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  Tags: Reading
 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
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Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
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Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 25 of 44
2014 29 August at 7:53pm | IP Logged 
Great post!

One small thing I disagree with is that deciphering equals intensive reading. I can enjoy reading with a pretty low initial comprehension if I'm not trying to figure out what each word literally means. I don't skip any sentences or even words but I'm okay with focusing on the form and getting the meaning from the translation.

In fact that's my current stage in the Scandinavian languages - but I do see a lot of roots that *feel* familiar even if I don't really understand them. I'm currently reading Naiv. Super along with a Ukrainian translation, for example. But I did get a Wimpy Kid book and something about football in Swedish when I was in Finland recently. The easy readers shelf had some Jane Austen and Dickens, btw - surprisingly small, so I think these were adapted too. Ugh. No parallel texts either, so I asked for recs and got Tove Jansson's Sommerboken as well. Seems like it's pretty popular for improving your Swedish in Finland, but then again everyone's had years of compulsory Swedish, even if they feel like they have learned very little. It will wait for now :) I might actually try the biography of Zlatan Ibrahimovic when I've read the football book for kids.
2 persons have voted this message useful



MRoss
Newbie
Australia
Joined 4685 days ago

15 posts - 21 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: Dutch, German, Spanish

 
 Message 26 of 44
2014 30 August at 5:12am | IP Logged 
I'm slowly translating a child's book in Dutch. As I progress through the pages I find each
subsequent page is easier to translate/read because more and more words have been previously
translated and are known.

So what started at maybe 10% comprehension has, over the last maybe 50 or so pages, increased
naturally to probaby 80% or more.

I figured I'd see how this related, unaided, to Harry Potter 1. I only read the first page or
two. And while the comprehension overall was down and I didnt know a lot of the words, I was
able to get a general gist of things.

It was a good gage of my progress. I've got The Hunger Games as well and think I'll jump into
That instead as it's written in first person present so the tenses will be easier even if
some of the words are less known.

Overall, I agree with the OP. Easier helps you feel like progress is being made and so
motivation is also easier.

Edited by MRoss on 2014 30 August at 1:22pm

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victorhart
Bilingual Tetraglot
Groupie
United States
mandarinexperiment.o
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66 posts - 155 votes 
Speaks: English*, Portuguese*, Spanish, French
Studies: Mandarin

 
 Message 27 of 44
2014 08 October at 11:05am | IP Logged 
Great discussion. I differ a bit in that:

- I think it's all about enjoyment and engagement. I rarely look up any word I'm
reading in any language. I prefer to learn from context and by repetition. If you see
a new word 10 or 50 times in different contexts, you will end up not only learning its
basic meaning but having a much better grasp of its semantic richness than by trying
to memorize a definition or (much worse) associating it with a translation in your
native language. Words almost never translate perfectly.

- I rarely read anything that has been translated. I far prefer reading original
texts. There are perhaps three reasons. One is basically an aesthetic preference: I
just think it's much cooler. Another motivation is that reading in a native language
I'm learning is a great opportunity to become familiar with the literature and manner
of thinking that is generally associated with that language. That's part of why I'm
learning the language in the first place, and helps me become a more natural speaker
and writer in that language. A third reason is that normally, the quality of writing
in good literature (essays, and so forth) is of higher quality than in the translated
version. There are exceptions, as there are amazing translators that are incredible
writers in their own right.

I should note these preferences apply to all levels above beginner.

Edited by victorhart on 2014 08 October at 11:28am

1 person has voted this message useful



Ari
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Norway
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2314 posts - 5695 votes 
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 Message 28 of 44
2014 08 October at 1:05pm | IP Logged 
victorhart wrote:
- I think it's all about enjoyment and engagement. I rarely look up
any word I'm reading in any language. I prefer to learn from context and by
repetition. If you see a new word 10 or 50 times in different contexts, you will end
up not only learning its basic meaning but having a much better grasp of its semantic
richness than by trying to memorize a definition or (much worse) associating it with a
translation in your native language. Words almost never translate perfectly.


I strongly disagree. I can't tell you how many words I've "learned" through context
only to realize I don't really understand them. I recognize them and I will usually
understand a sentence that contains them, but if someone asks me what they mean, I
struggle. This is a problem because:

1: I might have trouble using them actively
2: My understanding of them is only superficial

Some English words are like this for me. These tend to be words I don't actively use
but might encounter occasionally. If someone were to ask me what "prejudicate" means,
I'd be unable to reply, but give me a paragraph that contains the word and I'll likely
understand it.

There's no conflict between knowing a translation of a word and having a grasp of its
semantics and usage. None.

This is not to say that I'm against extensive reading. I'm very much in favor, and
it's my preferred method of learning (well, extensive watching is). But one shouldn't
be afraid of learning definitions and working with flashcards, and I'm pretty sure
that for vocabulary acquisition it's a great tool that can speed up the process a lot.
Associating a word with a translation in your native language is a great strategy and
I find fears of "mentally translating" to be misguided. It's a product of too little
extensive work, not too much translation work. Don't be fooled by the false dichotomy!
6 persons have voted this message useful



patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 3040 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 29 of 44
2014 08 October at 1:07pm | IP Logged 
Librarians have something called the five-finger rule. To determine the difficulty of a book open it to a random page and count on the fingers of one hand the number of unknown words you know: If there are more unknown words than fingers then it's probably too difficult. Given 250 words/page this equates to 98% comprehension rate. If you use two hands that's a 96% comprehension rate, which I personally find too annoying to read extensively.

However, it's certainly possible to read a book with a comprehension rate of 90%, using a Kindle and pop-up dictionary, when you want to access books that are a bit "above" your level, but don't want to get too bogged down looking up words.

I read HP-1 intensively when I was still B1 and while I found it challenging, I also got a lot out of reading it. HP-1 took me a month to read and was 336 pages, I read the last two books in the series (HP-6 - 656 pages; HP-7 - 768 pages) four months later in less than a month. So my reading speed increased something like 4x over the course of only a few months.

One point which I think was overlooked in the previous discussion: HP is not just good for learners because people know it, but because it makes up a long series of books, with increasing difficulty. Once you've read the first book you can apply a lot of your knowledge to the second book and so on.

A year or so after reading HP I tend to alternate been an easy extensive read and a more challenging intensive read. This is partly because the more interesting books tend to be more challenging. However, extensive reading is a more enjoyable process, with a very different feel: When I extensively read I can forget about trying to understand every word perfectly and just relax and go with the flow of the text. I have the sense that I process the text quite differently and that this is perhaps better for learning in the long run.

Edited by patrickwilken on 2014 08 October at 1:31pm

3 persons have voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 5104 days ago

9753 posts - 15777 votes 
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Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 30 of 44
2014 09 October at 1:08am | IP Logged 
Ari wrote:
I strongly disagree. I can't tell you how many words I've "learned" through context only to realize I don't really understand them. I recognize them and I will usually understand a sentence that contains them, but if someone asks me what they mean, I struggle. This is a problem because:

1: I might have trouble using them actively
2: My understanding of them is only superficial

For me the benefits far outweigh these minor drawbacks. I disagree that your understanding is superficial if you can't give an equivalent or need to double-check the word before using it. That's how it happens in our native language too - we learn lots of words through reading and we may be unsure how they are pronounced or what exactly they mean.

I can imagine how it's different if speaking is much more important for you than reading and writing, but you're exaggerating and generalizing again.


As for translations, allow me to quote what I wrote in another thread.

Reading L2 books taking place in L2 culture sounds great in theory, but I find that familiar cultures make me feel more comfortable amidst all the unknown words, and it can be easier to tell if I just don't know the word/grammar or it's something cultural. This was what finally helped me start reading in German - a book translated from Finnish. Fictional cultures (HP, LOTR...) only have this effect if you already know them, rather than are discovering them via L2. So I love reading books translated from Finnish or Russian (I own some in German, Italian, Spanish, e-books in Croatian, Polish and Belarusian, audiobook in Romanian).

Of course it's great to learn the L2 culture through L2 books, but I find it's better to do that when you're already comfortable with the language.
3 persons have voted this message useful



robarb
Nonaglot
Senior Member
United States
languagenpluson
Joined 3566 days ago

361 posts - 921 votes 
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 Message 31 of 44
2014 09 October at 4:07am | IP Logged 
victorhart wrote:

If you see a new word 10 or 50 times in different contexts, you will end
up not only learning its basic meaning but having a much better grasp of its semantic
richness than by trying to memorize a definition or (much worse) associating it with a
translation in your native language. Words almost never translate perfectly.


Ari wrote:

There's no conflict between knowing a translation of a word and having a grasp of its
semantics and usage. None. ... Associating a word with a translation in your native language is a great strategy
and I find fears of "mentally translating" to be misguided. It's a product of too little extensive work, not too much
translation work. Don't be fooled by the false dichotomy!


Exactly. Forget the false dichotomy. It should be clear that the fastest way to understand a new word is to have
its meaning explained to you. Sometimes, this should be done by a definition in the target language, sometimes
by a translation, sometimes nonverbally. It depends on the learner's level and style, and the word. I find
translating dictionaries to be ideal until I'm reading at roughly C1 level, then I like target language definitions.
This doesn't have to be set in stone, but translating dictionaries are useful and you should not be afraid to use
them.

It should also be equally clear that to thoroughly understand the meaning, connotation and usage of a word you
have to hear/read it in context a great many times. However, at this point it shouldn't matter much how you
initially learned the meaning of the word-- target language definition, translation, or inferring it from context.
Regardless, you'll use that initial understanding to comprehend the new examples, then the new examples will
gradually shape your understanding of the word. Eventually, you'll forget how you first acquired most of your
individual words.

Serpent wrote:

Reading L2 books taking place in L2 culture sounds great in theory, but I find that familiar cultures make me feel
more comfortable amidst all the unknown words, and it can be easier to tell if I just don't know the
word/grammar or it's something cultural. This was what finally helped me start reading in German - a book
translated from Finnish. Fictional cultures (HP, LOTR...) only have this effect if you already know them, rather than
are discovering them via L2. So I love reading books translated from Finnish or Russian (I own some in German,
Italian, Spanish, e-books in Croatian, Polish and Belarusian, audiobook in Romanian).

Of course it's great to learn the L2 culture through L2 books, but I find it's better to do that when you're already
comfortable with the language.


This is soooooo true. Using background knowledge to understand what's actually being said gets you all the
benefits of the deciphering, only it's completely effortless. I think it's best to do all limit-pushing reading on
extremely well-known topics, preferably even things you've already read. You can learn about the culture by
reading in your native language or reading materials that are very easy for you.

If you use your language to read its culture's unfamiliar Great Books when you're still struggling to understand
them, that only makes sense as a literary pursuit. It's not an efficient way to learn the language.

4 persons have voted this message useful



Ari
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Norway
Joined 5089 days ago

2314 posts - 5695 votes 
Speaks: Swedish*, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese
Studies: Czech, Latin, German

 
 Message 32 of 44
2014 09 October at 8:33am | IP Logged 
Serpent wrote:
For me the benefits far outweigh these minor drawbacks. I disagree that
your understanding is superficial if you can't give an equivalent or need to double-
check the word before using it. That's how it happens in our native language too - we
learn lots of words through reading and we may be unsure how they are pronounced or
what exactly they mean.


Yes, it's how it happens in our native language, but that doesn't mean it's a good
thing. Anyway, yes, it works, and I do like the method. As a method for vocabulary
acquisition, it's less efficient than looking up definitions and using an SRS to
memorizing the words, but it's totally great and necessary to do extensive
reading/listening to solidify one's understanding of words and learn the different
subtleties and usages, and you can of course learn loads of words this way. It's just
not as efficient (but it may be more fun, which is way more important in most cases).
The same goes for one's native language, by the way. If you want to improve your
vocabulary, look words up and memorize them. How many times would I have to encounter
a word like "deciduous" before I learned it? Fortunately, when I encountered it and
decided "Hey, it's a cool word and I want to learn it!", I added it to an SRS deck and
now I know it, despite only having encountered it once.

Quote:
TID=35562&PN=0&TPN=2">you're exaggerating and generalizing again.


I certainly exaggerated and generalized in that thread, but I was thinking I was doing
better this time.


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