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The Cheating & Consolidating Method

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emk
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 Message 57 of 136
04 August 2014 at 5:24am | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
Not bad for advice written in 1957. Plus ça change...

There are a lot of excellent older courses out there. Alphonse Chérel, the creator Assimil, was actually a fascinating polyglot. He had his own private method for learning languages through immersion, and Assimil was basically his attempt to create a simplified version of his techniques for use by people learning languages on their own. And the basic Assimil format has changed little since the earliest days: a graded reader, parallel text, daily lessons (the first Assimil course was actually a calendar), and helpful explanations.

And I've read of private tutors in the 1800s who would hand students a text in Latin and say, "Here, you're going to translate this aloud. I will tell when you screw up." In theory, it's grammar-translation, but there was a huge amount of native materials involved.

YnEoS wrote:
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


This is really great. Thank you for sharing.

As a general rule, there's no right way to "cheat." As far as I can tell, any kind of "cheating" which produces decipherable, 'i+1' input is good. That's sort of the whole point of calling it "cheating."

Just for comparison purposes, here's my personal favorite cheating technique for stuff like this. I could give you an example using Egyptian (with French as the base language), but let's try Hungarian. A bit of Googling found this great parallel text. I'm going to turn it into a cloze card:

Quote:
Front

Tonite
Meg akarok menni a ház{...}ba
Meg akarok menni az ágy{...}ba
És nem érdekel
Oh tonite
Azt hiszem, mint a szerelem
Te ... na na na zavarja
Oh tinite

Tonite
You just wanna go to my house
You just wanna go to my bed
And I don't care
Oh tonite
You think I like your love
You... na na na to disturb
Oh tinite


Back

Tonite
Meg akarok menni a házamba
Meg akarok menni az ágyamba
És nem érdekel
Oh tonite
Azt hiszem, mint a szerelem
Te ... na na na zavarja
Oh tinite

Tonite
You just wanna go to my house
You just wanna go to my bed
And I don't care
Oh tonite
You think I like your love
You... na na na to disturb
Oh tinite

Music is great. :-) To pass a card like this, all I need to do is fill in the blank. Just one tiny thing, and nothing more. I'm welcome to read the lyrics or ignore them; whatever floats your boat on any given day.

I'd make a second card clozing "-ba", too. Now, I have no idea whether this is more or less effective that FSI drills—I've never done FSI drills. But it's another relatively pleasant way to cheat, just in case anybody is looking for one.

montmorency wrote:
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.

Yeah, I felt like that once, too, and it's really easy to find people on other forums who feel obligated to do everything the hard way. But at least in my personal experience, pretty much any method of deciphering text or audio is fair game. The real learning comes after, once I can pump a whole bunch of decipherable content through my brain.

I like your low-tech ideas, too.

rlnv wrote:
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.

Excellent! In my experience, the first few hundred pages were the hardest, and I had to wing it a lot. But things got dramatically better within a few thousand pages. You know, a few thousands pages sounds like a lot—but it's only about 10 novels, and when you think about it, that's a ridiculously low investment for reading comfortably in another language.

rlnv wrote:
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.

Yeah, I really like mixing intensive and extensive input. The intensive input is sort of like a special demolitions squad for destroying obstacles. The extensive input is like a flooding river that just carves straight through the landscape.

My favorite strategy is to interfere with the extensive input as little as humanly possible. Personally I really like popup dictionaries and highlighting things for later, because it allows me just keep reading quickly without feeling guilty.
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s_allard
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 Message 58 of 136
04 August 2014 at 6:42am | IP Logged 
emk wrote:


As a general rule, there's no right way to "cheat." As far as I can tell, any kind of "cheating" which produces
decipherable, 'i+1' input is good.
That's sort of the whole point of calling it "cheating."

Just for comparison purposes, here's my personal favorite cheating technique for stuff like this. I could give you
an example using Egyptian (with French as the base language), but let's try Hungarian. A bit of Googling found
this
great parallel text
. I'm going to turn it into a cloze card:...


I know that I must come across as a bit of a curmudgeon here, but I still don't get how cheating differs from what
most successful language learners have always been doing, especially around here at HTLAL. Is making cloze
deletion cards in Anki cheating? Are paper flashcards the contrary of cheating? Is using an electronic dictionary
rather than a paper one cheating? Is reading an online newspaper every day in the target language cheating? Is
reading literature in the target language cheating? Is watching in DVD with subtitles cheating? Is listening to
songs while reading the lyrics cheating? Does reading one of the excellent Practice Makes Perfect grammar books
constitute cheating or not cheating? Are Iversen's wordlist or Huliganov's Goldlist methods the opposite of
cheating?

I look at the advice of polyglots like Benny, Luca, Gabriel Wyner and Steve Kaufman. Are they cheating?

What I am seeing in this thread is some creative ways people are using technology to make learning more
effective. Is that what cheating is? More technology?
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garyb
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 Message 59 of 136
04 August 2014 at 11:20am | IP Logged 
The posts about overlearning a course struck a chord with me, as I've been tempted to try it a few times. An Assimil book does cover a lot of language, and in theory if you knew all the words and structures off by heart you'd be doing pretty well. But of course the most effective way to learn these words and structures isn't just revising them over and over again as they are in Assimil, but also by coming across them in lots of other contexts through input. I have made a bunch of cloze-deletion Anki cards from Assimil Spanish for phrases that I'd like to know well, and I'm finding that the ones with words that I've also encountered in a lot of other places happen to be far easier to remember.
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emk
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 Message 60 of 136
04 August 2014 at 2:09pm | IP Logged 
In my experience, some first-time language learners believe things must be done in one, special, "right" way, or else they'll never learn. These beliefs generally fall into two categories:

1. Decipherable input (Krashen's "i+1 input") must be made decipherable in a specific way, or else it "doesn't count."

2. Massive exposure to "Opaque" input will eventually produce a blinding revelation, jumping straight to "Automatic" without going through "Decipherable" along the way.



Let me provide some examples, just to prove that this attitude is real. Here are three people who stumbled across perfectly viable language-learning strategies, but who then told themselves, "But's that's cheating! If I do that, I'll never learn." Because they were afraid of "cheating", they deliberately forced themselves to do things the hard way. And yes, I'm one of these three people:

montmorency wrote:
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.

Quote:
Do you think it's a good idea to listen to audio of increasing difficulty, or just dive right in? I was thinking of watching short children's shows, which have simple dialogue that's easy to follow and understand, but then I thought that I should just listen to regular TV since that's what I hope to understand eventually. I feel like X___ might recommend just diving into the hard stuff, since listening to children's shows would just slow me down and hold me back from reaching the goal of understanding regular TV and conversations.

emk wrote:
I wasted maybe 75 hours trying to understand news radio by brute force, hoping for some kind of miracle when it would all became easy. Eventually I learned that I've got to through "Decipherable" first, before I get to "Automatic.

Since I've been guilty of this attitude myself, I'm going to take the liberty of satirizing it with a short dialog:

Quote:
Teacher: "Hi, students! I know you're trying to learn Egyptian, and I found this really cool rock for you. Maybe this will help?"


(Photo of the Rosetta Stone by Hans Hillewaert, with parallel text in hieroglyphs, demotic and ancient Greek.)

Students: "Oh, no! Can you please cover up the demotic and the Greek for me? I can't look at those—that would be cheating! If I use those, I'll never learn to read Egyptian properly."

Starting with late imperial Rome, people spent over 1,400 years try to decipher hieroglyphics by brute force, without using parallel texts. They failed miserably, and they produced many laughable theories. But Jean-François Champollion, one of the immortal polyglots, went ahead and cheated, in every single way he could:

1. He learned Coptic, a language descended from late Egyptian.
2. He learned ancient Greek.
3. He had a list of royal names in Egyptian and Greek, allowing him to figure out phonetics.
4. He used the lovely parallel text you see above.

<sarcasm> Oh, no! That hardly seems fair. Those poor Romans who tried to decipher Egyptian were doing things the right way, working directly with native texts. I'm sure if the Romans had only stared at the hieroglyphics long enough, they would have figured things out. :-) </sarcasm>

OK, enough ridiculous examples. Let me put my argument in a nutshell:

1. Krashen was right when he said, "We acquire language when we understand messages." (At least for comprehension. Personally I believe output is a bit more complicated, based on observations of heritage learners.)

2. It does not matter how we understand those messages. Any trick is fair game, no matter how underhanded and sneaky it might be. Hence my choice of the word "cheating", to encourage maximum creativity and freedom on the part of the learner. If you don't feel like you're "cheating the system" somehow, perhaps you could try something even more aggressive?

3. Once you "understand messages," even partially, it's easy to underestimate how much sheer volume will help you. It's hard to find something unintuitive if you've understood it a thousand times.

Or, in terms of the diagram above:

1. Do not try to go straight from "Opaque" to "Automatic." This has never worked, not once in the history of the human race. You must go through "Decipherable" first.

2. Do not cause yourself unnecessary pain getting from "Opaque" to "Decipherable". Absolutely any tool at all is fair game: parallel texts, pantomime, exotic technology, related languages, SRS, grammar studies, vocabulary lists, even giant freakin' rocks. Just do whatever it takes to get there, as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

As far as I'm concerned, nothing in this thread should be new. Alphonse Chérel and Stephen Krashen and the Antimoon folks and Khatzumoto have said all this before, and they've said it better. All I'm trying to do is build a framework that will help a few more people apply this advice. If this all seems obvious to you—and it probably should seem obvious to most polyglots—then this thread has nothing to offer you. If you read this and say, "Well, yeah, of course, isn't that obvious? What's the point in explaining it again, using slightly obnoxious vocabulary for the sake of rhetoric?" then you're not the intended audience. :-)

Edited by emk on 04 August 2014 at 6:02pm

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tarvos
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 Message 61 of 136
04 August 2014 at 2:31pm | IP Logged 
The only thing I would like to add to that is that language is made up of tiny chunks
and bits you can use to make things decipherable, and sometimes you need to bring order
to some pieces of the puzzle first before you can lay it down. Sometimes you need a
slightly different key to unlock the door to polyglot heaven. So you can understand a
language as opaque/decipherable/automatic (and I love that you use the word automatic,
because automaticity in my mind equates very strongly to fluency), but that usually
there are some bits of the puzzle you can lay easily. If you take a closer look at the
opaque surface, even when you start, you'll find a few cracks and holes. That's where
you start.

I will give an example of an easy way to cheat in this case: cognate languages. Now,
let's say you are me a few years ago and you want to learn some Icelandic for a trip to
Iceland.

Now you can look at an Icelandic text (preferably some old saga) and say: "Well, that
doesn't look at all like anything I know!"

And then you stop for a second and think. "This is Iceland. What is Iceland known for?
Vikings. Ah. Vikings. Must be some form of Germanic... wait, I'm Dutch. I studied
English and German. Maybe there are some things in this text that I can use already!
Are they maybe tiny bits I can decipher?"

And then you realize that the basic words in both languages are cognates. And you cheat
your first words - you've got "good day" for free already!

And you then come to a problem with lots of endings or pronunciation. So then you can
tackle those endings or pronunciation problem, all at a time. Preferably also using
lots of input and easy texts (where you understand the words. Otherwise, go back to
learning some more words). Step by step you lay the puzzle.
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smallwhite
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 Message 62 of 136
04 August 2014 at 3:29pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
2. Do not cause yourself unnecessary pain getting from "Opaque" to "Decipherable". Absolutely any tool at all is fair game: parallel texts, pantomime, exotic technology, related languages, SRS, grammar studies, vocabulary lists, even giant freakin' rocks. Just do whatever it takes to get there, as quickly and as painlessly as possible.


If "quick & painless" is good, do you also think "the quicker & the more painless" the better?

I'm asking because I've always used cheats and I've always learned quickly and painlessly, so I'm with you, but I often hear or read people say:
- (Yes, I know pop-up dictionaries are fast), but using paper dictionaries help you memorise words better;
- (Yes, reading the word list before reading the actual paragraph is more efficient), but reading the paragraph first lets you practise guessing at words (as if I've never had to guess at words for the past N decades of my life and need to start learning that now);

etc. That is, these people do use cheats, but prefer slow & painful cheats to efficient and pleasurable cheats. What do you (and other cheaters) think about that?


.

Edited by smallwhite on 04 August 2014 at 3:30pm

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s_allard
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 Message 63 of 136
04 August 2014 at 4:27pm | IP Logged 
Let's not mix up two things here. First, the question isn't whether there is anything in this thread that hasn't been
said before. Quite the opposite. I've seen some interesting stuff. Personally, after reading this thread I decided to
make greater use of Anki. I had always thought that it was a lot of work creating all those cards but now I see
that a
bit of effort can lead to major gains. I've been using it every day since. And it's also interesting to see how other
people are working. That's why the thread is interesting.

Second, I think that calling all this cheating is giving a bad connotation is to something that is very positive. This
really baffles me. Can we really say that Champollion cheated when he figured out a way to decipher the Rosetta
Stone? He did something that others had not done before him, not by cheating, but by applying his knowledge
of
other languages and a good dose of intuition. Isn't that what science and discoveries are about?

Edit: Addition. I remember a time when there were a bunch of computer books called Tip, Tricks and Traps of ...
for pieces of software. They were full of shortcuts, undocumented features and things to watch out for. Maybe
we can find some inspiration there.

Edited by s_allard on 04 August 2014 at 4:41pm

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s_allard
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 Message 64 of 136
04 August 2014 at 5:40pm | IP Logged 
I wonder if Benny the Irish Polyglot's use of the word hacking isn't similar to that of cheating here. The interesting
thing about the term is that it has a slight connotation of deviousness and anti-establishment rebelliousness
combined with creativity, youth and curiosity. There's the sense of "cracking the code." And it certainly doesn't
carry the baggage associated with cheating. If the thread were entitled The Hacking and Consolidating Method, I
certainly wouldn't object.

Admittedly, Benny seems to have monopolized the term and its derivatives, hack and hacker. In any case, it was just
an idea aimed at showing that there are other ways of conveying the same meaning.


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