Saim's log 2017-2019

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2019

Postby voron » 2019-06-19, 16:36

Saim wrote:perhaps with some sentence mining and Anki as icing on the cake

How do you do sentence mining for the languages you know well?

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2019

Postby Saim » 2019-06-19, 20:03

voron wrote:
Saim wrote:perhaps with some sentence mining and Anki as icing on the cake

How do you do sentence mining for the languages you know well?


I underline any new words or interesting structures in my reading. Then I make a smaller selection of some of these words, putting the sentence they occurred in on the front of cards (with the new word bolded) and a monolingual dictionary definition on the back. If I'm primarily interested in form (i.e. grammar or a specific way of phrasing something) rather than meaning, I make cloze cards.

It sounds like a waste of time at first but I feel like doing just a bit of this has massively improved my Polish, Serbian and Hungarian speaking and I can get away with doing less reading and listening in a given week without my active skills slipping much at all.
Last edited by Saim on 2019-06-22, 11:35, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2019

Postby Saim » 2019-06-22, 10:39

Pitch accent

My mum is visiting and I've realised that my pitch accent perception has actually gotten pretty good. It's almost absurd to me now that I could ever not hear it. It's even got the point where I can sometimes hear my own mistakes when I speak, which is great! It seems I'll be able to correct my pitch to a certain degree without doing any chorusing, although I'll still do some of that to "finish the job", as it were.

It seems pitch accent is one of those things that you have to try and pay attention to over a long period of time. Somehow "knowing" the pitch accent of some common words seemed to help in beginning to perceive it, because then you have a clearer from of reference of what you "should" be hearing. It's interesting that you kind of have to force yourself to try and hear it, give up, try it again, give up, try it again: it's not something you can learn in one or two sittings. In a way it's reminicent of building comprehension in a language you don't understand well yet, you can't "fully" understand a given text no matter how many words you look up, and you can't "fully" hear the pitch accent in any given recording no matter how much you try and force yourself. The intuition for it just builds up over time, somehow.

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2019

Postby voron » 2019-06-22, 11:24

Saim wrote:I underline any new words or interesting structures in my reading. Then I make a smaller selection of some of these words, putting the sentence they occurred in on the front of cards (with the new word bolded) and a monolingual dictionary definition on the back. If I'm primarily interested in form (i.e. grammar or a specific way of phrasing something) rather than meaning, I make cloze cards.

And when you revise the cards, do you try to remember the monolingual definition word-for-word?

I may do something like this for my Turkish. Hmm should I perhaps start buying newspapers? Living here, I have a luxury to read them on paper which I have never used.

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2019

Postby Saim » 2019-06-22, 11:29

voron wrote:And when you revise the cards, do you try to remember the monolingual definition word-for-word?


No, I just test myself on whether I remember the meaning of the word in the specific context, and then read the definition to see whether I was right. Sometimes I get lazy when I know I'm right and don't read the definition particularly thoroughly, but I don't think that's really a problem in the long run. Seeing the definitions again and again seems over time to make me better at paraphrasing and explaining ideas even though I don't memorise the exact wording the dictionary used.

You also reinforce a lot of vocabulary in the definitions, associating words with their synonyms and such. I found that this helped a lot with Hungarian especially, there were times where I'd encounter a word from a dictionary definition the next day in some other article.

I may do something like this for my Turkish. Hmm should I perhaps start buying newspapers? Living here, I have a luxury to read them on paper which I have never used.


Give it a shot! I find that when reading newspapers and magazines in Polish although my level is fairly good in any given article there'll be a couple of new words and I don't think I read often enough for me to pick most of them up "naturally", so it's good to give this some extra focus I think. Just make sure you limit the number of words you look up per page/article, when I first did this for Polish I started going crazy trying to look up almost everything. :lol:

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2019

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-06-24, 6:59

Saim wrote:When studying Urdu, on the other hand, I get tired fairly quickly when I read, I just don't have the level of vocabulary to be able to read extensively, nor am I particularly used to the Arabic script.

Gosh, I can relate to this problem a little too well. Reading shit in Urdu is hard no matter which way you slice it. Even reading Malayalam is hard for me. I've read at least six novels in Malayalam by now, not counting articles in a literary magazine or news articles, and I can read the script and even managed to read my grandfather's sloppy handwriting. But every time I do undertake the task of reading something in Malayalam, it takes incredibly long. I once tried reading two novels in tandem, and IIRC it took me more than a year. (On the other hand, my dad suggested my second novel, and I was amazed by the fact that, as he accurately predicted, it was a really fast read even for me).

I guess part of the problem is the script (it's not Roman script, so it's not like I see it quite as often!) and the vocabulary, not to mention the fact that it's not an Indo-European language, but I think it's also simply the fact that it will take a long time. The fact that it takes a long time for me to read a single novel is a demotivating factor in itself, to the point where once I get to the end, I'm like "fucking finally!!! No way I'm going to pick up another novel in Malayalam for a long time."

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2019

Postby Saim » 2019-06-24, 9:47

~6 months for a single novel is quite a lot! Did you do many hours per week? How often did you look up words? How many pages were they? Now you've scared me, I was thinking of shooting for something more like 2~3 months for my first Urdu novel. :lol:

I feel like the sentence card + dictionary definition has massively increased my reading speed already, so maybe try that out to (I know you don't like flashcards, but we'll bring you over to the dark side eventually :twisted: ).

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2019

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-06-24, 18:07

Saim wrote:~6 months for a single novel is quite a lot! Did you do many hours per week?

Eh, not really, I guess (how many is "many"?). I read both every day but I think only in the bathroom. :P I posted (briefly each time FWIR) about all but the first of the novels I read in the "what are you reading?" thread (mostly the archived version for novels 2-4).

The first novel I read was simple in the sense that it was just about an ordinary kid's life, but it was set in northern Kerala, which is culturally different from southern Kerala (where my family is from) in many ways. Then I started reading Chemmeen, which was faithfully adapted into what is probably the most famous movie in Malayalam ever. I'd already seen the movie, and it takes place much closer to where my family's from, but almost all the dialogue is in the variety spoken by the local fishing community, which keeps lengthening vowels in a manner that seems kind of arbitrary tbh. So in both of those cases, I felt like the dialogue was kind of bogging me down due to the dialect differences.

Then shortly after I started on Chemmeen, my dad came back from a trip to India with a much shorter book called Yakshi. He pretty much suggested dropping everything and reading that instead because it's much easier to read (partly because it's much shorter). I did just that (also entirely in the bathroom :lol:), and it was. I was done reading it in about a week and went back to Chemmeen, but the dialect differences kept dragging me down, and so my dad suggested another book that was written by a family friend IIRC. Then I started reading both of those in tandem. This meant I finally had a book to read that was long but at least from a more familiar cultural setting. Unfortunately, it is also probably the most boring book in Malayalam I have ever read all the way through. :P It's about aspiring entrepreneurs building rubber plantations (and eventually cities) in the wilderness (the Western Ghats), the sort of thing that fascinates my dad greatly but doesn't appeal to me nearly as much.

Another thing besides dialect differences that drags me down with most of these books is just cultural stuff. For example, I actually read my first novel aloud to my dad (of course he'd already read it himself ages ago, but it's sort of a bonding activity we enjoy :P), and at one point, the narrator mentions something about getting a carpenter to make a small plank. Then my dad explained to me that traditionally, people didn't have either tables or chairs but rather pretty much ate off the floor on the front porch. They'd often use a small plank of leftover wood with small, knobbly legs, like a stepstool but shorter, to put a banana leaf on so the food wasn't directly touching the floor, and that's the kind of plank the narrator was referring to. This is all interesting stuff to learn but still takes time!
How often did you look up words?

Pretty much never.
How many pages were they?

Chemmeen was 207 pages long, and Malagal, the rubber plantation one, was 375 pages long (but with shorter pages and bigger print). For comparison, my first novel was 339 pages long, and Yakshi was only 158 pages long. After all four of those, I read another novel that was 378 pages long, followed by another at just 116 (the length didn't help that much even in the last case; this time, the dialogue was in yet another variety of Malayalam, plus I read only like one chapter a week or something out loud to my dad).
Now you've scared me, I was thinking of shooting for something more like 2~3 months for my first Urdu novel. :lol:

Sorry! :P I took it pretty slow, though. Hopefully you'll have more luck than I've been having.

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2019

Postby Saim » 2019-06-26, 18:21

There's a Hindi series on Netflix with Hindi subtitles and audiodescription. :shock:

vijayjohn wrote:Sorry! :P I took it pretty slow, though. Hopefully you'll have more luck than I've been having.


Thanks, let's see how it goes.

Eh, not really, I guess (how many is "many"?).


I guess "many" would start at like... 6-7 hours a week?

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2019

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-06-29, 15:14

Saim wrote:There's a Hindi series on Netflix with Hindi subtitles and audiodescription. :shock:

Really? I was about to ask you which one and then suddenly remembered I don't have Netflix anymore anyway. :P
I guess "many" would start at like... 6-7 hours a week?

Then I guess I did do many hours per week in some sense, but it was a complicated process anyway. Like I started with one book, then that got interrupted by another book, then I decided to pick up a third book, so I read that until I got to a point where I could read both the first and third books in tandem.

I think after all that, I tried reading Babel No More and couldn't even finish it. It was such an annoying book to me. It felt like I was reading someone else's description of me and they had absolutely no clue what they were going on about. :lol:

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2019

Postby Saim » 2019-07-08, 10:29

Anki

I've realised that most of my cards are ancient, I haven't been adding many lately and would like to add a bunch of new ones, so I decided to go and delete some of my older cards. I've deleted all my bilingual (German, Turkish, Mandarin) cards, as well as all my monolingual cards from February, March and April (the only ones older than February were some of the Mandarin ones). For German I'm going fully monolingual, for Turkish I'm just going to watched dubbed TV and for Mandarin I'll look over my textbooks again and again without trying too hard to memorise anything (or if I do I'll just write words out in a notebook rather than making flaschards). I'll still use Anki for Heisig but no other Mandarin stuff, I used to like it but now I find it boring.

Unfortunately I've realised that I had my French deck set to only 2 reviews per day for some reason, so I had a backlog of reviews piling up (60 or so). I just went through them and deleted a bunch of them as well, failing or marking 'hard' on some others.

Han characters

I've taken a bit of a break from the Heisig book. I haven't been adding any new characters to Anki, although I've been going through a Heisig-based deck on Memrise (not putting in too much effort though, mainly focusing on quantity over quality). I'll go back to adding character cards to Anki when I feel like it, for the time being I've been happy with the amount of reviews I've been getting.

I was about to ask you which one and then suddenly remembered I don't have Netflix anymore anyway.


Sacred Games in case you're still interested.

I think after all that, I tried reading Babel No More and couldn't even finish it. It was such an annoying book to me. It felt like I was reading someone else's description of me and they had absolutely no clue what they were going on about. :lol:


I haven't read it but it seems to get pretty negative reviews in the whole "online self-taught language learning" crowd, so you're not alone. Here's one example.

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Re: Saim's log 2017-2019

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-07-11, 3:44

Saim wrote:Sacred Games in case you're still interested.

Thanks!
I haven't read it but it seems to get pretty negative reviews in the whole "online self-taught language learning" crowd, so you're not alone. Here's one example.

I think I have a more fundamental concern about this book: Frankly, I suspect it's unethical, and I'd like to explain why using his own words. tl;dr The people he's talking about are poorly understood, but he keeps injecting his own opinions about them instead of sticking to reporting what he's found. This is like how whitefolks used to write about us POCs (and still do to some extent even now).

Most people have a poor understanding of multilingualism just in general, and we understand multilingual humans even less, even if we ourselves are multilingual. As he writes on p. 13-14, "I also had to confront why languages scientists have refused to consider hyperpolyglots, talented language learners, and language accumulators as anything more than curiosities or freaks. [...] I'm not exaggerating when I say that no one has critically looked at people who have learned as many languages as hyperpolyglots claim, though scientists have studied people who have learned one or two 'second' or 'foreign' languages very well." He also says on p. 73 that there is very little research into "real, living hyperpolyglot[s]...A recurring frustration was that the modern scientific literature was nearly silent on the topic, except in decades-old studies about how trauma or disease in the brain damages a person's ability in one or more languages." Clearly, we know very little about the people who Erard describes as "hyperpolyglots"; indeed, when it comes to how their brains work, they only know so much about themselves.

What I find problematic about Erard's approach to this topic is that he doesn't even seem to know what he's doing. On p. 13, he writes, "Babel No More is an account of my search for solid answers [...] I decided to write as a curious adventurer rather than as a scholar, seeking the freedom to move across intellectual boundaries. [...] During my explorations, I grappled with the question of how best to make sense of what hyperpolyglots do in their lives with their languages. Whose standards would I use to judge their abilities, if indeed those need to be judged?" Instead of sticking to talking about what he observed, he keeps talking about what he thinks about what he observed, which I'm not sure is an appropriate thing for him to do when this book is one of the vanishingly few there are about such people at all.

Also, if he's writing about what he thinks, then to what extent is the book about hyperpolyglots or whatever and to what extent is he making it all about himself? When he writes things like "(a)ll that was left was for Mezzofanti to ascend to heaven, where the angels might discover, to their glittering surprise, that he spoke the angelic tongue, too" (page 6), or "I didn't find it necessary to mistrust them as crippled egos who require the salve of attention. Nor did I dance too often with their veracity. A healthy skepticism got me through" (page 14), he probably thinks he's just being a writer, but don't these kinds of remarks undermine all the work he put into investigating multilingualism? What favors is he doing for hyperpolyglots, or indeed for himself, when he mixes observation with personal opinions in a book he sells for money to the few people who are interested? And what favors is he doing such people when he refers to them as "an odd tribe...a lost tribe, belonging to no nation" (page 15)?


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