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How many words to speak?

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tarvos
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 Message 249 of 309
22 September 2014 at 1:46pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
Bao wrote:
Ah, the joy of one's questions being ignored.

s_allard wrote:
1. Use a range of prefixes like re, dé, sous, im, il, in, poly, etc.
to modify the meaning of a word.
One can get
very creative with prefixes sur and super.

I gather that you don't know any substantial German.

...

I love it. I have been accused of many things -including claiming that 300 words is
all you need to learn to speak
like a native - but this is the first time that I've been accused of not knowing any
substantial
German. I'm guilty as accused. Bao has called me out. I know no German. I don't
recall ever mentioning German
in the thread so far. It seems to me that hitherto we have been focusing on
French, English and, very remotely,
Spanish. But I may be wrong.

To avoid any further confusion, let me reiterate that my remark on the use of prefixes
during the speaking test
for the French C2 speaking test applies only to French and not to German.


The point here is, I believe, that in German, prefixes are only a small part of the
way you modify words to give them new meaning. Germans usually clunk words together
(whole words) in order to create new words, and they can build long words at will this
way to indicate concepts which in English or French derive from another root. Dutch
uses a similar strategy, but it is more wont to also accomodate loans in this context.

The Russian system of suffixes, infixes and prefixes is almost bewildering and can be
used to build tons of words and give new meanings. It's worth spending time on those
structuralities alone.

Not to speak of Hebrew where that is basically how you build nearly every word.
3 persons have voted this message useful



Bao
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 Message 250 of 309
22 September 2014 at 2:24pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
I love it. I have been accused of many things -including claiming that 300 words is all you need to learn to speak
like a native - but this is the first time that I've been accused of not knowing any substantial
German. I'm guilty as accused. Bao has called me out. I know no German. I don't recall ever mentioning German
in the thread so far. It seems to me that hitherto we have been focusing on French, English and, very remotely,
Spanish. But I may be wrong.

To avoid any further confusion, let me reiterate that my remark on the use of prefixes during the speaking test
for the French C2 speaking test applies only to French and not to German.

That was not an accusation, it was an observation.
I was under the impression that you were talking about learning languages, and used the ones you found yourself adequately proficient in to illustrate your points, not that you were talking about learning those particular languages and no other ones. But that may have been my mistake, guided by this thread being in the General Discussion section, and not a particular language subforum.

And why did you not answer my question about your personal definition of word?

tarvos, no, my point was that German has a system of verbal prefixes which do make sense to some degree, but learners never know for sure if a word carries the obvious meaning of prefix + verb, has different connotations or carries a seemingly unrelated meaning. You as a native speaker of Dutch probably don't struggle with that as much as many of my friends do. (I heard that Russian is ... much more interesting than German in that respect.)
And you need to understand the main meaning of those compound verbs to understand the adjectives and nouns derived from them ...

Edited by Bao on 22 September 2014 at 2:31pm

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s_allard
Triglot
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Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 251 of 309
22 September 2014 at 2:39pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
...
To learn idioms, you need to know the words they use. To learn grammar, you need to know the words in the
example sentences. To benefit from an excellent accent and fluid speech, you need to understand the native-
speed responses that you'll get.

I notice the importance of vocabulary a lot with Egyptian. It doesn't matter how well I understand adverbial
sentences if I don't know two or three of the most important words. But once I know the words, the grammar can
usually be puzzled out, or at least accepted as a mysterious new data point which may be clarified by later
examples.

We seem to be up against the same wall here. emk sees the example sentences full of xxx's because he hasn't
learned the underlying words since he learned other words that are useless. On the other hand I
see the words instead of xxx's because those are the ones I studied. I didn't learn other words I don't need.

Why try to understand a given conversation by first learning the 400 most frequent words in French films? Why
not just learn the 130 words here?

What is true is that neither 130 nor 300 words of productive vocabulary will allow you speak to all people on all
topics. But nobody is saying that.

Edited by s_allard on 22 September 2014 at 2:40pm

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daegga
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 Message 252 of 309
22 September 2014 at 3:07pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
As I am about to start reading the book Cinco horas con Mario by
Mario Delibes, I got to thinking about how
to deal with the inevitable unknown vocabulary that I'll encounter. Given the discussion
we've had so far, there
seems to be three approaches:

1. My usual approach. Start reading, stop when I meet a word I don't know and look it up
in the dictionary. Make
a flashcard or an Anki entry if I feel like it.

2. Peruse my big fat Oxford Spanish-English dictionary and try to learn as many words in
advance. This is the
brute force approach.

3. Find a Spanish 20,000 Spanish word frequency list and look up the words I don't know.

The big advantages of approaches 2 and 3 is that I won't have to stop when reading the
novel. But there's a
trade-off here because I have to spend time studying the words. It might be worth a try.


There is a 4th approach that might be more suiting to you: prelearn the unknown vocabulary
in the text. If you have a digital copy of the text and a list of known vocabulary,
filtering the unknown vocabulary is not much of an issue. If you also calculate the
frequencies you could then decide whether it is worth learning even hapax legomena. This
is basically your approach 1 without having to stop while reading.

Edited by daegga on 22 September 2014 at 3:10pm

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emk
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 Message 253 of 309
22 September 2014 at 4:47pm | IP Logged 
To be clear, I think that learning all the words on a frequency list is actually a terrible idea. My favorite techniques are described at length elsewhere, and they're largely based on using the language and learning vocabulary in context. Short form: I personally despise isolated vocabulary study with a fiery passion.

s_allard wrote:
emk sees the example sentences full of xxx's because he hasn't learned the underlying words since he learned other words that are useless. On the other hand I see the words instead of xxx's because those are the ones I studied.

You seem to have strong opinions about my methods, but I almost never recognize the methods you claim to be mine.

When you study Spanish, you presumably see the words because you're pretty advanced. But there are also thousands of obvious cognates with French and English. For example, here's Peter Rabbit:



I've done exactly one Assimil Spanish lesson, and it's easy to see that los conejitos is probably "the baby rabbits", vivian is probably "lived", con su madre is "with their mother", and las raices de pino muy grande is probably "the roots of a very large tree/pine/?".

When I study Egyptian, I see XXXXX everywhere because it's an unrelated language, because it's 3500 years old, because it's actually an entire family of dialects, and because the only two cognates are "ebony" and "adobe." Let's try Peter Rabbit again:



If it helps any, here's an excellent Egyptian/French dictionary and a set of flash cards to learn ~175 key signs. But even with those, looking up the words is going to be a long, brutal slog, because you need to find the word breaks, decipher the idioms, and work around the decidedly unfamiliar grammar. But once you know most of the words, this passage is much easier to tackle.

To really appreciate just how cruelly limiting 300 words really are, you need to learn an unrelated language. "300 words plus 15,000 cognates" is profoundly different situation from "300 words."

Edited by emk on 22 September 2014 at 4:50pm

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tarvos
Super Polyglot
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 Message 254 of 309
22 September 2014 at 4:53pm | IP Logged 
Bao wrote:

And why did you not answer my question about your personal definition of word?

tarvos, no, my point was that German has a system of verbal prefixes which do make
sense to some degree, but learners never know for sure if a word carries the obvious
meaning of prefix + verb, has different connotations or carries a seemingly unrelated
meaning. You as a native speaker of Dutch probably don't struggle with that as much as
many of my friends do. (I heard that Russian is ... much more interesting than German
in that respect.)
And you need to understand the main meaning of those compound verbs to understand the
adjectives and nouns derived from them ...


Yes, that too. German is much more consistent in its morphology in this sense.

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s_allard
Triglot
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 Message 255 of 309
22 September 2014 at 5:33pm | IP Logged 
My apologies to Bao for my bit of sarcasm there. But it did create an opportunity to think about learning some
German for a possible trip next year to the Polyglot meeting in Berlin. I might actually buy Assimil or some
method, but German is not high on my list of future languages.

Since my interest is really only in speaking, I'm doing a bit of strategizing. What's the best way of going about
this? Do I start by finding a frequency list on the Internet and work my way down that list with a dictionary and a
grammar book? It just so happens that the other day I picked up for free an old Walt Disney Lustige
Taschenbūcher Donald Duck comic book in German. The first page of dialog goes like this:

- Onkel Donald, dürfen wir dich kurz sprechen?
- Aha! Euer höflicher Ton zeigt mir dass meine Versuche, euch Manieren beizubringen, nicht erfolglos waren! Gut
erzogene Jungen pflegen sich immer zu vergewissern, ob sie die Erwachsenen auch nicht stören.
- Wir wollen dich nicht stören!
- Na schön! Sagt schon, was es gibt!

Here is the Google translation:

- Uncle Donald, we may talk to you?
- Aha! Your polite tone shows me that my attempts to teach you manners, were not without success! Well
behaved boy groom always make sure if they do not disturb the adults also.
- We will not disturb you!
- All right! Says it what it is!

I must say that Google Translate is really quite useful. And you can hear the texts spoken. What I loved about this
little dialogue was that I immediately got a sense of how the language worked. Plus the pictures helped convey
some of the meaning. I'll skip all the details of what I saw but I have to say that the last two lines - Wir wollen
dich
nicht stören! and - Na schön! Sagt schon, was es gibt! really caught my attention. Here were two things that I felt
would be really useful.

I also had a look at a Wikipedia German word frequency list. Kind of scary to me. I gave up trying to find the
words of this dialogue in the list. Why bother learning a bunch of words that I don't need immediately just to
understand this page of the comic book? Whereas I can learn the words I need in context and start trying to
speak very quickly.

I have to say that I find the whole thing so interesting that I might continue reading the whole comic book.



Edited by s_allard on 22 September 2014 at 5:36pm

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Bao
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 Message 256 of 309
22 September 2014 at 7:41pm | IP Logged 
You do seem to have some time to waste ...


ETA: tarvos, yes, I think word formation is pretty straightforward in German, the only real hurdle seems to be figuring out whether a word is used literally, figuratively, or figuratively in a way that made sense a couple of centuries ago.

Edited by Bao on 22 September 2014 at 7:43pm



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