French modified "magic pill" experiment

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French modified "magic pill" experiment

Postby maschingon » Mon Sep 12, 2016 7:14 am

Hello all,

[[edited for clarity --> while a liberal arts education did wonders for my intellect and critical thinking ability, at the ripe age of 23 I've come to the harsh realization that the world is not full of professors: NOBODY WILL READ AND GIVE FEEDBACK ON MY ESSAYS. And understandably so --> ain't nobody got time for that (English learners: "ain't nobody got" is an incorrect [ehh politically turbulent comment there] way to say "nobody has")]]

As I see it, the goal of life is to find true happiness as a result of the following process: discover your passion, find where that passion intersects the worlds great need, become as much of an expert in that area as you possibly can, and then put that expertise at the service of as many other people as possible (Credit to Lin Maranda, Sergio Fernández and a professor Michael Armstrong for that realization).

In May, I graduated from Wesleyan University (CT), and after having been a 6-days-per-week hardcore tennis player since the age of 8, and surrounded by school my whole life, and being the naïve young person that I am, I am literally bursting at the seams with the desire to effect great change in this world.

I planned to go to medical school my whole life; I completed the pre-med track early in college with flying colors, and with my non-stop work ethic, I could theoretically go to tons of medical schools. However, I don't want to apply anywhere, because I'm not passionate about medicine.

What I see as the world's great problem (or at least in America), and what makes me want to drive a fist through the wall, are two things:
1) 99.99 % of people think language learning is too hard/boring, and/or that they specifically are genetically predisposed to be awful language learners (**not the people on this forum; you guys obviously have special genes :lol: ). But the worst is the following:
2) They have no idea what they're missing as a result.

And it's not their fault; it is the fault of the way language education is set up in America: through years of worksheets, limited to no access to native media, and worst of all, through graded assignments, language education has not only failed to teach us languages, but has completely destroyed intrinsic motivation for us to continue learning, burying our love of cultures and thus languages deep, deep within us, to the point that it is now *almost* inextractable.

After spending the last three years and more specifically the last 5 months obsessively trying to figure out the key to language learning, I'm ecstatic to have convinced two of my friends to undertake a language learning project/experiment with me, based on what I have concocted (I'll explain my journey at the bottom for those who might be interested).

The goal of the experiment will be to work TOWARDS becoming fluent in French by using TV shows and songs as our curriculum, spending as much time enjoying and as little time "cheating" [reference to emk] as possible, while still Cheating very effectively. We are in the process of organizing a shared "Quip", which will be the control center for our experiment.

The **basic outline** of the method to be used is as follows:

1. Get brought up to speed (no pun intended) on the sounds of the language
2. Learn a bunch of basic words with ANKI.
3. Use a basic cartoon series and a modified setup of Subs2SRS cards, learn all high frequency vocab through ANKI, as well as all high frequency grammar.

[3.333]. For as long as we want, we will use parallel translations of the transcript to increase understanding of the French (i.e., cheat), thereby increasing enjoyment of the plotline, and thus (hopefully) maintaining motivation.

[3.667]. HOWEVER, we will leave all English OFF of the SRS flashcards to make sure we strengthen French-French understanding, not the initial English-French / French English connection.

4. Starting in a few weeks, we'll begin writing daily journal entries on iTalki, moving all corrections to SRS.
5. Once cartoon becomes easy/boring, we'll slightly lower the frequency range and switch to a different and/or more challenging series, putting vocab and grammar from relevant frequency range into ANKI.
6. Once we are somewhat comfortable with the language, we'll begin scheduling iTalki speaking sessions once or twice a week.

Due to my French selection, one forumster ("forero"?, well, "forera"...) previously commented something like "you want your methods to work more than for them to be theoretically sound". I see what she meant; I do indeed have a fiery desire for them to work, but only because I also have a fiery belief in their theoretical soundness, based on 3 years of non-stop research, my personal failures/successes in that time, having talked to thousands of people in the streets, and having a logical brain that unfortunately is turned on 24/7 (it's a blessing and a curse...). Consider this:

The limiting reagent of a language learner's success is motivation. This is not to say that methods don't matter, because they 100% do. But if motivation isn't present, methods will fail, regardless of how good they are. If you look back on your own past failures and successes, you'll probably realize that this was the case, and it is the reason why language education has failed to help students learn languages.

As such, the "forera" (forumster? forum-goer?) was correct in that due my hardfast belief and desire for it to work, it WILL work; I could listen to a "dictionary on tape" and still succeed if I believed in it enough. Therefore, regardless of if I learn French or if I learn Arabic, I will succeed due to my motivation.

In other words, testing my methods on myself is an invalid experiment.

My friends, on the other hand, have experienced only failures: one learnt French to a low intermediate level in middle/high school, and the other took 2 years of college Spanish and 7 days of Rosetta Stone french (lol). As such, maintaining their motivation will be vital to their success, and will be the ultimate challenge.

If you're interested in my personal story, here it is:

To make a long story short, after 1.5 years of college and 8 years of Spanish classes, I was unable to do much more than conjugate verbs. I went to Puerto Vallarta with my family, and the day before leaving I left my passport in a taxi and had to go on a wild goose chase to track it down. We finally tracked it down and had to bribe the guy 70 dollars to get it back, but not after I embarassed myself countless times by trying to speak, and failing, and then completely failing to understand responses. THE most embarassing day of my life.

I then vowed to learn Spanish as quickly and thoroughly as possible, and I fell in love with language learning in the process: after 5 months of nonstop Spanish rap music, telenovela episodes, and writing corrections, I was more fluent than I thought possible. THEN I studied abroad in Mexico, where I accidentally wrote a 150 page Slang dictionary, and went on to write a 120 page thesis (in Spanish) about the history of slang collection.

Since then, I've tried to learn Portuguese and Chinese, taking university classes and losing motivation and quitting, learning on my own with varying successes, and then finally about 5 months ago I returned to learning from TV shows and rap music, and my success skyrocketed. I won't detail those journeys because I haven't been working on them, because for the last 3 months I've been obsessively concocting a "magic pill" method for more Americans (and the world) to learn languages, and more importantly, allow Americans to discover how fun and effective language learning can actually be.
Last edited by maschingon on Fri Sep 16, 2016 6:31 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: French modified Subs2SRS "magic pill" experiment

Postby smallwhite » Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:25 am

If you have such a great idea and are so enthusiastic about it, why choose French? Being so good at Spanish already and knowing Portuguese as well, learning French with your magic method proves nothing about the method. That'd be such a pity. I once learned a language similar to my L1, and just 11 days later, I was already watching stand-up comedies in it and laughing. And all I did was just follow a series of textbooks. That super fast progress says nothing about my "method"; it just means that that L2 is very similar to my L1.

Consider learning Finnish instead :P That's what I'm doing to test my methods.
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Re: French modified Subs2SRS "magic pill" experiment

Postby maschingon » Mon Sep 12, 2016 4:49 pm

smallwhite wrote:If you have such a great idea and are so enthusiastic about it, why choose French? Being so good at Spanish already and knowing Portuguese as well, learning French with your magic method proves nothing about the method. That'd be such a pity. I once learned a language similar to my L1, and just 11 days later, I was already watching stand-up comedies in it and laughing. And all I did was just follow a series of textbooks. That super fast progress says nothing about my "method"; it just means that that L2 is very similar to my L1.

Consider learning Finnish instead :P That's what I'm doing to test my methods.
“Finnisch mit extra Mühe” -- a group learning project


Just read about the group learning project, that's awesome! 2 questions for you:

1) How do you find Assimil to be so far? Pros and cons? (feel free to tell me to read your thread if this is covered there... I apologize in advance!)
2) Any advice on how to read threads that are already in progress? I read the first and last page of your thread, but I'm definitely missing a lot of cool stuff in the middle. I'm brand new to these forums, and reading ALL the previous pages for every old thread seems inefficient, but maybe it's not as bad as I think...

In regards to not using French, you're absolutely right - but I'm not sure what to pick. The first languages that come to mind are:

1) Maya - I've just moved to Mérida, YUC, México (also studied abroad here a few years ago), and there's a HUGE Mayan-speaking population, to the point that the Spanish itself that's spoken here in Yucatán has been infused with Mayan words, constructions and accents. Would be really cool and culturally-enriching to learn Mayan... I'm exciting myself just by writing about the possibility...

But with Maya(n), there are various problems: 1) the roman text they use is a relatively recent invention, as the language isn't classically written, so I'm not sure how easy obtaining writing corrections would be. 2) I'm not sure if many cartoon/tv shows exist in the language, although I'm sure I could find stuff. Also, in light of the efforts that the Yucatan government has been putting into reviving interest in the language, there's doubtlessly various resources that have sprung up in recent years. Furthermore, I guess I don't need resources if I write out the instructions well enough -- and luckily, since I'm fluent in Spanish, I would only need to find a Spanish/Mayan bilingual, not an English/Mayan. And maybe I'd accidentally create a new resource in the process... (this happened to me during my time abroad in Mexico --> I accidentally collected a 150 page dictionary of the most commonly used slang in Mérida :lol: )

2) Hindi (various Hindi-speaking friends, sister has been trying to learn, and virtual assistants would be cheap and plentiful), although I'd have to deal with the script, which seems to be an unnecessary step at this point...? And:

3) Hebrew (I don't practice in the slightest, but I'm Jewish by heritage, so going to Hebrew-school as a child means that I can **pronounce the text** (although I cannot understand a word of what I'm pronouncing :lol: ). But still, different writing might cause more problems than it's worth...?

With no other particular languages in mind, here's why my omnipresent devil's advocate keeps telling me to learn French:

1) plentiful resources.
2) I'm trying to test this idea for a product that will (at first) be directed at Spanish learners, and as such, I feel like it might be a good idea to use another Romance language, to learn the difficulties specific to that language family (see point 2).

3) I feel that irregardless of the language that I choose, a self-test wouldn't be very accurate --> I not only have a good of amount of experience with learning foreign languages, but I'm also obsessed with foreign languages (and obsessed with my own method), which means that my motivation and belief in the process will automatically start very high, and as a result, my results will be boosted regardless, no? The real test is to test someone who has never been fluent in any language, which brings me to point 3.

4) I'd like to pick a language that I could test on a few novice-friends, because as I said, I want the test to be on a beginner. The friend that wants to learn French is also someone I would love to work with in a business relationship one day, so if I can successfully build a makeshift product to teach him French, maybe that would convince him to work with me, and learning French myself as a byproduct wouldn't be the worst thing in the world... :lol:

But in any case, I agree, French is not ideal. Finnish won't work (no community here at all), and Spanish would theoretically be ideal but unfortunately I'm fluent backwards and forth, and also am living in Mexico.

Suggestions? Thoughts?
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Re: French modified Subs2SRS "magic pill" experiment

Postby rdearman » Mon Sep 12, 2016 9:32 pm

One of our moderators, emk, did exactly what you are proposing for Spanish. He his log here basically he used Avatar the cartoon series and subs2srs. He also wrote a tool which will create your sound trainers, etc, called substudy. Which is opensource and you can download. The problem you'll find (like when I did subs2srs for Finnish) is finding excalt matching subtitles in L1 & L2. Also sub-edit when ripping out the sub-titles will cause problems unless there is a dictionary in the language you are OCRing. Or hopefully you could purchase DVD's with the subtitles already done. You might also want to look we had someone awhile back learn Japanese using susb2srs with Buffy the vampire slayer. So what you're proposing is possible, although I figure you'll need a longer series rather than just one cartoon and one film.

Good Luck.
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Re: French modified Subs2SRS "magic pill" experiment

Postby smallwhite » Tue Sep 13, 2016 8:22 am

maschingon wrote:1) How do you find Assimil to be so far? Pros and cons?

1) I don't know; I don't have Assimil.

maschingon wrote:2) Any advice on how to read threads that are already in progress? I read the first and last page of your thread, but I'm definitely missing a lot of cool stuff in the middle. I'm brand new to these forums, and reading ALL the previous pages for every old thread seems inefficient...

2) No particular advice; I read what I want to read, and don't read what I don't want to read, just like you or anyone.

You're probably more eager for your experiment to work than for it to be sound/valid. In that case, you can try Portuguese or Catalan; they're even closer to Spanish.
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Re: French modified Subs2SRS "magic pill" experiment

Postby maschingon » Tue Sep 13, 2016 4:20 pm

smallwhite wrote:You're probably more eager for your experiment to work than for it to be sound/valid.


...? Couldn't be farther from the truth

I asked about Assimil because I thought that's what I read in the Finnish post. I guess not.
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Re: French modified Subs2SRS "magic pill" experiment

Postby maschingon » Tue Sep 13, 2016 5:24 pm

rdearman wrote:The problem you'll find (like when I did subs2srs for Finnish) is finding excalt matching subtitles in L1 & L2. Also sub-edit when ripping out the sub-titles will cause problems unless there is a dictionary in the language you are OCRing. Or hopefully you could purchase DVD's with the subtitles already done. You might also want to look we had someone awhile back learn Japanese using susb2srs with Buffy the vampire slayer. So what you're proposing is possible, although I figure you'll need a longer series rather than just one cartoon and one film.


I must have miswrote: I want one cartoon series (I'll watch maybe 20 episodes, or whatever it takes), and then a longstanding, intriguing television series (with more episodes than I could ever hope for --> for Spanish in college I watched Yo soy, betty la fea, it had 221 episodes at 45 minutes each... :lol: )

Any suggestions for languages I should try? I'd like to pick one where 1) The scripts won't take forever to learn (Chinese cough cough), and 2) Subtitles are readily available. Hindi is coming to mind...

In regards to subtitles, I agree. However, finding them accurate in my L1 shouldn't really matter. The most important part will be that I write out painstakingly clear instructions for my native virtual assistant(s), who will then define the words for me and give me a few images to work with.

rdearman wrote:One of our moderators, emk, did exactly what you are proposing for Spanish. He his log here basically he used Avatar the cartoon series and subs2srs. He also wrote a tool which will create your sound trainers, etc, called substudy. Which is opensource and you can download.


Ya, I discussed this briefly with him --> I read his log a few weeks ago but unfortunately I have no idea how to use command line, and I've been told by him and others that it's very difficult without that knowledge. But I'll try. In regards to him doing exactly what I'm proposing, as far as I can tell, mine is quite different in that I'm going to be heavily modifying the format in which Subs2SRS / substudy spits out the cards, creating cloze deletion "production" cards from the very beginning.
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Re: French modified Subs2SRS "magic pill" experiment

Postby reineke » Wed Sep 14, 2016 5:32 pm

maschingon wrote:
Tomorrow I'll be embarking on what will be an at least 37-day (7 days sound training, 30 days TV) experimental journey to learn [xxx]. I'm going to be using Subs2SRS heavily, but I'm going to be completely changing around the front/back orientation of the cards to fit what I see as a better setup. The goal of this experiment is to test out the effectiveness of my "magic pill method" (yes, I know, it doesn't exist....) that I've been obsessively theorizing and concocting for months, that can in theory take a beginning language learner from zero to complete fluency through the use of only 2 TV shows (one for children, one for adults), SRS Flashcards, corrected writing on a consistent basis, and a little speaking...

I chose French because I like the way French Rap sounds, and also because I have some friends who speak French (meaning that they could help me AND I could impress them... win-win right there), but I've been seriously doubting if French is a smart choice --> I feel like it might be "cheating" on my ultimate experimental goal, due to my prior strong knowledge of Spanish and Portuguese.

For the first few weeks, I'll be using either a French children's cartoon, or an English cartoon that I already know the story of dubbed into French. I'm tempted to use something like the Simpsons or South Park, but I think that would defeat the purpose of picking a cartoon... That is, cartoons are good in general because the sound quality is recorded in a studio and thus it's much easier to clearly pick apart the sound phonemes, but children's cartoons are theoretically better for the beginner, for reasons of i+1.

Once I hit a point where the Children's cartoon ceases to entertain me and/or stops giving me tons of new vocabulary, I'll move on to a French TV show directed at adults (or maybe a really good English TV show that I haven't seen, dubbed into French... I've begun to think that this may be the best option for a normal person, because it would "compel" them to keep watching).

...

Step 2 (simultaneously): Learn a bunch of the highest frequency words in the language, so that I'm not a complete complete beginner when I begin using TV, which will help with enjoyment and thus motivation/encouragement in the early stages.

Step 3, 4, 5, .... I'll get to this stuff when I'm finished preparing...


Hi, and thank you for sharing your story. You need to take another look at what you're trying to accomplish here. I disagree that you need to ensure your failure by choosing a remote language for a 30-day experiment. It's easier to swing from branch to branch than to catapult oneself in Wile E. Coyote fashion to another tree. Your language choice does not invalidate your experiment. I think that most English-Spanish bilinguals would agree that French is a foreign language. Some would even call it "hard". If you choose another language you'll lose a study buddy and the opportunity for real life interaction. One does not experiment for the first time with deep see diving in the Mariana Trench. All in all, choosing Hungarian or Finnish over French for a 30-day experiment is just plain silly.

As I see it, you will mostly be building receptive skills. "Complete fluency" means complete freedom to express your own SELF in another language. For someone of your background that would have to include being able to discuss Archimedes, the pending US elections and anything an educated native might reasonably be expected to throw at you. You should also be able to joke around without making too many mistakes, like you did with that "magic pill" reference, address people respectfully etc.

I suspect that some 500 pre-learned words, 2 short TV shows, SRS, and "a little speaking" won't provide enough input/output to achieve this goal. Consider the type of language and vocabulary depth and breadth of this material. I disagree that the cartoon should be short. It's supposed to provide sufficient input to form the backbone of your future progress. Given your self-imposed limitations and lofty goals I'd recommend something like Shin-chan (700+ episodes) for your first show and maybe The Simpsons/Poirot for your second choice. You still probably won't be able to describe your local flora and fauna or name the fruit in your fruit salad.

Children's cartoons can be fun, and if you can enjoy both "Kipper" and "Atlanta" you'll have more tools at your disposal. However, there are plenty of cartoons that can be watched with interest by children and adults. You also don't need to use cartoons/DVDs as your only source of easy material. Finally, I don't think you need the SRS contraption or intensive vocabulary study to ride the cognate gravy train.
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Re: French modified Subs2SRS "magic pill" experiment

Postby maschingon » Wed Sep 14, 2016 9:38 pm

reineke wrote:
Hi, and thank you for sharing your story. You need to take another look at what you're trying to accomplish here. I disagree that you need to ensure your failure by choosing a remote language for a 30-day experiment. It's easier to swing from branch to branch than to catapult oneself in Wile E. Coyote fashion to another tree. Your language choice does not invalidate your experiment. I think that most English-Spanish bilinguals would agree that French is a foreign language. Some would even call it "hard". If you choose another language you'll lose a study buddy and the opportunity for real life interaction. One does not experiment for the first time with deep see diving in the Mariana Trench. All in all, choosing Hungarian or Finnish over French for a 30-day experiment is just plain silly.


Thank you for this valuable input! I had completely stalled my experiment for fear of its validity - I also think its ok for me to accept that I'll do better than I would do without Spanish skills, and the experiment will still be interesting.

reineke wrote:As I see it, you will mostly be building receptive skills. "Complete fluency" means complete freedom to express your own SELF in another language. For someone of your background that would have to include being able to discuss Archimedes, the pending US elections and anything an educated native might reasonably be expected to throw at you. You should also be able to joke around without making too many mistakes, like you did with that "magic pill" reference, address people respectfully etc.


Let me clarify: **I'm in no way shape or form trying to reach complete fluency in 37 days**, haha - that would be crazy talk. I'm just trying to see how far I can get, and how much help TV will provide in these early stages. I'm not even trying to spend tons of time on it - I specifically want to see how far I can get while inputting a minimum amount of effort.

I really did a bad job describing this - I really need to stop writing such long messages, now I understand why my non-language learning friends always return my explanations with blank stares :lol:

reineke wrote:I suspect that some 500 pre-learned words, 2 short TV shows, SRS, and "a little speaking" won't provide enough input/output to achieve this goal. Consider the type of language and vocabulary depth and breadth of this material. I disagree that the cartoon should be short. It's supposed to provide sufficient input to form the backbone of your future progress. Given your self-imposed limitations and lofty goals I'd recommend something like Shin-chan (700+ episodes) for your first show and maybe The Simpsons/Poirot for your second choice. You still probably won't be able to describe your local flora and fauna or name the fruit in your fruit salad.


Again, let me clarify: 500 pre-learned words was referring to the input that I'll receive before even starting to watch the cartoon. I'm not sure if I actually said "2 short TV shows", but if I did, what I meant was "1 short cartoon series", and then "one extremely long telenovela type TV show". What's more, I plan to SRS all vocabulary that I come across that meets a certain criteria - that is, all vocabulary that is above a certain number on the frequency list I'm using (specific number is TBD). However, you make a great point in that the cartoon series should indeed be longer. I won't watch 700+ episodes, but I will watch until the point that I cease to find lots of new vocabulary/grammar structures, at which point I'll move to the telenovela.

Good point about the fruit salad - if I were teaching someone Spanish with a telenovela, I'd probably slowly add foods to their SRS deck based on where it shows up in the frequency list for that language. This is also how I plan to ensure that vocabulary doesn't get missed - every time I lower the "frequency bar below which I say no to adding to SRS", I'll go back and pick up any words that I missed BELOW that point. Hopefully I can cover everything I need to this way, but we'll see.

By "a little speaking", I meant that I'll speak with someone else maybe once or twice a week, but the real bulk of the output will be from writing. I plan to write daily, as I truly believe that corrected writing is far and away the fastest way to improve one's output. Speaking is definitely essential, but normal people can't speak more than a few times per week - and writing is basically a low-stress version of speaking, especially if one speaks out loud the very text that he is writing.

reineke wrote:Children's cartoons can be fun, and if you can enjoy both "Kipper" and "Atlanta" you'll have more tools at your disposal. However, there are plenty of cartoons that can be watched with interest by children and adults. You also don't need to use cartoons/DVDs as your only source of easy material. Finally, I don't think you need the SRS contraption or intensive vocabulary study to ride the cognate gravy train.


I agree! SRS til I die! And thanks for those cartoon suggestions, I'll definitely check those out.
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Re: French modified Subs2SRS "magic pill" experiment

Postby reineke » Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:55 pm

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