Memorizing audio - optional, valuable, or essential?

General discussion about learning languages
tractor
Green Belt
Posts: 308
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2016 10:58 am
Location: Norway
Languages: Norwegian (N), English, Spanish, Catalan, French, German, Italian, Latin
x 613

Re: Memorizing audio - optional, valuable, or essential?

Postby tractor » Tue Jan 24, 2023 9:22 pm

Repetition is key to learning a language, but it doesn't mean that you have to read or listen to the same dialogues over and over again until you know them by heart. After a while, you'll probably get bored, stop paying attention or reach a point where you know the content more than well enough. Move on, do something else. The goal is to learn the language, not the language course.
6 x

FRAnglais1919
White Belt
Posts: 19
Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2022 3:30 am
Languages: French
English (N)
x 42

Re: Memorizing audio - optional, valuable, or essential?

Postby FRAnglais1919 » Wed Jan 25, 2023 3:20 am

I tried FSI-like memorization/repetition for French. It got so boring that I abandoned the project.

You may be different, though. One major benefit is that hammering away at short dialogues/drills engrains those patterns into your memory. For example, there is a certain class of phrases I can recall immediately just because I repeated them dozens of times on FSI. If I hadn't, I would need time to piece together the right words from scratch. Your recall is better for certain phrases by virtue of repeating them so often. If it doesn't bore you, then great, do it. But it's not a requirement that you do so. Personally I never took the time to memorize French conversations, simply because they're too "language course"-y, and they wouldn't serve me in an English-speaking environment. But what has helped me on all fronts is consistent grammar study, some flash cards of common phrases and words, and LOTS of native language material. Over the last 6 months, my ability to comprehend spoken and written French has greatly improved, all because I read and listen so often.

By the way, if you listen and read enough in your target language, especially live talk shows and the news, you will realize that speakers of the language repeat the same 200 or 300 words. Pay close enough attention and you will notice. If you don't, look at your own production of English. You tend to express yourself with just a handful of words out of an available 80k, just like everyone around you. Consuming media and literature in your target language is an excellent way to practice the kind of repetition you're talking about, and it has the added benefit of keeping things fresh and interesting.
7 x

Online
User avatar
Iversen
Black Belt - 4th Dan
Posts: 4062
Joined: Sun Jul 19, 2015 7:36 pm
Location: Denmark
Languages: Monolingual travels in Danish, English, German, Dutch, Swedish, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Romanian and (part time) Esperanto
Ahem, not yet: Norwegian, Afrikaans, Platt, Scots, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Albanian, Greek, Latin, Irish, Indonesian and a few more...
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1027
x 11993

Re: Memorizing audio - optional, valuable, or essential?

Postby Iversen » Wed Jan 25, 2023 8:06 am

I can't have escaped the "say after me" thing in school (shudder shudder :o ), and even at the university we had a language lab where you were supposed to repeat some audio - but since I left the university I haven't done much about oral repetition. As far as I can see memorizing and reading aloud are both valuable things, but I simply can't see the point in memorizing and repeating more than one sentence at a time. There can be two kinds of benefits from doing so: on one side absorbing the sounds and drilling your speech apparatus, and on the other side remembering idioms and grammatical patterns in a way that almost certainly should make them active. Let's take them separately.

I have done repetitions of short passages using Audacity and speech synthethizers to catch the differences between different speakers of for instance Dutch - not often, but it has happened. To really HEAR the minute details you need more than one go, and then I could in principle have repeated the words myself with my physical voice, but I just repeated them in my head. Maybe my pronunciation in a number of languages would have benefitted from speaking aloud to myself (which I would have found ludicrous), but during many hours of conversation in a number of languages I have not the impression that my speech was incomprehensible. But even though I haven't spoken much in those languages unless somebody listened I have spent thousands of hours thinking in the languages, and I have read that there then will occur measurable micro movements in the speech organs - and maybe that feature in my anatomy has saved me from becoming learned, but incomprehensible.

As for memorizing and repeating loudly for any other reason: the relevant thing will generally be something very specific and very limited in size, like an expression you want to remember for later use or a certain grammatical construction. And then memorizing long stretches of speech can't be relevant - it would only take away the focus from the thing you wanted to learn. The only use for ordinary mortals might be to remember entire songs for casual sing-along sessions, but I stopped singing more than sixty years ago and don't intend to start all over again. However I did memorize long stretches of the main cello and violin concertos up to the late 90s where I still played those instruments, and I can still play for instance Dvoraks entire cello concerto in my head - but I prefer listening to a good recording. Among the non-ordinary human beings I count actors, who of course have to memorize their parts- but they probably get those parts in print rather than as a tape with the voice of a collegue.

Korsang.JPG
Korsang.JPG (11.56 KiB) Viewed 476 times
7 x

User avatar
smallwhite
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2361
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 6:55 am
Location: Hong Kong
Languages: Native: Cantonese;
Good: English, French, Spanish, Italian;
Mediocre: Mandarin, German, Swedish, Dutch.
.
x 4752

Re: Memorizing audio - optional, valuable, or essential?

Postby smallwhite » Sat Jan 28, 2023 3:13 pm

4 x
Dialang or it didn't happen.

User avatar
elAmericanoTranquilo
White Belt
Posts: 26
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2022 5:11 pm
Languages: English (N), Spanish (A1)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=18495
x 73

Re: Memorizing audio - optional, valuable, or essential?

Postby elAmericanoTranquilo » Sat Feb 04, 2023 1:52 pm

Very relevant, thank you!
1 x

Picaboo
White Belt
Posts: 29
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2022 4:06 pm
Languages: English (native). Korean (early intermediate).
x 81

Re: Memorizing audio - optional, valuable, or essential?

Postby Picaboo » Sat Feb 04, 2023 4:02 pm

It's definitely valuable, but by no means necessary. Why is it valuable? As far as I can tell, learning language is largely about making words and phrases "fluent" in your head. They have to slowly engrain themselves. You do this by dealing with those words and phrases (and grammatical patterns) repeatedly, but also across contents.

Drilling sentences to memorization level is making the words and phrases in that sentences more fluent in one context. Thus, it's valuable. But you also need to run across those words in other places, other voices, other "meaning environments." So its not sufficient in and of itself... but it's a great start.

If you don't mind doing it, or like it, or find it rewarding, I think it's a good technique. Just not the only one and it's not for everyone....
6 x

Cainntear
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2339
Joined: Thu Jul 30, 2015 11:04 am
Location: Scotland
Languages: English(N)
Advanced: French,Spanish, Scottish Gaelic
Intermediate: Italian, Catalan, Corsican
Basic: Welsh
Dabbling: Polish, Russian etc
x 6369
Contact:

Re: Memorizing audio - optional, valuable, or essential?

Postby Cainntear » Sun Feb 05, 2023 6:38 pm

Well, I do think that there's many many layers to this.

The first thing to note is that there are constraints put on course materials by physical media.

If your course has to fit in a box and a CD or two, the presentation will be far more dense than what a private teacher might do which means that repetition becomes necessary, often to the point of necessitating memorisation of earlier lessons in order to complete later goals.

This isn't something the computer revolution has fixed, sadly. The problem is (as I recently read myself saying previously) that the whole paradigm of automated phrasebooks has meant that doing something genuinely useful is prohibitively expensive. These automated phrasebooks are usually priced so low that they only take the audio pre-recorded for CDs that accompany books, which means throwing away the additional book tasks which have no accompanying audio ("fully interactive" always meant in reality that everything without audio had been thrown out -- never did anyone do recording specifically for a computer version of their course). Alternatively, there were computer courses which started when memory was a genuine restriction (CD-ROMs were perhaps starting to get spacious, but there were courses released on 3.5" floppies). Anyhow, whether the source of the problem was converting a book to a computer or the origin of the product being in the days of limited memory, computer stuff for years had less material than books -- the low cost stuff grabbed people's attention and made the production of good materials uneconomic.

That kind of changed in the "web first" era, but the problem we have now is that very little content is properly programmed -- it's just "throw something at them until it sticks". DuoLingo has experimented with dialogues, but they're in addition to their random practice, not incorporated into it. They also made a massive problem of repeating the same translations so many times that rote memorisation is actively rewarded -- particularly given the way the explanations are hidden away from learners so well that nobody ever reads them, and you can't complain, because DL fans respond with "they're there if you want them, just most people don't!" I did read a post on the forum where (IIRC) von Ahn had said that they'd tried increasing the variety, but people stopped using it, so repeating the tasks was the only way to get people to stay. Well... no. There's another way: stop selecting things at random and try to pre-emptively consider what the learner is ready to do. DuoLingo is just too blunt an instrument -- it builds no model of the individual learner's knowledge (like a good teacher would) so it selects stuff at random that is too hard...

...and here's the thing: if learner's have to memorise, they're not acquiring the rules; so if they need to produce some off the cuff language, they're stuffed.

This is one of the strengths of (was anyone taking bets on how long it would take me to mention this)... Michel Thomas. There is practically no literal repetition in his courses, so it can only be that the learner has acquired the language and has an independent command of it.


Le Baron wrote:That's the question I kept asking myself: is it meant to be like that, so that you feel like it's not even there and you know it back-to-front and upside-down, or is it fading into the background like litter bins and bus stops in a street which you only notice when you need one?

I've found very few book-based courses I could ever stomach. My family has a tendency to ADHD...as said by my little sister who is herself a psychiatrist, so even in the absence of diagnosis I think it's safe to say I'm at least bordering ADHD if not beyond that. I also believe myself to be on the autistic spectrum, and prior to the head injury I had exemplary memory (which I thought I didn't because I could never answer "what did you have for lunch yesterday?"). So why couldn't I bring myself to finish a single Colloquial or TY course...? Because in memorised mode, my eyes would glaze over and I'd recall stuff without actually paying attention. I'd never revisit previous lessons because they were too easy, and I could never handle higher difficulty lessons because I hadn't repeated the earlier lessons enough to deal with the excessive amount of new content introduced.

What I like about Assimil is that (NB: in the case of well-written courses in languages not too far removed from a known language) you weren't expected to relisten or repeat one lesson before moving to the next -- you were instead asked to relisten later (and I would actually relisten to the Catalan dialogues quite a lot during my commute).

Bernd Sebastian Kamps is one of the 'do not speak!' crowd, who claims you end up with a better accent. I don't believe that. It seems like voodoo which ignores the disconnect between listening to speech and reproducing it.

>shudder<
Yeah, it is an oversimplistic diagnosis.
"People asked to speak early in normal classes have terrible accents, therefore the problem is that they are asked to speak early."
Well no. They're asked to say things early -- that's not "speaking" really. I think that the problem is that people are told to say too much variety far too early on, and they end up falling back on their L1 phonology.

I read somewhere the idea that teaching students to count from one to ten early was foolish, because small numbers have evolved to be far more phonologically complex than learners can cope with -- eg in English the numbers don't repeat a vowel syllable until 8. His suggestion was that the sequence of numbers a learner of Spanish could learn might start with 10 (diez) and then follow on to 100 (cien). These numbers are very similar because the Z of diez matches the C of cien regardless of your dialect.

I can't remember if it was in the article or something I later decided on, but I felt that teaching the alphabet was also going to cause problems. The first letters I would teach would depend on whether "TV" is in the target language or if you need a word. If TV is fine, I would teach TV, then DVD, then CD, hence the letters being introduced in the sequence T, V, D, C; if TV is not a thing, CD then DVD. (But obviously these were live concepts at the time I/he had the thought, and you wouldn't have much luck using those ideas with school kids now!!)

The point of the article was very much about not overloading such that learners have to rote memorise in order to retain things long enough to finish the next task, and again, that's something MT succeeds in, IMO.

Historically, there's been a tendency to teach all persons of a single conjugation of a verb in a Romance language or a Germanic one as "one thing", but they aren't one thing as far as the brain is concerned -- the origin of the verb table is purely technological: tables are an efficient use of paper, and there can only be two dimensions tracked, hence why person is traditionally vertical, number is horizontal, and tense is non-dimensional in that the preterite is a distinct table from the present.

But what about "just listening"...? Well when I hear something, I automatically parse it. If I don't have the target language language's system of pronunciation. I'm going to parse it with my L1's system. If there is nothing in the content given that forces me to pay attention to the difference early on, why would I ever realise that ü is anything other than "oo"? Meanwhile, Michel Thomas actively teaches the distinction, saying Ü is like "whistling an E". He actively teaches individual phonemes that he notices learners having problems with, and I think that's key. Boring students to tears with phonemes that don't cause problems means that they're not going to pay attention when it's genuinely important.

My goal has always been to create a phoneme map early on, get it roughly right, and then let it adapt itself. When I was first learning Welsh, I got completely flooded with the fact that most vowel phonemes have *three forms* (!!!): the pre-tonic form, the tonic form, and the post-tonic form (in fact, actually many have two forms as the tonic form is often the same as either the pre-tonic form or the post-tonic form, making things even more complicated for learners). I realised that this was distracting my fellow learners and potentially would distract me. I then decided "screw it -- I'm going to learn one form for each" and set about analysing what the core characteristics of all the vowels were. I learnt that form and my first year teacher complimented my pronunciation even though I was technically more wrong than my classmates. Did she even notice, though, because she probably didn't have any reason to think about what I was saying because I had the syllable right. I'd learned one syllable because I knew my classmates were learning the three positions as different sounds and had detected on hearing that "Y before the stressed syllable or in the stressed syllable is pronounce like ih, after the stressed position it's like oo", ignoring the fact that it's never completely like OO ("w" is the most oo-like syllable, an y in post-tonic syllables is, I believe, a little more like ah wait, no, I'm getting very confused again. Bloody stupid brain injury.. Main thing is that the way I learnt it was a good way to start.)

So yeah... I just can't believe that listening only is ever useful. I think that the people who claim that late speaking works haven't genuinely thought about actively teaching pronunciation or structuring lesson based on features of pronunciation. I think they're conveniently forgetting that you have to judge your method based on *all* learners, and if you rationalise non-completers as "quitters" who "were brainwashed" and only have themselves to blame... well, you're deluding yourself and throwing away good data.

Also, you're probably exaggerating the level of success of your students, because I've met a lot of people who tell me they speak English so well because of X, Y and Z, but their fluency is high but their pronunciation accuracy isn't great. If they've got a "good accent", it only makes it more obvious that they've incorrectly merged two phonemes or incorrectly identified the phonemes in a word, leading to mispronunciation.
English is probably the best language to show up problems in pronunciation because the phonetics are so inconsistent, particularly when comparing the written and spoken forms.

A second question I ask myself is: am I just learning this particular script? Because you can go through stuff and get to know it, but are you just learning the ridges of that particular terrain? I went through the dialogue audio of two old BBC courses - Por Aqui and Digami! - lots of street conversations etc, but even though I knew what was coming up next and could even say it, knowing all those dialogues, more-or-less, didn't feel like it was translating to being able to parse a great deal of new Spanish from the daily radio. So I wonder if it reaches a point where you just have to let it go and start afresh on intensely listening to something else, until it becomes somewhat blunted again and and then onto something else. Perhaps even before you can predict all the upcoming exchanges.

Exactly. Paper technology has always favoured a reliance on memorisation, and people have often convinced themselves that it was necessary. I myself took the attitude that "I memorise it now to learn it later". I felt like I was essentially creating a reference work inside my head, and I was convinced that was good because I could access it quickly and look it up better than a book.

I now find that with my current memory difficulties, I'd struggle to memorise anything, but I still think I'd be able to learn from an M.T. course (however, that is admittedly an unprovable hypothesis as I think I've taken every beginners course he published and 3 of the 4 advanced courses). Bien sûr, je ne souviens pas trop, mais me parece facil hablar in quatro lingue all the same :mrgreen: .

I do genuinely feel, though, that my highly literal memory did make itself necessary for most of my languages, and I fear that (a) I'm going to have more problems and (b) that this may be a part of why successful language learning hobbyists tend to have a fairly similar set of personality traits. Given how language learning is now more important than ever, I think that the language learning community does everyone a disservice by failing to acknowledge the restricted personality types that current methods work for.

I'll add, that I think there's more value to be had out of dialogues where effort has been made to investigation their contents in-between listening (reading the transcripts, explication by course writers, looking up the locutions, collocations, idioms etc.

Agreed, but that all falls on the course creator's shoulders. We shouldn't need to add something to the course, or it's only going to work for those of us who have particular natural gifts.
FRAnglais1919 wrote:One major benefit is that hammering away at short dialogues/drills engrains those patterns into your memory. For example, there is a certain class of phrases I can recall immediately just because I repeated them dozens of times on FSI. If I hadn't, I would need time to piece together the right words from scratch. Your recall is better for certain phrases by virtue of repeating them so often.

Yes, but if you can piece together the right words from scratch then you will naturally end up repeating fixed phrases very often. There's a problem when people can say the fixed phrase correctly, but make grammatical errors in the same construction when it's not a fixed phrase. The number of fixed phrases that break the rules of grammar in a given language are absolutely tiny (eg "how's things" and (geographically dependant) the confusion of "I couldn't care less" with the phrase "more or less" to give "I couldn't care more or less"). If you can say the fixed phrase right but not use the grammar right in other settings, you've picked up the fixed phrase wrong -- you should never learn a fixed phrase without first acquiring the rule. Like Michel Thomas teaches "lo" as a "he/it" object in the Spanish course before saying "lo siento" is "I'm sorry". Like he literally introduces "lo siento" as "I feel it" and says that it's also "I'm sorry". Then (IIRC) when one of his students forgets the "lo" (because his monolingual brain wants to treat "siento" as a word-for-word translation for "sorry") he prompts them to say "I feel it[/i]".

I'm not saying that the fixed phrase shouldn't be quicker to recall than the grammatical construction -- by definition, it [b]should
-- what I'm saying is that the recall of the fixed phrase should involve recall of the grammatical rule simultaneously with everything else.

By the way, if you listen and read enough in your target language, especially live talk shows and the news, you will realize that speakers of the language repeat the same 200 or 300 words. Pay close enough attention and you will notice. If you don't, look at your own production of English. You tend to express yourself with just a handful of words out of an available 80k, just like everyone around you. Consuming media and literature in your target language is an excellent way to practice the kind of repetition you're talking about, and it has the added benefit of keeping things fresh and interesting.

This is, of course, true. However, it sounds alarm bells for me because it's often used by course authors to justify a low language content. What they're forgetting is that everyone is different and has a personal style that may not be achieved using the course author's choice of words and phrases.
3 x

Cainntear
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2339
Joined: Thu Jul 30, 2015 11:04 am
Location: Scotland
Languages: English(N)
Advanced: French,Spanish, Scottish Gaelic
Intermediate: Italian, Catalan, Corsican
Basic: Welsh
Dabbling: Polish, Russian etc
x 6369
Contact:

Re: Memorizing audio - optional, valuable, or essential?

Postby Cainntear » Sun Feb 05, 2023 6:54 pm

Picaboo wrote:It's definitely valuable, but by no means necessary. Why is it valuable? As far as I can tell, learning language is largely about making words and phrases "fluent" in your head. They have to slowly engrain themselves. You do this by dealing with those words and phrases (and grammatical patterns) repeatedly, but also across contents.

I think that sticking "and grammatical patterns" in parenthesis kind of shows that you may be underemphasising its importance, which is probably the result of several decades of underemphasis on grammar in mainstream teaching.

Grammar is *the* most important thing in language and it cannot be given second place to vocabulary or phrases. A child cannot acquire a fixed phrase in their own language if they don't already have all of the vocabulary it's built on. If you are taught words before you've learnt the grammar they're used with, what can you do with the words? For example, I struggled in Scottish Gaelic to properly decline or mutate words that I had learnt early on -- I over-rehearsed them in their root form and struggled to was (for example) very likely to use the base form where a genitive form would have been more appropriate.

When I first did Michel Thomas's course on Spanish, I was struck by how few words he'd used, and although I was initially skeptical, I soon found that he wasn't really lying when he said that words were easy. It turns out the only reason I'd found words so hard was because I was memorising word lists without any real organising principle other that "similar ideas" (which a lot of research shows to be ineffective) and I wasn't actually able to use them in a real context. But once I had the Spanish grammar, it became very easy for me to look up a word in a dictionary, use it a few times in an essay (I took an Open University degree course in Spanish after finishing the MT course) and just... yeah, that's *that* word.
3 x


Return to “General Language Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: guyome, jeff_lindqvist, rfnsoares and 2 guests