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Super-fast vocabulary learning techniques

 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
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Korea, SouthRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 4514 days ago

70 posts - 115 votes 
Studies: Korean

 Message 233 of 255
02 February 2012 at 11:36pm | IP Logged 
atama warui wrote:
Balliballi wrote:
My main problem is that I am too much of a perfectionist. I can't let go of things I don't understand and just move on from them. I can waste interminable minutes or hours on just one sentence I have trouble understanding. I should really forget about the problematic sentence, and study something else, but I can't. For me, it's like leaving an itch unscratched.

I can relate to that :) In my experience, sometimes it's better to let go. There might be something missing, so that specific piece of the puzzle just won't fit yet. It'll fall in place later, and you'll ask yourself why you didn't get it the first time.
I remember when I sat down and desperately tried to figure out the difference between について and のこと because I thought there was some kind of nuance of way-to-use I missed, when in reality, there's no such difference - they're completely unrelated grammar points. ^^

In that regard, it may be one way in which it might be easier to learn a second language when an infant. As a young child, one doesn't care about grammar and things like that. It's easier for a child to accept that that's the way the second language is (for example, accept that pronouns aren't used much in Korean). As an adult, it's less easy to accept the differences and there is more of an inclination to try and reconcile the differences between the native and target languages. In other words, an adult intellectualizes much more than a child and is more likely to consider the language from a pedagogical point of view which young children do not.

Also, an infant cannot read and write so they do not care about the spelling of words. If an adult cares about reading and writing from the beginning of language-learning, they will often try and visualize a new word they learn. So listening sometimes takes second place to visualizing a word (seeing the word as it's written) which can interfere with one's assimilation of new vocabulary. A child will concentrate on just how a word sounds. A child is more of a blank slate, in other words, for the imprinting of aural input. An adult might obsess whether he or she heard "so-seo" or "so-so" because they want to spell that word correctly later; a child wouldn't. So some of the emotional filters (as Stephen Krashen puts it) are removed for a child. Too many things are going on at the same time in an adult's head, interfering with spoken language acquisition.

Of course, an adult has many advantages over a child when learning a new language that may overcome the disadvantages outlined above.

And I think adults will learn reading and writing much faster than a child.

Edited by Balliballi on 03 February 2012 at 12:42am

3 persons have voted this message useful

William Camden
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 6094 days ago

1936 posts - 2333 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, French

 Message 234 of 255
19 November 2012 at 9:26pm | IP Logged 
And I think I will give this thread, one of the most valuable in the entire Forum, a bump.
2 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 4948 days ago

241 posts - 361 votes 
Speaks: Polish*, English, German
Studies: Norwegian, Welsh

 Message 235 of 255
19 January 2013 at 12:35am | IP Logged 
Vocabulary without flash-cardsthread brought me here and I thought that I'll give this valuable set of advice a bump. I think it's very useful for TAC participants (not only of course).
1 person has voted this message useful

Joined 4089 days ago

6 posts - 7 votes
Studies: French

 Message 236 of 255
15 April 2013 at 8:24pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
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.

I fold a sheet of paper once and divide each of the four sections into three colums (5-6 blocks) into each column...

Sometime within the next week I repeat the list.

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.

On paper one block might look like this

de hele kraam   hele baduljen    de hele kraam

* This is not full quote.
1. How to fold the paper?
2. If it would be better if:
a. it will be a list with pretty same pronunciation: cour - cours - il court - court
b. line like savoir - avoir - voir - devoir
c. same topic ?
3. How to learn conjugation of irregular verbs?
4. I use courses based on immersion + Anki and as I have time and desire to learn as fast possible I want to add more words to active vocabulary. Before I discover my own way I'm asking you what technique is the most effective for most people? As I believe people here know much more then I.

Merci d'avance

Edited by French_please on 15 April 2013 at 8:26pm

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Super Polyglot
Joined 6525 days ago

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 237 of 255
16 April 2013 at 10:11am | IP Logged 
I just fold the paper from one long side to the other (i.e. A4 becomes A5), and I do it for two reasons: 1) it looks less intimidating, 2) it is more manageable alongside a dictionary, especially when I'm sitting in my armchair with a tray. People with large handwritings may prefer not to fold the paper. And the folding has nothing to do with the covering-up operation - I can do that with one finger (because my handwriting is tiny).

For the wordlists which are based directly on dictionaries I always use ordinary alphabetical dictionaries in the direction from target language to base language. And the alphabetical order provides enough similarity.

The idea that you should learn semantically related words together is tempting, but I have tried it out and I found that it is better to use words with vastly different semantics and wordclasses - just as you get them from a dictionary, but also when you use your notes from intensive studies of real texts. Trying to learn 50 words for berries in one go is a receipt for disaster. But using tematic wordlists to check the holes in your vocabulary is quite another matter.

You can use short annotations in your wordlists, but really irregular verbs should be learnt using other methods. When I do Greek wordlists I sometimes add one letter that gives me a clue to the formation of the aorist stem, and I sometimes put small graphical signs to indicate the gender of nouns - but only if it isn't obvious. And in cases where there is one large category and a few rare exceptions it is enough to mark when a word is an exception to the general rule. Annotations shouldn't be a burden - if they become too complicated they take away the focus from the main task, which is learning a lot of words fast.

I don't use Anki or flashcards or other Spaced Repetition Methods (SRS), but I know that many members here at HTLAL use them, and I suppose they do so because they work for them. The problematic thing is that SRS by definition is based on a control: you are shown something you should know, and if you know it it disappears from your stack, and else you are shown the right answer and have to wait for the next control check. I prefer methods where I'm shown something repeatedly and get my test shortly after (and where this process is repeated with the same kind of gradually increasing intervals you see in the SRS methods)

Of course that's not the situation in real life, but every time I read genuine texts or listen to videos I am tested on my ability to recall words without preparation - so for sheer diversity it is better NOT to recreate the same situation in my intensive vocabulary training.

You make passive words active by putting yourself in a situation (thinking, writing or speaking) where you have to mobilise them, which in Anki terms would correspond to a situation where you wrote the test side of your cards in your base language and tried to come up with the corresponding word in your target language. And as far as I know that's not what most Anki users do, but it is built into my three column wordlist design.

At the end of the day you have to try out the different methods for yourself. People are different, and what functions well for one learner may be inefficient or downright unacceptable to another.   

PS. I have written a fivepart manual about language learning, and part 4 deals with vocabulary learning, including my wordlist layout.

Edited by Iversen on 16 April 2013 at 10:18am

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Joined 5417 days ago

18 posts - 53 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*
Studies: German

 Message 238 of 255
22 November 2013 at 9:32pm | IP Logged 
Here is a link to a language learning blog which shows some vocabulary techniques. I couldn't find anything radical new here, but it is entertaining reading. arning-vocabulary/
1 person has voted this message useful

Joined 3847 days ago

5 posts - 5 votes
Speaks: Polish*, English

 Message 239 of 255
25 November 2013 at 10:03am | IP Logged 
I'm wondering about change my method of learning vocabulary by Anki program. Currently
I learn words in this way: First card is wrote in polish i.e Ja, on the second card is
english word with the sentence and picture which helps me to associate the word with
meaning. I show you how it works : - Currently how it works - How it will be working if I change the method.

Learning by reading they key word from the context perhaps is the better idea, maybe it
will work more effectively ?

How do you think about that? How do you work with this program? I'm curious about that.
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United States
Joined 5354 days ago

2615 posts - 8806 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 240 of 255
25 November 2013 at 2:09pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
I don't use Anki or flashcards or other Spaced Repetition Methods (SRS), but I know that many members here at HTLAL use them, and I suppose they do so because they work for them. The problematic thing is that SRS by definition is based on a control: you are shown something you should know, and if you know it it disappears from your stack, and else you are shown the right answer and have to wait for the next control check. I prefer methods where I'm shown something repeatedly and get my test shortly after (and where this process is repeated with the same kind of gradually increasing intervals you see in the SRS methods)

There are actually a number of popular techniques for using Anki:

1. L1 <-> L2 single-word translation cards. I tried these at first, and they worked OK for about 500 vocabulary words. By 1,000 words, the process was breaking down: I had far too many near-synonyms (which made it difficult to guess the "right" answer), and 40 minutes of vocabulary drills per day were becoming sheer torment.

2. When I started using Anki two years ago, I relied much more heavily on "recognition" cards, where I took a passage from my actual reading and highlighted an unknown word. The definition went on the back of the card. My task was merely to understand the word correctly in context. These can work quite well.

3. More recently, I've started experimenting heavily with Khatzumoto's "massive-context cloze deletion" format. This involves taking a passage of text, blanking out small pieces of information, and adding a hint (usually a definition) to the front of the card. My job is to fill in the blank. Recently, I've adapted this technique to French by making two cards for each word, each blanking out one half of the word. This is proving quite pleasant and effective, and it neatly works around the synonym problem.

Methods (2) and (3) work like a highly-concentrated version of extensive reading, because they present me with real texts, but they artificially boost the frequency of unknown words. And as with extensive reading, my knowledge of any given word may vary depending on a number of factors.

As for controlling when I review things, I'm quite happy to leave that to Anki. If I fail a card, I'll see it again a minute later. If I get it right, I'll see it at gradually increasing intervals.

Time-wise, it's entirely possible for me to learn 500 words in around 10 hours over the course of a month, where "learn" may mean varying degrees of passive or active knowledge. That doesn't include looking the words up in the first place, especially if the usage is obscure! But that can easily double the total time investment. And of course, I'll need to review each of the words several times once the month is over, until the Anki intervals space out so much that I can rely on extensive reading to maintain a word.

Of course, as a programmer, I have tools to help automate this process. For example, when I'm reading an ebook, I just highlight any sentences that I'd like to make into a card, and later I import them into my software in bulk to add definitions. Similarly, I have a browser extension to snag sentences off the web. The goal is to spend almost 100% of my study time actually staring at French text and thinking about it (or filling in blanks, etc.).

Does this qualify as "super fast"? I have no idea, but I'd guess not. But it works well enough for my needs.

Edited by emk on 25 November 2013 at 2:12pm

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