Memorization of Passages

General discussion about learning languages
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Memorization of Passages

Postby Inst » Sun Mar 10, 2019 11:23 pm

I'm wondering, how well do you guys find memorizing passages as a way to build language competence? I recall having been at places where they tried this method, but I'm wondering if it actually works. On my part, I tried to memorize The Waste Land once, but I've more or less concluded I have no strength in text memorization.
Last edited by Inst on Mon Mar 11, 2019 3:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Memorization of Passages

Postby Axon » Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:35 am

I was skeptical of this until I came to China. Here, I send regular English recordings to my students (aged 7-13) intended as additional listening practice. As is quite common in China, many of them treat it as a memorization task. The ones who do invariably have better skills in pronunciation, prosody, and sight reading than the students who don't do this practice. I don't push memorization on them, but as it's quite a big part of how one is supposed to study here, I won't try to change it either.

Just a few days ago I had my first lesson with a particular adult student in some time. I commented that I was pleasantly surprised that he didn't seem to have lost much ability despite a break of a couple of months from English. He then asked me to take a look at a speech that he had written in preparation for an interview. I agreed and reached for his notebook - and then he delivered the speech from memory. He had spent the day before writing and re-writing this four-minute self-introduction, and it was nearly free of mistakes. I am positive that focusing so intently on a single relatively short passage ended up having a great effect on his English. I'm also pretty sure that that positive boost will fade over time without more practice, but as a quick fix for reawakening a language it seemed to work pretty well.
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Re: Memorization of Passages

Postby Inst » Mon Mar 11, 2019 3:39 am

I actually saw this at BCLU. I was more wondering if it was some odd Chinese-only thing, or whether it's generally used.

The Chinese are relatively traditional compared to other societies when it comes to learning, so at the same time we wonder what we might have lost, we might also blanch at their backwardness.
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Re: Memorization of Passages

Postby cjareck » Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:27 am

My wife who visited me once when I was in Germany said that during that few days she realised that learning dialogues by heart is a good idea. Her teacher wanted her pupils to do it but therly thought that is lost of time. I myself found some cases that I could use a phrase that I memorised in Hebrew. More often however, when I speak Polish the learned Hebrew phrase pops up in my head ;)
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Re: Memorization of Passages

Postby Speakeasy » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:42 pm

I am going to go out on a limb, here. I believe that, in a very broad sense, native speakers memorize “formulae” for expressing frequently-occurring ideas in a host of common contexts. Obviously, language is more complicated than that and native speakers have the facility of expressing themselves in multiple ways that extend well beyond the use of simple formulae.

From the reasoning above, the memorization of contextually-appropriate passages should give at-the-very-least the “illusion” of increased fluency provided that the vocabulary and structural elements align themselves well with a given context. However, questions remain: To what extent is memorization of passages likely to prepare the student to express himself outside of the basic formulae as native speakers do? To what extent is this apparent fluency transferable outside of the context of a given memorized passage? Just how many different passages must one memorize in one’s attempts at becoming fluent?

In my personal experience, the memorization of passages (which includes the “effective memorization” of sentence-pattern drills and Assimil-style dialogues through massive repetition) is quite beneficial because doing so provides both a basic inventory of contextually-appropriate formulae/vocabulary and a basis upon which more advanced skills can be built.

Nevertheless, I see this type of practice as merely one technique amongst many possibilities. I do not see this technique as being necessarily more powerful than any others or as a guaranteed route towards true fluency at a superior level. It is but one of many possible tools which may employed, or not, in a very long journey.

So then, yes, the memorization of passages is a useful technique, but it is not obligatory and it can be replaced by others offering similar, if not superior, benefits.

Slight modifications to the text.
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Re: Memorization of Passages

Postby Kraut » Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:35 am

This is what I do:

I choose compelling little texts from Tripadvisor that tell a story with people, places, complaints, emotions, descriptions etc and do bi-directional translation for a while.
Then to memorize, repeat and maintain the stories I make a list of single words from the text.
I then recreate the stories with the words in front of me while I am exercising on a swing stepper with ropes.
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