How to learn vocabulary?

Ask specific questions about your target languages. Beginner questions welcome!
User avatar
tarvos
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2114
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2015 11:13 am
Location: Dark paradise
Languages: Native: Dutch, English
Expert: French, Russian, Swedish, German, Romanian, Esperanto, Spanish
Advanced: Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Greek, Czech, Norwegian
Intermediate: Hebrew, Icelandic, Hungarian
Beginner: Breton, Korean, Finnish, Polish, Japanese, Bulgarian, Shanghainese
Read-only: Danish, Latin, Afrikaans
Language Log: http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/fo ... PN=1&TPN=1
x 3733
Contact:

Re: How to learn vocabulary?

Postby tarvos » Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:25 pm

Russian is actually a strange exception, because initially I did use flashcards there. But that was only at the very beginning.

I used wordlists for Swedish.

As for focusing... I'm not sure I use a special technique there. :p
1 x
Niemand, keiner kennt mich wie Du
Unbedingt, ich geb alles zu
Keine Enttäuschung, kein einziges Mal
Aber Dir ist eh alles egal

Preferred pronouns: feminine.

AmitS
White Belt
Posts: 14
Joined: Sun Jun 18, 2017 5:58 am
Location: Israel
Languages: Hebrew (N); English (B2); French (A2)
Interested in: Spanish, Italian, German, Russian
x 8

Re: How to learn vocabulary?

Postby AmitS » Sun Oct 29, 2017 5:32 pm

Cavesa wrote:
rdearman wrote:If you want to learn new words. You want to learn them in context. You don't want to use SRS or lists. Then you just need to read, a lot. Read, read, read, read. You'll learn the word in context, you'll not have to bother with electronic stuff, and you can visually see it on the page. It is what people did before computers, so we know it will work.


I still cannot understand why people take it as two exclusive options. I find a mix of SRS and tons of context to be the best. Of course it is possible to learn without SRS! But SRS, unless you hate it, can make the process faster.

Reviewing in Anki doesn't mean you are not learning in context. As long as it is a word encountered somewhere, as long as the learner has a lot of input.

It is possible to learn without SRSing, I have great experience with extensive reading. A mix is great. But SRS only is a problem. I have no clue why there are people who just SRS wordlists as their main learning activity. There are people on the internet, who keep recommending each other to learn with Duolingo+Memrise and "then just speak and speak". This is a sure way to fail and get disappointed.

rdearman wrote:I recommend both anki and reading, but the OP specifically set out the criteria. So no electronic devices and no lists is basically just reading. :lol:

By saying a combination of both reading and SRS is the most effective trick, how does SRS get into the picture?
I mean, how do you actually use it? Do you add every difficult word/expression you encounter during your readings into Anki? Do you review the words out of context or including context? And what are you doing in a case in which a word has different definition(s) as well, but you encountered only one of them? You add the rest of the definitions as well, without getting familiar with them, or only the one being encountered?
0 x

User avatar
Dylan95
Orange Belt
Posts: 158
Joined: Mon Feb 29, 2016 3:11 pm
Location: USA
Languages: English (N)
Currently Studying
Russian B2+

Previously Studied and mostly forgotten
French
Italian
Latin
x 296

Re: How to learn vocabulary?

Postby Dylan95 » Mon Oct 30, 2017 9:31 am

I agree that learning vocabulary in context is crucial to learning languages, but I also find that flashcards are very helpful simply for purposes of review rather than learning. It's not as effective as reproducing sentences or seeing them in context, but its a quicker process, and usually requires less effort.
0 x

User avatar
LinguaPony
Orange Belt
Posts: 144
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2017 7:50 am
Location: Saratov, Russia
Languages: Russian (N), English (Proficient), Italian (Intermediate), M. Chinese (Beginner), German (Just started), Yiddish (half-cooked A1, long since forgotten, but now queued for revival)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=7160
x 299
Contact:

Re: How to learn vocabulary?

Postby LinguaPony » Mon Oct 30, 2017 9:37 am

Bilingual reading is a huge booster.
0 x

Tillumadoguenirurm
Orange Belt
Posts: 193
Joined: Fri May 06, 2016 3:07 pm
Languages: English
x 228

Re: How to learn vocabulary?

Postby Tillumadoguenirurm » Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:15 am

A question to those of you who never use any srsprogram, what do you do to remember or recognise words? Do you look them up in the dictionary every time, write them down, memorise or what?
0 x

User avatar
ロータス
Green Belt
Posts: 385
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2016 2:33 pm
Languages: English (N), Mandarin (HSK 2/TOCFL 1), Korean (Beg)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=8177
x 409

Re: How to learn vocabulary?

Postby ロータス » Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:32 am

Tillumadoguenirurm wrote:A question to those of you who never use any srsprogram, what do you do to remember or recognise words? Do you look them up in the dictionary every time, write them down, memorise or what?


Read - > see unknown word - > look up - > write down sentence + definition at bottom / side of page- > Read next sentence

Have a whole page of sentences with definitions of unknown words - > Review page in a week - > Read page + see what words you remember / what words you forgot - > Repeat from the top
1 x
Reading: 汉语教程 第一册 下 7-6
步伐多慢无关紧要,只要你坚持不懈。
~Confucius

aaleks
Blue Belt
Posts: 526
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:04 pm
Location: Russia
Languages: Russian (N)
English (?)
Italian (beginner)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=6724
x 873

Re: How to learn vocabulary?

Postby aaleks » Mon Oct 30, 2017 12:09 pm

Tillumadoguenirurm wrote:A question to those of you who never use any srsprogram, what do you do to remember or recognise words? Do you look them up in the dictionary every time, write them down, memorise or what?

Look up in a dictionary, read everything written about the word (there can be several translations/meanings), choose the one that suits more, try to memorise it. It's not always so long and tedious, sometimes it's just look-up and move-on. Once I tried to write unknown words down while reading but for me to write something down = forgot it. So instead of memorizing a word on the spot, I would have to spend additional time to memorize the word later.
0 x

User avatar
tarvos
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2114
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2015 11:13 am
Location: Dark paradise
Languages: Native: Dutch, English
Expert: French, Russian, Swedish, German, Romanian, Esperanto, Spanish
Advanced: Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Greek, Czech, Norwegian
Intermediate: Hebrew, Icelandic, Hungarian
Beginner: Breton, Korean, Finnish, Polish, Japanese, Bulgarian, Shanghainese
Read-only: Danish, Latin, Afrikaans
Language Log: http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/fo ... PN=1&TPN=1
x 3733
Contact:

Re: How to learn vocabulary?

Postby tarvos » Mon Oct 30, 2017 12:37 pm

Tillumadoguenirurm wrote:A question to those of you who never use any srsprogram, what do you do to remember or recognise words? Do you look them up in the dictionary every time, write them down, memorise or what?


First I decide whether my life depends on knowing this word or not. If not, I don't care enough. If it keeps cropping up, I'll look it up. Clearly it's important. Sometimes I guess from context or morphological clues.
1 x
Niemand, keiner kennt mich wie Du
Unbedingt, ich geb alles zu
Keine Enttäuschung, kein einziges Mal
Aber Dir ist eh alles egal

Preferred pronouns: feminine.

Cavesa
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2690
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:46 am
Languages: Czech (N), English (C1), French (C2), Spanish (intermediate), German (somewhere on the path), Italian (passive advanced, active basic)
x 7475

Re: How to learn vocabulary?

Postby Cavesa » Mon Oct 30, 2017 6:21 pm

AmitS wrote:
Cavesa wrote:
rdearman wrote:If you want to learn new words. You want to learn them in context. You don't want to use SRS or lists. Then you just need to read, a lot. Read, read, read, read. You'll learn the word in context, you'll not have to bother with electronic stuff, and you can visually see it on the page. It is what people did before computers, so we know it will work.


I still cannot understand why people take it as two exclusive options. I find a mix of SRS and tons of context to be the best. Of course it is possible to learn without SRS! But SRS, unless you hate it, can make the process faster.

Reviewing in Anki doesn't mean you are not learning in context. As long as it is a word encountered somewhere, as long as the learner has a lot of input.

It is possible to learn without SRSing, I have great experience with extensive reading. A mix is great. But SRS only is a problem. I have no clue why there are people who just SRS wordlists as their main learning activity. There are people on the internet, who keep recommending each other to learn with Duolingo+Memrise and "then just speak and speak". This is a sure way to fail and get disappointed.

rdearman wrote:I recommend both anki and reading, but the OP specifically set out the criteria. So no electronic devices and no lists is basically just reading. :lol:

By saying a combination of both reading and SRS is the most effective trick, how does SRS get into the picture?
I mean, how do you actually use it? Do you add every difficult word/expression you encounter during your readings into Anki? Do you review the words out of context or including context? And what are you doing in a case in which a word has different definition(s) as well, but you encountered only one of them? You add the rest of the definitions as well, without getting familiar with them, or only the one being encountered?


I don't necessarily mix them this way. I read extensively, I don't have time to dissect paper books in a tram. Readlang is an exception but I use it more like an easy dictionary on the go than SRS. But either with a dictionary or just from the context: the books themselves are an SRS, as some words are there more often than others. SRS is for the stuff I need but I don't encounter it naturally all the time. Because some otherwise very useful words are simply not that frequent even in 20000 bookpages.

For SRS, I have found already made huge decks of good quality to be the best for me. Making a deck takes ages and much more consistency than I am usually capable of. Fortunately, some people have already done the work. Like Eunoia on Memrise, whose +French courses contain like 2O000 words and I guess +Spanish will be similar, I haven't counted it together yet.

When I make a deck, which happens for example in German, as I haven't found premade ones I would like enough, I add stuff from a coursebook, from a vocab workbook or overviews. My occasional lists from elsewhere usually get lost before I put them into anki. I don't put example sentences or other context in, I get the context everywhere else, SRS serves just as a reminder, a memorisation tool, not The Source. There is very little problem with multiple definitions or synonyms for me. Multiple definitions can lead to creation of more cards with the same answer. Multiple words for one definition: a card asking me for two answers, a card giving me the first letter, or preferably a card telling me not to answer the easier word like "question (not that)".

I don't necessarily learn the one thing from various sources at once. If I remember it from the book immediately: great. If not, it is no tragedy, I'll see it again in another resource. I am in no hurry, so doing the individual parts of the learning process at different times works for me.

I know it sounds weird but it has already worked a few times for me. It's like a series of long chaotic phases, each concluded with a -click-, where stuff finally happens to be stored in the right places.
3 x

User avatar
Iversen
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1760
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 3565

Re: How to learn vocabulary?

Postby Iversen » Wed Nov 01, 2017 11:08 pm

I looked at a number of research reports about vocabulary learning up to the Novi Sad conference, including some that specifically tested for the effects of extensive reading and/or listening without any other support techniques. Most of these reports used multiple answer questionnaires to gauge the effects, but those few reports that used both multiple choice and 'open' questions consistently showed that multiple choice exaggerates the effects ... so taking that into account, it seems that just reading and/or listening without any specific attempt to learn new words isn't very efficient. Tests using multiple choice only test passive knowledge - and even passive knowledge with an outside help source. 'Open' questions are much closer to testing active knowledge, even though some variants (like cloze questions) do provide you with a context.

On the other hand we know from other sources that heavy readers have larger vocabularies than those that never read a book or something more demanding than SMS messages or street signs. How come? Well, the point could be that if you do read with your mind set to sucking up new words and constructions then you may also get something from extensive reading or listening. If you just read/listen to get the gist and let the concrete words fly through your head without any attempt to retain anything, then you probably won't learn anything new about the language in question - which doesn't preclude the possibility that you may remember some information about the topic. But you could also end up having a hard time even remembering what the topic was .. like when you forget you dreams unless you deliberately try to remember them.

There may be individual differences insofar that some persons are better to remembering ephemeral tidbits of information than others, but I personally have to get things down on paper and repeat them a couple of times to make them stick. And that includes new vocabulary. And I prefer wordlists because I there also can control how and when I do my repetitions. SRS programs would make me feel like a human dartboard.
4 x


Return to “Practical Questions and Advice”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: shandra and 1 guest