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The Cheating & Consolidating Method

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Expugnator
Hexaglot
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Brazil
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 Message 89 of 136
05 August 2014 at 9:38pm | IP Logged 
The past discussions made me think a lot. I had some insights about what I had been doing and how to use emk's theory to explain the issues I've been having. I couldn't reply at the moment so I missed the chance to answer, but what I can recall is as follows:

@Serpent: GLOSS is very good but I could only use it at home, and that's not where I do most of my study o.O

So, I came to the conclusion that with Russian, even though it has an abundance of resources, it is hard to find n+1 material in a consistent way. The textbooks themselves don't respect this principle. Assimil introduces too much vocabulary all at once. Since Russian has so much alien vocabulary, Assimil attemps to cram in the same amount of vocabulary for Russian one would acquire for French or Spanish, but forgets that this vocabulary is almost entirely new, unlike in Spanish or French where 50% would be cognates (75% for those coming from another Romance language). So, this attempt to make up for the vocabulary gap turns out to be counterproductive,even more so that the words don't get repeated that often as in the 'good' Assimils. This issue doesn't happen in Assimil Chinois: the amount of words is kept at an optimal ratio. We may say Assimil"respects" Chinese difficulty but doesn't respect Russian dfficulty, because, after all, when we're talking about brand different roots to memorize, long, verbose, not-so-phonemic cyrillic Russian words may require as much effort as bisyllabic tonal ones with hanzi.

This particular issue with Assimil Russian concurred to me not 'finishing' consistenly the A2 level. Then let's consider intermediate texbooks. They're a huge gap! from beginner ones, even considering one has fully understood the beginner ones. I just checked Assimil Perfectionnement Russe and at my current stage i'm indiferent between using Perf. Russe or a novel with a translation from an unknown story, that is, I find both utterly difficult. A parallel reading from a known story would be slightly easier, but even at this point the huge amount of unknown words in Russian would require me to go too slowly through each paragraph. Even Ilya Frank's method is still a bit hard, that is, I may only understand 30% of the vocabulary. Bear in mind, that is totally different from coming from a basic Assimil in a Romance language, where you probably go from an initial 75% to a 90% comprehension of written texts with much less effort.

For the moment, I decided I'd work on other intermediate textbooks, such as Colloquial Russian 2, before tackling Assimil. I'm already and will keep working on native Russian materials, such as the Agatha Christie's novel, and I expect synergy to make me enjoy this reading more by getting to know more and more words. I will try to cheat more to make text at CR2 decipherable, and this includes OCRing text and finding the translation the course didn't provide me. The fact the text didn't provide it only made things more difficult to me and actually damaged my learning, because having to look up individual words and then losing track when you get back to the sentence totally prevents me from learning vocabulary in a proper and contextual way. Comparing my learning from a Russianpod lesson, where evertything is translated, even the sentences used in grammar explanations, and CR2 where I get texts untranslated and have to figure out things on my own suffices to notice how much better I retain stuff from the Russianpod lesson, which is actually longer.

This brings up another issue when I realized how a textbook harms instead of helping out my studies when it keeps doing what had been working properly. I'm talking of Basic Course in Estonian now. The initial conversations all have translations, and new words and grammatical features are explained with literal translation (the FSI style most people is familiar with). Then, probably due to lack of space, they don't provide translation for the exercises and the final conversations. And that only turns half the content of the lesson in a nuisance! Instead of studying the whole lesson in a practical, consistent, encouraging and effective way, I have to struggle through half the lesson, checking words manually and losing the meaning of the sentence and the context when I come back. So, today I decided I'd OCR these pages with Estonian-only sentences, and as a result, I noticed I could learn much better, even aspects I was in doubt about, when pasting those OCRed texts in Google Translate. Therefore, 'cheating' with technology helped making my learning experience much more efficient. BTW, today's lesson was only reviewing, 8 pages of sentences, no translation, no audio. It allowed me to notice clearly how 'not cheating' can be much more tiresome and, most important, much less efficient to me.

Edited by Expugnator on 05 August 2014 at 9:42pm

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s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3539 days ago

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Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 90 of 136
06 August 2014 at 2:08pm | IP Logged 
luke wrote:
Bao wrote:
s_allard wrote:
then I'm guilty as any and I've been cheating all along.

Read: "clever enough to know when it'll give the desired effect"


My question was, "does your wife know?"

This sort of reaction proves exactly why "cheating" is, in my opinion, a poor choice of terminology. As is to be
expected, some people get distracted by the negative connotations and no longer pay attention to the real
message, thereby wasting their time and everybody else's.

Now on to some serious stuff. When I survey the discussion so far, I see lots of great ideas and suggestions for
what I would call tips and tricks of more efficient language learning. My own conclusion is basically explore and
experiment to see what works for you. If something isn't working or you find it boring, then drop it and try
something else.

Indeed, as a direct result of this thread, I've seriously restarted working with Anki for my Spanish. I've created a
couple of specialized decks focusing on areas of Spanish grammar that are difficult for me. For example, I'm now
populating a deck on the imperfect subjunctive and another one on complex constructions.

What I would draw attention to is the importance the social context of learning and actual meaningful contact
with the language. Immersion where you are constantly stimulated by comprehensible (and incomprehensible)
input and where you can immediately use the language is very important. And having a significant relationship
with a speaker of the language is also very important.

A classic situation that I see constantly here in Montreal, Quebec, is the English-speaker who marries a French-
speaking Québécois and is raising a family in French. Quick success in learning French is 100% guaranteed.

Obviously, most of us are not in that kind of situation, but I think a deliberate strategy of personal contact with
the language through short trips to the country where feasible and interacting with immigrant communities
should be considered.


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emk
Diglot
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United States
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 Message 91 of 136
06 August 2014 at 3:54pm | IP Logged 
Expugnator wrote:
So, I came to the conclusion that with Russian, even though it has an abundance of resources, it is hard to find n+1 material in a consistent way.

Yeah, I sympathize completely. Finding decipherable "i+1 input" is is much harder for Egyptian than French. I have a couple of strategies for dealing with this:

1. I spend a fair bit of time (and sometimes money) trying to find the right kind of native materials. This usually involves finding more materials than I need, and then digging through them until something "clicks." For Egyptian, I'm using Assimil, the St. Andrews corpus (free!) and a dubious bilingual edition of a classic tale. But I also tried other things which didn't work out, including a beautiful copy of The Book of Going Forth by Day, bilingual editions of Budge from Dover, etc.

2. There's more than one way to decipher a text and turn it into "i+1 input." Some texts can be deciphered just by reading them (typically around 95+% initial comprehension). Others can be deciphered by guessing and skipping (around 70% initial comprehension). But it's possible to tackle much harder texts using an interlinear translation, a concise grammar summary (like Iversen's green sheets), and occasional dictionary lookups. Ultimately, it doesn't seem to matter how I decipher stuff; it all consolidates the same way.

3. When decipherment is really difficult, it helps to re-read what I've deciphered multiple times. This doesn't help as much with consolidation as new material would, but sometimes all the other choices are worse. This is especially true in the beginning, and it's why I go through each Assimil lesson 8–12 times, and it's why I use Anki.

There's some other stuff I haven't mentioned: It's no good just understanding the L1 version of an interlinear text. Instead, I need to use the English version to "understand" the TL version directly, as best I can. If decipherment was really hard, it's good to cover up the L1 version and read the TL version directly a couple of times.

Expugnator wrote:
So, today I decided I'd OCR these pages with Estonian-only sentences, and as a result, I noticed I could learn much better, even aspects I was in doubt about, when pasting those OCRed texts in Google Translate. Therefore, 'cheating' with technology helped making my learning experience much more efficient. BTW, today's lesson was only reviewing, 8 pages of sentences, no translation, no audio. It allowed me to notice clearly how 'not cheating' can be much more tiresome and, most important, much less efficient to me.

I love this! It's sneaky, it's underhanded, it ignores the "How to Use This Course" directions—and it produces decipherable text that helps you consolidate your understanding of the language. I'm really glad to hear that this is working out for you so far.
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emk
Diglot
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United States
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 Message 92 of 136
06 August 2014 at 11:56pm | IP Logged 
OK, since various folks have asked about measuring comprehension, I decided it would be fun to try a little experiment. I took a short passage from L'Homme qui plantait des arbres, a short, public domain story in French (so we don't get the admin in any trouble). This is actually a pretty nice beginner story, especially if you skip a few hard words.

I chose the first 347 words, which is roughly one paperback page. As usual, the first page contains an unusually high number of rare words—this happens because the author is setting the scene and writing more descriptive prose than will typically appear later on.

I've provided a translation of each sentence in English, and I've marked decipherable text in blue and opaque text in red. I've also added a note about each colored word. Everything is pretty much automatic at this point.

94.5% automatic, or at least transparent (328 words)
3.5% decipherable (12 words)
2% opaque (7 words)
??? incorrect

Normally I would do slightly better than this, because there would be less geography and botany in a typical novel, at least after the first few pages. I rarely add botanical terminology to Anki, because I don't actually care much about it unless I need it in conversation with my family. Also, when I'm translating for public consumption, I'm more careful than I'd be if I were reading for pleasure, and I'm less likely to miss a genuinely opaque word.

Quote:
L'Homme qui plantait des arbres (Jean Giono)
The man who planted trees

Pour que le caractère d'un être humain dévoile des qualités vraiment exceptionnelles, il faut avoir la bonne fortune de pouvoir observer son action pendant de longues années.
For the character of a human being to unveil truly exceptional qualities, it is necessarily to have the good fortune to be able to observe its/his action during [many] long years.

Si cette action est dépouillée de tout égoïsme, si l'idée qui la dirige est d'une générosité sans exemple, s'il est absolument certain qu'elle n'a cherché de récompense nulle part et qu'au surplus elle ait laissé sur le monde des marques visibles, on est alors, sans risque d'erreurs, devant un caractère inoubliable.
If this action is skinned of all egotism, if the idea which directs it is of an unparalleled generosity, if it is absolutely certain it has looked for recompense nowhere, and that moreover it has left visible marks on the word, one is thus, without risk of errors, before un unforgettable character.

- dépouillée, "skinned": I didn't remember if this meant "skinned" or "plucked".
- sans exemple, "unparalleled": I understood this just fine, but I wanted to double-check the translation.
- au surplus, "moreover": The general meaning was clear, but I was guessing.

Il y a environ une quarantaine d'années, je faisais une longue course à pied, sur des hauteurs absolument inconnues des touristes, dans cette très vieille région des Alpes qui pénètre en Provence.
About 40 years ago, I was walking a long course [along] heights absolutely unknown to tourists, in this very old[-fashioned?] region of the Alps that penetrates into Provence.

- faire une course à peid "go for a long hike" (roughly): I understand this correctly, but it was an unfamiliar usage.

Cette région est délimitée au sud-est et au sud par le cours moyen de la Durance, entre Sisteron et Mirabeau; au nord par le cours supérieur de la Drôme, depuis sa source jusqu'à Die; à l'ouest par les plaines du Comtat Venaissin et les contreforts du Mont-Ventoux.
This region is delimited to the southwest and to the south by the middle Durance, between Sisteron and Mirabeau; to the north by the upper Drôme, from its source down to Die; to the west by the planes of the Comtat Venaissin and the foothills of Mont-Ventoux.

- le cours moyen "the middle part of a river" and le cours supérieur "the upper part of a river". It may actually be more technical than this in some contexts, but if it is, I don't even know the English equivalents.
- contreforts "foothills": I knew this once, but I forgot it, and it was totally opaque in this text.

Elle comprend toute la partie nord du département des Basses-Alpes, le sud de la Drôme et une petite enclave du Vaucluse.
It includes all the northern part of the department [French administrative division] Basses-Alpes, the south of the Drôme and a small enclave of the Vaucluse.

C'était, au moment où j'entrepris ma longue promenade dans ces déserts, des landes nues et monotones, vers 1200 à 1300 mètres d'altitude.
At the moment where I undertook my long promenade the these deserts, they were bare and monotonous lands, at roughly 1,200 to 1,300 meters altitude.

Il n'y poussait que des lavandes sauvages.
The only thing growing there was wild lavender.

- lavande "lavender". My botanical French is fairly weak! (Mostly because I don't care.)

Je traversais ce pays dans sa plus grande largeur et, après trois jours de marche, je me trouvais dans une désolation sans exemple.
I traversed this country along its largest dimension and, after three days of walking, I found myself in an unparalleled desolation.

Je campais à côté d'un squelette de village abandonné.
I was camping beside a skeleton of an abandoned village.

Je n'avais plus d'eau depuis la veille et il me fallait en trouver.
I had no more water since the eve [of the day before] and it was necessary for me to find some.

Ces maisons agglomérées, quoique en ruine, comme un vieux nid de guêpes, me firent penser qu'il avait dû y avoir là, dans le temps, une fontaine ou un puits.
Those agglomerated houses, although in ruin, like an old wasps' nest, made me think that there must have been there, once upon a time, a fountain or a well.

Il y avait bien une fontaine, mais sèche.
There was indeed a fountain, but dry.

Les cinq à six maisons, sans toiture, rongées de vent et de pluie, la petite chapelle au clocher écroulé, étaient rangées comme le sont les maisons et les chapelles dans les villages vivants, mais toute vie avait disparu.
The five to six houses, without roofing, gnawed by wind and rain, the little chapel with the fallen bell, were arranged like the houses and the chapels in living villages, but all life had disappeared.

- toiture "roofing": Pretty obvious, but I checked because I was translating.
- écrouler "collapse, cave in": I've seen this plenty of times before, but I wanted to be sure.

When I read my first actual book in French, there would have been massive amounts of blue and red all over this page.

Anyway, if anybody wants to point out my mistranslations, I'll be happy to update my percentages!

UPDATE: Thank you to s_allard for catching my mistranslation of clocher "bell tower" as cloche "bell." Please chalk one more word up to "opaque."

Edited by emk on 07 August 2014 at 11:04pm

4 persons have voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
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 Message 93 of 136
07 August 2014 at 11:01pm | IP Logged 
One comment on the lavender - here the reference isn't just a descriptive element.
Lavender is actually the symbol of the Provence region in France. Given the setting,
mentioning lavender in the description is pretty much inevitable. It's also a cultural
reference. It would be like going to Mexico and not mentioning the cactuses.

Edited by tarvos on 07 August 2014 at 11:07pm

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s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3539 days ago

2704 posts - 5424 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 94 of 136
07 August 2014 at 11:09pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
OK, since various folks have asked about measuring comprehension, I decided it would be fun to
try a little experiment. I took a short passage from L'Homme qui
plantait des arbres
, a short, public domain story in French (so we don't get the admin in any trouble).
This is actually a pretty nice beginner story, especially if you skip a few hard words.

I chose the first 347 words, which is roughly one paperback page. As usual, the first page contains an unusually
high number of rare words—this happens because the author is setting the scene and writing more descriptive
prose than will typically appear later on.

I've provided a translation of each sentence in English, and I've marked decipherable text in
blue
and opaque text in red. I've also added a note about each colored word.
Everything is pretty much automatic at this point.

94.5% automatic, or at least transparent (328 words)
3.5% decipherable (12 words)
2% opaque (7 words)
??? incorrect

Normally I would do slightly better than this, because there would be less geography and botany in a typical
novel, at least after the first few pages. I rarely add botanical terminology to Anki, because I don't actually care
much about it unless I need it in conversation with my family. Also, when I'm translating for public consumption,
I'm more careful than I'd be if I were reading for pleasure, and I'm less likely to miss a genuinely opaque word.

[quote]L'Homme qui plantait des arbres (Jean Giono)
The man who planted trees

[...
Si cette action est dépouillée de tout égoïsme, si l'idée qui la dirige est d'une générosité
sans exemple, s'il est absolument certain qu'elle n'a cherché de récompense nulle part et
qu'au surplus elle ait laissé sur le monde des marques visibles, on est alors, sans risque
d'erreurs, devant un caractère inoubliable.

If this action is skinned of all egotism, if the idea which directs it is of an
unparalleled generosity, if it is absolutely certain it has looked for recompense nowhere,
and that moreover it has left visible marks on the word, one is thus, without risk of
errors, before un unforgettable character.

- dépouillée, "skinned": I didn't remember if this meant "skinned" or "plucked".
- sans exemple, "unparalleled": I understood this just fine, but I wanted to double-check the translation.
- au surplus, "moreover": The general meaning was clear, but I was guessing.

...

Since I've started a separate thread on this issue of comprehension, I'll be very brief. Although it is not stated as
such, I'm going to assume that the level of comprehension here is 93.4% that corresponds to the number of
words that were "transparent" or "automatically" understood out of 347.
Let me first point out that emk has undoubtedly an excellent reading command of French and has understood
the text very well. The only way we can verify this understanding is through the translation. This where there are
a number of issues. I'll just make two remarks about the excerpt above:

1. dépouillé can mean skinned in certain contexts but not here. It would be more like "without", "lacking of" or
"devoid of"
2, égoïsme here is not egotism. This is a bit of a false friend here. The sense here is more "selfishness" which is
the most common translation.

There are minor issues of translation as well but they really don't change much in terms of meaning.

In most of the passages, I have issues with what I would call the understanding of this text. In this particular
excerpt two important content words seem to be misunderstood.

But the point of all this is not to say that the true figure should be lower, e.g. 85% instead of 94.5%. The
significance of this is that one can never tell when a person has understood or misunderstood a text. In this
reader's mind all these words were automatically understood. It's only when we look at the translation that
certain doubts may arise in the mind of an observer.


1 person has voted this message useful



kanewai
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
justpaste.it/kanewai
Joined 2998 days ago

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 Message 95 of 136
07 August 2014 at 11:25pm | IP Logged 
I'm amused that you missed lavandes but had no problem with comme un vieux nid
de guêpes
!

I wish I could compare, but I've read the text recently, so it's hard to judge after the
fact which words I had trouble with. I like the idea of translating without a dictionary
& then checking the results; it would make an interesting mini-challenge (paging Ms.
Solfrid ... )
1 person has voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
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United States
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 Message 96 of 136
08 August 2014 at 12:25am | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
1. dépouillé can mean skinned in certain contexts but not here. It would be more like "without", "lacking of" or
"devoid of"
2, égoïsme here is not egotism. This is a bit of a false friend here. The sense here is more "selfishness" which is
the most common translation.

There are minor issues of translation as well but they really don't change much in terms of meaning.

I would certainly not consider this to a "finished" translation. I deliberately made the base translation rapidly and without a dictionary, to simulate ordinary reading as best I could, and I marked words that were potentially tricky for further review.

Also, this translation is deliberately over-literal, and it favors the most central definitions of a word over those definitions that a dictionary would mark as "by analogy." For example, I perfectly well aware that the phrase "If this action is skinned of all egotism" is absolutely dreadful English, and I would never include it in a finished translation. :-) The word "skinned", for example, has a much stronger connotation than dépouillé. In a finished translation, a better choice would probably be "stripped", which is a more neutral and idiomatic choice in English. Your choice of "devoid of", however, is probably the ideal solution.

This is a tricky issue when translating: It's not enough to know what the word means; it's also necessary to know, for example, which metaphors are "dead," and no longer carry any metaphorical implication for native speakers. Translating a dead metaphor literally in a finished translation is almost always a mistake, because it makes a plain style overly exciting.

But for this exercise, I went for a deliberately over-literal translation, because a finished translation would make it too easy to hide my errors. A translation which captures both literal meaning and style is very hard to pull off, and I certainly can't do it in a single quick pass.

(And as for égoïsme, well, WordReference gives me "egotism, selfishness", which is pretty much what I would have personally guessed. Honestly, I consider these words to be near-synonyms in English. Or if you don't trust WordReference, try a corpus search.)


But now I'd like to bring this back to my larger point: This is an ongoing process. When I read my first hundred pages of real French, I was guessing like crazy. Now, I'm worrying about how literally I should translate dead metaphors.

After another 10 million words or so, with a bit of strategic use of SRS and pop-up dictionaries, and my French will be even better. But here I run into a problem: Even relatively good native students may take a decade to read 10 million words, with much help from libraries and bookstores. As usual, Itchy Feet summarizes the problem better than anyone.

As a language learner, I embrace and accept imperfection. I wear my translation errors with pride! (And thank you once again for clocher.)

kanewai wrote:
I'm amused that you missed lavandes but had no problem with comme un vieux nid de guêpes!

Remember, I use my French in real life! I'm perfectly happy to lump 99% of flowers together under fleur, but a nid de guêpes can be a very lively subject of immediate interest. :-)

Edited by emk on 08 August 2014 at 12:28am



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