StringerBell wrote:I believe that extensive reading is important (so I hope no one thinks that I'm saying it's pointless), and I'm planning to do it for both Italian and Polish, but I'm not expecting it to be a magic bullet for improving my vocabulary. I have a feeling that the strength of extensive reading is in reinforcing what someone already knows to some degree.
Yes, absolutely. I read a lot and rarely look up words, and one of the things I noticed when I started doing this, when I was attending a German course and reading extensively on the side, was that whatever I was learning in the course had a tendency to pop up in my reading as well. If you read at least half an hour a day, that's almost bound to happen, and you learn a lot from the new contexts you meet the words and grammatical structures in. Another thing I noticed was that some unknown words would be repeated so often in the text that they would start popping up in my head at other times too. When that happened, and I had a dictionary available, I would look it up, and I would never forget the meaning of that word again. A much more pleasant way to learn new vocabulary than anki!
One of the problems of looking up words while reading is that you lose the flow of the reading, and that you get too conscious of what you are doing. One of the secrets to language learning is that you have to deal with the language in an automated and subconcious way, and that's what you lose if you only read intensively and not extensively.