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Language Learning Orthodoxy You Ignore

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 Message 1 of 116
28 November 2014 at 2:08am | IP Logged 
What are some hallowed principles of language learning that you ignore? As for me:

- Flashcards and SRS are a great way to learn vocabulary.
Both of them repulse me so much that I've never used SRS and haven't used flashcards
since I was a kid. I think they are unnecessary and make language learning into a
boring chore instead of the engaging discovery process that it should be.

- You can develop an excellent vocabulary through extensive reading alone.
I am convinced that at the end of this path you are left with a far too foggy idea of
far too many words. I want more than that.

- Remembering the Kanji (RTK) is a great way to learn Chinese characters.
If Chinese characters were composed of more or less arbitrary strokes, this would be
an interesting method. In reality, Chinese characters are composed of a limited amount
of components that carry semantic and phonetic information about the characters they
combine to create. This information is far from perfect, but I found it to be a far
better learning crutch than memorizing thousands of wacky stories.

- There are two types of reading: intensive and extensive
The only reason I can think of that almost all discussion about reading in a foreign
language is about these two types is that people like nice neat categories. I almost
never engage in purely intensive reading. For example if I come across some fancy
Latin loan word in English that I am unlikely to see again for another decade, I just
read right past it. I usually alternate my reading between relatively intensive and
relatively extensive, and fall back on pure extensive reading only when an online
dictionary isn't handy.
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Bilingual Heptaglot
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 Message 2 of 116
28 November 2014 at 3:08am | IP Logged 
I am just too damn lazy to learn how to set up an SRS. That's why I don't use them, but I would like to. It just seems too much of a hassle to download and learn how to use it. I also don't know where to go to get it.

Extensive reading:
That is true what you say, I myself have what native speakers consistently describe as an "impressive" vocabulary. The downside is that sometimes that trips me up: I want to say something with a "fancier" word, and trip myself either because I pick the wrong word, pronounce it poorly, or some other reason. However, since I view all of my languages as "part of me", once they become part of me, I want this. I want to trip and make mistakes with new words, that's better than being great but with a limited vocabulary. I know some will disagree, and I understand where they are coming from, but I enjoy having a large vocabulary and so my goals are different.

Remembering the Hanzi: (for Chinese)...
I agree with you on memorizing the stories THEY provide. I haven't done that. However, I have used a few of their stories when I could not come up with my own, and the concept itself is SOUND. Example:

δΌ™ = a person ("ren" on the left) that sticks with you even through the fire ("huo3")

Who would stick with you even through fire? Only a PARTNER, a COMPANION. And of course that is the basic meaning of this character. I think the story concept is quite useful with abstract meanings. However, I do use semantic guides for many other characters. And when all else fails, I just stare at the character and burn it in my head + meaning. This only works with one character every hour or so. Do more than two of these and you lose them all as it becomes mental clutter.

Extensive reading:
I have been doing more of it recently. My problem is lack of discipline: if I see a word I don't understand, even if I know it is probably a word I need not learn, I want to look it up. So by default my extensive reading becomes intensive. I can't help it, that's the problem.

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 Message 3 of 116
28 November 2014 at 3:33am | IP Logged 
Take advantage of your target language holiday by chatting extensively to all the locals and making lots of new acquaintances:
Hell no! Where's the do-not-disturb sign for my hotel room door?! (And what's the Greek word for "xenophobe"?)
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 Message 4 of 116
28 November 2014 at 4:41am | IP Logged 
Flashcards and SRS are a great way to learn vocabulary.
I am finding this is not the case with Japanese: the SRS is not testing me so much as providing a review of words that I don't remember outside of Anki. This seems to work for Italian, though.

Assimil the best language program EVER!
I think it would be useful to affirm things once I get the grammar down, but starting Assimil from A0 with Italian, it left me frustrated that it explained nothing and expected me to "just pick up" things. I want everything explained.

Remembering the Kanji (RTK) is a great way to learn Chinese characters.
I never found RTK useful. I prefer Mitamura's "Let's Learn Kanji!", where you learn the radicals.

Edited by Xenops on 28 November 2014 at 4:44am

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 Message 5 of 116
28 November 2014 at 6:29am | IP Logged 
lichtrausch wrote:
Remembering the Kanji (RTK) is a great way to learn Chinese characters.
I'm afraid that this is hardly the orthodoxy. The orthodox position seems to be The only way to learn Chinese characters is writing each character out hundreds of times until it sticks while trying to rote-memorize their possible readings. Although to be fair I've never actually taken a class in Japanese, so for all I know a whole generation of professional Japanese instructors who swear by Heisig may have emerged by now, making the position I wrote out above a strawman :)
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 Message 6 of 116
28 November 2014 at 7:59am | IP Logged 
Let's say it's internet orthodoxy.

I'm deeply distrustful of any kind of magic bullet.

That being said, extensive/intensive are for me more the ends of a continuum rather than polar opposites. But often when I'm in-between those ends, my focus isn't exactly stable and I get distracted easily.

The one orthodoxy that I can't follow is: Steady effort that builds knowledge.
Nope. I cram, and I don't review.

Oh, and I don't hold with doing the exercises that come with a lesson in a textbook. It doesn't work, my brain feels like somebody is trying to milk it - but if I just do the rest of the lesson and do the exercise one or two weeks later (or any time after that) I can do most of them automatically.

Edited by Bao on 30 November 2014 at 3:57am

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Bilingual Triglot
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 Message 7 of 116
28 November 2014 at 9:25am | IP Logged 
Bao wrote:
Let's say it's internet orthodoxy.

"Free advice is worth every cent" :-)

I do happen to use SRS and RTK (for Japanese rather than Chinese) and I find both of them useful.
If I didn't then I'd stop.

I treat the free advice as a source of ideas. Lots of people have learned languages in lots of
different ways. I find it useful to have the (possibly new - to me) ideas presented, then I might
try them and decide for myself whether they work for me.

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 Message 8 of 116
28 November 2014 at 10:47am | IP Logged 
Oh, sure. It's just that some people phrase their free advice as "Hey, this worked for me, give it a go, maybe it works for you too!" and others phrase it as "I found the only way that works! You must do it exactly like me! If it doesn't work for you that's because you did it wrong!" - the latter often start wanting to sell things, sooner or later.

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