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Julie
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 Message 9 of 48
07 June 2007 at 7:28am | IP Logged 
Quote:

I don't use books which just teach isolated vocabulary; the only person I can think of who has an approach anything like that is Iversen


I was using books which isolated vocabulary as well, but I put the words into flash-card software and did repetitions. Now I prefer to use some ready-made vocabulary databases and I'm studying intensively German vocabulary with such a database, sometimes I learn in this way English, Spanish or French vocabulary but not so systematically.

For me it's great method, of course not the only one I use. It enables me to fill some gaps in my vocabulary and to learn words, that I wouldn't encounter often enough in the texts or conversations, like the names of rare animals, food, sports, tools etc. The system of repetitions somehow makes possible to me knowing these words actively, not passively only. I can pick up the topic that I find interesting and train isolated vocabulary in this thematic area. But... it's only a kind of support for other methods of learning (like reading texts and memorizing words in a context) and I think it's good specially if we already know the language pretty well, and we don't have any problems to put the words into the grammatical structure on the language and to use them properly.
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Iversen
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 Message 10 of 48
07 June 2007 at 8:10am | IP Logged 
Quote:

I don't use books which just teach isolated vocabulary; the only person I can think of who has an approach anything like that is Iversen


I don't JUST use books which just teach isolated vocabulary (i.e. dictionaries). While it is true that I do make word lists based on dictionaries, I also use word lists based on the texts I select for active reading and other sources, including word lists based on the texts in standard text books. I even write down sentence constructions and idiomatic expressions. And then I read a lot, listen to TV and internet sources and travel in relevant areas. It is not just word lists all over the place, but I have written a lot about them because they have helped me to get a decent vocabulary in a fair number of languages in a fairly short time, - much faster than if I had had to cull the words one by one from real texts (insofar I could find texts that I could understand before I already had that vocabulary).

Edited by Iversen on 07 June 2007 at 8:20am

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Kleberson
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 Message 11 of 48
07 June 2007 at 8:50am | IP Logged 
Thanks for the input.

"Mastering vocabulary" isn't just a book that lists words, it's a book jam packed with sentences, so that you can learn in context. I also have a very comprehensive grammar book, its excellent for teaching word order, or anything for that matter.

I'll have a look into assimil, sounds quite good.


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Volte
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 Message 12 of 48
07 June 2007 at 5:03pm | IP Logged 
Kleberson wrote:
"Mastering vocabulary" isn't just a book that lists words, it's a book jam packed with sentences, so that you can learn in context. I also have a very comprehensive grammar book, its excellent for teaching word order, or anything for that matter.


It sounds like it would make an excellent reference, or maybe serve as a good tool when you're at an intermediate level. If it's taking half an hour per phrase, that suggests that it's something you'll be able to use a lot more efficiently when you have a better feel for the grammar and Italian style of phrasing things.

Starting off with tools that aren't designed for beginners is possible, and can be fun; but it can also be frustrating, and really inefficient.

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Kleberson
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 Message 13 of 48
08 June 2007 at 7:22am | IP Logged 
What do you suggest Volte? Should I not worry about missing words in the phrases? And just learn them as they are, learning as many as possible?

I'm not a complete beginner; I have completed all the Michel Thomas courses, including the new vocabulary course. The problem is when I come across a phrase, and it's missing a word in the English translation, I get all confused. One example was: "In questo momento non sono in grado di pensare in modo logico" and the English translation the book gave "At the moment I'm not in a position to think logically". However, My translation would be "At the moment I'm not in a position to think in a logical manner” because "logically" is "logicamente" and not "in modo logico", if you understand what I'm saying?

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Volte
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 Message 14 of 48
08 June 2007 at 12:37pm | IP Logged 
Kleberson wrote:
What do you suggest Volte? Should I not worry about missing words in the phrases? And just learn them as they are, learning as many as possible?


I've never tried the memorizing phrases method, although I've been seriously considering giving it a try, so what I say should be taken with a big grain of salt. As I see it, you have a few possible options: you can stick to phrases that make sense, you can stick to phrases that -mainly- make sense but have one or two surprising elements and try to figure those out, or you can try to learn as many as possible. Given what I've read about 'i+1' and comprehensible input, etc, I'd suspect that the second approach is probably best.

As you learn more, more phrases will become clearer, and it'll be much easier to learn the trickier ones when you've already learned most of their elements; this is also going to be a better use of your effort, as you'll learn the simpler, more common constructions first.

The most similar choice I've faced was with learning vocabulary a few years into studying Italian, when I was starting to think of taking it seriously. I tried going through a (translated) novel, which used a lot of very unusual words related to architecture, sailing, etc, looking up and translating every unknown word. My grandmother, who was a language teacher for many years, said that that was a bad idea, and that I should read something easier and learn the common words first. She was right.

Kleberson wrote:

I'm not a complete beginner; I have completed all the Michel Thomas courses, including the new vocabulary course.


That sounds like a good start.

Kleberson wrote:

The problem is when I come across a phrase, and it's missing a word in the English translation, I get all confused. One example was: "In questo momento non sono in grado di pensare in modo logico" and the English translation the book gave "At the moment I'm not in a position to think logically". However, My translation would be "At the moment I'm not in a position to think in a logical manner” because "logically" is "logicamente" and not "in modo logico", if you understand what I'm saying?


Again, the problem here is that you haven't really internalized the idea that there -isn't- a word-to-word correspondence between languages. In this example, there's no missing word. What there is is a natural-sounding way to say the same thing in two different but related languages. Your translation of the English is perhaps more literal, but it sounds stiff and unnatural; in phrases that differ more, a literal translation is incomprehensible to people who don't know the foreign language (A few times, I've 'translated' the words of Italians speaking English, to native English speakers who don't speak Italian, because they couldn't understand the structures and wording used).

Kleberson wrote:

because "logically" is "logicamente" and not "in modo logico", if you understand what I'm saying?


I understand what you're saying, I think, but it's not actually true. I wouldn't say "logicamente" in Italian; I'd say "in modo logico"; the first sounds every bit as weird to me as "in a logical manner" instead of "logically" does in English. I suspect you're using the rule-of-thumb that -ly becomes -mente; it's useful, but it's not 100% true, and there are some cases where it works but sounds extremely unnatural (I used to say 'usualmente', but this can provoke giggles; the correct form is 'di solito').

Words represent concepts, not translations of other words. What this means is that different languages slice up the world in different ways; they have multiple words (synonyms) which mean almost-but-not-quite the same thing, and they also use the same word with multiple different meanings. It's also like this between languages - at most, you can think of a translation of a word as a synonym of it (for some words, this isn't possible, and you actually need to give an explanation).

When you're working in English, you can't use synonyms entirely interchangeably - using some, in some contexts, sounds silly or even wrong - and which one to use depends on the context. If you read some texts in English written by non-native speakers who aren't very advanced, you may get a better feel for this: there will be times when you'll say "I'd never use that word here, I'd use this other word that means the same thing!"

I hope this was coherent and helps; I haven't ever really tried to explain this before this thread. Feel free to ask me to try to clarify any of it; and if it wasn't helpful, please say so as well, as well as whether you'd like me to take another shot at it.

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Iversen
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 Message 15 of 48
08 June 2007 at 6:58pm | IP Logged 
I have made some experiments with the 'sentence method', - mostly because I found myself in a situation with Russian where I had spent too much time on words and too little (and too late) on sentence construction and 'flow' of the language. Of course I have tried to remedy this by doing the ordinary intensive reading (where you look up words etc.) and - to some extent - extensive reading of simple texts, mostly from the internet.

I have found that the following method is more effective for me, - not surprisingly as it is derived from my preferred word list method.

I find a text somewhere and read a passage in it intensively, - that is, I check unknown words and mysterious constructions. Then I write a hyper-literal translation of one or two sentences on a separate sheet of page, and with this as a guide I try to remember the original text. When I can do it I write it down and continue to the next sentence. Of course some people with extraordinary memories can remember a sentence in a half-known language without any tricks, but we don't all have that ability (it is easier to remember sentences in a language you know well).

I think that making the hyper-literal translation and using that as an intermediary memory tool makes me focus more on the weird things in the Russian language. I have been working among other things with the GLOSS texts, and it has struck me that the semantic components of the English version more often that not come in the exact opposite order of the same elements in the Russian version. Writing down my own hyper-literal seriously un-Danish translation does more for my understanding of the vagaries of the Russian language than reading a version in bland, but correct English.

And afterwards I use the words I have encountered as basis for word lists, - of course!

With languages that I know well I use a totally different 'sentence method': I collect "specimens" with interesting grammar or weird idioms just as a linguist would do and put them in order according to my own homegrown principles for grammatical analysis. But I don't use this approach with single words, unless they are part of idiomatic expressions or unexpected constructions.


Edited by Iversen on 08 June 2007 at 7:08pm

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Kleberson
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 Message 16 of 48
09 June 2007 at 3:29am | IP Logged 
Thank you Volte and Iversen for your very informative posts, very useful indeed.

Volte:

"I understand what you're saying, I think, but it's not actually true. I wouldn't say "logicamente" in Italian; I'd say "in modo logico"; the first sounds every bit as weird to me as "in a logical manner" instead of "logically" does in English. I suspect you're using the rule-of-thumb that -ly becomes -mente; it's useful, but it's not 100% true, and there are some cases where it works but sounds extremely unnatural (I used to say 'usualmente', but this can provoke giggles; the correct form is 'di solito')."

Volte how do I know which ones are the odd sounding ones, and the correct sounding ones? Are they all still correct though, even if some do sound odd to the Italian ear?


Volte:

"Again, the problem here is that you haven't really internalized the idea that there -isn't- a word-to-word correspondence between languages."

How do I do this?

Volte, thanks for the very informative post.

Thanks for your input Iversen

Iversen, so when you learn hyper-literal translations, do you just remember the "weird" sounding sentence in your native language, and then if the word order is odd, you look it up in a grammar book?





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