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Strategy: Learn 600 words a week.

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Trilingual Triglot
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 Message 1 of 167
03 October 2007 at 9:02pm | IP Logged 
This method requires initial preparation for it to be effective i.e. preparing flash cards in advanced. I recommend this method on high-frequency words first for maximum benefit. Designed for those that LIKE using paper-based flashcards.

Expect to put in about 30 min-1 hour/day.

Edited for Clarity:

Create 100 flash cards with 100 words. Be sure to leave white space underneath both native & target word (more on this later).

Divide these 100 flash cards, in 10 groups of 10 (at random).

Each Group has 10 cards represented by an (imaginary) letter, we will call each group a 'deck.'




Memorize (in each 'deck' native>target, target>native)

- Always shuffle the cards when you goto the next deck or combined decks.

Proceed only to the next "deck" or "combined deck" /line only until you have 100% accuracy (both ways).

Memorization Order:

DECK (Number of Cards in this Deck)

A (10 cards)
B (10 cards)
AB (20 cards)   <-- Which is A+B etc.
C (10 cards)
D (10 cards)
CD (20 cards)
E (10 cards)
F (10 cards)
EF (20 cards)
G (10 cards)
H (10 cards)
GH (20 cards)
I (10 cards)
J (10 cards)
IJ (20 cards)
AB+CD = K (40 cards)
EF+GH = L (40 cards)
IJ+K = M (60 cards) <-- Which is IJ + AB + CD
M+L = N (100 cards) <-- Which is IJ + AB + CD + EF + GH

If 100 is too much to handle. Simply divide everything by two, and do it for 50. If 100 is too easy, multiply by 2 for 200 (or higher).

You do not necessarily have to do the next following steps on the same day (but you can, if you feel motivated enough):

1. Do this for another 100 cards.
2. On the blank space underneath, add a 2nd item to each of the 200 cards.
3. Follow the same pattern, but try to only focus on the 2nd item, however you can focus on both 1st and 2nd item if you wish. When you have achieved 100% accuracy. Re do the 1st item, ensure 100% accuracy then ->
4. Add a third item, do the same. (Do not add a fourth item, unless you think you can handle it.)

Eventually, you will have 3 words/card x 200 cards = 600 words within 200 cards.

This is my way to dive into a new or old language by picking up high frequency words very quickly. If you do not know where to find high frequency words, consider looking at the thread "Strategy: Reading using a Word Counter."

Additional Notes:

1. Do not add all three items to the card at once, but only after there is 1 item on each of the 200 cards (then memorized), then add a 2nd item to each of the other 200 cards (then memorized) before you add a third. Remember: Do NOT add all items at once. Before you add a new item, you should have memorized the earlier items first.

2. Always remember to SHUFFLE before you memorize a deck or combined deck, to test your memory. You do not want to develop a harmony/pattern of recognizing the sequence of the cards, because when you read text it is very unlikely you will find words arranged in the order of your flash cards. It is important to add this element of dynamic/randomness.

Alternative (Easier) Strategy:

Memorization Order (don't forget to shuffle):

A, A

At each group, you would first memorize the individual deck first, then memorize the combined deck combinations. The only thing I do not like about doing it this way is that memorization of a new 10-card deck should be memorized in increased difficulty with progressive recall. Notice in ABCDEFGHIJ, you will memorize J for the first time, then you will throw it into ABCDEFGHIJ, you have a 10/100 (10%) chance of seeing those cards from J in ABCDEFGHIJ at RANDOM and obviously less frequently. You want to build up from a 100% viewing > 50% viewing and then decrease that way. Not 100% viewing > 10% viewing. This is a substantial drop.

Edited by xtremelingo on 05 October 2007 at 6:17pm

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 Message 2 of 167
03 October 2007 at 10:45pm | IP Logged 
BTW, why don't you suggest computer programs for making flashcards like Supermemo or FullRecall? Why Paper flashcards? You know, copy and paste method is more efficient with no space barriers unlike paper flashcards where you have to write everything with pencil within small space. I tried making some but I gave up soon because I found it like a chore to do. So I switched back to programs like supermemo. It saves me a lot of time from writing. Also, knowing meaning of a word is not enough. We need relevant context so that we can gain enough feeling for the word. In supermemo, I can add 10 example sentences of each word but can I do it on a paper flashcard?

I'd rather learn 50 words per week through example sentences with rapt attention than cramming 600 words per week with no relevant context.
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Trilingual Triglot
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 Message 3 of 167
04 October 2007 at 12:08am | IP Logged 
Computer flashcards are good. However computer flashcards may not allow someone to follow the memorization pattern as outlined above.

Learning in context is great. The strategy is really for those who want to learn many words fast with paper flash cards.

Also I find paper cards useful simply because they can be easily carried with you, and I truly believe that alot of learning can take place during short periods of doing nothing. Vocab drills are probably the best things to do during these moments as they provide alot of flexibility.

Edited by xtremelingo on 05 October 2007 at 4:59pm

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 Message 4 of 167
04 October 2007 at 12:27am | IP Logged 
Interesting ideas, xtreme, as always.

While I agree with asad that learning in context is better overall, I think this method that xtreme describes is better for that initial push of high-frequency words (as advocated by Stuart Jay Raj, iirc) so that when you do start learning words in context, you'll actually be able to tell what the context is!

As for computer vs. paper, I personally think paper cards are good for the initial push for vocabulary, for a couple of reasons: writing them out the first time is a kind of studying (just copying and pasting skips that step), it gets your motor function involved, which can be a memory aid for some, and finally, the portability, as xtreme says (those of us without PDAs, of course).

Anyways, it's something I might try with Gujarati, since I'm comfortable with the script enough to start learning words that aren't transliterated... We'll see tomorrow, I think!

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 Message 5 of 167
04 October 2007 at 9:15am | IP Logged 
xtremelingo wrote:
This method requires initial preparation for it to be effective

Many hours of initial preparation.
xtremelingo wrote:
Expect to put in about 30 min-1 hour/day.

Using this method, I would guess more like 3 to 6 hours, depending on the individual.
xtremelingo wrote:
you want to leave white space under the target and native word so you can write more on it (more later.)

When dealing with large numbers of paper flashcards, it's extremely inefficient to try to find and modify existing cards. One is better off creating new cards, and living with the duplicates.
xtremelingo wrote:
Each day you should be able to learn about 100 words


This is one of the most inefficient, complicated methods I've ever seen in working with large numbers of paper flashcards. I don't believe you've ever used it yourself, or you would know how bad it is. There's no need to warn people against using this; if they try they'll probably wind up quitting in the first hour or so.
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 Message 6 of 167
04 October 2007 at 9:27am | IP Logged 
Honestly, I never understood why people actually dedicate time to vocab learning. It's much easier learning vocab in a context like reading a book, listening to the news,etc...
And I agree with leosmith, this method is terribly inefficient and won't fit into the time table of a full time college student or professional.

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 Message 7 of 167
04 October 2007 at 10:21am | IP Logged 
"In the early days of language learning, many people, perhaps most people, are able to learn much more quickly if they learn the language by processing the language than they can learn by memorizing expressions from 3x5 cards, ..."

Kick-starting Your Language Learning
by Greg Thomson

Edited by Linguamor on 04 October 2007 at 10:21am

Trilingual Triglot
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 Message 8 of 167
04 October 2007 at 11:49am | IP Logged 

Well, considering that I have retained 95% of 1200 words that I have learned in two weeks using THIS method. This is the method I use to jumpstart my language-acquisition, particularly in new languages.


Many hours of initial preparation

Not if you are smart. Collecting high-frequency words can be easily found on the internet (in both target and native) and their simple translations can be done ALL at once through textfile input into a translator. I can do this in a matter of 10 minutes. The longest part would be to actually write the words onto the flashcards themselves. Which is also the point, because through writing them on the cards you are essentially getting a form of review.


When dealing with large numbers of paper flashcards..

200 cards for 600 words is a large number to you?

It's inefficient if you are -- lazy.

Why would you FIND anything? You would just write new words on existing cards, it doesn't have to be in any particular order or arrangement.


I don't believe you've ever used it yourself, or you would know how bad it is.

This is coming from someone who hasn't tried it himself. Of course it wouldn't work for you, because the impression I get from you is -- laziness. There's too much reliance on computers/technology -- when sometimes the old tricks are still very effective.

It's also very inefficient to open up your laptop computer for a 5-10:minute subway ride, waiting for your computer to load, finally arrive at your stop to only have reviewed nothing, when I can just pop a deck out of my pocket, probably get through the entire thing at lightning speed in the same time. Many do not have the luxury of PDA's either.

I am pretty sure Cardinal Mezzofanti didn't use a computer when he memorized vocabulary by the way.

Note for everyone else,

Don't let people like Leosmith prevent you from trying new methods. Try the method yourself, judge it for yourself. Don't let others judge for you.

Edited by xtremelingo on 04 October 2007 at 12:00pm

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