goal of being able to work with French-speaking clients.

In the near term, now that my Super Challenge is finished, there's a few things I want to work on:

- An online probability course in French, starting November 25.

- Getting my listening comprehension from "often better than 90%" to at least 98% across the board. This means lots and lots of French series! I also really wish I had a version of SRS Collector for TV episodes on DVD. :-(

- Finish integrating my "gender system" so it stops messing with my fluency. Not sure how to approach this: Massive exposure and use is definitely helping, on its own natural schedule, but is there a way to speed things up? I'd be willing to take longer if it would mean that I handle gender more like a native speaker. I'd also be willing to try FSI drills (shudder). But the long term goal here is for gender to be effortless, unconscious and correct. My brain has more or less agreed to this goal, but I'm still basically like a 3-year-old here.

- Doing intensive speaking work. This is my weakest skill right now, and it feels like I could improve it if I threw myself into lots of challenging conversations. Language exchanges, however, are of somewhat limited help here, because they generally don't push me very far.

It's a little weird to have the freedom to choose. :-) I signed up for the Super Challenge so long ago, and it meant that I devoted more time to reading than I would have otherwise. This has paid off handsomely. But it's time to work on my other skills now.
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Serpent
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 Message 770 of 1317
02 November 2013 at 5:14pm | IP Logged 
As for genders, that's probably obvious but have you tried making SRS cards with gaps in place of the articles/article+preposition contractions? Or even just colour-coding them in your cards?
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emk
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 Message 771 of 1317
02 November 2013 at 10:00pm | IP Logged 
Serpent wrote:
As for genders, that's probably obvious but have you tried making SRS cards with gaps in place of the articles/article+preposition contractions? Or even just colour-coding them in your cards?

It's less a problem of knowing the genders, and more one of using them correctly in high-speed speech. I can predict the gender of many words using the endings, and I increasingly tend to know the gender of words "unconsciously", without ever learning it. (This did not happen entirely naturally; some day I need to talk about what I did.)

If I speak slowly, I can give each sentence a few seconds to "assemble" in my head. If I do this, I get most of the gender agreement correct, and I can patch up the rest consciously.

But when I try to speak quickly, there's just so much stuff that needs to agree, and my brain isn't fast enough yet, so I make mistakes or hesitate.

This is particularly a challenge in French for two reasons:

1. Gender markings on adjectives are irregular. Generally speaking, the masculine form drops the final consonant of the feminine form.

2. All the rules change when the next word starts with a vowel, thanks to liaison and and euphony constraints.

I could speak more fluently if I accepted more gender errors, but there's no reason to assume that I'd ever improve that way—there are anglophones who still butcher gender after decades of working professionally in French. Generally speaking, I assume natural language acquisition can do 90% of the work for me. But this is one case where I've been taking my time, and deliberately training myself to hear gender.

I may even resort to speaking drills, now that I have a framework to build upon. :-)
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emk
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 Message 772 of 1317
03 November 2013 at 7:13am | IP Logged 
Thanks to my recent reading burst, I have a backlog of over 600 Anki cards which need definitions. One of these cards included un phoque "seal", and I said, "I am going to have a picture of a seal on this card."

So my personal copy of SRS Collector has an experimental new feature: images on cards!



Unfortunately, unlike the other SRS Collector features so far, this one actually costs money to run. So it will be available to my intrepid testers, and to other people who contribute to the site in some way, such as by providing feedback, translations or patches. So if you're thinking of sending me a PM and volunteering to be a guinea pig, now would be an excellent time. :-)
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Julie
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 Message 773 of 1317
03 November 2013 at 10:43am | IP Logged 
I had the same problem with the German gender (and plural) system.
To improve I used a combination of:
- massive exposure,
-SRS-ing words, including the most basic ones if there was any shadow of doubt (my cards were L1 equivalent -> target word + gender + plural but using monolingual cards is obviously possible),
- going through grammar books and exercises - even though I knew most of the rules and regularities from the previous learning stages it was at the advanced level that reading about grammar made a real difference because I had solid language knowledge to build on, and the missing pieces started to fit in,
- looking up any problematic words meticulously (which is what I am doing now as well).

The latter two helped mostly with learning/predicting genders, SRS was extremely helpful with using them correctly in high-speed speech. French, however, offers a different set of challenges in language production, with gender congruency and initial vowel problems. Here I would take grammar exercises (1-2 level below mine, preferably gap-filling) and use it to drill the grammar (no writing, speaking only) - you take an exercise and read it loud on a pretty high speed, filling up gaps.

Edited by Julie on 03 November 2013 at 11:49am

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Expugnator
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 Message 774 of 1317
04 November 2013 at 4:55pm | IP Logged 
emk, how many actual books overall at the Super Challenge? I should have an idea as of
when my French will finally get better =D
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montmorency
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 Message 775 of 1317
04 November 2013 at 7:32pm | IP Logged 
Gender, etc: just thinking out loud, somewhat triggered by Julie's mentioning "massive
exposure".

I wondered if "massive shadowing" might help? A bit more "active" than simply listening,
or reading, and it would involve saying many words with the correct gender markers. A bit
like speaking drill, but hopefully in a more interesting way (obviously given interesting
and varied material).
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emk
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 Message 776 of 1317
05 November 2013 at 12:28am | IP Logged 
Julie wrote:
French, however, offers a different set of challenges in language production, with gender congruency and initial vowel problems. Here I would take grammar exercises (1-2 level below mine, preferably gap-filling) and use it to drill the grammar (no writing, speaking only) - you take an exercise and read it loud on a pretty high speed, filling up gaps.

Thank you for your advice! This sounds like a really interesting exercise, and it could certainly be done as a standalone exercise or in Anki. I wonder if there are any relevant exercises in FSI's French Basic?

Expugnator wrote:
emk, how many actual books overall at the Super Challenge? I should have an idea as of when my French will finally get better =D

Well, if you figure a full-fledged novel is somewhere between 300 and 350 pages, the Super Challenge would be roughly 30 novels. When you think about it, that's an amazingly low "price" to read comfortably in a second language with a big vocabulary. Or to look at another way, Harry Potter is 4,224 pages. So it's like reading the whole series just under two and half times. Of course, in real life, you probably want to be able talk about something other than Hogwarts. So it's worth looking for slightly more variety, some comic books, some easy kid's novels, and so on.

Or to break things down differently, here's my progress at each stage:

- 500 pages. I could more or less read French, but I worked at it and missed a lot.
- 3000 pages. My reading speed took a big jump.
- 10,000 pages. The C1 sample exams contain very few unfamiliar words.

montmorency wrote:
I wondered if "massive shadowing" might help? A bit more "active" than simply listening,
or reading, and it would involve saying many words with the correct gender markers.

An interesting hypothesis! But I'm not the right person to test it, because I can't shadow unless I already know a text by heart. That whole "sound in my ears and out my mouth" thing is hard for me even in English.

Anki & SRS Collector

My 15 new sentences per day is going quite nicely, and I can slip it into various free moments throughout the day. Daily reviews are running about 15 minutes, and card creation requires a couple of hours every Sunday. Daily review times will go up in another week, and again a couple weeks after that.



I was listening to Harry Potter in the car, and in 15 minutes, I heard a couple of words that I've learned in the last few weeks. This is proving to be a highly useful exercise.

Here's a lovely example of a weird subjunctive construction that Arekkusu provided the other day on HTLAL. I captured this using SRS Collector's Chrome extension (select, right click, "Save selection to SRS Collector"), which includes a link to the original source of the card:



The big barrier now is getting cards from SRS Collector to Anki. Right now, I export CSV files, but that breaks down quickly once cards have images—and don't even ask what it would take to support cloze deletions, multiple languages, or any one of a dozen other cool features.

Clearly, the only sensible solution is an Anki plugin. I've written an incredibly ugly and gross prototype that actually downloads images and creates Anki cards, but I don't even dare to run it against my real deck yet. Still, here's that phoque card I wanted, imported straight from the server:



Basically, my goal here is to automate one of my favorite study activities. I've always loved making Anki cards from books and web pages. And I've learned a fair bit of vocabulary that way over the years. But what if this whole process were ridiculously easy? So far, the initial results are quite pleasing: In exchange for a few hours per week to make cards, and about 15 minutes per day to review them, I'm filling in vocab holes left and right.


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