Saim's log 2017-2019

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-07-09, 19:32

What? No, that's me committing seppuku. :lol:

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby księżycowy » 2018-07-09, 19:39

Too late. I'm dead now.

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-07-14, 23:58

I'm just posting here because I feel a little awkward about letting this thread end on a such a morbid note. :P

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby księżycowy » 2018-07-15, 10:23

Show some respect! I'm dead!

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-07-15, 22:22

I will burn incense for you. *bows*

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby księżycowy » 2018-07-15, 23:08

Leave me an offering of food too. Ghosts get hungry, ya know!

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-07-16, 1:54

I know not what your culinary preferences are, holy one, but I offer rice, chicken curry, mung beans, stir-fried pork, and spinach with tofu.

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby OldBoring » 2018-07-16, 8:57

At least in China people don't offer such elaborate dishes... a boiled whole chicken, some fruit, some bowls of rice are good. :silly:

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-07-17, 2:30

Yeah, but I don't know whether I can satisfy księżycowy with stuff like that. :P

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby Saim » 2018-08-12, 10:21

Over the past year I’ve been trying to find ways to make my language learning more systematic and to make more stuff stick, as well as to train myself to be disciplined enough to go through textbooks, but I think I’ve honestly had more success just following native media. I also don't think I really need to try and get to a good active level of many more languages for the time being. When it cames to active use I think it’s more important to prevent my Hungarian and Urdu from slipping away (as well as perfect my Polish, which while fluent is not at the level I'd like it to be at; that's the only language I think I should make sure I'm studying ever day) than for me to become particularly good at speaking German or Russian or whatever.

At the moment the languages that I’m interested are German, Russian, French, Turkish, Arabic and Hebrew. I will focus mainly on better understanding native media I’m interested in (i.e. reading and listening), I will keep making sentence-based recognition flashcards to make a higher percentage of the new material stick. I was going to drop Hebrew and French to focus on the others, but there's so much music that I listen to in these languages that'd be a shame to not take advantage of that to learn some stuff as well.

One of the mistakes I think I used to make was to kind of avoid "uncommon" vocabulary (or vocabulary I deemed to be uncommon or useless) in languages I wasn’t trying to get to a high level of. The common words end up reinforcing themselves and absorbing uncommon words is actually more useful than I would've thought when it comes to comprehension or having conversations with natives. I also fell into listening for the gist a lot rather than using listening as a way to notice new words or structures -- in that sense my new flashcard routine has helped me be more attentive to the languages I'm studying. For Turkish especially I’m going to make a lot of sentence cards simply because of how distant the language is.

Besides this, I’m going to try a little experiment:

Mandarin learning experiment

Some of you here might be surprised to know that Mandarin was the first foreign language I ever tried to learn on my own. I remember my dad would fly to Taiwan a lot for work and whenever we went to Pakistan or Serbia to visit family we would generally have the stopover in Singapore, so it always seemed like an eminently relevant language for me to learn. I remember I would go over this one CD for learning Mandarin again and again -- I managed to memorise all the pronouns, numbers and family terms (probably without really understanding the tone system), but I had no idea where to go from there. After several years of both independent and guided language learning using a variety of techniques for many different language families I think I might know where to go from that point.

I’m ashamed to admit that a big part of why I haven’t worked on Mandarin so far is because, well, the tones and the characters scare me away. Especially the characters, since it means you have to put in just that much more effort to properly acquire vocabulary. My experiences with Arabic have helped me see just how much effort is needed to acquire a very lexically and culturally distant language with a different writing system -- for a while I told myself “I’ll work on an East Asian language once I’m better at Semitic”, but I’m not sure how much better is ‘better’ enough.

Speaking of Semitic, I’ve stopped beating myself up and am actually quite happy with my progress in Arabic. I can’t really say I speak Arabic but I do think I’m at the point in my passive knowledge where if I had a real reason to develop an ‘active’ level of it I would be able to pick it up fairly quickly. I’ve realised that many times when working on Arabic I would torture myself with material way above my level -- I find it difficult to follow traditional textbooks (although that’s something I’ve also gotten better at), so I wasn’t really sure what else to do other than ‘natural’ activities like trying to read Wikipedia articles (where I didn’t know any of the grammar, I didn’t have a ‘reading voice’ in Arabic and 95% or so of the vocabulary was new; what was I thinking?). I’ve realised I’m not likely to have any good external reason to learn Arabic any time soon, and the fact that gratification is so delayed compared to even Hungarian or Hebrew means that if I want to make any progress in it I should resign to doing it very slowly with the hope of eventually having the time to push into more ‘active’ use of the language. In my exprience it’s more fun to train speaking when you have a larger passive vocabulary than when you’re starting from scratch even though in theory speaking from the very beginning might be more efficient, at least if you’re training the other three skills as well, so for the time being I think I’ll keep focusing on listening, reading and especially vocabulary acquisition (but training vocabulary at the sentence level).

This plan for Arabic has got me thinking if there is any way to do something similar with Mandarin even though I’d be learning it from scratch. I’m unlikely to find the internal motivation to make Mandarin my main focus for any longer than a couple of weeks since there are still so many interesting languages in Europe where gratification would be felt after very few study sessions.

Is there some way to bypass the self-torture I engaged in studying Arabic while still putting in a sustained enough effort to make progress? At the A levels your knowledge can be quite precarious, with even small breaks making you forget most of it: what is the minimum amount of effort I can put it in without immediately forgetting everything?

The only way I can think of is to use Anki (OK, yes, I did write this much to tell you all that I’m rediscovering the wheel). Although it can be a hassle to make flashcards, there is quite a lot of labour that goes into planning when to revise things (which is important when maintaining a language at A level), which Anki of course automates.

My plan is to slowly go through Glossika Mandarin 1 and Le Chinois sans peine. My goal is not to ‘finish’ either book, because I would probably just torture myself for a bit, then procrastinate and then probably finally abandon it. I would simply be adding 6 sentences to Anki twice a week (so 12 sentences a week).

My ideas for what these cards would look like:
-front side Chinese characters (typed by me, not copy-pasted) with audio (cut out from Audacity)
-back side pinyin and translation

I will also add pictures to some of these sentences or highlight particularly relevant words.

My plan would be to keep doing this for a year (well, until July 2019) and see if I’ve actually learned anything int hat time. This would mean creating around ~400 cards, which doesn’t sound like that much but I think it would be no small feat if it ends up actually helping the words stick for a language that is so different to anything else I’ve studied. I will also use other activities (whether they're in lesson format or if they're just texts with a translation and audio) to train listening comprehension but I won't try to memorise any vocabulary from them. If I feel like adding cards from sources other than Glossika and Assimil that’s fine too, the important thing is keeping myself to a minimum of 12 cards per week.

I’m under no illusions that I will be able to learn a huge amount or gain any spoken fluency using this method, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better to slowly plod along and get used to the language rather than to put it off for later when I can concentrate on it (i.e. never).

I’m also open to suggestions on what sort of preparation I should do beforehand to make sure the characters actually stick (they're complex enough that I think looking at them again and again with the associated audio might not be enough).
Last edited by Saim on 2018-08-13, 9:27, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby Ciarán12 » 2018-08-12, 12:55

Regarding memorising Chinese characters, I highly recommend Remembering the Hanzi by James Heisig. I used his method for Japanese and found it to be an order of magnitude more effective than other methods I'd tried before.

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby Antea » 2018-08-12, 13:29

Saim wrote: I’ve realised I’m not likely to have any good external reason to learn Arabic any time soon, and the fact that gratification is so delayed compared to even Hungarian or Hebrew means that if I want to make any progress in it I should resign to doing it very slowly with the hope of eventually having the time to push into more ‘active’ use of the language .


I am curious, why do you find Hebrew easier to learn than Arabic? They’re both Semitic :hmm:

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby Saim » 2018-08-12, 13:46

Ciarán12 wrote:Regarding memorising Chinese characters, I highly recommend Remembering the Hanzi by James Heisig. I used his method for Japanese and found it to be an order of magnitude more effective than other methods I'd tried before.


Thanks, I'll check it out!

Antea wrote:I am curious, why do you find Hebrew easier to learn than Arabic? They’re both Semitic :hmm:


Mainly because of the comparative lack of diglossia (this meant I could use things like rap music and internet comments to study the language, and be able to use the same words and similar constructions to understand more formal language), but also the European influence makes it a bit more familiar than Arabic. I'd also say Hebrew grammar is a bit simpler than that of MSA, with no broken plurals and fewer verb paradigms. I had Hebrew classes at university so that helped too.

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby Car » 2018-08-12, 20:05

Saim wrote:
Ciarán12 wrote:Regarding memorising Chinese characters, I highly recommend Remembering the Hanzi by James Heisig. I used his method for Japanese and found it to be an order of magnitude more effective than other methods I'd tried before.


Thanks, I'll check it out!


I have the Kana book and the method definitely is good.
Please correct my mistakes!

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby eskandar » 2018-08-13, 6:36

Saim wrote:I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better to slowly plod along and get used to the language rather than to put it off for later when I can concentrate on it (i.e. never).

I completely agree. I basically (unintentionally) did this with Arabic for many years before I started seriously learning it, just by learning a word here and there, listening to lots of Arabic music (without much understanding), etc. When I finally started actively studying it, it was practically intuitive.
Currently away from Unilang.

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby Saim » 2018-08-13, 11:40

Image

Why is the first character different to the other two, help

Car wrote:
Saim wrote:
Ciarán12 wrote:Regarding memorising Chinese characters, I highly recommend Remembering the Hanzi by James Heisig. I used his method for Japanese and found it to be an order of magnitude more effective than other methods I'd tried before.


Thanks, I'll check it out!


I have the Kana book and the method definitely is good.


Yeah, I'm enjoying it so far. I've been reading the explanations and then handwriting the characters again and again but without trying to do any rote memorisation. I think between this and reviewing the same sentences in Anki the characters will stop being complete gibberish within a year. :P

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby Ciarán12 » 2018-08-13, 14:29

Saim wrote:Image

Why is the first character different to the other two, help


Ehm, because they are 3 different words?
Lit. "You hungry Q"

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby Saim » 2018-08-13, 14:42

Ciarán12 wrote:Ehm, because they are 3 different words?
Lit. "You hungry Q"


I mean that the font seems different. Sometimes the characters (i.e. the second two in that sentence) look crisp and nice when I input them into Anki and sometimes they look kind of shit. :hmm:

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-08-13, 15:39

Yeah, it's not just Anki, unfortunately; I've seen that with the encoding on some websites, too. It seems to happen when they don't really have proper font support.

About Chinese characters: Okay, I'll admit, they're hard, but I've mostly been of the view that they're not as hard as they're made out to be and make way more sense if you understand how they work (I'm being really vague here only because I'm not sure how much of this you know already or want to know). For learning Chinese characters, I personally have (in print) and like using this and especially this (which may also be available online somewhere; I haven't looked too carefully yet). To some extent, I also find this useful (same edition but slightly different cover and formatting from what they show in the link).

As for listening materials, well, I'm not sure how much this is going to help, and feel free to ask any questions or prod me for more info since I'd love to help, but...there's plenty of songs (including rap), movies, documentaries, etc. though the main example of rap I personally am familiar with is this song from a Singaporean movie:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJJpFfvfBEo
There are also video series geared at foreign-language students, especially PRC-government-sanctioned ones with corny but cute dialogues, and also listening comprehension quizzes (with answer keys). Not-government-sanctioned videos are probably better, though usually not part of similarly long video series, if you want a less perplexing and mostly listening-based introduction into the language.

One thing that I like about videos in Mandarin is that subtitles in Mandarin are the norm. This helps demystify a lot of what people are saying (or singing) and also helps with understanding dialect variation. If you want videos without subtitles, of course, those exist, too.

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2018

Postby Saim » 2018-08-14, 9:38

vijayjohn wrote:Yeah, it's not just Anki, unfortunately; I've seen that with the encoding on some websites, too. It seems to happen when they don't really have proper font support.


Anki is flexible enough that there should be some way to fix it, though...

About Chinese characters: Okay, I'll admit, they're hard, but I've mostly been of the view that they're not as hard as they're made out to be and make way more sense if you understand how they work (I'm being really vague here only because I'm not sure how much of this you know already or want to know). For learning Chinese characters, I personally have (in print) and like using this and especially this (which may also be available online somewhere; I haven't looked too carefully yet). To some extent, I also find this useful (same edition but slightly different cover and formatting from what they show in the link).


Thanks for the recommendations. Did you do any rote memorisation? How long did it take you to start reading simple texts?

As for listening materials, well, I'm not sure how much this is going to help, and feel free to ask any questions or prod me for more info since I'd love to help, but...there's plenty of songs (including rap), movies, documentaries, etc. though the main example of rap I personally am familiar with is this song from a Singaporean movie:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJJpFfvfBEo
There are also video series geared at foreign-language students, especially PRC-government-sanctioned ones with corny but cute dialogues, and also listening comprehension quizzes (with answer keys). Not-government-sanctioned videos are probably better, though usually not part of similarly long video series, if you want a less perplexing and mostly listening-based introduction into the language.


I think so far I'm cool with plodding through beginner-level resources but I think after a year I'll want to wade into something deeper. :)

What are these video series?

One thing that I like about videos in Mandarin is that subtitles in Mandarin are the norm. This helps demystify a lot of what people are saying (or singing) and also helps with understanding dialect variation. If you want videos without subtitles, of course, those exist, too.


So it's like Hebrew then, awesome!


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