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Strategy: Learn 600 words a week.

 Language Learning Forum : Questions About Your Target Languages Post Reply
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furyou_gaijin
Senior Member
Japan
Joined 4527 days ago

540 posts - 631 votes 
Speaks: Latin*

 
 Message 73 of 167
10 October 2007 at 4:48am | IP Logged 
leosmith wrote:
furyou_gaijin wrote:
I honestly can't see the point of using flashcards with European or any other alphabet-based languages

And why not, pray tell?


It may be a personal thing but I find flashcards essentially boring. They have been useful to me for character-related languages due to very specific challenges these languages present. For alphabet-based languages, daily reading and daily listening provides masses of context through which words are retained - I personally just never had an issue with vocabulary while learning those. Furthermore, for each additional Germanic or Romance or Slavic language, the vocabulary of already known languages provide masses of clues, so one is able to pick up literally thousands of vocabularly items in the space of a few days.
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furyou_gaijin
Senior Member
Japan
Joined 4527 days ago

540 posts - 631 votes 
Speaks: Latin*

 
 Message 74 of 167
10 October 2007 at 4:50am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
The assumption behind wordlists...


I do agree with this. And well done transcribing the thought from my previous message in so many more words... ;-)))


Linguamor wrote:
Words like these are not typical of most of the words in a language. Neither do people speak in single words. As soon as you use these words in utterances, word for word translation to produce the utterance often no longer works, e.g. "on a changé de voiture", "tu as donné à manger au chat?", "pense à prendre du lait".


What does it have to do with translating utterances? In any of the above, 'chat', 'lait' and to a lesser degree 'voiture' can be replaced with any other animal, food or means of transportation. It's no use recalling the context when one is presented with a shopping list or very concise directions to get to a destination - but knowing the actual words would be hugely helpful!

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Iversen
Super Polyglot
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 Message 75 of 167
10 October 2007 at 5:17am | IP Logged 
Those parts of a language that are really heavy on idiomatics are normally also very prominent in utterances in that language, while those that are less idiomatic are very numerous, but they don't take up as much space in real texts. Take for instance the most common prepositions. A decent dictionary will give several pages of examples illustrating different uses of just one preposition, and it is understandable if Linguamor in such a case throws up her hands and just tell her pupils to learn its use from practice (instead of using one single translation in every case, which clearly won't work).

I would still say that it is harmless to include such a word in a word list, preferably with a couple of possible translations, because you will very quickly discover that these don't cover the various uses in the real world, but they may give a hint to the meaning even in aberrant cases. Some very common verbs also have very diffuse meanings, but knowing a few of these makes it easier to recognize and decode other cases where they don't apply.

The actual number of these extremely multi-facetted words is quite small, and you can easily spot them in a dictionary because of the length of the articles. Besides, you will meet them so often in real texts that you will soon learn to recognize them.

In general terms, if you go through a dictionary the majority of words don't behave like this, most have very limited and clearcut meanings, which may or may not be easy to formulate in a certain language, - sometimes you need a definition in several words, or you have to resort to another language to find a simple, but adequate translation. Words like 'horse' are typical, because you don't need to learn all the idiomatic uses of the word or derived meanings to learn that it is an animal with four legs that is used for riding. And you are better served when you know that it is the same animal as XXX in your own language, than if you have to figure that out from context the first time you see the word.


Edited by Iversen on 10 October 2007 at 5:18am

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Linguamor
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United States
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 Message 76 of 167
10 October 2007 at 5:51am | IP Logged 
furyou_gaijin wrote:
Iversen wrote:



[QUOTE=Linguamor] Words like these are not typical of most of the words in a language. Neither do people speak in single words. As soon as you use these words in utterances, word for word translation to produce the utterance often no longer works, e.g. "on a changé de voiture", "tu as donné à manger au chat?", "pense à prendre du lait".


What does it have to do with translating utterances? In any of the above, 'chat', 'lait' and to a lesser degree 'voiture' can be replaced with any other animal, food or means of transportation. It's no use recalling the context when one is presented with a shopping list or very concise directions to get to a destination - but knowing the actual words would be hugely helpful!


My point was that although those nouns could be learned out of context, to use them you would normally need to have learned other words that could not be learned as isolated target > native equivalents. Memorizing changer = change, donner = give, manger = eat, penser = think, prendre = take will not allow a (native English speaking) language learner to produce those utterances (and maybe not even understand all of them) because native English speakers would say "we bought a new car", "did you feed the cat", "remember to get milk".

      
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furyou_gaijin
Senior Member
Japan
Joined 4527 days ago

540 posts - 631 votes 
Speaks: Latin*

 
 Message 77 of 167
10 October 2007 at 7:42am | IP Logged 
Linguamor wrote:
My point was that although those nouns could be learned out of context, to use them you would normally need to have learned other words that could not be learned as isolated target > native equivalents. Memorizing changer = change, donner = give, manger = eat, penser = think, prendre = take will not allow a (native English speaking) language learner to produce those utterances (and maybe not even understand all of them) because native English speakers would say "we bought a new car", "did you feed the cat", "remember to get milk".

      


I see. That is indeed the case and for that reason I have excluded the verbs from my list of items learnable outside of context and limited the list to nouns denoting specific objects and possibly some adjectives (as suggested by frenkeld).
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Linguamor
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 Message 78 of 167
10 October 2007 at 7:47am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:

In general terms, if you go through a dictionary the majority of words don't behave like this, most have very limited and clearcut meanings, which may or may not be easy to formulate in a certain language, - sometimes you need a definition in several words, or you have to resort to another language to find a simple, but adequate translation.


The meaning of most words is "fuzzy" and heavily context dependent.

Iversen wrote:

Words like 'horse' are typical, because you don't need to learn all the idiomatic uses of the word or derived meanings to learn that it is an animal with four legs that is used for riding. And you are better served when you know that it is the same animal as XXX in your own language, than if you have to figure that out from context the first time you see the word.


Don't confuse learning in context with learning from context. I agree that the word for 'horse' does not need to be learned in context. But a native word > target word association for a word like this is not needed for another reason - the target word can be directly associated with an image or the simple idea of "horse".

Most words are not like 'horse'. It is also a mistake to fixate on single words. Meaning is not normally expressed by single words. People express meaning with utterances. Utterances that can be considered to be equivalent in different languages mostly do not map word for "equivalent" word from one language to another. This is what I mean when I say languages are idiomatic. Most utterances that people produce in normal everyday language use are idiomatic in this sense. The language learner cannot produce most of the utterances that he or she needs to produce to express the meanings he or she wants to express by using the native language utterances as a model and substituting target language words that he or she has memorized as equivalents of the native language words.


Edited by Linguamor on 10 October 2007 at 7:53am

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Iversen
Super Polyglot
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Denmark
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 Message 79 of 167
10 October 2007 at 8:45am | IP Logged 
Linguamor wrote:
My point was that although those nouns could be learned out of context, to use them you would normally need to have learned other words that could not be learned as isolated target > native equivalents. Memorizing changer = change, donner = give, manger = eat, penser = think, prendre = take will not allow a (native English speaking) language learner to produce those utterances (and maybe not even understand all of them) because native English speakers would say "we bought a new car", "did you feed the cat", "remember to get milk".   


My point is that if you know that "remember" is more or less he same as "se souvenir de", "to" in many cases play the role of "de", "get" is a generalist term that sometimes mean "se procurer de" and "milk" is the same fluid as "lait", THEN you can easily understand the expression "remember to get milk", even if it doesn't quite match the French way of saying things (which in the very polite version could be something like "N'oubliez pas d'acheter du lait, s'il vous plait").

The mistake that some of Linguamor's pupils make is to expect the English expression to correspond narrowly to a string of translations of each single word in the native language. This is clearly a recipe for disaster (even though you sometimes have to take the risk, if you are stranded in a foreign country and doesn't quite know how to say things the proper way).

What I propose is to learn the elements of the language well enough to be able to deal with real texts as soon as possible, - after all you can only learn how things are actually formulated in the foreign language if you have an idea about what the heck they are speaking about in the first place. Linguamor probably does this by giving her pupils texts that are so simple that they can infer the meaning of each unknown word in the context, - I prefer taking a good dictionary or my notes from active reading with a dictionary and then hammer through some good old fashioned rote learning. Both ways apparently work, because both of us have learnt to express ourselves in a fair number of languages.

By the way, when I speak about idiomatic uses of language, I only consider those cases where decoding based on single words or short expressions isn't enough and you have to learn a whole string of words by heart. In Linguamors terminology idiomatic use of a language apparently covers every single case where you can't survive on a word-to-word translation, which of cause gives the term 'idiomatic' a much wider range.


Edited by Iversen on 10 October 2007 at 9:07am

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William Camden
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United Kingdom
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 Message 80 of 167
10 October 2007 at 9:04am | IP Logged 
I think it's better to learn 200, or even 100 words a week well than 600 not so well. 600 a week is not far short of 100 a day, and I wonder whether this might be too much of a learning load.


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