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Super-fast vocabulary learning techniques

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Sprachprofi
Nonaglot
Senior Member
Germany
learnlangs.comRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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2608 posts - 4866 votes 
Speaks: German*, English, French, Esperanto, Greek, Mandarin, Latin, Dutch, Italian
Studies: Spanish, Arabic (Written), Swahili, Indonesian, Japanese, Modern Hebrew, Portuguese

 
 Message 9 of 255
10 March 2007 at 4:51am | IP Logged 
Ok, here are my two cents:

I prefer flashcards over vocabulary lists, since when I study lists I tend to memorise the position of the words. Flashcards or a software equivalent allow me to learn words in a random order, so I don't memorise useless information like the word position and at the same time I can remember the translation when it comes up outside the list, e. g. in a text. On flashcards I put the foreign word and maybe a sample sentence on the front side and the translations on the back. If the language is not phonetic, I also put its pronunciation and for Chinese I additionally put the parts of the character.

I typically only test German to foreign language, not the other way round, because once I have learned to remember the foreign word, I have absolutely no problem remembering its meaning when I see it in a text or so.

I use a software that tests me particularly often on words I didn't know and ever less often on words I know. It's not a drawer-type system though but time-based: e. g. if a word comes up twice on the same day and I knew it both times, it doesn't count as much as if I had known that word twice with a week in between. And it generally tries to space repetitions of words so that at the higher levels there is actually a week or even a month between two showings of that word, so that I have a chance to forget it if it's not in the long-term memory yet.

I simply can't memorise Chinese characters if they are just a few chaotic lines to me. So I always look up the parts they consist of on www.zhongwen.com . The etymology is sometimes a help, but even in the case of radical-phonetic combinations I look for a story or home-made explanation as a mnemonic. Unfortunately the characters taught in a coursebook aren't in any logical order concerning the make-up, e. g. you'd learn ma1ma (mum) before nü3 (woman) and ma3 (horse), even though ma1ma consists of those two. So when I just want to generally improve the amount of characters I know, I don't go through a coursebook to do that, I take the character-parts I know and see what combinations exist and then learn these, since it's easier. For example, let's assume I know "mouth" and "sun". The next character I'd learn is "chang1 - to flatter"(two suns) (sorry can't type Chinese here), then "jing1 - radiant"(three suns), then "chang4 - to sing"(mouth + two suns), and so on. Character I encounter this way are much easier to learn than ones from the textbook, since I already know all the parts. I got the idea for this method from a book that's partly available online: Heisig's book on Kanji learning. I had to adapt it for Chinese of course.

I make it a point not to learn topical lists like "animals". There's a very slim chance of actually needing those words if they never come up in my usual reading and chatting. I only learn the words that come up, that I need to express myself and to understand others / understand what I'm reading.

Once I'm beyond the basic stage, I really like electronic annotated texts like in Lernu's library (e. g. http://eo.lernu.net/biblioteko/rakontoj/vere_aux_fantazie/01 .php) . These texts might be much higher than my level, but I can hover over or click on every word in order to see its meaning (monolingual or bilingual) and that way I can read through the texts rather fast even with a minimum vocabulary. A basic understanding of grammar is needed though. For offline practise I like simplified books for learners (not children's books though since they are boring and a child's language knowledge is still quite different from an adult learner's), books I've read before and subtitled movies. Afterwards I just go to a good bookstore or library and browse foreign language books there, reading a few paragraphs or a page at random to see whether the level of language is understandable to me. Usually contemporary books are much easier to read than old ones. And I love voice-chatting in foreign languages, this probably helps me the most once I'm at the upper beginner level.
6 persons have voted this message useful



frenkeld
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
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2042 posts - 2719 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, English
Studies: German

 
 Message 10 of 255
10 March 2007 at 9:35am | IP Logged 
Sprachprofi wrote:
Once I'm beyond the basic stage, I really like electronic annotated texts ... These texts might be much higher than my level, but I can hover over or click on every word in order to see its meaning (monolingual or bilingual) and that way I can read through the texts rather fast even with a minimum vocabulary.


I realized only last week that the simple home printer/scanner/copier we bought last year can do OCR, so, as a test, I scanned the first chapter of the book I am currently reading. It was nice to be able to use a pop-up electronic dictionary on it. The only problem is that most paperbacks will get damaged if laid flat on the scanner glass, but this was a hardcover.


Edited by frenkeld on 10 March 2007 at 2:50pm

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slucido
Bilingual Diglot
Senior Member
Spain
https://goo.gl/126Yv
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4 sounds
Speaks: Spanish*, Catalan*
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 Message 11 of 255
10 March 2007 at 10:57am | IP Logged 
This method from Montyd seems very interesting. I would add visualizing an image-sense at the same time you repeat aloud word-meaning or meaning-word.

I think it's interesting to add mnemonics (linkword method or something like this), but only with very difficult words.

montyd wrote:

I set aside one volume as my current study text. When I read that book I look up every word that I don't know, and often those that I know but would not use myself in the way they are in my book. Using a cheap school notebook, I write down the word on one side of the page and the meaning on the other side, just a one word translation if possible. I know that I can reasonably memorise between two and three pages of vocabulary in a day so when I reach that limit I put my study text aside.


I then sit down and read aloud my word list from start to finish, trying to keep up a reasonably metronomic thythm. Word, meaning, word, meaning, word etc. The absolute key is to read the words aloud and to keep up a speed which means that I concentrate 100% on what I am doing. I then cover up the translation column and try to repeat the word, meaning sequence at approximately the same speed as before. When I get to a point that I can't remember the meaning, or just hesitate for too long, I take a peek, repeat just that word and the meaning out loud then go right back to the beginning. And when I have managed to get through my list two or three times without making any mistakes I then cover the other column and go through the whole process again, this time meaning, word, meaning, word, until I can pretty much repeat the whole list at speed no matter which half is covered.


Then once a week I take my lists for the previous week and try to repeat the process once each way. Words I don't know then get put on a second list and the whole procedure is repeated with them.


As I said above, the absolute key is to repeat the words out aloud, not silently in your head, or even under your breath, but in your normal voice. (This has the added benefit of helping you get your tongue around some of the real monsters in languages like Greek). It also makes you involved in the process so that you care when you can't remember a word. I usually end up shouting out the forgotten word a few times and bashing myself on the head with my exercise book before going back to the start. It also, surprisingly, does not take long. When I really get into the swing I reckon I can learn between 70 and 100 words in about twenty minutes. Not only that but I need that many words for it to be effective. If I begin to repeat a list and find that I haven't forgotten anything, then I know that everything will be gone the next morning. Getting stuck on the third word, then next time the tenth word, then the fifteenth word etc. gives me a sense of progress and achievement.

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Jerrod
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4669 days ago

168 posts - 176 votes 
Studies: Russian, Spanish

 
 Message 12 of 255
10 March 2007 at 11:44am | IP Logged 
This is a new method I have been using to learn all the words for level 2 Russian at GLOSS. I am seeing good results so far (6 days out). With this method I hope to learn at least 1600 words a month.
I read the text extracting all words I do not know. I then use lingvo (a good online dictionary) to look them up. Lingvo (also the home software which I recommend buying) gives examples for each word.
I then put these examples into Mnemosyne.
Usually the next day I go through the 200 words or so for two hours in the morning, concentrating only on the word and not on the examples. Later that night I redo all the words for an hour. I remember about 30-40%.
The next day I do this for another hour, and again at night. What is amazing is that second day I at least get 75% right.
The third day I review and then read the articles from GLOSS (4 times each). With just that, I can remember about 90% of the words (at least now 6 days later).
At the end of every week I reread the articles.
So in 6 days I have learned 408 words, with over all 85-90% retention.
I think as long as I review the texts for 2 or 3 weeks, and continue my reviews with Mnemosyne, I should keep these words in my memory.
My plan is after the words pop up and I know them inside and out (a 5), to then start with their examples.
I'll edit this at the end of the month and confirm if this way of rapid vocabulary learning is sustainable.
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delectric
Diglot
Senior Member
China
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608 posts - 733 votes 
Speaks: English*, Mandarin
Studies: German

 
 Message 13 of 255
10 March 2007 at 7:40pm | IP Logged 
Is it possible to find a list of suffixes and prefixes with their meanings for Indo European languages? I find that with Chinese it's easy to know this due to the character based system of the language and ity really does help when learning words quickly.
1 person has voted this message useful



luke
Diglot
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United States
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Studies: Esperanto, French

 
 Message 14 of 255
10 March 2007 at 11:21pm | IP Logged 
delectric wrote:
Is it possible to find a list of suffixes and prefixes with their meanings for Indo European languages?

The Big Red Book of Spanish Vocabulary covers over 100 common suffixes.
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Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
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 Message 15 of 255
11 March 2007 at 8:42am | IP Logged 
MeshGearFox wrote:
Hm. If you don't mind me doing so, I'm going to try to rewrite Iversen's method in a bulleted list:

1. Write a short list of 5-7 words in your target language.
2. Read through them until you are confident you know the translation.
3. Write a second list consisting of the translation for these words.
4. Read through it till you're confident that you know the original words.
5. Reread the original words.
6. To solidify the knowledge, rewrite the original words in a third column.

After this, you pick a new 5-7 words, I'm guessing?


The description is correct, but does not quite convey in detail it looks on paper. Of course you can do things in different ways, but I do it as follows:

I fold a sheet of paper once and divide each of the four sections into three colums (two if you write bigger letters than I do). With my minuscule handwritten letter size I can fit around 30 items (5-6 blocks) into each column, which adds up to around 360 words on the whole sheet. Of course I don't do that many words in a single language in a row, - that would get boring and consequently infficient. I change languages or read something or do something totally different after each quarter of the sheet.

Sometime within the next week I repeat the list. If it is one of my better languages I may just read it through and write down the words I don't immediately remember. If I find too many of those I do a 'repetition' session, where I in effect write one more list. I reread the original list, write down at least one full column of the target language words without translations and then I run through these words (referring back to the original list when necessary) until I know the meaning of each one, only then I add the translations (this time I don't add a third column for the translation back to the target language, but I probably should - it might be worth doing at least for the most recalcitrant words).

The key to the system is that absolutely NO translations either way may be written down until at least all 5-7 things in a block can be recalled at will in any order. This is done to avoid the 'cheating' trick where you just repeat one word and its translation in your mind until it is written down. In my experience you easily forget words that just get this treatment.

On paper one block might look like this (sorry, I can't do it in Japanese, you get it in Dutch with Danish in the middle):

de hele kraam   hele baduljen    de hele kraam
kraakpand       besat hus        kraakpand
kraambed        barselsseng      kraambed
krabbel            kragetæer      krabbel
kracht            kraft, styrke    kracht
krachbron        kraftki lde       kra chbron

In principial you could mix different languages in the translation column. It is just a series of memory crutches, that you shouldn't need when you have learnt the foreign word.

Of course you need a source for the words. It can be a dictionary, but it could also be the wordlists in your text book or your notes from active reading or a language guide for tourists. For those who need a context to remember words the logical thing to do would be only to effectuate the method above on wordlists made from active reading, - then you at least have the context in the original material. Anything goes. Due to the limited space I don't write down long idiomatic phrases, but 2-3 words go.

By the way, I have found it very interesting to read about the other intensive vocabulary acquisition methods in this thread. There is no reason just to stick to one method, if a mix works better.



Edited by Iversen on 11 March 2007 at 9:01am

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Iversen
Super Polyglot
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Denmark
berejst.dk
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 Message 16 of 255
11 March 2007 at 9:19am | IP Logged 
I have read the old posts from ProfArguelles (who unfortunately doesn't write here any more), and I found his warning against dictionaries somewhat puzzling. Of course you always listen with respect to a man who has managed to learn scores of languages, but the posts could be read as a general warning against the use of dictionaries, at least for beginners, and I don't subscribe to that idea. The key to his attitude seems to be the notion that stuff you find out yourself is better than things you just look up, coupled to his use of learning by reading extensively (which by the way is always a good idea, when combined with other methods).

Personally I don't like to solve puzzles, and I don't trust knowledge gained from just one or a few examples that I have stumpled upon by accident. A good dictionary is a short cut to gaining a qualified overview over the possibilities of a word, written by people who know the language better than me. Knowing beforehand from a dictionary what is possible - even if it is not complete or well caracterized - will make it easier to react in an adequate way when you actually meet the word or phrase during reading or listening to real stuff.

This is just one facet of the different ways that people manage to survive: some people plan a holiday in details, but may then skip the preparations and make new plans if they get more information later during the trip. Others just buy a flight ticket somewhere and then react to the things that happens along the road. I belong to the first category. I would not say that ProfArguelles fully belongs to the second, but an uncritical reading of his warnings against dictionaries will only work for those who do.



Edited by Iversen on 18 January 2012 at 3:53pm



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