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Scriptorium demonstration video

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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Senior Member
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 Message 9 of 25
16 March 2008 at 7:27pm | IP Logged 
Hello Professor,

Do you believe this exercise would be useful for less exotic languages as well? For instance, my language I'm currently studying the most is French. Would it be useful for me to use a novel by Maupassant or Flaubert and do this exercise to more strongly cement French grammar concepts into my mind? It seems to me that this exercise could be useful for me remember which clauses require the subjunctive and for remembering verbs requiring prepositions. What would your thoughts of this be?

Also I noticed you are left handed and you write all all alphabets and characters with your left hand. I had always heard you should learn to write Asian characters with your right hand; but I never could and got really frustrated trying to write Japanese characters with my right hand when I was left handed.

Derek Rhodes

Edited by vanityx3 on 16 March 2008 at 7:29pm

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 Message 10 of 25
19 March 2008 at 8:15pm | IP Logged 
Professor, you mention in your opening post that in 15 minutes a person should be able to transcribe an entire page with your technique and form. While my transcribing does not follow your form (however now that I've seen it I will begin to use it), I find that it takes me almost half an hour to transcribe an entire page. I understand between 50-75% of the vocabulary presented in the material (a book read by 5th graders). I want to say that my vocabulary level is what sets me back, but your form seems to be very painstaking, which takes time. Am I missing something? Also, if it helps you answer my question, I am actively studying Korean.

Regardless, the video has provided a good deal of help in giving me ideas for how to study and I plan to experiment with your form at the first moment I have time.
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 Message 11 of 25
20 March 2008 at 7:08am | IP Logged 
I've finally tried this technique and it feels great. As I did it with Portuguese, a language I'm still a beginner at, I used a text from my textbook, which had all the unknown vocabulary in a list after the text. When transcribing "real" texts, how would you recommend to look up the unknown words? Should I look up all the unknown words from the passage before starting the exercise, perhaps writing [some of] them down on a separate sheet of paper if I can't keep them in my memory, or should I just transcribe one sentence at a time, then check if I understand the next one completely and use the dictionary if I don't?
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 Message 13 of 25
22 March 2008 at 10:58am | IP Logged 
Is "blind scriptorium"¹ useful while doing blind shadowing in the early stages? Should I learn to read a language before I learn to understand it?

1. The act of transcribing a text I shadow'd, without understanding or attempting to understand it.


É útil que eu faça "blind scriptorium"¹ enquanto faço blind shadowing nos estágios iniciais? Isto é, eu devo aprender à ler as palavras de uma língua antes de tentar entender o que elas significam?

1. O ato de transcrever um texto em que eu fiz shadowing, sem entender ou tentar entendê-lo, seja olhando em traduções ou em dicionários.

amphises wrote:
Greek should be added to the existing four to form five great etymological rivers of human thought?

Maybe not. Greek had a great influence at Western mentality, but etymology is the study of the history of the words, and just 5% of the English vocabulary were borrowed from this ancient language¹, most of them not being seen outside academic fields. Similar backgrounds can be found at other Western languages.

Edited by Ruan on 22 March 2008 at 2:28pm

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 Message 14 of 25
23 March 2008 at 8:09pm | IP Logged 
On left-handedness: of course I am aware of studies suggesting that disproportionate percentages of both creatively talented artistic geniuses and deviant criminally insane maniacs are left-handed. However, I have never noticed any basis for this among my own language students. I myself am actually more ambidextrous than simply left-handed. When I was younger, I did many more things indifferently with either hand, but as I age and become set in my ways, I tend to become more and more entrenched in the habit of using one hand or the other for certain tasks. I have not forgotten how to write with my right hand altogether, but it now feels distinctly odd to do so—and the results show it. Likewise, if I now pick up a hammer or a carving knife with my left hand, I soon instinctively switch it to the other angle for fear of inflicting grievous injury upon myself. At any rate, writing exotic scripts with my left hand has never been an issue, and although I can imagine the gist of arguments for using the right hand only to wield an Oriental brush so as to get the flow of the stroke order right, I imagine that these arguments have no more basis in reality than that same prejudice against the different and the unusual that has forced countless left-handers to write with their right in the Occident as well.

As to which appropriate texts are appropriate for scriptorium use, this ranges naturally according to level. I do not think that “blind scriptorium” transcription of texts one does not understand at all would be particularly profitable, but certainly from the early stages of comprehension, one could begin transcribing textbook phrases, as indeed I do in the Chinese example here. Beyond that, one can certainly stay with this exercise through the most advanced texts such as those of Guy de Maupassant. The more advanced one gets, the longer the phrase one reads, and the more of a memory and stylistic immersion exercise it becomes. At earlier stages it is good to have the unknown vocabulary there in the form of a word list or a previously annotated text, but when you are working with genuinely new and challenging material, it is best still to limit dictionary work to looking up known unknowns or words that are critical for understanding the sense of a passage rather than every single new item.

As to the time it takes to transcribe a page, by 15-minutes I mean the page upon which I am writing, not the page I am copying. There is nothing sacred about that amount of time, however, and if you are using a larger notebook than mine, I would expect it to take longer. However, while you do not want to push for speed, you also do not want to be lackadaisical, and when I coach students in this technique, those who learn to do it properly generally do halve the amount of time it takes them to fill a page.

Finally, Ruan has already given my answer to considering Greek an etymological river. Whatever its undeniable great cultural importance, it is only a tributary stream in this regard compared to Latin and the others. While Greek may well be the 6th greatest current overall in this regard (Persian is probably 5th in the world) and it certainly deserves great respect, consideration, and study by all lovers of language, still, there is a very nice symmetry to giving the single main river of each living civilization balanced consideration, and—apart from sheer absolute time constraints—treating Greek in this fashion as well would throw off this balance.

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 Message 15 of 25
22 August 2012 at 6:55pm | IP Logged 
Hello Professor,

I know It has been years since this thread were active but my question Is, As a beginner to learning Mandarin, do I use the Scriptorium method with Pinyin or Characters?

Or should I get used to doing both?

Thank you as well for your video's and input.
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 Message 16 of 25
22 August 2012 at 8:10pm | IP Logged 
Characters, no question about that. Pinyin is like romaji for Japanese or any other kind of romanisation for scripts that don't use "our" alphabet - maybe "useful" if you (just) want to increase retention and help learning (as discussed in the current thread Learn vocabulary by left hand writing), but you won't learn a single Chinese character that way.

I quote myself (from Specific type of Chinese character book, 2008 22 October):

I use "Writing Chinese" together with the volumes 1 and 2 of "Chinese with Ease". My current method is to write out the characters for a lesson 15-16 times (depending how much room there is on the line), then I go to the actual lesson and copy everything: lesson number, header (if any), each line of the dialogue, the exercises and fill-in-the-blanks (in characters instead of pinyin). I also say every character/word/phrase loudly - before, during and after, so, pretty close to the scriptorium method so often mentioned by professor Arguelles.

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