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The Cheating & Consolidating Method

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emk
Diglot
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United States
Joined 3613 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 49 of 136
03 August 2014 at 2:07pm | IP Logged 
YnEoS wrote:
With Hungarian, I've found that because the grammar is so different what I'm used to, L-R and Subs2SRS don't seem as effective as when I do them with other languages. Perhaps I'd eventually see results if I kept with them, but so far FSI is the only program that has let me see visible progress in my Hungarian comprehension when I use it.

Interesting! I've heard lots of good things about using FSI for output, but this is the first time I've heard somebody say it paid off in a big way for input. I'd love to know more.

Personally, I've always found that grammar study works best when I can also get lots of input. If I get the input first, then studying grammar helps me sort out the half-formed patterns in my head. If I study grammar first, then I see examples everywhere when I read and listen. But if I just try to study grammar using only the examples in a textbook, and no outside input at all, then it becomes awfully dry and difficult work.

It might be worth mentioning that neither of my languages have especially tidy grammar, and this may affect my perceptions. French grammar is hard to summarize because there are always long lists of special forms, and exceptions, and even exceptions to the exceptions. The explanation of "il est" versus "c'est", for example, goes on for a couple of pages, and then there's another set of rules for colloquial speech. But as long as I get lots of input, then most of this stuff sorts itself out through sheer exposure. For me, input is the main course, and grammar is the side dish.

Similarly, Egyptian inflection may be blessedly regular—you can fit the conjugation tables for the entire language on three or four Assimil-sized pages, including the irregular verbs. But there are other complicating factors, the most dramatic of which is an ongoing 40-year fight over the difference between nouns and verbs. Once again, I personally find it much easier to figure out the grammar when I get lots of examples. My rule of thumb is that, "It's hard to find something counter-intuitive if you've seen it a thousand times."

But I never actually used FSI French Basic, because by the time I looked at it, I was already using the subjunctive naturally in speech. It seems like a nice enough course, and it covers roughly the grammar that would be expected on a B2 exam. But I was rather baffled by the amount of time they spent drilling the conjugations of low-frequency irregular verbs, many of which could be easily avoided in speech even at a C1 level. Even native speakers tend to avoid using irregular verbs like croître when there's a regular alternative.

YnEoS wrote:
Admittedly I haven't tried close deletion yet.

It's nice, especially done Khatzumoto style, with multiple cards made from the same snippet of text, and with a single easy cloze on each card. I think this is partly due to the testing effect, and partly because it forces me to pay attention to fine details. Sometimes, as with the difference between the negations m, n and nn in Egyptian, I'll just do lots of clozes without memorizing the underlying grammar rule. This usually results in deleting more leech cards, but it eventually helps build intuition. And then sometime later, I'll go look at the actual grammar rule again, and it will just click.

I'm giving lots of examples here because my original post was a high-level model, which basically means "ruthlessly oversimplified." In reality, it's a continuous, back-and-forth progress, and I'll personally try anything that looks like it might help.

tarvos wrote:
I use grammar as a tool to cheat my way through phrases where it's just "why do they say it like that".

Yup. Sometimes it's much easier just to look stuff up. When it comes to decipherment, I will happy use any and all tactics which might help. I can't consolidate things that don't make sense, and simply being aware of a rule (especially a simple one) will often make portions of the input "leap out" at me.

Edited by emk on 03 August 2014 at 2:10pm

1 person has voted this message useful



luke
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
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3133 posts - 4350 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Esperanto, French

 
 Message 50 of 136
03 August 2014 at 2:23pm | IP Logged 
A couple of cheat techniques I've found useful:

Use http://images.google.com/ for visual images of nouns. For some words it's more helpful than a dictionary.

http://translate.google.com/ is sometimes helpful when a translation isn't available or the translation isn't very literal.

For Assimil courses, I like the quick overview method. That is, listen/read the entire course once or twice before doing it at the rate of a lesson per day.
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s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
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2704 posts - 5424 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 51 of 136
03 August 2014 at 4:06pm | IP Logged 
As I try to wrap my head around the difference between effective studying and cheating while goofing off, a light
went off and I sought out in my language library Charles Duff's Spanish For Adults, first published in 1957. My
1969 paperback edition is falling apart, but as I glanced through it I was just amazed how good that book was
and still is. Duff has written similar book for French, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian plus a book on how to
learn languages. All of this after retiring from the British Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service. Reminds me a bit
of Michel Thomas.

The book is divided into two parts: Part 1: First Principles and Part II: Framework of the Language. At the end is a
Classified Vocabulary of All-purpose words with 3500 entries.

What is particularly striking is the early introduction of native or authentic materials from Spanish literature. In
the beginning there is interlinear translation of the Spanish, then consecutive translation and at the end no
translation at all. There are newspaper extracts and examples of Spanish advertising. Circa 1955 of course.

And to top it all off, there is an extract of a side by side translation of an English text into Spanish. Writes Duff:

"Much Spanish can be learnt by carefully comparing the text of a Spanish translation of an English book with the
original. For example, take Manuel Azana' famous translation of George Borrow's Bible in Spain. Here is Azana's
translation of Chapter XLII:"

Finally, in the chapter The Next Steps, the author gives advice on how to continue learning Spanish:

"Never miss an opportunity of speaking with people whose mother-tongue is Spanish.

Take full advantage of radio broadcasts, and never be dismayed if there is a speaker or subject you cannot
understand, for this happens to us all in our own language.

Read as many books in English about Spain and Spanish-America as you can, and do not overlook books in
Spanish on the same subjects.

Important: Read a novel written in Spanish right through, for preference, to begin with, one for which you can
find an English translation which will help...."

Not bad for advice written in 1957. Plus ça change...


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YnEoS
Senior Member
United States
Joined 2335 days ago

472 posts - 893 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: German, Russian, Cantonese, Japanese, French, Hungarian, Czech, Swedish, Mandarin, Italian, Spanish

 
 Message 52 of 136
03 August 2014 at 5:12pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
YnEoS wrote:
With Hungarian, I've found that because the grammar is so different what I'm used to, L-R and Subs2SRS don't seem as effective as when I do them with other languages. Perhaps I'd eventually see results if I kept with them, but so far FSI is the only program that has let me see visible progress in my Hungarian comprehension when I use it.

Interesting! I've heard lots of good things about using FSI for output, but this is the first time I've heard somebody say it paid off in a big way for input. I'd love to know more.

Personally, I've always found that grammar study works best when I can also get lots of input. If I get the input first, then studying grammar helps me sort out the half-formed patterns in my head. If I study grammar first, then I see examples everywhere when I read and listen. But if I just try to study grammar using only the examples in a textbook, and no outside input at all, then it becomes awfully dry and difficult work.


There's a concept I've been thinking about for a while, though I haven't quite figured out exactly how best to state it, but it seems to me that some grammar you only need to get correct when speaking in order to sound normal. But other grammar you need to extract information out of to understand a sentence.

So for example noun gender isn't necessary for comprehension, only speaking correctly. Except perhaps in instances where you use gendered article to refer to an object previously mentioned. With verb conjugation you need to extract the tense information from, but if the pronoun is present, having the verb match the pronoun is only necessary for correct speaking. But if a language tends to omit pronouns, suddenly you have to know the conjugations to know the meaning of a sentence.


I find with Hungarian because the basic building blocks of the language are so vastly different from English, I usually need to know 90% of content I study to be able to learn effectively from it, whereas in French I could learn effectively from something I understood maybe 70-80% of.

So here's a simple example of the issues I run into with Hungarian

ház = house
házak = houses
házam = my house
házaim = my houses
házamba = into my house
házaimba = into my houses
házamról = from my house
házaimról = from my houses

So there's quite a bit of information I need for comprehension contained the suffixes of a noun for instance. Now this is decipherable if I know the root word and am going really slowly. But if I come across say a new noun with several suffixes attached to it, even if the suffixes are somewhat familiar it's quite difficult to sort out where the root ends, and where the suffixes begin and what information they might contain, and so most of the sentence is now completely incomprehensible to me. Whereas in an indo-european language, the structure is familiar enough I could come across a new preposition and noun in a single sentence, and still understand how they're meant to function within the sentence structure.

Now I could probably learn Hungarian grammar through massive input of native materials if I had a shelf full of kids books sorted by grade level. But lacking that, the FSI drills are the next best option, because I'll be given a simple sentence pattern, and then asked to substitute a bunch of different nouns in the same position, or take a bunch of sentences and modify them to be possessive and then plural or both. And so all the functions of the various suffixes begin to slowly take shape in my head.

Also because Hungarian is such a total brain re-wiring for me from how I'm used to forming sentences, I find that when I'm forced to modify or generate new sentences on my own, it vastly helps me comprehend similar sentences later. If I'm reading it's hard to tell my brain, okay remember that k means plurality, and that m is possession, and so forth. But if I need come up with an original sentence, and I have to think, what suffixes do I need to add to communicate this thought, the functions begin to crystallize, and I'll be able to more automatically comprehend them when I read them later.

Edited by YnEoS on 03 August 2014 at 5:14pm

4 persons have voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4678 days ago

9753 posts - 15775 votes 
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Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
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 Message 53 of 136
03 August 2014 at 5:33pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

vermillon wrote:
Any suggestion? How do you tackle paper reading without having to pause all the time?


3. Try listening/reading with L1 text, L2 text and L2 audio.

Audio is useful even if you don't do classic LR. Some words are more familiar when you get to hear them, and similar words in related languages can be more noticeable too. It also simply keeps me reading, instead of thinking too much.

See see reading strategies too.
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montmorency
Diglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 2909 days ago

2371 posts - 3675 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Danish, Welsh

 
 Message 54 of 136
03 August 2014 at 6:17pm | IP Logged 
rdearman wrote:
vermillon wrote:

Of course, I have forgotten almost the first thing I wanted to talk about before
starting my post. Emk and several others have talked about e-books and the pop-up
dictionaries one can use to "cheat" with unknown vocabulary. This is great, but I am
unfortunately victim of the book-hoarding disease and like to read my books on paper
(and looking at the last few books I've read, none of them exists in electronic format
anyway). How do you replace pop-up dictionaries for paper books?
I have a tablet that I bought for a good part for the purpose of using dictionaries,
and it has been my best companion for Classical Chinese, but for German I find the time
it takes to look up words to be far too long and end up reading entire books without
opening once the dictionary, hoping for the best: it works pretty well, but I think I
could do better. In the days I've started reading Mandarin, I wrote a script to do
this:
-extract the vocabulary of the chapter I'm going to read (in Mandarin you even need to
tokenize the sentence, since there are initially no spaces between words)
-extract the vocabulary of my Anki decks
-subtract the two sets: I could learn in advance the unknown words, and reading them in
the chapter would act as reinforcement.
This resulted in much higher comprehension, much faster vocabulary acquisition and much
lower friction in dictionary research => more reading.
The thing is that about any popular novel sold in China can be found somewhere as plain
text, making the process trivial. Now that I want to improve my German (and others),
the books I'm reading are not to be found in such a format... so the best I could do
would be to take a picture of every page, pass it through OCR and then process it, but
that's quite a big overhead.
Any suggestion? How do you tackle paper reading without having to pause all the time?


I read a lot of paper books and the way that I do it is fairly simple. I have an
Android smart phone, so I have the Google Translate App installed. I read my paperback
with pencil in hand and underline any word I don't know. When I get to the end of the
page (or when I feel like it) I open up the translate app, click on the "take picture"
icon, and then take a picture of the page.

The app scans all the words, then you press on the words with your finger and it
translates them. Because I have already underlined the words it is easy for me to find
the ones I want to look up. You can also highlight entire sentences and it will
translate them.

I find this just as quick as pop-up dictionaries (I use them on the same smartphone)
and it doesn't really interrupt my reading. Also if you are mid page and want to look
up a single word you can just type it into the App.

Hope that helps, works for me, your mileage may vary.

:)


The low-tech way of "cheating" like this is of course to get a base-language
translation of the paper book, and after you've underlined the words of interest, find
the equivalent in the base-language.

.

A medium-tech alternative, which I've been using for quite a few years is a dedicated
hand-held electronic dictionary - I have a Sharp "Sprachcomputer" containing a
Langenscheidt English-German and German-Spanish dictionary. I suppose smart device apps
will make this kind of thing obsolete, but at the time I bought it, it was absolutely
perfect for my needs and I love it. (And it runs forever on a single AAA battery which
your smart devices usually won't, I don't think).

.

On the more general topic of "cheating", for many years I really did use to regard
translations, parallel texts, and electronic/online/computer dictionaries (when they
came along) as "cheating". I genuinely thought you had to do things the hard way, or
you just wouldn't learn. So I did things the hard way, and I did learn ... but slowly.
My views have changed radically, not least thanks to HTLAL.


I still have a slight distrust of being over-reliant on (and perhaps becoming over-
obsessed by) technology, but that has nothing to do with the idea of "cheating", and is
perhaps a more general, possibly cultural thing.


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montmorency
Diglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 2909 days ago

2371 posts - 3675 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Danish, Welsh

 
 Message 55 of 136
03 August 2014 at 7:54pm | IP Logged 
Kind of following on from my previous post, and still thinking of approaches to the
"paper book problem":

I'm not exactly anti-high-tech, but I suppose I do have an inbuilt bias in favour of
older tried and tested ways of doing things.

So I like "low-tech" and "medium-tech" ways of doing things, especially when they can
be done cheaply and with minimal dependency on anything.

As I think I've mentioned elsewhere, I've had in the back of my mind for ages now,
trying to find ways of using oral/aural methods for vocabulary-learning, i.e. using a
voice-recorder (which could be a digital dictaphone, MP3 player with record facility,
or a smart-phone), to make the oral/aural equivalent of a word-list or a gold-list.

So far, I haven't come up with a really good way of actually implementing this, so it's
still on the back-burner.

But it occurred to me it could be quite a good way of collecting words from a paper
book as an alternative to underlining or writing them down. I think of it as being in 2
phases:-

Phase 1:-

You start reading your book, and when you meet a word or phrase or usage you don't
understand: take your recorder and pronounce the word as well as you can, then the
phrase or sentence in which it occurs, and optionally your best guess as to meaming and
move on.


When you have collected a respectable number of words to "process":-

Phase 2:-

There are probably various ways of doing the next bit, but how I would probably
approach it: upload the MP3 file from the recording device to a computer.

Play it back using headphones, and prepare to start recording a new sound file on your
recorder.

(Or play it back on your recording device , and start recording a new sound file with
audio software on your computer). (Or you could do something cleverer in Audacity, but
I'm trying to keep this simple here :-) ).

Pause after the first word (if you still don't know what it means), and look it up on
your favourite online / computer dictionary. This means you practice working out how to
spell it from the sound, and you originally had to pronounce it accurately from the
spelling. You will likely get some spelling help from the online dictionary even if you
typed it wrong when you first looked it up.

When you have the meaning, record the word again, and its meaning, optionally using it
again in the original phrase or come up with another one, and move on.


Now this won't necessarily be a particularly fast way of working, although I think once
you got into the rhythm of it you could speed up. But it has the benefit of practicing
2 active-ish skills - i.e. learning to pronounce a given written words, and later,
spelling out that same word from the sound (with a nearly instant accuracy check), in
addition to the vocabulary-learning aspect.

Other benefits:

-You don't have to mark the book.
-You don't have to spend time hand-writing anything

Cons:

-You still have to type the word (although some dictionaries help you from the first
few letters typed). You can't automatically "capture" it to Anki or whatever ... but
this is meant to be only a medium-tech approach.

-No quick way to scan though all the words you have "collected" or counting them up (if
numbers interest you). This could be important if you can't remember if you have
recorded a word already, and you don't really want to have duplicates.

.

Well, I'm almost thinking out loud here, so it's obviously not a well-developed idea.
But I think it has possibilities. It could be very nice to use in conjunction with an
audiobook, since you could hear and/or check your own pronunciation against a
(hopefully) native speaker.

You could also leave (or insert) pauses in the 2nd sound file, so that later you can
play it back and use it as a "speak in the pause" vocabulary test.

Edited by montmorency on 03 August 2014 at 8:19pm

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rlnv
Senior Member
United States
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Speaks: English*
Studies: French

 
 Message 56 of 136
03 August 2014 at 11:47pm | IP Logged 
I think I'm kind of falling into the cheating and consolidating approach myself. Partially from my own experimenting, from spending many hours reading tons of HTLAL archives, watching many Steve Kaufmann videos, and reviewing emk's excellent log more than once. It's fun, free of heavy lifting, and its working. The hours I spend don't really feel like work.

When I started out, I dabbled in a few structured courses and certainly they introduced me to a good chunk of French. However they soon became cumbersome, stressful at times, and I wanted to move at a faster pace. And frankly it was a grind. Through the many recommendations on HTLAL I started working on Assmil. Having almost finished the second wave of New French With Ease, I can clearly see the massive gains it's given me. I can see how it relates to "cheating". Useful dialogs with many notes and parallel English text. Brilliant. I just jump out of Assimil and into grammar books, dictionary's, verb conjugation materials as needed. Grabbing specific information as wanted, plugging it into knowledge gaps here and there. Now I'm enjoying an increasing range of early and increasingly difficult native materials, and even at this very early stage for me I can see the consolidation happening. This cheating and consolidating is the real deal.

One of the key aspects, I believe, is to find a good balance between guided material and consuming massive native input, along with a balance between intensive and extensive input. I know I tend to check many words against dictionaries, look at the verb conjugations, and probably over review. It's the tendency to not want to skip over details. That's the same tendency that would pull me into more French courses. So I personally have to put up a fight against that, and force myself to push ahead. But I'm becoming looser and letting go a bit more, of recent. Just last night I was reading the few pages of French in emk's log prior to when he took his B2 exam, and I was flying through it with easily 95 percent plus comprehension, stopping rarely to check a work. Mostly quickly reading it and taking in the conversation. I guess consolidation must be working.

So put me down as a participant in cheating and consolidating. I plan to generously increase usage of both.       


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