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Iversen

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Linguamor
Decaglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4725 days ago

469 posts - 599 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, Dutch

 
 Message 25 of 107
26 February 2007 at 3:17am | IP Logged 
Iversen,

Your English is nearly perfect, and you are able to express your thoughts in a way that sounds like you are a native speaker. In how many of your languages can you do this?

One thing I have found while learning languages is that there were constantly things I wanted to say that I did not know how to say correctly. The reason I could not say them is that even though I knew the grammar and vocabulary that was needed to say what I wanted to say, what I wanted to express is expressed in a way that could not be predicted from my knowledge of that grammar and vocabulary. I have found this to be by far the major learning task in learning a new language. How have you gone about learning to use the grammar and vocabulary to express what you want to express, in the way that a native speaker would express it?



       

Edited by Linguamor on 26 February 2007 at 4:30am

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Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4810 days ago

9078 posts - 16470 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
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 Message 26 of 107
26 February 2007 at 6:30am | IP Logged 
The difference is not really whether I can express myself and write in a consistent manner (with the usual degree of disregard for the way most natives write), but how many errors I would make in the process. In English - which is the the only foreign language where I feel truly near-native at the level defined by Marc Frisch - I normally don't look up anything neither before nor after posting. I just feel confident that everything is OK. In German, French, Italian and Spanish I write in principle as freely as in English, but then I feel that I have to check several words and maybe some morphological details after writing my text, and sometimes I do find grave errors. In Catalan, Romanian and Portuguese I need to check several details already while I am writing (Dutch will soon enter this category). In Greek I need to look up several indispensable words while I'm writing just to express myself, and because I don't own a good grammar I probably also tend to avoid certain constructions. I still don't feel that I can hit my normal personal style when I'm writing in Greek, and that's somewhat frustrating. So that's why I still only consider myself intermediate in this language in spite of all the time I have spent on learning it since November 2006 (but I do make progress, and I will be fluent in Greek sometime this year).

To train fluency in writing I write short commentaries to articles in newspapers or translate things I have written myself, for instance travel diaries. The bulk of my training in oral fluency is thinking about what I would say if I were in a country speaking a certain language. But I also travel quite a bit and get a certain amount of immersion that way.

By the way, congratulations to your own 10th language, which makes you the first official decaglot on this forum.


Edited by Iversen on 26 February 2007 at 9:00am

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Kleberson
Diglot
Senior Member
Great Britain
Joined 4525 days ago

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

 
 Message 27 of 107
09 January 2008 at 7:34am | IP Logged 

Hi, I am soon to start learning Italian again after quite a long lay-off. I did not get very far in the language with my previous studies. I do, however, remember how to conjugate Italian verbs. I like your idea of using word-lists and I have 'Berlitz Italian vocabulary handbook' which is a word-list book split into different topics, would this book be ideal to use as a word list? (the book contains roughly 10.000 words)

When I learn a page, should I try to remember the entire vocabulary on that page by heart? How should I memorize them?

Also, how should I learn idioms and syntax constructions and other grammatical elements? I possess a book called "mastering Italian vocabulary". It is full of sentences with idioms and grammar, but with no explanations, should I use this?

I apologize for asking so many questions, but I have come to the conclusion that you're one of the most knowledgeable learners on the forum, and would appreciate any help you could give.

Thanks - Kleb
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Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
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Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
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 Message 28 of 107
09 January 2008 at 9:03am | IP Logged 
At least I'm one of the few members who wholeheartedly support the use of word lists and who try to formalize the different ways of using them. I have written about the subject before, but now I have the chance to summarize the whole thing thanks to Kleberson. Prepare for a long post..

I have seen the Berlitz book somewhere, but I don't remember its structure. In quite general terms it's a useful strategy to learn thematic word groups. But let me start with the basics.

For somebody who is a total beginner it is too early to think in theme groups. A total beginner should first and foremost learn the 'grammatical' words: pronouns, the auxilliary verbs, prepositions and things like that - plus just enough 'content' words to be able to formulate simple sentences. This means that word lists based on actual text specimens from from for instance text books are better than any lists drawn from dictionaries or thematic word lists. Word lists based on actual text are also good for another reason, namely that you then always have seen the word in context at least once, which is a good help for the memory. Therefore text based word lists can be relevant for people who can't remember words without a context, but who nevertheless note unknown words down and who might need a way to make sure that they don't forget these words again.

Word lists based on thematic lists, such as the different sections of language guides, are useful when you want to extend the vocabulary you have learnt in phase 1, - i.e. you know the word for apple, so now you want to add the words for pear, orange, apricot and cherry. If the total number of words in Berlitz is 10.000 then you shouldn't take all words in each and every list in one go. I.e. don't learn the names of 100 fruits and after that 100 spare parts for cars, 100 birds and so forth, but pick for instance ten very common fruits and then return to the subject 'fruits' later on, - 100 diffferent fruit names in one session will just confuse any person with a normal brain.

Word lists based on dictionaries are probably only for the real aficionados. But when you already know some words you will soon discover that new words are easier to remember, either because you already have met them (but just forgotten all about it) or because you can recognize the parts they are made off or you may have seen something similar in another language. In fact some of us actually enjoy just adding word upon word from a dictionary, precisely because we don't feel them as isolated words. Those that don't feel like that should do something else.    

And just to avoid misunderstandings: you should generally use dictionaries with some indication of morphological classes, clear indications of idiomatic uses and maybe even short examples. Even if you don't copy all of this it helps to see it, and you can decide to put a marker on for instance irregular verbs for later reference. But no dictionary can give you the kind of feeling for a language that you get from reading and listening to genuine texts and speech by natives. You learn the words from dictionaries as a preparation for 'real life' so that you can read and listen and think and speak without feeling that there are unknown words and holes in your vocabulary lurking at each and every footstep. And the reason to do it from word lists is that this is by far the fastest way of adding new words, - but only IF it functions for you.

So much about the sources. Now for a bit of technique.

Most people probably try to remember words from word lists by repeating one word pair X times: "dog cane, dog cane..." 10 times, then "cat gatto, cat gatto" 10 times .. or even "dog cane cane cane cane...". But this kind of 'raw' repetition is not the most efficient way of learning. It is better to take 5-7 words and memorize them as a group, because the fact that you 'leave' a certain word alone and then return to refresh it shortly after in itself is conducive to remembering it. The limit of 7 is based on the normal span of the immediate memory for most of us.

I normally do two kinds of word lists. The simple form is used for words that you just want to refresh (for instance a day after having learnt them from the complex form below). It is also relevant for refreshing whole languages, as I had to do in 2005-6. It ressembles a normal word list, but is built in steps: you first write down 5-7 foreign words from your source, and then you add the translations (plus morphology markers etc. if relevant), - but only when you can run through the whole group and remember all the translations without any hesitation. Until then it is not only allowed, but recommended to consult with the source to refresh your memory. If you are more adventurous you can do the same thing from groups of words (or short phrases) in your native language that should be translated into the target language. It can be a help to write the columns (ie. languages) in different colors.

The complicated word lists combine these two directions. First you write 5-7 foreign words and learn them, - again you only write the translations when you can remember them all without hesitating at any one of them. But then you cover up the first column and do the same thing in the diverse direction, i.e. you have to recall the original foreign words from their translations. Again each language should have its own color. Later you can make sure that you really did learn the words by using the complicated word list as the source for a simple word list. In this way you can also judge whether the method really makes you remember more words faster, - in my case it did.

A bit of statistics: I normally work on folded sheets (they are more handy). On such a half page I can have three columns, each divided into three subcolumns (in the complicated type of word list). In each column i can have 25-30 rows, which makes for 300-360 new words on each sheet. It takes me 1-2 hours to fill one half page, depending on how well I know the language and whether I go for difficult or easy words. I don't systematically count my recall percentages, but it is close to 100 % with wellknown languages like Italian and progressively less with less well known languages. But under 3/4 of the words would make me repeat the whole thing. So 200-250 new words learnt in one day using this method is not out of reach. But I wouldn't expect to learn that many words daily for months on end.

Next: what do you do to remember idiomatic phrases?

Well, it is not easy to make a word list out of a series of long quotes. My advice would be only to write down the relevant parts of the quotes and if possible in a simplified form, - such as in "give sth to smb" instead of two lines of complicated text. The short form is the one you might find in a good dictionary, and it is much easier to remember such a brief formula than a long genuine sentence. And then it is important to check your old lists once in a while, maybe even refreshing them in the form of simple wordlists. If it helps you can try to group them according to construction similarities or main words, but you will probably find out that the variations are too overwhelming for any improvised descriptive system. The detailed analysis and cathegorization is best left for the advanced learners, but making lists is useful at any stage. Just writing something down is halfway to remembering it.

Grammar:

When it comes to learning grammar you should consider two cases: the easily specifiable morphology and the more elusive syntax. To learn morphology I make simplified tables according to my own ideas. I normally write them on thick green paper so that they don't get lost among all the white paper I soil every day. While I'm still learning the morphology of a language I keep these green sheets within sight so that I can always check an obscure ending when I need to, - that's as least as efficient memorywise as repeating conjugations and declensions all day long. But of course I have to study the tables in the books throroughly in order to write my own green sheets, and that is also part of the learning process. When I write "simplified" I take it to mean that I cut out everything that are only based on a few words. Exceptions should be learnt as exceptions, they shouldn't clutter your 'general case' tables. I normally don't use example words, but just indicate the infixes and the endings, plus maybe an indication of forms with likely vowel changes etc., but that has to be decided for each language.

Syntax should generally be learnt in close conjunction with actual reading and listening. You take a problem area and then look for cases in real life. Of course you have to get an overview over for instance types of subordinate phrases with their conjunctions even at the early stages, but to master the details and make them productive in your own speech and writing nothing beats going through 100 pages with your attention tuned in to a certain kind of grammatical phenomenon.


Edited by Iversen on 11 January 2008 at 1:33am

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Kleberson
Diglot
Senior Member
Great Britain
Joined 4525 days ago

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

 
 Message 29 of 107
10 January 2008 at 12:29am | IP Logged 
Thank you very much Iversen, a very detailed and informative post. I will use your guidlines for learning Italian.

Much appreciated - Kleb
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Alexander
Diglot
Newbie
GreeceRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 4248 days ago

31 posts - 31 votes
Speaks: Greek*, EnglishC2
Studies: German

 
 Message 30 of 107
01 February 2008 at 7:18pm | IP Logged 
Hello!

Iversen, thanks for sharing with us some very useful tips and ways of learning a language. I wonder how you can learn 200 to 300 word in 3 different languages every day. I try to learn 15 different words in German every day and sometimes I can't even do that.

I noticed that you speak German well and that you are currently learning Greek. I thought that since Greek is my native tongue and I am currently learning German that we could help each other in some way.

Thanks again for your most informative posts. I will have a more thorough reading one of the following days as I am sure there are a lot of things I could learn from what you have shared with us!

Αλέξανδρος
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Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4810 days ago

9078 posts - 16470 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
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 Message 31 of 107
02 February 2008 at 9:33am | IP Logged 
Γεια σου Αλέξανδρε,

Maybe we should have a Greek thread too, - though it seems to be difficult to keep those threads in the multilingual section alive. I have to acknowledge that my Greek has not progressed as fast as I could hope for. However I found out that I had started too early with one more 'exotic' language, namely Russian, so I put that one on hold for a couple of months. And suddenly my memory for Greek words and my understanding of Greek texts took a tiger leap forward so that it now mainly are my active skills that need attention.

I have to say that I may in fact learn 200-300 words in one day, but that's the total number in one language in one day, - it would be too much for me to learn 3 x 300 words in three different languages in one and the same day. Besides it is only possible in a language which I already know fairly well, - otherwise I can't draw on all those connections to other words that make it easier to remember a new one. My preferred method is always the word list method as described above, in combination with as much reading and listening as I can find time for.

In Greek the task of memorizing more words is even more important, because I don't have an immense reservoir of words from neighbour languages to help me as in the Germanic and Romance languages - Greek has not too many loanwords, and the learned Greek words in other languages have often another meaning than the same words in Modern Greek. But as I said, my progress during the last month or so has been quite good, and I hope soon to be able to count it as a 'basic fluency' language.


Edited by Iversen on 02 February 2008 at 12:00pm

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Alexander
Diglot
Newbie
GreeceRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 4248 days ago

31 posts - 31 votes
Speaks: Greek*, EnglishC2
Studies: German

 
 Message 32 of 107
02 February 2008 at 12:15pm | IP Logged 
Γεια σου Iversen!

I have the same problem with German. Even though I have a fairly good knowledge of the English language, the German vocabulary differs a lot and there are not many connections I can make in order to facilitate my study. This is especially true for the verbs which I have the most difficulty in memorizing.

Αλέξανδρος


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