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Strategy: Learn 600 words a week.

 Language Learning Forum : Questions About Your Target Languages Post Reply
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jeff_lindqvist
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 Message 81 of 167
10 October 2007 at 10:06am | IP Logged 
Oh yes, the old quantity vs. quality. However, challenging yourself once in a while (or constantly) can lead to great success. If you try 600 words and possibly have as low 50% retention the week after, isn't that better than just knowing 100 words? I'm thinking in the lines of Fanatic's "quickly but poorly" idea (outlined in the Assimil strategy thread).
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frenkeld
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 Message 82 of 167
10 October 2007 at 10:27am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
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.

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.


These comments refer to comprehension, while Linguamor's focus seems to have been production.

The subject being whether flashcards/wordlists are a waste of time, it is worth considering comprehension and production separately.

It seems more or less beyond doubt that memorizing words in the Target->English direction can significantly aid comprehension for those who have trouble retaining passive vocabulary without deliberate memorization of some sort.

The only potentially controversial issue then is whether memorizing individual words and common idioms in the English->Target direction is of use in developing active skills.


P.S. It seems reasonable at least for learning purposes to regard things like "changé de voiture", "dar de comer", "den ganzen Tag über", etc., as idioms and record them as separate vocabulary items in one's wordlists. Good dictionaries tend to list such phrases under the corresponding headword entries, signaling a potential idiom.

P.P.S. Once one switches to monolingual dictionaries, vocabulary can only be reviewed unidirectionally anyway.


Edited by frenkeld on 10 October 2007 at 11:18am

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William Camden
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 Message 83 of 167
10 October 2007 at 10:46am | IP Logged 
jeff_lindqvist wrote:
Oh yes, the old quantity vs. quality. However, challenging yourself once in a while (or constantly) can lead to great success. If you try 600 words and possibly have as low 50% retention the week after, isn't that better than just knowing 100 words? I'm thinking in the lines of Fanatic's "quickly but poorly" idea (outlined in the Assimil strategy thread).


It may be a matter of how much you want the words to be in your active vocabulary. Arguably 100 words you can readily understand and actively use might be superior to several hundred you vaguely recognise but would have trouble using in conversation etc.

I mentioned earlier the man I knew who learned Russian while a serviceman in the Royal Air Force. He was selected for Russian-language training and their weekly sheet contained about 200 words. But they were regularly tested on those words, and tests could include earlier vocabulary. If they fell below a certain level in the tests (it was 75%, I think, but I am not sure - it was certainly well above 50%) they failed. So while they weren't required to know 600 words a week, they had to learn well the more modest supply of vocabulary expected of them.

Edited by William Camden on 10 October 2007 at 10:54am

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jeff_lindqvist
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 Message 84 of 167
10 October 2007 at 11:56am | IP Logged 
I was thinking of 300 words (50%) that you understand and use, rather than 600 words you vaguely recognise, so 300 words would be "better" than 100. I'm not even sure that the retention is a low as 50%. We could of course talk about any number of cards here. I'm only saying that challenge is good for you.
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Yukamina
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 Message 85 of 167
10 October 2007 at 4:13pm | IP Logged 
frenkeld wrote:

The subject being whether flashcards/wordlists are a waste of time, it is worth considering comprehension and production separately.

It seems more or less beyond doubt that memorizing words in the Target->English direction can significantly aid comprehension for those who have trouble retaining passive vocabulary without deliberate memorization of some sort.



Great points! For me, I'm learning for comprehension rather than production, so I find flash cards useful. I want to be able to read Japanese...if I have the meaning of a word slightly off, the context should correct it.
Learning with sentences is great, I'm sure, but it's not so easy for me to get a hold of these sentences. It would also take a lot longer, both to collect and to review. Though, I might start using sentences instead soon, since vocabulary isn't as much of a barrier as it was a short while ago.
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Linguamor
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 Message 86 of 167
10 October 2007 at 5:28pm | IP Logged 
frenkeld wrote:

These comments refer to comprehension, while Linguamor's focus seems to have been production.


Exactly right.

frenkeld wrote:

The subject being whether flashcards/wordlists are a waste of time, it is worth considering comprehension and production separately.


Doing so facilitates the discussion greatly.

frenkeld wrote:

It seems more or less beyond doubt that memorizing words in the Target->English direction can significantly aid comprehension for those who have trouble retaining passive vocabulary without deliberate memorization of some sort.

The only potentially controversial issue then is whether memorizing individual words and common idioms in the English->Target direction is of use in developing active skills.


Memorizing individual words (i.e. without the context of accompanying words) in the native language > target language direction for production is where I see problems. Certain types of words can be learned like this - names of animals, days of the week, fruits and vegetables, etc. However, to become proficient in speaking a language, the language learner has to learn to use thousands of target language multi-word stretches of language that cannot be produced based on the memorization of individual native language > target language word equivalents. These longer stretches of language, lexical chunks, prefabricated and semi-prefabricated word patterns, etc. cannot be "invented" based on how the equivalent meanings are expressed in the language learner's native language. They must be learned. The language learner's major challenge in becoming a proficient speaker is "learning how to say it" for the thousands of meanings that speakers need to express.

Of course, there is no reason why these larger stretches of language could not be learned in the native-language > target language direction from flashcards and wordlists, since the important thing is that they be encountered and learned, not where they are encountered and learned. The practical problem is the large number of flashcards that would have to be used to cover even a fraction of the items that the language learner needs to learn. For this reason, most of it will still have to be acquired from exposure to comprehensible language - reading, watching tv and movies, listening to radio, conversing with native speakers, etc.



   




Edited by Linguamor on 10 October 2007 at 5:30pm

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Linguamor
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 Message 87 of 167
10 October 2007 at 6:54pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:

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", ...


Yes, a memorized word list, like a dictionary, can be an aid to understanding language you have not acquired.

Iversen wrote:

...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").


"Remember to get milk" and "don't forget to buy milk" are functionally equivalent in English, and any native English speaker is able to produce both of these utterances. If a native English speaker has only memorized forget = oublier, think = penser, acheter = buy, and prendre = take, he or she will only be able to produce "n'oublie pas d'acheter du lait". If, however, he or she has also learned penser in the context 'penser à (prendre)', and prendre in the context 'prendre (du lait)', he or she will also be able to produce "pense à prendre du lait". Any native French speaker is able to produce both of these simple utterances, and if a non-native speaker of French cannot do so, I would not consider that speaker very proficient in French.


Edited by Linguamor on 10 October 2007 at 7:03pm

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apparition
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 Message 88 of 167
10 October 2007 at 7:18pm | IP Logged 
Here are my experiences with xtreme's system, so far:

N.B. I started just last week and have put in about five hours overall, including writing them out. That is to say, I've only just begun, so take that as a caveat.

1) It was fun for me to write the words. This is probably due to the novelty of writing the script and being able to pronounce the words as they are written.

2) I've made about 150 flashcards because I ran out of cards to make them. I would have gladly spent all week writing the cards out it was so fun for me.

3) I only do flashcards max 10 minutes at a time throughout the day. I can't do more than that. My mind rebels and wants to do something else pronto. The overriding feeling is, "Man, I really want some context here!" I was yearning for a story or something!

4) Reviewing them Target>English involves sounding out the words from the script, saying it a few times, then remembering the English definition. Not too tough.

5) That is, of course, much easier than English>Target, where unless there's a real distinctive association that occurs when I think of the concept in English, I draw a blank most of the time on my first pass. And second pass. And third pass, unless I've come up with some other association along the way. It's a struggle to do this and there are cards that I've reviewed ten times and still can't remember. Obviously this isn't restricted to xtreme's system, but I thought I'd share the difficulty anyway.

6) As far as 10 + 10 = 20, then 20 + 20 = 40 goes? I didn't feel much like reviewing the cards I already knew. They were so automatic when I knew them, that I decided to alter what seemed to be a key component to the system. I took out the words I knew and kept the words I didn't. Couldn't help it, really.

6) I haven't gotten to the meat of the system yet. I haven't finished my pile of 150 cards, so I haven't added the new words yet in order to see them on a second pass through the whole stack.

Preliminary Conclusions (oxymoron?): As long as I can find the bits of time to do it, I'm okay. It's not the most entertaining way to learn a language, but what else can I do with 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there? Gujarati resources aren't exactly plentiful in portable form, so this is how I'm doing it for now.

My grade, so far, in terms of other ways I've learned languages? B-







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