Practical Methods for Extensive Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition

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mjb1971
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Practical Methods for Extensive Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition

Postby mjb1971 » Sat May 08, 2021 7:50 am

I am looking for any suggestions on specific methods for extensive reading and vocabulary acquisition.

I am using extensive reading for Chinese (Mandarin). Right now I have about an ILR 0+/1 in reading.

I am real happy with the amount of graded material available: TCB, Mandarin Companion, DLI Gloss. So materials are thankfully not an issue.

However, how should I be going through the material? Read, re-read, then move on? Make flashcards and create some vocabulary learning time? Something in between?

I am looking forward to specific methods you all have used for extensive reading and vocabulary acquisition!
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Re: Practical Methods for Extensive Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition

Postby mcthulhu » Sun May 09, 2021 1:36 am

Actively testing yourself throughout the process is key, I think, though ILR 0+/1 sounds very early for extensive reading. I would normally expect to have much more of a foundation before doing it, but if it's working for you at this stage, congratulations. What methods are you using already?

Re-reading to see how much you can recall without looking things up again would be one idea, but I wouldn't automatically move on after the second reading unless you can read the text more or less comfortably on your own by then. Is that the case? Summarizing a passage you've just read in Chinese in your own words, without looking back at the original text, would be another technique for active reading, but gisting might be a lot to expect at the proficiency level you've stated. Focused vocabulary study seems like an obvious need, maybe using Anki or one of the many other options available for spaced repetition, while focusing on the most important words. (This might be starting to sound more like intensive reading, though, not that they are mutually exclusive.)

There are also a lot of options for assisted reading tools to help with the mechanics of looking up words and making flashcards for them, both online and on the desktop.
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Re: Practical Methods for Extensive Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition

Postby rdearman » Sun May 09, 2021 8:10 am

None of that sounds like extensive reading to me. That all sounds like intensive reading. Extensive reading would just be reading and trying to figure out words in context without looking anything up.

Extensive reading requires a good intermediate level.
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mjb1971
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Re: Practical Methods for Extensive Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition

Postby mjb1971 » Sun May 09, 2021 10:25 am

rdearman wrote:None of that sounds like extensive reading to me. That all sounds like intensive reading. Extensive reading would just be reading and trying to figure out words in context without looking anything up.

Extensive reading requires a good intermediate level.


If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting a “read and move on” type of approach where the reader should not get bogged down in incorporating vocabulary work, or grammar work (or any other type of formal work)?

Do you use extensive reading in your practice and if so how does that look?
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mjb1971
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Re: Practical Methods for Extensive Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition

Postby mjb1971 » Sun May 09, 2021 10:28 am

rdearman wrote:Extensive reading requires a good intermediate level.


Apologies, I forgot to ask about this in my original reply.

What are the premises this is based on? Do you think that the availability of level-graded material alter this requirement at all?

Thanks!!
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mjb1971
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Re: Practical Methods for Extensive Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition

Postby mjb1971 » Sun May 09, 2021 10:36 am

mcthulhu wrote:Actively testing yourself throughout the process is key, I think, though ILR 0+/1 sounds very early for extensive reading. I would normally expect to have much more of a foundation before doing it, but if it's working for you at this stage, congratulations. What methods are you using already?
.


As I said above, for reading I am using TCB, Mandarin Companion, and DLI Gloss. For vocab study I use SRS flashcard systems. For grammar I have used any of a number of textbooks or HSK material, when I need a grammar reference.

HSK 2 or 3 material is easy to read at about 80-95% level of word-knowledge. The original question deals with “what to do with the remaining 20-10% of words?” Formalize or move on?

Also, I was interested in specific methods that other extensive readers use. What ones are you using and to what effect?

Thanks!
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Re: Practical Methods for Extensive Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition

Postby rdearman » Sun May 09, 2021 12:02 pm

I did post this somewhere on the site a long time ago, but I can't find it now. It was a couple of pages about intensive vs extensive reading. I have commented on this sort of thing before:

https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =10#p19398
https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =30#p22792
https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 90#p147260
https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 90#p147267
https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 018#p22639

Since I can't find the long post I did before I'll try to recreate/summarize it here. I believe that you can do extensive reading of native materials only if you understand about 70%+ of the words on the page. Therefore the level of the text, childrens book, graded reader, native novel is not relevant, only the percentage of words in that text you know. Which means you really need to be intermediate level for most text.

I use a hybrid extensive and intensive method, I think you'll struggle more with Mandarin, but the technique is basically the same.

As I said, I normally do a combination of extensive and intensive reading. I'll use French as my example. I have a French paperback book which I am reading and I understand the bulk of the words. When I hit a word I don't know I attempt to figure it out from context. Is it an adjective, adverb, noun, etc. Given the context of the sentence what is it likely to mean? Do I believe I have a reasonable idea of what the meaning of the word is? For example, do I think it is some type of adjective, probably describing colour? Then I move on. If I'm really bothered I'll underline it with a pencil. But my rule for extensive reading is "no looking it up, you have to figure it out in situ."

This rule does a couple of things.
  1. It forces me to live with ambiguity when I'm reading. It suppresses any inclination towards perfectionism.
  2. It makes my brain puzzle out words based on context. (It is a great ego boost if you find out later your guesses were right.)
Every X pages (I normally do 50 now, but was 25 and before that 10) of the paperback I do intensive reading for 1 page. I look up every single word I have any doubt about whatsoever. I frequently push these into anki. Many of these words on the intensive page will show up in either the previous or the following extensive section, which gives me even more comprehension per page, and encountering them almost immediately in another sentence reinforces the word in my brain.

The above is the most common way for me. For Mandarin because I don't know enough words to do this I had a different approach. I have a reader with characters, pinyin and the english translation. I used Anna Mei Banfa! and I transcribed every sentence on to a piece of paper writing out the Chinese characters and the translation in full. But this is not extensive reading, it is intensive reading.

Intensive Reading
To read intensively is to completely deconstruct a text, with the goal of absorbing as much meaning from it as possible. This is done by taking a text, and systematically looking up every word, phrase, or collocation that you do not understand.

This is an activity that requires great mental effort and focus. Because of this, the learner who engages in intensive reading must be careful to follow specific guidelines, or else risk boredom and burnout. Specifically, if you wish to read a text intensively, you must take care to read texts that are interesting and short, to read only for brief periods of time, and to do so when you have the most mental energy.
-- Luca Lampariello


Extensive Reading
To read extensively is to simply read as much as possible, without concerning oneself with the minutia of meaning and the occasional unknown word. This is done by reading for large swaths of time, and looking up words only when you deem it absolutely necessary to your understanding of the text.

-- Luca Lampariello


So for me intensive reading and extensive reading have two different purposes. Intensive reading is the collection and gathering of new words and their meanings while extensive reading is encountering words you know "in the wild" for repetition. Extensive reading is about reinforcement of known words and seeing them in context and grammatically structured in a meaningful way.

Extensive reading isn't about learning new words, it is about building up your grammatical and vocabulary frameworks and lets you "chunk words" into phrases. For example most English speakers don't read "The break of day" as a set of four words, they instinctively see it as a synonym for "dawn", only constant repetition allows you to start turning individual words into phrasal chunks.

All the above is just my opinion, I have no facts to back up these claims and your mileage may vary.
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Re: Practical Methods for Extensive Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition

Postby Steve » Sun May 09, 2021 1:10 pm

I do something similar to rdearman. I mix variations of extensive and intensive reading. I adapt what I'm doing depending on how it's going. My mental distinction between extensive and intensive is whether or not I'm doing most of my thinking in English. I consider it extensive reading when I do the minimum in English to get me past a point where I'm stuck and intensive reading where I'm doing a lot of thinking in English about grammar, vocabulary, etc.

Toward the beginning, I'll use available interlinears or parallel texts to do quick look ups. The idea being to keep most of my focus on the target language using the (for me) English text to get a quick understanding of key things I'm missing. I'll read paragraphs using multiple passes where I mix intensive and extensive. A common one I do is an extensive pass for whatever I can understand, followed by intensive to figure out the important stuff, and finished with a final extensive pass. I'll also incorporate review across days where I'll do an extensive read of the previous day or two's readings dropping into intensive mode if I'm still finding a particular section hard to understand.

The general idea is continuous improvement so that the text I'm looking at becomes more and more familiar as I look at it. I find that a Pareto principle (aka 90/10 or 80/20 rule) starts to apply in that I start to internalize the most common structures and vocabulary first which speeds things up as I go along.

I also mix a lot of listening and reading. I do various passes of listening in combination with following along, speaking while looking at the text, speaking along with the audio, extensive reading, intensive reading, etc. For example, I've been using the Spanish version of NHK (Japanese news) for which the audio is read word for word from about a half dozen daily articles. I extensively read one article, then use a combination of DeepL, SpanishDict, and a few grammar books to make sure I'm comfortable with each sentence, and then extensively read it again. I then listen to that part of the audio. I find I have a limited amount of attention span for this depending on how interesting the news is. Some days I'll do all the articles and listen a couple of times. Some days I just do a few articles. One of my main considerations is keeping this enjoyable so I look forward to doing it each morning rather than forcing myself to do it.
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mjb1971
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Re: Practical Methods for Extensive Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition

Postby mjb1971 » Sun May 09, 2021 1:53 pm

Thanks for the practical suggestions from your experiences! One of the motivations behind my original question, which was probably phrased very terribly, was to bridge the gap between Extensive Reading (ER) as a thing and as an actual practice.

I am on board with ER as a good tool or method in the tool box so I did not need persuasion there. Rather it is the implementation. The experiences of the last two posters are exactly the thought provoking details I am looking for. Please keep them coming!
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mjb1971
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Re: Practical Methods for Extensive Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition

Postby mjb1971 » Sun May 09, 2021 2:00 pm

Adding new post because I will take this in a more Mandarin-specific direction.

In my experience, parsing unknown meanings and WORDS in Mandarin is more difficult than in Romance or German languages (especially words, I am native English speaker BTW. Also my levels in Romance reading are ILR 2 or above, so there is that. But that score is not orthogonal from reading and parsing strategies!). In my opinion this is because “cant parse a picture.” (Simplification, I know character MIGHT contain clues to either meaning or sound or both. But still.)

So my ability to gist meanings in Mandarin versus Romance languages is qualitatively different. I wonder what implications this has for ER and need to shift between ER and IR or more formal vocabulary grinding?
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