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Super-fast vocabulary learning techniques

 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
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Jerrod
Senior Member
United States
Joined 6325 days ago

168 posts - 176 votes 
Studies: Russian, Spanish

 
 Message 73 of 255
16 March 2007 at 6:58am | IP Logged 
Vlad, OK I do misunderstand his approach. In a different thread he stated he had learned 750 words and was at the letter д (5 letters into a 33 letter alphabet). While doing this he is reading a grammar book. I assume he will continue for sometime on the dictionary.
Still though, in my limited experiance learning languages, that seems a bit overboard to get familiar with the language, and a great deal of those words may not be useful for 2 or 3 years.
He does know a lot of languages though, so maybe he is right. I think the average person may have trouble with this, though.
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Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
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9078 posts - 16473 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
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 Message 74 of 255
16 March 2007 at 7:04am | IP Logged 
Vlad wrote:
Jerrod,

I hope you didn't misunderstand Iversens method. He never said he's learning only from dictionaries and dictionaries only. he only works with them for the first couple of weeks to give him a jump start, get familiar with most of the words and then switches to other materials.


I must admit that I use them for more than a couple of weeks. In fact I use them until I can read authentic ordinary texts in the foreign language without having to look up words all the time. And even after that I use them sporadically to learn some kind of specialized vocabulary or just to fill out the holes or learn even more funny words. I do that even in my best languages, because there is always something more to be learnt.

But nothing beats authentic language to learn style and idiomatics and things like that, and the sooner you can concentrate on things like that when you read or listen to authentic stuff the better. That is the purpose of using wordlists.

It is true that I can't take any word that I have found in a dictionary and start using it in the real world. However we shouldn't dramatize the problems too much. Point one: the better dictionaries do contain idiomatic expressions and hints to the use of versatile words. Point two: many or even most words are quite unproblematic. Greeks eat oranges like we do, and within the framework of their morphology they use the word for orange like we use it. I don't need to read about orange eating to guess how πορτοκαλι is used.

The problematic thing about my approach to Russian is that I didn't go through a beginner's course first, but jumped right into studying dictionaries and grammars. I think my general background in languages and language learning will help me get through this introductory phase faster, and that's why I'm trying. In this sense it is an experiment, but I don't consider my use of wordlists in general as an experiment.


Edited by Iversen on 16 March 2007 at 7:42am

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Linguamor
Decaglot
Senior Member
United States
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469 posts - 599 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, Dutch

 
 Message 75 of 255
16 March 2007 at 7:55am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:

I would like to ask Linguamor: what did you do when your reading comprehension was not 95%, but 5%? With 95% we agree that word lists aren't essential for reading comprehension any longer, but could you do without them even at the initial stages of learning one of your many languages?   


It doesn't take much to know 5% of the words on a page. In English, you know 7% of the words on a page if you know the word 'the'. Knowing the 2000 most common words gives you 80% coverage. But this is an average of texts of every type. With many types of texts - easy novels, Reader's Digest articles, etc. - you can get 95% coverage with only 2500-3000 words. The key is to learn these 2500-3000 words, and then choose reading materials at the right level. One very important result of reading material at this level - 95% coverage with 2500-3000 words - is that the 5% of words in this reading material that you don't know will also be important, frequent words - exactly the words you need to learn at this stage. As your vocabulary increases, you can read at successively higher levels - materials where 5000 words give 95% coverage, 8000 words give 95% coverage, etc.

As for those first 2500-3000 words, I have mostly learned them through comprehensible input, using language learning materials.

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ChristopherTL
Diglot
Newbie
United States
transparent.com
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Speaks: English*, Portuguese
Studies: Latin, Russian

 
 Message 76 of 255
16 March 2007 at 8:05am | IP Logged 
Long live the Declarative Spine!!!!
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frenkeld
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 6765 days ago

2042 posts - 2719 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, English
Studies: German

 
 Message 77 of 255
16 March 2007 at 8:34am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
The problematic thing about my approach to Russian is that I didn't go through a beginner's course first, but jumped right into studying dictionaries and grammars. I think my general background in languages and language learning will help me get through this introductory phase faster ...


I recently realized that I hate courses with a vengeance, which leaves me no choice except to rely on old-fashioned grammar-heavy introductory texbooks or reference grammars as shortcuts to authentic materials.

This whole business of hating courses caught me by surprise. I actually enjoy the uncertainty of learning from context even when at times one runs into something like 30% of the words being unknown, so I thought courses based on "comprehensible input" (or "phrase-based"), which includes Assimil, would work well. They didn't: I enjoyed a few lessons and then I got sick of it like there is no tomorrow, and the same happened with several other similar courses.

So, I end up in this funny situation where I basically have to use one style of learning in the beginning and a different one in the intermediate stage. Good thing I enjoy reading about grammar, for otherwise I'd have to abandon languages altogether.

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Linguamor
Decaglot
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United States
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 Message 78 of 255
16 March 2007 at 9:13am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:

It is true that I can't take any word that I have found in a dictionary and start using it in the real world. However we shouldn't dramatize the problems too much. Point one: the better dictionaries do contain idiomatic expressions and hints to the use of versatile words. Point two: many or even most words are quite unproblematic. Greeks eat oranges like we do, and within the framework of their morphology they use the word for orange like we use it. I don't need to read about orange eating to guess how πορτοκαλι is used.


No problem with using the word 'orange'. Unfortunately most of language is not that simple. This is more typical.

'that sounds like a train'
'on dirait un train'   

'how about going out?' - 'that sounds good!'
'et si on sortait?' - 'bonne idée!'

'I didn't do it deliberately'
'fue sin querer'

'I still haven't heard anything'
'sigo sin saber nada'


This type of difference in vocabulary usage pervades language.







Edited by Linguamor on 16 March 2007 at 9:16am

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frenkeld
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 6765 days ago

2042 posts - 2719 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, English
Studies: German

 
 Message 79 of 255
16 March 2007 at 9:45am | IP Logged 
Linguamor wrote:

'that sounds like a train'
'on dirait un train'   

'how about going out?' - 'that sounds good!'
'et si on sortait?' - 'bonne idée!'

'I didn't do it deliberately'
'fue sin querer'

'I still haven't heard anything'
'sigo sin saber nada'


These types of idioms are hardly a counterpoint to prelearning vocabulary - one is still better off approaching them after knowing the basic meanings of "dire", "querer", "seguir", and "saber".

The biggest issue with prelearning vocabulary is that most people's brains would simply fuse before they got past a few hundred words.

On the other hand, if someone already knows a Romance language and now wants to learn Italian, starting with a store-bought box of 1000 pre-made flashcards would probably not hurt anything, if the person can stay motivated through that exercise. (Of course, if one knows a Romance language already, one can also try just reading Italian.)

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frenkeld
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 6765 days ago

2042 posts - 2719 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, English
Studies: German

 
 Message 80 of 255
16 March 2007 at 9:56am | IP Logged 
Jerrod wrote:
In a different thread he stated he had learned 750 words and was at the letter д (5 letters into a 33 letter alphabet).
...
... a great deal of those words may not be useful for 2 or 3 years.


Some of the 33 letters never occur in the beginning of a word, so assuming 5 letters out of 30, and assuming this means one sixths of the vocabulary has been covered, it would result in 750 x 6 = 4500 words. One doesn't have to wait 2 to 3 years to use that many words - open any unabridged book and you will need them all immediately.

Of course, needing them all doesn't make the task any easier.


Edited by frenkeld on 16 March 2007 at 10:12am



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