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German: massive input in Berlin

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

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 185 of 295
06 November 2014 at 8:17pm | IP Logged 
csidler wrote:

What's the plan for 2015?


Thanks for dropping by my log!

For 2015 I think I am going to change my strategies a bit. I've basically read 10k pages and watch 300 films in 2013 and in 2014. That's given me a very strong general feel for the language, but I am weak on output. I want get into regular writing practise. I also want to get on top of grammar better. Once I get to a point in my writing where I can produce text without too many grammatical errors fairly easily, I'll start working more intensively on speech.

I need think about what is realistic for 2015 over the next couple of months, but the big emphasis going forward will on working on producing German, not just consuming it.

Edited by patrickwilken on 06 November 2014 at 8:20pm

3 persons have voted this message useful



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

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 186 of 295
17 November 2014 at 9:26pm | IP Logged 
Thoughts on SRS, reading, and how to learn German

I have recently started reading the newspaper die Zeit online on a regular basis.

Die Zeit has a reputation for using a fairly high-level vocabulary. I have been told by a number of native speakers that if I can master the newspaper's language I won't need to go any further in my studies. Although I have picked up a reasonable vocabulary from reading books over the last two years, there are obvious gaps in my vocabulary to do with politics, economics etc that are blocking my ability to read the newspaper easily.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been using Anki to drill unknown words from the newspaper. This is the first time I have used Anki in a year and a half. I started using Anki when I first started learning German, and generated more than 8000 cards over the course of a year before giving it up, after exactly one year of use, in the middle of my third German novel.

At the time I was finding Anki a pain to use. Worse, my reading was generating many more unknown words than I could potentially learn from Anki, and it was this flood of vocabulary, that ultimately made me decide to give up SRS and attempt to learn the vocabulary simply from exposure via reading and listening. This is not a bad approach for higher frequency words, but for words that occur at low frequency you have to do a LOT of reading to see the words sufficient numbers of times to learn them.

I am coming around to thinking that I was using Anki, if not all wrong, mostly wrong, the first time around.

The biggest problem with my original Anki deck was that it was trying to do too many things. I had English>German cards, German>English cards, random sentences pulled out of dictionaries, grammar points - many annoyingly hard to remember.

According to various studies, you need an understanding of about 8000-9000 words to read 98% of text in English (let's assume the statistics are roughly equal for German).

What I think I should have been doing as my primary goal was to acquire a PASSIVE vocabulary of about 8000-9000 words in German. I could have done this simply using German>English cards, without worrying about gender/plural forms, just learning enough that I could recognize and use the words in text as I read.

Who cares what my ACTIVE vocabulary was? I am sure some of my passive vocabulary would have become active as I read, and as I have not been concentrating on output anyway, there was no point wasting countless hours trying to learn the gender and plural forms of 1000s of words. Not doing English>German or grammar cards would have saved me a lot of time on the Anki deck. And time is not free, rather than learning ten thousand words passively, I only learnt a few thousand -- some more active than others.

The cards I am generating from Anki are now very simple: The German word PLUS context sentence > The English word.

The Firelang extension for Firefox makes the process of card generation painless.

The other thing I have come around to accepting is that it doesn't matter that I learn all the words in the deck at once. Previously I would sweat over every single word in the deck, seeing it as a personal defeat if I suspended even a single word.

If you think of language learning as a process of growing a semantic network in your L2, then it makes sense that for new words to be learnt, they must be fitted in in some fashion to this network. However, put that way it is also obvious that some words will fit very naturally into the pre-existing network, and other's not. The ones that don't fit now, could very well fit easily once the network has grown a bit more. So I've now lowered my leech threshold on Anki to 6, and I may lower this down to 4 soon. I want Anki to suspend any words that I am having trouble learning. Any words I don't learn easily I'll suspend and reintroduce to the deck after a couple of months, and suspend them again quickly if I still can't learn them - and then reintroduce them again a few later again, and so on.

I don't think simply doing word drills in Anki is sufficient. You can learn to recognise the meanings of words via Anki, but the words don't come alive until you using the language. So the basic study plan is to read lots, generate lots of cards for unknown words, and then read lots more.

Once I have a sufficient passive vocabulary to easily read complex texts German will open up to me. It's at this point that I think my understanding of the language is going to grow at an exponential rate, as I will be able to finally start living in the language itself. Once I get a handle on the meaning of the language I'll be able to devote myself to understanding its form.

Anyway that's the theory: It will be interesting to see where I get in the next few months.

Edited by patrickwilken on 17 November 2014 at 9:53pm

2 persons have voted this message useful



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

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 187 of 295
19 November 2014 at 4:40pm | IP Logged 
How many words do I know?

I haven't found any good vocabulary size tests for German online so I decided to waste a bit of time today trying to estimate how many words I know. I took a somewhat random set of ten books I own and counted how many words I did not know in the first 1000 words of each book.

I was quite pleased with the result. In no case was my comprehension less than 97% (i.e., 30-unknown-words/1000).

Assuming that German word frequencies are roughly the same as English word frequencies, Paul Nelson's word frequency tables suggest that I am somewhere in the 7000-8000 word range.

This fits with the fact that over the last couple of months I seem to be understanding most of what I hear on TV, which requires a somewhat lower vocabulary, somewhere in the 6000-7000 range for 98% understanding.

Assuming I know 7000 words, given I have been working on German for just under 2.5 years, this suggests very roughly that I have been learning about 241 words/month or 8 words/day. At this rate I should get into the +98% range for reading within the next six months (though of course this assumes that I learning words at a constant rate).

98.7% American Gods by Neil Gaiman
98.6% The Spy who came out of the cold by John Le Carre
98.3% Blicke windwärts by Ian M. Banks
98.0% Das fünfte Zeichen by Jo Nesbø
97.6% Die Vermessung der Welt by Daniel Kehlmann
97.5% Das Paradies ist anderswo by Mario Vargas Llosa
97.4% Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda
97.2% Just Kids by Patty Smith
97.1% Solar by Ian McEwan
97.1% Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Average words known: 97.8%

Now that I have this basic measure, I plan to retest myself in a year or so to test my progress.

Sadly according to Nelson's figures, while getting to 98% requires a vocabulary size of about 8500 words, getting to 99% requires 13500! Assuming I have about 7500 words now, that means that I need to do just over two more years of study to get to a vocabulary of 13500 - assuming I learn an average of 8 words/day from now until then. Still a lot of reading to do I am afraid.

Edited by patrickwilken on 19 November 2014 at 11:19pm

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csidler
Diglot
Pro Member
Australia
chadsidler.com
Joined 3122 days ago

51 posts - 59 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Italian, French
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 188 of 295
20 November 2014 at 12:13am | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:
csidler wrote:

What's the plan for 2015?



I need think about what is realistic for 2015 over the next couple of months, but the big emphasis going forward
will on working on producing German, not just consuming it.


I'm probably in the same boat as you. i am relocating to Switzerland from Australia in 2015, and will be shifting my
focus to working on the output improvement.

It's also as you mentioned about varying the "source/genre" from books such as crime novels to newspapers.

I don't generally notice any comprehension issues in different tv shows that I watch in German, but when I watch
shows in Italian I notice my varying levels of comprehension depending on whether the show is a comedy or a drama
etc.
1 person has voted this message useful



csidler
Diglot
Pro Member
Australia
chadsidler.com
Joined 3122 days ago

51 posts - 59 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Italian, French
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 189 of 295
20 November 2014 at 12:14am | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:


Sadly according to Nelson's figures, while getting to 98% requires a vocabulary size of about 8500 words, getting to
99% requires 13500! Assuming I have about 7500 words now, that means that I need to do just over two more years
of study to get to a vocabulary of 13500 - assuming I learn an average of 8 words/day from now until then. Still a
lot of reading to do I am afraid.


I think the argument is that it's not worth plugging away at the 1% because those words will appear so infrequently.
1 person has voted this message useful



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

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 190 of 295
20 November 2014 at 11:11am | IP Logged 
csidler wrote:
i am relocating to Switzerland from Australia in 2015, and will be shifting my
focus to working on the output improvement.

It's also as you mentioned about varying the "source/genre" from books such as crime novels to newspapers.


Are you going to Zürich? My wife says that while the Swiss understand Hochdeutsch, they can't speak it - she used work for a call center when she was a student, and always dreaded getting a Swiss German on the line (though they were very nice as well).

csidler wrote:

I think the argument is that it's not worth plugging away at the 1% because those words will appear so infrequently.


Well I still have 2.5% to learn, not 1%. :)

It doesn't sound like a lot, but I can see in the books I tested a huge difference between the two easiest and some of the harder ones. No doubt in part because these numbers also give an indication of how well I know the "known" words as well.

The very reassuring news is that I could extensively read any of these books now (and I suspect pretty much any standard novel), but some like the Gaiman or the Le Carré would be much easier/enjoyable to read extensively.

To get from 98% to 99% you need to learn about 6000 words. However if you consider that at 98% there will be five unknown words per page, and I am quite comfortably reading 50 pages per day, I'm being exposed to potentially 250 unknown words per day. If I only learn 10 out of these 250 words per day, I will have learnt 6000 new words in less than two years.

Also I am not sure I totally buy this "infrequency" argument, which I have heard a lot.

Say there are about 35000 words to learn (this is sort of the upper figure for English - German might actually be less).

I know about 7500 now, so I still have to learn 27,500 words.

If I am reading 50 pages/day, I am seeing potentially 250 unknown words/day.

If none of these words repeat (which seems very unlikely) then in 110 days I'll have been exposed to all the unknown words at least once. Given you need 6-15 exposures to learn a word, you should be able to learn all of these simply from exposure within 2-5 years!

What is much more likely of course is that some words will be seen a lot more often in 110 days and those are much more likely to be learnt first, but in any case I don't think it's impossible to learn these rarer words so long as you keep up a steady reading habit.

I am using Anki to grab words off newspapers as I read, and attempting to learn 25 new cards per day via SRS (though I am currently suspending a little less than half of these) and reading intensively with a pop-up dictionary - which should make it much easier to learn words, than if I were reading extensively.

Edited by patrickwilken on 20 November 2014 at 12:31pm

1 person has voted this message useful



Cavesa
Triglot
Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3308 days ago

3277 posts - 6778 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 
 Message 191 of 295
20 November 2014 at 5:49pm | IP Logged 
Your counting method sounds interesting, it will be surely good to measure your
progress. Congrats on achieving such high comprehension, that is admirable! I am
currently struggling with German vocab so thanks for the inspiration ;-)

There are several flaws in the "infrequency" argument, in my opinion:

1.infrequent where? Take a frequency dictionary and listen to native speakers speaking
about everyday topics. What is infrequent is a very relative term when it comes to
many words. Other words are infrequent in a pub than in a chemical lab.

2.Some of the words will never appear in a conversation but they are common in
literature, they might be genre specific or even author specific. Every time I try a
new author, they have a small set of words that rarely appear anywhere else but they
appear quite often while I read several books by the author. There is vocabulary
"useless" for everyday conversations yet priceless to know for a fan of sci-fi,
historical novels or natural sciences non fiction. If you keep resisting to learn this
"infrequent" vocabulary, you may be robbing yourself of a small (or larger) bit of
enjoyment.

3.It's not just about literary words. Some time ago, there was an awesome thread (I
think heavily founded on Iversen's posts) about vocabulary that is rarely used but
every native understands and uses when it is needed and an advanced learner should
too. Those are words like "toothbrush", "hairdryer" or "hygienic pad". How often can
you read these words in the Times or in a novel? How often do you hear them in a
movie? Do the courses come back to these words after they obligatorily include a few
of them in one unit? Yet, when you are in a small shop (those shops where the shop
assistant hands you the items, you don't take them yourself), there is a huge
difference between a learner who asks for what they want and the one who (although
with perfect grammar and accent) gets to "I'd like a, euh, that. Not this, that thing
on the right! Yes, that! And the thing above this one as well, please.". Half a year
ago in France,I was quite ashamed not to know the french word "ruban" when I wanted
something nicely packed as a present. :-(
3 persons have voted this message useful



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

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 192 of 295
20 November 2014 at 7:09pm | IP Logged 
Cavesa wrote:
Your counting method sounds interesting, it will be surely good to measure your
progress. Congrats on achieving such high comprehension, that is admirable! I am
currently struggling with German vocab so thanks for the inspiration ;-)


Just read 20k pages and you'll be there shortly! :)

You must have done way more than this in English given your obvious fluency.

I like the method. It's not absolute in terms of working out vocab size, but should prove a useful measure going forward to measure progress.

Cavesa wrote:

There are several flaws in the "infrequency" argument, in my opinion:


I agree with all your points. I'd only add that at 98% understanding there are so many words that you don't know in a standard novel (5 on every page by definition) that there are plenty of opportunities to learn new vocabulary.

At this point die Zeit seems like the best resource I have. Lots and lots of different topics. I can read narrowly on areas I like, and look-up and export relevant vocabulary to Anki. That plus books and videos should be plenty to get me to 99%.

Edited by patrickwilken on 20 November 2014 at 7:09pm



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