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The Cheating & Consolidating Method

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tarvos
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 Message 65 of 136
04 August 2014 at 6:11pm | IP Logged 
I am glad it would then carry your semantic stamp of approval.
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montmorency
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 Message 66 of 136
04 August 2014 at 7:05pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
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.


As far as I am concerned, Benny is welcome to the word "hacking", since it already had
two well-established meanings (to my knowledge) before he adopted (or perhaps adapted)
it.

Now, although I of course completely forgive emk for satirizing me (and himself) :-) ,
I am slightly disappointed that he didn't come up with some elegant-sounding French or
French-origin word, instead of "cheating" :-)


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emk
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 Message 67 of 136
04 August 2014 at 7:24pm | IP Logged 
garyb wrote:
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.

Yeah, it's an interesting balance.

In my original post, I said that consolidation happens through repetition. But there are two obvious ways to get that repetition:

1. Repeat the same text many times. Here, you've paid once to decipher something, and you're trying to milk every last drop of consolidation out of it.

2. Get massive amounts of input, so that you'll see things repeated in many different contexts.

For whatever it might be worth, I personally find that (2) works much better than (1), if I can actually pull it off. But there are obstacles:

a. Sometimes decipherment is so brutally expensive that I can't get very much input yet.
b. Certain things are so rare that I won't encounter them often enough "in the wild."

Situation (a) is why I go through each Assimil lesson multiple times, and why I make Anki cloze cards from L'Égyptien hiéroglyphique. Situation (b) is why I still make Anki cloze cards from French novels.

garyb wrote:
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.

Yup. In my experience, when my brain is ready to learn something, it will be easy to learn. And if I'm beating my repeatedly into a brick wall, I'm better off spending my time elsewhere. This is one of the reasons I delete "leech" cards so aggressively in Anki: If I fail a card a couple of times, I assume that my brain just isn't ready to learn it.

tarvos wrote:
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.

Yes, this is a very important insight: start where you can, and work with what you've got—and don't worry if you can't get everything. Some stuff is just going to be hopelessly opaque, and you can ignore that for a very long time. If deciphering that last 10% is a huge ugly slog, then just move on and spend some time consolidating what you've got.

Someday you'll be reading along, understanding almost everything, and you'll stumble across an incomprehensible sentence, and it will fill you with joy. "Wow, new grammar! OK, sure, the villain has just taken the hero hostage, and the hero's friends are about to kick some serious ass, but let's forget about all that for a second—I found some new grammar! This makes me feel so nostalgic."

But until you reach that point, it's OK to pick the low-hanging fruit: Decipher what you can decipher at a reasonable price, and spend plenty of time consolidating.

smallwhite wrote:
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?

This is an awesome question. But I bet the answer depends on the student, the language and the available tools.

The way I see it, these techniques all about getting from "Opaque" to "Decipherable." And as mentioned previously, I believe any decipherment technique is fair game. For example, if you find that chugging through some exercises in Grammaire Progressive du Français makes it easier to recognize verb forms when reading, then go for it. If you find that looking up words by hand makes it easier to recognize them next time, then go for it.

However, I find that these techniques can be seductive. I get tempted to spend too much time on deciphering, and not enough time on consolidation. And for those who haven't experienced it yet, I just want to say that understanding large amounts of input can do amazing things. Even French grammar starts to seem straightforward and sensible, because how else would you say things? :-) Familiarity is a terrifyingly powerful force.
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rdearman
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 Message 68 of 136
04 August 2014 at 7:41pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
Even French grammar starts to seem straightforward and sensible, because how else would you say things?


Now you're just lying.
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vermillon
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 Message 69 of 136
04 August 2014 at 8:18pm | IP Logged 
rdearman wrote:
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.


That is great, it seems to work pretty well. What's great is that you can use it for sentences, which solves the problem of having to identify idioms sometimes...

emk wrote:
Here are a bunch of things. I've tried most of these, with varying degrees of success:


Thanks for the suggestions!

emk wrote:
1. Read translations of your favorite books. If you have books that you re-read every year or two, schedule the next re-read for your TL. This works wonderfully at the intermediate level.


When I got to the stage where I could read Chinese novels, I had already spent a couple of years reading all the translated novels I could find at my bookshop, and after reading some new material, the natural thing to do seemed to go back to all those novels I had read in French and read them in Chinese. I don't feel it helped much, but perhaps because I had read those books only once (there's no book I would want to read over and over). In any case, I've really loved reading them again, so it was fine.

emk wrote:
2. Use a very faint mechanical pencil to underline unknown words, but keep reading, Every few chapters, go back, and if the words are still unknown, try to find a digital ebook to make cards. (If no ebook is available, this is less efficient—you either need to use single-word flashcards or retype sentences.) Drawback: Involves writing in books, which drives me crazy. 3M sells some tiny, sticky arrows which you can use instead.


I do most of my reading lying in my bed, which makes the use of extra tools (phone dictionary, pencils) quite difficult... and same as you, writing in books drives me crazy (Katzumoto hasn't manage to convince me to use a highlighter in everything I read...)

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


For German - the language under focus at the moment - I am reading non-fiction (mostly language-related or some light history) so no translation nor audio is available. But for Japanese that should indeed be useful.


emk wrote:
4. If your budget and your TL permits, buy lots of graphic novels (or better, borrow them). Pictures help a lot.


Same as above... in German, I haven't found any graphic novel yet (not interested in translated works), but for Japanese I've already started buying stuff... now perhaps I should buy their French translations as well, to do parallel text. Thanks for the idea!

emk wrote:
5. Learn to let stuff go. If something's too much work to look up, just let it go, and focus on what you can consolidate easily. Eventually, as you consolidate more and more, the opaque text will gradually become decipherable on its own.


That's been my approach for German until now: there are tons of work I can sort-of get the meaning of because I know the root and the prefix, but am unsure of the combined meaning, but well... It's too much work to look up everything, and the easiest way to draw the line between what I do and don't look up is to look up absolutely nothing. As you said, I still see improvement over time, but now I feel I should as well do some more intensive activity, from time to time.

emk wrote:
6. Since you're tech-savvy, look for movies or TV series with accurate bilingual subs, and feed everything through subs2srs (this may take a weekend to get working). Then "watch" the movies using Anki, making sure to delete cards very aggressively—preferably at least 80% or 90% just on the first pass. This is actually a ton of fun, and it teaches good SRS deletion habits.


Ah! That's my favourite piece of advice. I had tried to use subs2srs (through Wine, and it was ugly but working I think), but somehow having to use Wine for it really annoyed me. Perhaps I should just get back to it (& start writing my own? ahem). Btw, how long would it take you to "read" (since you said you sometimes read the subs before watching a movie) the entire subtitle file, compared to the time spent watching the movie? And doesn't it just ruin the plot and the pleasure of watching movies?

emk wrote:
If all else fails, seriously consider looking for ebooks anyway. Yeah, I'm a book hoarder, too, but my books have already expanded to fill all available space, and buying any new paper books means giving other paper books away. So the only way to hoard more books is to go digital.


I've just checked: out of the 10 books I bought last year to keep me with German through 2014, only 1 seems available as an e-book (and abridged audiobook). And I'd rather choose my book according to their content than their availability as e-book :)



I've started exploring the process of taking pictures of the pages (I apparently can do 1 page every 5 seconds, so it's reasonable compared to the 2-3mn that it takes me to read it), passing them through OCR (and then some text processing) to get back to the system I described earlier for Chinese. The only problem at the moment seems to be to get good quality OCR output (without tearing apart my book to put it in a scanner), but it's somehow "working" otherwise. Hopefully this will be the best compromise between "not looking up any word while reading" and "learning the unknown words".
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emk
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 Message 70 of 136
04 August 2014 at 8:49pm | IP Logged 
montmorency wrote:
Now, although I of course completely forgive emk for satirizing me (and himself) :-) , I am slightly disappointed that he didn't come up with some elegant-sounding French or French-origin word, instead of "cheating" :-)

This is drifting off topic, but I can't resist. :-) "Hacking" is one of those culturally-loaded words that means about five different things. But the central meaning is something like, "Solving problems in a way that is simultaneously brilliant and also disturbingly wrong." For a classic example of the attitude, see The Story of Mel, a Real Programmer. Or for a pop-culture version, well, try McGyver.

I've never found a good equivalent in French. Here are some candidates:

tricher, "to cheat." This can sometimes be used in the sense of "taking an unfair shortcut to achieve a goal." For example, French students who are trying to get very drunk will occasionally say things like Manger, c'est tricher "Eating is cheating." You can also see an interesting parallel with antisèche "cheat sheet", which can either refer to (a) something that will get you expelled from school or (b) a handy list of essential information, as used by this online programming course (thank you, Jeffers).

dompter, "to train [gen. animals], to control." This is used in Domptez les langues étrangères, the French title of Benny's old "Language Hacking Guide." But it carries more of a connotation of domination and mastery, and I've never seen French programmers use it as a synonym for "hack."

bricoler, "to do DIY home improvements, to cobble together." French programmers rarely use this as a translation of "to hack", but it carries a few of the same connotations. You can see an example here: Les 99 hacks et bricolages DIY pour votre maison, votre voiture, votre ordinateur.

There are some other alternatives, including bâcler "to rush, to botch" and bidouiller "to fiddle with." But neither of these seem to carry the same central connotation of "brilliant but disturbing" that "hack" does.

I only mention all this because, hey, montmorency suggested it. :-) Well, and also because it illustrates what happened when I started reading heavily in French. Somewhere along the way, I picked up all sorts of strange little nuances from context without ever really trying. Now, I'm sure that some of the nuances I mention above are incorrect, and as always, I really appreciate corrections.

But getting back to the point, this is what consolidation is all about: It allows me to learn a language by imitating examples and by building up my intuition. The process will inevitably be rocky, with some false turns. (I totally bet I've made at least one above.)

rdearman wrote:
emk wrote:
Even French grammar starts to seem straightforward and sensible, because how else would you say things?

Now you're just lying.

I know you're just picking on French grammar, but seriously, even phrases like:

Tu vas me manquer.
You are-going to-me to-be-missing.
"I will miss you."

…and:

Il nous manque une chemise.
It to-us is-missing a shirt
"We are missing a shirt."

…will seem entirely natural with enough exposure. The overwhelming peer pressure of listening to French speakers will eventually warp your sense of "normal" beyond all recognition. :-) What's even more terrifying is that I can feel this process starting to work for Egyptian.

vermillon wrote:
emk wrote:
6. Since you're tech-savvy, look for movies or TV series with accurate bilingual subs, and feed everything through subs2srs (this may take a weekend to get working). Then "watch" the movies using Anki, making sure to delete cards very aggressively—preferably at least 80% or 90% just on the first pass. This is actually a ton of fun, and it teaches good SRS deletion habits.


Ah! That's my favourite piece of advice. I had tried to use subs2srs (through Wine, and it was ugly but working I think), but somehow having to use Wine for it really annoyed me. Perhaps I should just get back to it (& start writing my own? ahem). Btw, how long would it take you to "read" (since you said you sometimes read the subs before watching a movie) the entire subtitle file, compared to the time spent watching the movie? And doesn't it just ruin the plot and the pleasure of watching movies?

OK, some advice for the programmers in the audience:

1. Find an awesome movie, the kind that you would rewatch so many times that you would find yourself quoting entire scenes of dialog. (Monty Python films are a regrettably popular example of this. But Amélie is quite good, too—so much brilliant narration.) For best results, you need accurate bilingual subs.

2. Beat subs2srs into submission. Rip your DVDs, download subtitles, run OCR software over the included subtitles, whatever.

3. Import the first several hundred cards into Anki.

4. Review the cards, deleting 80% of the cards on the first pass. Continue reviewing the cards until they reach maturity (about a month).

5. Go rewatch the movie.

The effect is startling—nearly all of your cards will be perfectly comprehensible. They'll be earworms. And you'll be able to repeat the dialog, from memory, with the original intonation, the same way that most people of my generation can repeat 80s pop songs.

This is the single most effective intensive listening technique I've ever tried. It worked even better than endlessly looping a clip and trying to transcribe the audio by ear (a classic "brutal but effective technique"). And it was almost effortless. But the tools are just awful. The reason I offer this advice to programmers, and not to everybody, is that I hope some of the programmers here will build us shiny new tools.

Edited by emk on 04 August 2014 at 8:53pm

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montmorency
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 Message 71 of 136
04 August 2014 at 9:22pm | IP Logged 
Of course, the problem with translations (even though I advocate them), is that the less
literal, and the more literary they are, the more difficult they are to use if what you
want is to pick up vocabulary. They are still useful in getting a deeper understanding of
the book, or alternatively, if the original was in your L1 and you are working with an
L1->L2 translation, to help you get a better idea of how an L2 idiom is expressed in your
L2 - but you still end up probably doing some dictionary lookup from time to time.
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vermillon
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 Message 72 of 136
04 August 2014 at 11:40pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
The reason I offer this advice to programmers, and not to everybody, is that I hope some of the programmers here will build us shiny new tools.


I've thought about it quite a few times, but what I'm wondering is why they dropped the support for Linux? Thinking about what SRS does, it seems like it should be an easy software to create, wouldn't it? So the fact that they're having trouble maintaining is a sign that there must be some unforeseen difficulty in the implementation.

(and sorry for creating yet another thread of conversation in this topic)


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