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German: massive input in Berlin

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daegga
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Austria
lang-8.com/553301
Joined 2820 days ago

1076 posts - 1789 votes 
Speaks: German*, EnglishC2, Swedish, Norwegian
Studies: Danish, French, Finnish, Icelandic

 
 Message 121 of 295
15 May 2014 at 1:18pm | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:

Most interesting statistic was that an analysis of five years worth of schools
textbooks suggests that students could only learn about 800 English passively (perhaps
200 words actively). Adding only one reader per week (i.e., one hour of reading)
approximately doubles vocabulary acquisition.


But that is only the case under the assumption that 20+ occurrences are needed for
robust acquisition of novel words. This assumption has two flaws:
1. Textbooks are usually designed for explicit word learning, not implicit word
learning (ie. the number of occurrences doesn't matter that much because the kids are
supposed to "learn" the words at home by whatever method they choose - usually pair
associative learning). Of the ~3200 unique words a successful student will have learnt
a lot more than 800 words during these 5 years.
2. I doubt the number 20 for meaning acquisition from graded readers. Even 1 or 2
highly constraining sentences can be enough for robust word learning (not that we see
these kind of sentences very often), although the probabilities increase with the
number of occurrences of course. But other factors are more important than sheer
repetition.

I'm not arguing against ER of course, but the statistics seem to be way off. I have
only skimmed through this talk, but did they even test the students? I doubt it. And if
you don't learn more than 800 words passively in 5 years, I wouldn't blame the
textbooks, something else must be terribly, terribly wrong.

Edited by daegga on 15 May 2014 at 1:23pm

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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2832 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 122 of 295
15 May 2014 at 2:28pm | IP Logged 
Your points are reasonable, but just to play devil's advocate:

1. But even if they learnt every word possible, ~3200, after five years that seems like a pretty low number.

2. I agree that people need to learn words outside of class. That's exactly what I did, using Anki for my A1 and A2 books. However, I do find it a bit shocking is that there are so many words that only appear once or twice in textbooks, and never again. You can learn these words using Anki, but if it's really going to be just a theoretical word for the next 4-5 years until you see it outside the classroom something is wrong.

3. I don't think anyone knows what the number of exposures needed to learn a a word is. I have heard figures from 6 to 20, but I would bet that sometimes people learn a word after a single exposure. I assume the 20 exposures implies a fairly nuanced understanding of a word, with it's different meanings. The problem of course is that different tests are used to estimate whether a word is learnt (multiple choice, writing a definition etc). So depending how you define a word as known you'll get very different answers.

I think the main point anyway is that textbooks aren't bad, but they are also not designed to teach you either an extensive vocabulary or intuitive feel of grammar. What was impressive was the amount of vocabulary people picked up with just one hour of reading a week in addition to normal class time.

Edited by patrickwilken on 15 May 2014 at 2:29pm

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Gemuse
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 2381 days ago

818 posts - 1189 votes 
Speaks: English
Studies: German

 
 Message 123 of 295
15 May 2014 at 8:57pm | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:

Most interesting statistic was that an analysis of five years worth of schools
textbooks suggests that students could only learn about 800 English passively
(perhaps 200 words actively). Adding only one reader per week (i.e., one hour of
reading) approximately doubles vocabulary acquisition.


That is a wrong interpretation.
First, observe that we are talking about middle/high school students.
Second, the motivation level if these students is what you would find in a high school.

If you replace that population with HTLAL people, you might get different results.


For the reader, he makes it clear that the reader level should be such that one does
not need a dictionary. I would hence say that the readers are for vocabulary retention
rather than acquisition.


I have been wondering about the following: suppose I not down the meanings of all
unknown words in my German text lesson (currently very high). Then, I read that lesson
again, and again, and again. So that I get exposed to the words repeatedly (but to the
same sentences). Would that be enough for vocabulary retention?

Edited by Gemuse on 15 May 2014 at 9:06pm

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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2832 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 124 of 295
16 May 2014 at 4:57pm | IP Logged 
Gemuse wrote:

I have been wondering about the following: suppose I not down the meanings of all
unknown words in my German text lesson (currently very high). Then, I read that lesson
again, and again, and again. So that I get exposed to the words repeatedly (but to the
same sentences). Would that be enough for vocabulary retention?


Sure, why not?

Initially I inputted all the words and all the sentences from my A1 and A2 textbooks into Anki. At least a third of the cards in my old Anki deck were sentences.

There is sometimes is a bit of a false dichotomy made between textbooks and extensive reading, in that textbooks are seen to be useful for grammar learning, and extensive reading for vocabulary.

Textbooks are (perhaps) useful for introducing various aspects of the language (grammar/vocabulary), but I strongly believe you'll only get a deep understanding of both grammar and vocabulary from extensive reading.

Edited by patrickwilken on 16 May 2014 at 4:57pm

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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2832 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 125 of 295
21 May 2014 at 3:46pm | IP Logged 
Dictionaries

I have collected a whole range of dictionaries over the last two years while learning German. Most of them are gathering dust on the shelf, but the one paper one I use a lot since I started reading paper books is Langenscheidt's Deutsch als Fremdsprach, a beautifully put together monolingual dictionary, especially designed for learners. The problem with monodictionaries is that they aren't very useful until you get to a certain point in learning - for me this was about B2 - but now that I am there I find it very helpful to quickly look up words while reading a paperback.

Until recently I have been using the Collins Concise German-English Dictionary for the Kindle. A positive steal at 8 Euros.

However, I have recently been feeling it's limitations, most obviously when trying to read a newspaper like Die Zeit, and was pleased to see that there are two other ebook dictionaries available: the PONS Advanced German-English Dictionary for 10 Euros and Langenscheidt Handwörterbuch: Deutsch-Englisch at a pricey 22 Euros.

Sadly the Langenscheidt dictionary are just not set-up to work properly on the Kindle. My guess is that they rushed this into production without setting it up properly parse written text. Quite sad given the quality of Langenscheidt's paper dictionaries. Luckily Amazon allows returns of ebooks bought in the last seven days free of charge.

The PONS dictionary on the other hand works very well - though the differences at least from what I was testing it on were relatively subtle. However, if I was starting out again I would definitely buy the PONS, and skip over the Collins, given it's broader scope and the small price differential between the two.

Edited by patrickwilken on 21 May 2014 at 3:50pm

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Gemuse
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 2381 days ago

818 posts - 1189 votes 
Speaks: English
Studies: German

 
 Message 126 of 295
21 May 2014 at 8:51pm | IP Logged 
Patrick, do you have to buy all the books you read on the kindle, or can you load
external pdfs?

Thanks for the dictionary recommendation.
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drygramul
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Italy
Joined 2767 days ago

165 posts - 269 votes 
Speaks: Persian, Italian*, EnglishC2, GermanB2
Studies: French, Polish

 
 Message 127 of 295
21 May 2014 at 9:37pm | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:
Dictionaries

I have collected a whole range of dictionaries over the last two years while learning German. Most of them are gathering dust on the shelf, but the one paper one I use a lot since I started reading paper books is Langenscheidt's Deutsch als Fremdsprach, a beautifully put together monolingual dictionary, especially designed for learners. The problem with monodictionaries is that they aren't very useful until you get to a certain point in learning - for me this was about B2 - but now that I am there I find it very helpful to quickly look up words while reading a paperback.


Same here. I bought the Duden Deutsch als Fremdsprache first (same price, one third of the entries) and it was awful. I didn't like neither the layout nor the explanations, which were anything but clear. Moreover I looked up the "sich freuen" entry: no explanation whatsoever for the two präpositional Präpositional-Ergänzungen (auf and über).
So I had it changed to the Langescheidt one, and now I seldom need the bilingual dictionary (Pons online). I agree that a B2 level is however required.
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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2832 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 128 of 295
21 May 2014 at 10:20pm | IP Logged 
Gemuse wrote:
Patrick, do you have to buy all the books you read on the kindle, or can you load external pdfs?


There are a ton of different ebook formats. The main formats you see are AZW for the Kindle (and also now KF8); MOBI which is basically AZW without DRM built in; and EPUB which is the open-source standard.

Kindles can show MOBI and AZW/KF8, but not EPUB. However, it's very easy to convert between formats using free open-source software called Calibre if you happen to have an EPUB version of a book. You can either buy books direct from Amazon or from the publishers themselves.

Calibre with some extra third-party plugins will also allow you to strip the DRM from Amazon books you've bought, in case you want to use them on some other device. As far as I can tell that's not actually illegal.

Kindles can also show PDFs, but the quality is pretty bad. PDF is a format for printing, not for displaying text on a screen, and I don't think it allows you to use the inbuilt dictionaries. Calibre does allow you to convert PDF into MOBI/EPUB formats, which is better, but the conversion is never very good (EPUB to MOBI conversion though is excellent).

This Wikipedia entry gets into detail .with most of the formats

I think the Kindle is the best ebook reader at the moment. I would strongly recommend NOT getting the Paperwhite though, as it doesn't allow you to efficiently look up words as you read. The 49 Euro cheaper version is much better for language learning as you can use a cursor to scroll through the text and look up words very quickly so it doesn't break the flow of your reading.

Rather than trying to read PDFs I would think about simply buying books either from Amazon or if you don't like Amazon from the publishers direct. A standard ebook/paperback is about 10 Euros, and until you get to B2 you'll need a couple of weeks at least to read it. Since I don't pay for language lessons or other things books seem like a very cheap way to learn the language.


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