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The Cheating & Consolidating Method

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montmorency
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 Message 113 of 136
16 August 2014 at 10:11pm | IP Logged 
I want to belatedly thank emk, and also s_allard for their very full and interesting
responses to my (admittedly throwaway) question/remark about wanting a neat French way
to express "cheating" (in the sense that emk originally meant it).

Very interesting.

I'm also grateful to s_allard for confirming that when we Brits use the expression
"aide-mémoire", we are using it in more or less the same way as French native speakers,
which is probably not the case for a lot of French expressions we (probably mis)-use. A
more slangy British expression would be "crib sheet" (rather than "cheat-sheet". "crib
notes" is a related expression. "To crib" basically means to copy, but in a sneaky kind
of way).


I also want to take my hat off to emk for the great example of comprehending a page of
French text, in such detail. I haven't actively studied French for about 15 years, but
it was still very interesting, as a general example of reading comprehension, and also
reminded me of quite a few French words I used to know better, and exposed me to a lot
of words I never got to!

Edited by montmorency on 16 August 2014 at 10:11pm

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emk
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 Message 114 of 136
17 August 2014 at 2:00am | IP Logged 
montmorency: I'm glad you enjoyed the thread!

Anyway, I was thinking it might be interesting to try another demonstration in a language where I'm a lot weaker. And then I stumbled over the perfect text in an awesome used book store for $7: Virent Ova! Viret Perna!! (Green Eggs and Ham in Latin).

For those folks at HTLAL who aren't English speakers, this is a translation Dr. Suess's classic children's book, which has been selling zillions of copies a year for longer than I've been alive. I read it many times when I was young, and I've read to my kids so many times that I can recite big chunks of the English text from memory.



Here's the first scene in Latin:

Quote:
Sam arrives, riding on a Suessian creature, carrying a sign.

SAM: Sum 'Pincerna' nominatus,

Sam disappears around the corner, and the text on his sign has changed.

SAM: Famulari…

Sam reappears, carrying a new sign.

SAM: Nunc paratus!

The other, unnamed character shakes his fist in frustration at Sam.

OTHER: Est Pincerna submolestus,
Nec decorus, nec modestus.

Going into this, I have several advantages that help me "cheat":

1. I studied Latin for either 3 or 4 years in high school, and 6 months intensively at college. At my best, I could laboriously decipher simplified native texts, but I never really consolidated anything. Nearly all of this knowledge is forgotten, but a few vague fragments remain.

2. The book has copious illustrations.

3. I know the English text extremely well.

4. I speak both English and French, both of which will give me a huge number of cognates.

First pass: Reading & guessing

Here, red means "opaque" and blue means "decipherable (I hope)." Other words are marked as purple, which indicates "sort of decipherable", or more accurately, "a wild-ass guess."

Quote:
Sum 'Pincerna' nominatus
I.am Picerna named

Famulari… Nunc paratus!
(???)… Now (appeared?)!

OTHER: Est Pincerna submolestus,
is Pincerna (something not nice, I'd guess, based on images, cognates and the English text)

Nec decorus, nec modestus.
(Neither?) (decorous?), (nor?) (modest?).

OK, this decipherment is a mess, and it's going to be hard to consolidate much when I'm mostly guessing.

Second pass: Using the dictionary at the end of the book

Fortunately, we have one more tool at our disposal: a short English/Latin dictionary at the back of the text. This requires us to decipher things manually, so it's going to be less efficient than a hyper-literal interlinear translation like linguists and Assimil use, but we do what we can. Using the dictionary:

Quote:
Sum 'Pincerna' nominatus
I.am Picerna named
"I am named Pincerna."

Famulari… Nunc paratus!
(wait upon? + inflection)… Now ready!

OTHER: Est Pincerna submolestus,
is Pincerna troublesome
"Pincerna is troublesome,"

Nec decorus, nec modestus.
Neither dignified nor modest.

OK, that wasn't too bad, though the Latin verse is definitely not a literal translation. It's nice having a 3-page dictionary at the back of the book, though! As for grammar, I can already guess what -atus means from context, though -ari is going to be problem.

I'm obviously running into an "expensive decipherment" problem here: I can make the text mostly decipherable, but the process isn't especially efficient. There's a couple ways I could tackle this:

1. I could use a text with a better interlinear translation, perhaps from an Assimil course or something similar.

2. I could try to milk every last drop out of the deciphered text, perhaps by making cloze cards in Anki or by rereading several times.

3. If all else fails, I could suck it up and translate as best I can.

What about Latin grammar?

One obvious problem here is Latin grammar. Latin is a highly inflected language, with five declensions, four conjugations, multiple subcategories of each, and a big pile of irregular forms. I can think of several strategies for dealing with this:

1. Make Iversen-style "green sheets" with all the regular endings, and keep them at hand. Or just buy a commercial version.

2. Ignore any formal understanding of the grammar, and just train myself to reproduce it. Khatzumoto is very fond of this approach, and he uses cards that look a lot like this:

Quote:
Front:

SAM: Sum 'Pincerna' nomin{...},
Famulari…
Nunc par{...}!

OTHER: Est Pincerna submolestus,
Nec decorus, nec modestus.

<English translation here as a hint.>

Quote:
Back:

SAM: Sum 'Pincerna' nominatus,
Famulari…
Nunc paratus!

OTHER: Est Pincerna submolestus,
Nec decorus, nec modestus.

<English translation here as a hint.>

I'd love to try learning grammar this way at some point, just focusing on filling in the blanks with building a conscious theory. And the only reason to fill in the blanks at all would be to force myself to notice the details. I don't know how it would work, but it would certainly be fun to try.

Thoughts

As you can see, I don't know enough Latin yet to learn easily from extensive reading. But if I cheat a lot, I can definitely have fun with native texts, which suggests that iguanamon's favorite multi-track approach might be a good choice: Combine a course like Assimil with smaller amounts of native material.

This example also shows that "cheating" is hard in the beginning: the available resources are often less than ideal, the language may just be too strange, and so on. Native children brute-force their way through this stage with pantomime, repetition and massive input. One of the reasons that I like Assimil so much is that their courses provide a great substitute for this step, because they both simplify the target language and provide everything needed to make it decipherable.
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montmorency
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Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Danish, Welsh

 
 Message 115 of 136
17 August 2014 at 11:37pm | IP Logged 
As a matter of interest, in Welsh, "paratoi" is "to prepare", so I immediately guessed
"paratus" would be "prepared", which is more or less the same as "ready".

And the Welsh for "ready" is "parod" (usually mutating to "barod" in practice), which is
of course not far from "parat-".

I know there is a small but significant portion of Welsh vocabulary that is related to
Latin or French (or both). I'm not exactly sure how it came about. I don't think the
Romans ever really took control of Wales. Latin influence could have come from early
Christian monks and French influence could have come from Norman soldiers or nobility.
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Sterogyl
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Germany
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Studies: German*, French, EnglishC2
Studies: Japanese, Norwegian

 
 Message 116 of 136
18 August 2014 at 7:51am | IP Logged 
montmorency wrote:
Sterogyl wrote:

German needs fewer words than French (and English), yes.


I don't know about French, but I would respectfully question that statement for German
and English. It had always been my impression that German overall needed slightly more
words, and this is what I've found when preparing my own parallel texts, although I
haven't done that many.


Maybe it depends on what you count as a word. Due to German morphology, words like Donauschifffahrtspolizeiverordnung easily become more than one word in English (or French). This is the reason why the word count of German texts is usually a bit lower. But I'm only sure about French, I never counted English words for comparison purposes.
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MRoss
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Studies: Dutch, German, Spanish

 
 Message 117 of 136
21 August 2014 at 7:26am | IP Logged 
I agree...with everyone ha!

When I think of Cheating as it is used here, I think more of Life Hacks. And what us old
school types would call a Shortcut. I understand Why the word was used and can comprehend the
conveyed message fine. But what using that word does is, it slows down the speed at which you
read the text because we are not used to its use in this manner. The message is still clear
though.

Years ago I did six months of German at uni. It was dry, dull, boring and a grind. The text
held no interest, assignments were drab, the syllabus was not conducive for learning. I
stopped. (This was pre internet days)

What I've done with my current efforts in Dutch is, developed my own system using L2 with
audio and translating myself to creat my vocabulary list. Grammar started a couple months in.
It's working for me because, the L2 text is something I enjoy. I tried news but I don't read
news in L1, so L2 is equally unappealing. But having the L2 text as something I enjoy, I'm
happy to devote time and it's never tedious.

Now my question is...with the shortcut pic vs the grind pic...shortcut lists dictionary while
grind mentions translating. What's thd difference?
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emk
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 Message 118 of 136
21 August 2014 at 12:39pm | IP Logged 
MRoss wrote:
Now my question is...with the shortcut pic vs the grind pic...shortcut lists dictionary while
grind mentions translating. What's thd difference?

Please keep in mind that the "grind" pic was intended to satirize a certain sort of language class, and as such, it was a bit of a joke. But there was an idea behind the joke, and let's see if I can explain it a little better:

A certain sort of language class. "We want to supplement our course with lightly edited native texts. Each text must be fully translated, on paper, with all the tricky parts sorted out. If you don't understand it completely, it doesn't count. Total exposure this year will be approximately 100 pages of text. Oh, and here's a list of 20 words to memorize this week."

An alternative approach. "As Krashen claimed, you acquire language by understanding messages. There may be more to it than Krashen claimed, but that's the heart of it. If the meaning and the words are simultaneously present in your brain, your brain will eventually work out the patterns. And since understanding messages is key to the learning process, your goal is to understand as much raw input as possible. It doesn't matter how you produce that understanding—any artificial aid or trick you can dream up is fair play. And you never need to understand 100% of anything. Take what's you can get easily from your input, and move on. Given a choice between understanding 100% of one page, and 90% of ten pages, choose the latter often, and the former only occasionally."

The underlying argument here is that the adult brain can still learn languages via osmosis, but that osmosis requires two things: partial comprehension and sheer volume. Many traditional courses encourage students to work way too hard to produce that comprehension, and they provide nowhere near enough volume to burn that knowledge into the language centers of the brain as automatic and reflexive knowledge.
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emk
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 Message 119 of 136
21 August 2014 at 1:44pm | IP Logged 
Here's another example of "cheating", from another thread:

emk wrote:
Seriously, with the right kind of support, it's possible to "read" and enjoy with very low comprehension. I can't demonstrate this with French anymore, but Egyptian can work nicely. Here's a section of the Westcar papyrus from the St Andrews Corpus:



Here's a rough recreating of how I "read" this the first time (using MdC notation since I don't have special characters):

iwms. Doesn't that mean "surely?"
wn. This is some sort of "to be" verb.
Sspt. Pavillion! I know this one! Thank you Assimil!
m. "In."
pA. Huh. Supposedly "this/that", but on this page, it's behaving like "the." Weird.
S. Garden! Thank you again, Assimil.
wbA-inr. The name Ubainer, obviously.

mT. Sentence-initial particle meaning "Look."
n. "Us".
ir=n. "Do", first person plural.
At. I have no idea, but from context, I'd guess ir At means "spend time."
im=s. "In her", and Sspt is feminine, so "in [the pavillion]."

You'll notice that in 13 words, I was rather confused by both of the verb constructions, iwms wn "Surely there is" and ir At "spend time." In this case, I was able to follow along thanks to prior knowledge of common words and the support of the loose English translation.

Looking at this text, if I use the English translation, I can decipher maybe 4 out of every 5 lines about this well. Other lines are more challenging, even now:



Hna rdi.t di.tw. If I stop to untangle this, I get "And let there be given."
Sns 1. This must be "one cake".
Hnqt Dwiw 1. One of these words is "beer" and the other is "jug."

iwf. Some particle? It looks like iw=f, but that wouldn't make sense here.
wry. "Very"?
snTr pAd 1. Huh?
n xry-Hbt Hry-tp. "To chief <job title>."

Here, I'm missing enough pieces that everything eventually falls apart. And as I suggested above, maybe 10% or 20% of the lines in text are like this, even using the English to help untangle the Egyptian. But then again, we can safely translate this second line as "Let's give a bunch of stuff to Imhotep; he's cool," and then move on. The details are neither critical to the story, nor especially useful to me at this stage of my learning.

So even with only ~80% of the text being either transparent or decipherable, I can still read along and enjoy myself tremendously. When all else fails, I can just use the English text (or context, or memory of a translation, or pictures, or whatever) to fill in the blanks.

Some things to notice:

1. I'm using the English translation to help cheat. This is a huge aid—it saves me tons of dictionary time, and it helps me puzzle out the Egyptian.

2. When I get hopelessly stuck, I just summarize the offending passage as "Let's give a bunch of stuff to Imhotep; he's cool," and move on. I'm better off consolidating the 4 out of 5 lines that I can decipher, and leaving the opaque lines for another day.

I know people who would insist that this text be translated down to the last verb tense and obscure idiom, or else it "doesn't count." But that approach says, "Decipherment should be expensive and complete. Consolidation? What's that?" But it's the consolidation that will someday allow me to glance at the text and understand it like I understand English or French.
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montmorency
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 Message 120 of 136
21 August 2014 at 3:17pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

The underlying argument here is that the adult brain can still learn languages via
osmosis, but that osmosis requires two things: partial comprehension and sheer volume.
Many traditional courses encourage students to work way too hard to produce that
comprehension, and they provide nowhere near enough volume to burn that knowledge into
the language centers of the brain as automatic and reflexive knowledge.



An evening class of which I was a member last academic year spent the first 2 terms
(October to Easter, basically) over a relatively short book by Friedrich Dürrenmatt.
And this was the most advanced class on offer. That's not all we did, and it had its
good points, and a very nice native speaking teacher, but the slow pace of that book
(and a similar experience the previous year) was rather frustrating.

Meantime, I had obtained a translation of the book (and its prequel), and eventually
made myself a parallel text version of them both, which I shared with a few members of
the class whom I thought would appreciate it. To be honest, the most productive part of
the exercise for me was actually making the parallel texts. You learn a lot from that!

Edited by montmorency on 21 August 2014 at 3:22pm



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