How do You Use Native Material?

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Re: How do You Use Native Material?

Postby Longinus » Mon Jan 04, 2016 5:59 pm

Here's something I've always found very useful. Forget about graded readers, children's books, etc. Instead ...

Get a non-fiction book in your target language on a subject that you are interested in and that you already know a lot about. So, if you are a carpenter, get a book on wood working. If you are a doctor, get a medical textbook. If you read a lot of books about George Custer, get a book about Custer. This accomplishes two things: 1. Provides the necessary interest. You will be much more motivated to read it than you will a children's book about a hedgehog lost in an enchanted forest. 2. It's much easier to read than even a children's book -- the vocabulary in non-fiction is more constrained in general than in works of fiction, plus, because you know the area, you will know more of the vocabulary (loan words and so on), and it will be much easier for you to figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words from the context. After you've done this for a while, then move on to works of fiction that interest you.

You can do the same with YouTube (find target language videos about familiar subjects), but the effect isn't as dramatic here as it is with reading--it is only a little easier, I think, to watch a target language video on a familiar subject than a children's cartoon or a TV serial.
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Re: How do You Use Native Material?

Postby Iversen » Mon Jan 04, 2016 6:03 pm

I'll give the same answer as I did at HTLAL a moment ago:

I would first and foremost distinguish between extensive and intensive activities. When I do intensive activities then I want in principle to understand every single word, expression and construction in the source, and in practice that means that I have to work with short texts or short sound examples plus dictionaries, translations and grammatical tools (including 'green sheet's with concise overviews written by myself). That's where I get my words and my grammatical facts from.

If I know enough words and grammatical facts I can understand texts and speech samples on the fly - at least if I accept that I don't have to catch everything. The important thing with such extensive activities is not to learn new words or constructions, but to train my use of the things I already know - or in other words: to work on developing fluency at the expense of completeness and perfection. OK, I may pick up a word or expression here and there, but if I have to think about each and every unknown elements then I loose the momentum and the whole idea with the exercise is lost.

If you have problems finding sufficiently easy materials for extensive activities then choose subjects which you know well, as suggested by Longinus. it may also help first to work intensively through some of the material you want to use extensively - that will often give enough of the special vocabulary in a given source to make the rest comprehensible. Otherwise that specific source must wait until you can handle it.

One special trick with spoken sources is to 'listen like a blood hound', i.e. listening only for words and word boundaries, but without any attempt to guess the meaning of anything - including the general meaning (imagine a bloodhound following a trail without caring a hoot about the surroundings). Unless you can hear the words and separate them in your mind while listening then it has little sense to start guessing about their meaning so it is worth trying out this special technique if you only catch a few words or endings here and there.
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Re: How do You Use Native Material?

Postby Bao » Mon Jan 04, 2016 6:13 pm

There will always be just a bit of material that is just at the right level - and a lot that isn't.

For material that is too difficult I see two basic strategies of dealing with it, namely to attack it with all tools you need in order to understand (intensive); and tolerating that you don't understand every detail (extensive). For material that feels very easy, my strategies would be to skip it, to speed up, or to simply use it because you enjoy it.
No one strategy works by itself, it's all in the mix. In the beginning you often have to resort to the tools at hand (dictionary, transcriptions/subtitles, parallel texts, lwt, you name them) in order to make material accessible, because you can't spend all your time on trying to find the one thing that is just at your current level. But most people can't spend all day doing that for weeks and months, so it is also important to build tolerance to ambiguity and to not understanding every detail so you can actually listen/read extensively. That, and not skipping all material that seems to be easy, are important for building automacity to complement comprehension.

Repetition is awesome when you really love something so much that you want to spend your time on it. If you don't, it can become a major PITA.

Just try to find the balance that allows you to deal with your current challenges, but that leaves you feeling that you will be able to do the a similar amount tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that - without losing interest or burning out. This balance will shift with different materials, with your current condition - and most of all, with your improvement.
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Re: How do You Use Native Material?

Postby Tomás » Mon Jan 04, 2016 8:04 pm

My favorite native reading material at the intermediate level is comic books and graphic novels. The language has lots of dialogue, so is usually fairly simple compared to literature. The drawings give additional context for guessing, and help keep you immersed in the fictional world even when you drop out to look up a word.

You can even find the old Marvel Classic Comics translated into some of the more common languages, such as Spanish. These can function as a gateway into classic literature for an intermediate language learner.

I only look up words that interest me. The rest of the time I go with the flow of the story, and I can almost always tell what's going on just from the pictures.
Last edited by Tomás on Mon Jan 04, 2016 8:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do You Use Native Material?

Postby rdearman » Mon Jan 04, 2016 8:05 pm

I'll tell you how I do reading, because I do it five ways depending on format & material. Although I suspect none of this will come as a surprise to you.

  1. Paperback book - intensive reading
  2. Paperback book - extensive reading
  3. ebook - mixture of extensive & intensive.
  4. ebook - LWT intensive reading
  5. book with audio book - LR

The first one is to sit with a dictionary, a book, and anki input (phone or computer). I basically read everything intensively looking up words. However before I lookup a word I force myself to try and figure it out from context. If I think I have figured it out, I look it up to see if I was right. If I can't figure it out, then I just look it up. Either way, it goes into the anki deck.

Second I just sit and read a book, with a pencil or pen. Any unknown words I underline, but always try to figure out from context. Later I might go back and look up the words I underlined, but they don't go into anki. Sometimes I don't bother to go back and look them up.

Third the ebook reader I use, FBReader (premium) allows you to look up words by tapping them, so I just look them up as I encounter them. This is really just "inline" extensive reading, but more intensive than #2

Fourth I load an ebook like something from Project Gutenberg into LWT and lookup all the words as I'm reading. LWT will also output anki files for import, so this is the easy version of #1

Finally if I have the book and faithful audio book (like the ones on Librivox then I listen to the audio book while reading along.
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Re: How do You Use Native Material?

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Tue Jan 05, 2016 9:04 pm

For French and Spanish, I mostly use native materials the way I use materials in my native language English: for entertainment or for broadening my knowledge (if these two things are not the same thing). :? So, to refer to something Iversen said before, this is mostly extensive reading.

For Ancient Greek, I read for entertainment, but my lack of sufficient vocabulary makes for slow going. As for grammar, although I could not answer correctly many questions about the grammatical points of my reading, grammar does not pose many problems for me. What I do not understand, I just skip over.

There are a couple of side tracks for me. For one, I am reading the works of Zola on my Kindle. On average, there are two or three words per Kindle page I do not know. Sometimes I merely highlight the unknown for look-up later, sometimes I look them up and write the definitions in a note on the spot. Whichever I do is based mostly on a whim. Some days I just feel like making a quick highlight and moving on, other days I stop to type the definitions using Kindle's built-in dictionary.

Lately, as I discuss in my log, wanting to improve my spoken Spanish, seeing as how in order to speak Spanish with someone all I have to do is go out my front door, finding FSI to be a productive method but too mind-numbing for me, I started using Spanish-language movies, VLN and Audacity to create my own FSI "tapes." I haven't got the kinks worked out just yet, and if I do, I'm going to try the same with French. This is another way I use native materials.
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Re: How do You Use Native Material?

Postby Tomás » Tue Jan 05, 2016 9:22 pm

MorkTheFiddle wrote: I started using Spanish-language movies, VLN and Audacity to create my own FSI "tapes." I haven't got the kinks worked out just yet.


Would suggest the subs2srs approach for this. Works great. Once you master the technical aspect of it, you can produce hundreds or even thousands of audio Anki cards with a half hour's worth of work.
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Re: How do You Use Native Material?

Postby WingSuet » Tue Jan 05, 2016 9:44 pm

I've also noticed that children's books might not be the easiest native material. I started reading a book by Astrid Lindgren in German, which is originally in my native language, but I only knew a little about the story. Turned out there were a lot of oldfashioned and complicated words that you don't really need to learn, so it made my reading slow. I think a better strategy is to find a book or film that you really like and know very well so that you don't need to think about the story but can focus more on understanding what is actually being said. I've for example watched the Lion King in many languages and been able to make out what's been said in languages I really don't know well, simply because I already know what the character is going to say!

As for my strategy while reading, at the beginning I tried to underline all the words I didn't know and look them up later, but after a while I got too impatient to look them up and later on I even felt that underlining took too long, although some days I pick up the habit again. So I guess it depends on what kind of person you are. If you are like me you should just read in any way you feel like and don't put up certain rules that you feel you have to follow while reading. It might just cause you to stop reading entirely because it consumes too much energy. It has to be fun to learn a language, or you will just lose interest!
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Re: How do You Use Native Material?

Postby Xmmm » Tue Jan 05, 2016 11:51 pm

I've read two novels in Russian even though my overall skill level is probably A1. I just loaded chapters into LingQ and started powering through them.

I think it's important to choose wisely. For instance, I chose "Heart of a Dog" instead of "The Sacred Book of the Werewolf" because Bulgakov's writing is crystal clear and straightforward, whereas Pelevin's writing is much more of a drug-fueled maze. With Pelevin, even reading in English translation I sometimes have to go back a page and say "wait, what just happened here?"

But given that you pick a book that is short and clearly written, it's not such a big deal to read a novel in your TL if you have a pop-up dictionary to help you along. In my opinion, people do themselves a disservice running to junk like Harry Potter as their first target, at least for major languages like Russian and French with enormous amounts of literature on line.

This doesn't apply for people doing intensive reading, or people testing themselves to see what they can read without the aid of a dictionary. But for people who want to improve their vocabulary in a fun way, live a little. You're not going to die if your comprehension is less than 100%. :)
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Re: How do You Use Native Material?

Postby voodie » Wed Jan 06, 2016 3:06 pm

What I personally find very helpful is listening to audiobooks I already read in my native language some time ago. For instance, when my French slowly approached the B2 level, I found the audio version of "L'étranger" by Albert Camus that I'd already read several times in Russian and started listening to it on my way to the university/work. A couple of years before, I used to do the same with some German books and the result was great in both cases.

I can't say that this method is going to work for everyone though, since I know quite a few people that can't stand audiobooks even in their native languages.
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