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Spanish: A little subs2srs experiment

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emk
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 Message 33 of 147
06 November 2014 at 4:10pm | IP Logged 
Crush wrote:
Avatar was one of the first things i watched in Spanish. I'd seen bits and pieces of the English version but didn't think anything of it. I think the Spanish (Latin American) version is really well done and i like the voice acting a lot more than the original English :P After all these years i can still hear the introduction from each episode playing in my head.

Yeah, I really loved watching the excellent French dub with my wife. It's just perfect for this sort of thing: the story is great, the voices are clear, and it provides ~23 hours of video on a narrow and focused subject. Oh, and as for the introduction: I've heard it so many times in French that I already understand about 50% of it in Spanish, after less than two weeks of very casual study.

Crush wrote:
For subtitles, check out SubtitleBox.

Thank you! I downloaded all their subtitles for episode 3. It looks like they may be same ones I found on opensubtitles.org. They not exact, but they're close enough that I might be able to use them once I've done the first two episodes.

Subs2srs review: Pan's Labyrith

Purchased from: this Amazon listing.
Spanish audio: European/ceceo. Not as difficult as I might expect.
English subs: On disc.
Spanish subs: On disc, near-exact.

This comes highly recommended to me by multiple people. If you're more interested in European Spanish, you should be able to extract the subs and get subs2srs working using these instructions here.

This means I now have exact Spanish subs for Y Tu Mamá Tambíen, Matando Cabos, Pan's Labyrith and the first two episodes of Avatar. This is all pretty awesome stuff.

I can't believe I understood this audio after only 13 days

See that first big sentence in boldfaced type? I understood that without the text! :-) Sure, I'm leaning heavily on English and French, but things are coming together nicely.



My daily review load is still reasonable, and I learned both tantito and poquito this morning:



Overall, it feels like things are on track: My older cards are maturing nicely, I'm finding lots of new cards that are worth learning, and—thanks to lots of deletion—reviews are quite pleasant. Also, inspired by YeNoS's subs2srs advice, I'm starting to space things out more aggressively—not by changing my Anki settings yet, but just by sometimes clicking a button a little father right, and by deleting cards that require excessive amounts of work.

Gratuitous Anki statistics

After 13 days, I've spent a total of 202 minutes doing 463 Anki reps. (It may actually be closer to to 300 minutes, because Anki's time-keeping is notoriously inexact.) On a given day, that works out to 15 or 20 minutes to do just over 40 reps:




As you can see, much of the time is spent on new cards. As my subs2srs cards mature, they tend to fall into two categories: easy, or deleted.

Going forward, reviews look reasonable, but over the next several days, I'm going see these numbers jumping by 10 or 15:



So far, so good: This experiment seems to be working nicely at the moment.
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emk
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 Message 34 of 147
07 November 2014 at 2:02am | IP Logged 
Manually synchronizing subtitles

For Avatar episode 1, I had very accurate subtitles, but they were badly synchronized. So I installed vlc-2.1.5-win64.exe from here, and set Subtitle Edit to use it as a video player:



Then I chose Video > Open Video File and Video > Show Waveform, which makes it possible to realign subtitles individually, using drag & drop:



Cleaning up the alignment took a bit under two hours for 20 minutes of video, but it was the first time I've done this. Note that you don't need to get the transitions exact: If you add, say, 1250 milliseconds of padding in subs2srs, you can save lots of time during alignment.

Once the subtitles were ready, I only needed to run subs2srs normally:



This yielded about 25MB of data.

And so it begins…



Since my goal with this experiment is to be able to enjoy TV series and graphic novels as early as possible, I'm switching from Y Tu Mamá También to Avatar tomorrow morning. Even though Y Tu Mamá También was actually working surprisingly well, Avatar gives me a better chance of transitioning directly to native television.
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rdearman
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 Message 35 of 147
07 November 2014 at 12:20pm | IP Logged 
rdearman wrote:

@EMK - I used Subtitle Edit on my virtual machine trying to line up the srt with the video (I had to chop up the video a little and the timings were off) but the video was just a white square. I converted between flv, mp4, avi, mpeg and while I could watch all of them in VLC or other video player, the Subtitle Edit display didn't work for any of those file types. Googled for help but didn't get much. I noticed in your instructions above that you output to mkv files when using handbrake? Is this where I've gone wrong? Does it need to be an mkv file?


Just a side note for anyone who is also having issues with the blank white screen instead of video. In Ubuntu (probably MACS also) you need to have VLC installed and you need to select VLC for as your playback device. Or some other video play supported by your operating system and by the SUb-Title Edit program.

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emk
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 Message 36 of 147
07 November 2014 at 1:03pm | IP Logged 
Two weeks!

Things were going well yesterday, before the switch to Avatar. And I can already see that they're about to start going even better. This is frankly awesome.

A green sheet experiment

Now that I've had two weeks to stare at Spanish, I've decided that the biggest challenge will be internalizing the verbs. Basically, Spanish seems to include:

1. Most of the verb forms present in English (progressive, perfect).
2. Most of the spoken verb forms used in French.
3. Most of the "narrative" verb forms used in French.

And just to make matters more annoying (at least for this French speaker), Spanish drops the pronouns and actually relies heavily on verb endings. So Spanish verbs are kinda new, and I want to pay some attention to them. As patrickwilken recently demonstrated, sometimes even massive input won't be enough for an adult to acquire certain complicated language features.

So I decided to read through my 4-page Spanish quick reference and make an Iversen-style green sheet listing all the regular verb endings:



I'm not going to memorize this. Instead, I'm going to use it more as a "bird spotter's guide" to Spanish verbs. Basically, if I see something interesting, I'll occasionally glance over and try to classify it.

Verb-spotting with Avatar

Oh, man, are these cards a ton of fun. They're a lot easier than my Y Tu Mamá También cards, and I use the "Easy" button a lot more aggressively.

On the left, let's use our new green sheet: Han pasado cien años y la nación del fuego está alcanzando la victoria en esta guerra. We have both a perfect and a progressive form!



On the right, we have unirse. I know that French has a verb unir "unite, join", and se is the French reflexive pronoun for "him/her/it/themselves." So if I had to guess, I'd say unirse is something like "to unite themselves." So let's take a look at the phrase:

Quote:
Hace dos años, mi padre, junto con los hombres de mi tribu decidieron unirse al reino tierra para luchar juntos en contra de la nación del fuego…

Two years ago, my father, and the men of my tribe journeyed to the Earth Kingdom to help fight against the Fire Nation…

I read this as:

Quote:
Hace dos años (two years ago), mi padre (my father), junto (joined???) con los hombres de mi tribu (with the men of my tribe) decidieron (decided) unirse (to unite themselves) al reino tierra (to the kindom? of earth) para luchar (to fight?) juntos (joined/together???) en contra de (against?) la nación del fuego… (the nation of fire)

Some of these guesses are almost certainly wrong, but it doesn't matter. If I've interpreted something incorrectly, I'll see a counter-example soon enough, and I'll just revise my theories.

Why I cheat shamelessly to understand

What I'm doing here is actually fairly subtle: Like victorhart, I'm trying to learn directly from native video. I'm relying on guesswork and context to teach me the language. But my approach here is different, because I'm far more willing to cheat shamelessly:

1. I use bilingual subtitles to help decipher the audio.
2. I use Anki to turn small chunks of audio into "earworms," and hold on to what I can understand.
3. I'll occasionally make a sheet of verb endings or something, and use it as a "spotter's guide."

The goal is to take that natural, video-watching experience, and to supercharge it shamelessly so that I can actually get to the point where I understand native video as soon as humanly possible.
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iguanamon
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 Message 37 of 147
07 November 2014 at 2:44pm | IP Logged 
Looks like you are having a heck of a lot of fun, emk! It's so tempting to correct some of your misunderstandings, but you are right- it will solve itself through time and more exposure.

As successful learners of a second language, some of us tend to rely on what has worked for us successfully in the past- rinse and repeat. I totally expected that if you were to start learning Spanish, you would start with Assimil, because it has worked for you so well. Basically, to me, what you've done is expanded on the Assimil model by creating your own personalized course with bilingual text and audio/video and you've added in a very basic grammar reference. Where it differs is that you are starting with SRS instead of adding it. You're not waiting for a course to tell you- "OK, it's time for you to learn the progressive tense now". You're not listening to slowed down, unnatural, audio. You're getting it all at once, native speed audio included, but whittling it down and puzzling it out. You are making your own connections.

I also think that your experiment shows the huge advantage a learner who has successfully learned one second language has in taking on another one, especially a related one. You know how languages work. You know how you learn. You know what to "watch out" for and to what you may need to pay particular attention. This is a huge, huge, advantage that is often not given the credit it deserves. Raw beginners simply don't have this advantage. The payoff in getting one second language to a high level should not be underestimated or dismissed lightly. Having a language under your belt, in my experience, definitely makes learning the next one easier and shortens the time involved. Add in learning a related language with a somewhat similar grammar and cognates with English and L2- and you're off to the races.

This experiment seems to have renewed for you the fun of discovery and the excitement of slowly beginning to understand what was once totally incomprehensible mishmash. That's something about languages that I enjoy immensely, and why I will always incorporate native materials into my learning as soon as possible- way before "I'm ready".

How far do you plan on taking this "little" experiment? Will we one day find you with a skype tutor, writing on lang 8 and drilling FSI Spanish Basic? Will you be barreling your way through Assimil at a dizzying pace? Or, will you be content with a largely passive knowledge and the ability to enjoy literature and video? Probably too early to tell just yet, but ¡buena suerte!

Edited by iguanamon on 07 November 2014 at 3:11pm

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emk
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 Message 38 of 147
07 November 2014 at 5:36pm | IP Logged 
iguanamon wrote:
Looks like you are having a heck of a lot of fun, emk!

Yeah, now that I've got cards from Avatar, this went from "pretty cool" to "something which combines the fun parts of TV and video games." :-)

iguanamon wrote:
It's so tempting to correct some of your misunderstandings, but you are right- it will solve itself through time and more exposure.

Yup. And thank you for pointing out that I am making mistakes. I wouldn't want anybody to get the idea that I'm somehow magically intuiting what the Spanish means, or that I never guess wrong (hah). My goal is to imitate a child, or an immersed adult—I just understand whatever I can, and I trust my brain to sort out the details later.

However, this doesn't mean that I'm trying to maintain any sort of experimental "purity." :-) My current goal is to watch Avatar as soon as possible, and I'm quite willing to cheat shamelessly to get there. So if people occasionally want to dive in and explain an interesting detail, I won't object!

iguanamon wrote:
Basically, to me, what you've done is expanded on the Assimil model by creating your own personalized course with bilingual text and audio/video and you've added in a very basic grammar reference. Where it differs is that you are starting with SRS instead of adding it. You're not waiting for a course to tell you- "OK, it's time for you to learn the progressive tense now". You're not listening to slowed down, unnatural, audio. You're getting it all at once, native speed audio included, but whittling it down and puzzling it out.

Well, I do love Assimil's courses. :-) But I like learning from native materials even more, and I believed (correctly, it seems), that with Spanish, I could just jump straight in and start with the fun stuff. A big part of my motivation here is to see just how far cheating will take me.

iguanamon wrote:
I also think that your experiment shows the huge advantage a learner who has successfully learned one second language has in taking on another one, especially a related one. You know how languages work. You know how you learn. You know what to "watch out" for and to what you may need to pay particular attention. This is a huge, huge, advantage that is often not given the credit it deserves. Raw beginners simply don't have this advantage.

Yeah, it's important remember that some language learners really are starting from scratch: they may not know grammar terminology in their native language, they don't know a related language, they've never had the experience of making huge gains while reading comics and watching TV, and they don't have tens of thousands of Anki reps under their belt.

For a first-time language learner, it would make perfect sense to do a bit of Assimil or whatever alongside subs2srs. They could do one Assimil lesson and 10 new subs2srs cards per day, and it would only take about an hour. Within a month, they'd learn a whole lot, and they'd probably be able to transition to native TV a lot earlier than normal. It's a perfect example of that multitrack approach you've been arguing for.

iguanamon wrote:
How far do you plan on taking this "little" experiment? Will we one day find you with a skype tutor, writing on lang 8 and drilling FSI Spanish Basic? Will you be barreling your way through Assimil at a dizzying pace? Or, will you be content with a largely passive knowledge and the ability to enjoy literature and video? Probably too early to tell just yet, but ¡buena suerte!

A lot will depend on how soon I can understand Avatar and Blacksad. :-) I'm focused almost entirely on passive skills here, and I'm intending to be "lazy but persistent" about it, as usual.

However, there's one detail that's hard to explain: I'm actively trying to notice a few bits and pieces of Spanish grammar as I go. I don't want to my brain to "lump together" all the verb tenses the way Patrick's brain lumped together German cases. (Sorry to keep using your massive input experiment as an example, Patrick!) This is why I made my "field guide for verb-watching." And eventually, I will probably make MCD cards where I fill in verb endings or something. Ideally, by paying occasional attention to the word endings now, it will be easier for me to speak or write in Spanish some day, because my brain won't just gloss over it.

Basically, there's a pretty delicate balance going on here. I'm trying to learn as much as possible from input, and I'm happy to do things 90% naturally. But I suspect certain things are going to take too long to assimilate naturally, and so I'm cheating a bit on the side.
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gordafarin
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 Message 39 of 147
08 November 2014 at 5:10pm | IP Logged 
By the way, on the subject of synchronizing subtitles for Subs2SRS - if you have one set of subtitles that are synched and one set that aren't, Subs2SRS has a built-in tool for that. It's in the Tools menu, Subs Re-Timer. It does rely on having at least one subtitle file that's already synched, but if you have that, it's way quicker than adjusting subtitles manually.
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emk
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 Message 40 of 147
08 November 2014 at 7:47pm | IP Logged 
gordafarin wrote:
By the way, on the subject of synchronizing subtitles for Subs2SRS - if you have one set of subtitles that are synched and one set that aren't, Subs2SRS has a built-in tool for that. It's in the Tools menu, Subs Re-Timer. It does rely on having at least one subtitle file that's already synched, but if you have that, it's way quicker than adjusting subtitles manually.

Ah, thank you, that's good to know about! I've also been really impressed with Subtitle Edit—it has tons of features for cleaning up subs.

Verb-spotting!

Today, I decided to use my new "verb spotting" guide to see if I could identify a few verb tenses during my reviews. Below, I use the names of verb tenses that I found on my grammar sheet.



necesitaba: imperfect, 3sg
desapareció: preterite, 3sg
dejándonos: present participle + "to us"



volvió: preterite, 3sg
se ha roto: perfect, 3sg (we have -to and not do, so it's probably irregular)
he perdido: perfect, 1sg



todavía = "yet" (looked up with Google Translate app)
creo: present, 1sg
regresará: future, 3sg
salvar: infinitive



mira, aprende: imperatives? (not on my sheet)
es: present, 3sg
como se atrapa un pez: present, 3sg (hey, this looks like that funny "reflexive passive" thingy in French)
atrapé: preterite, 1sg

What's going on here?

For the most part, I'm still doing 95% of my learning by regular osmosis, and relying on my brain's natural language learning ability. But I've identified one potentially tricky area (verb forms), and I'm keeping a "green sheet" by my elbow. So this gives us:

Things I'm learning by osmosis: Pronunciation, spelling, pronouns, grammar, vocabulary, irregular verbs, when to use specific tenses, etc. Pretty much everything.

Things where I'm using a "birdwatcher's guide": Identifying verb forms.

Progress

At this point, Avatar is working wonderfully: The audio and meaning are sticking just the way I like Assimil lessons to stick, except I'm using one of my favorite TV shows. And I'm getting all sorts of little spontaneous earworms floating around in my head, such as:

He venido "I have come" (may have errors!)

This happened when I pulling into the driveway, so I told my brain, "Hey, you can do better than that!" And my brain responded:

He venido a mi casa "I have come to my house" (may have errors!)

So it's been 15 days and 4 hours of Anki reps, and my brain is spontaneously constructing vaguely Spanish sentences in the perfect tense. The process seems to go like this:

Quote:
Cheating -> comprehension -> earworms -> "mix and match" chunks of earworms -> maybe learn some grammar?

So far, so good!


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