Language learning through Wikipedia articles

General discussion about learning languages
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Language learning through Wikipedia articles

Postby AmitS » Thu May 16, 2019 6:21 pm

Hello guys!
I have been recently become interested in reading Wikipedia articles in my target language(s) -- it's both learning a language and gaining knowledge at the same time! a great value, isn't it?
And then I saw some articles in the English Wikipedia, have been astonished by how vast and comprehensive they are, and saw they can be complex to understand and as a result tedious sometimes, on the other hand.

I'm fascinated to see your opinions as to if it's efficient for one to read Wikipedia articles in order to learn a language (and gaining knowledge!), assuming they reached the appropriate level in the language? Or do you think gaining knowledge and learning a language should be done separately?
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Re: Language learning through Wikipedia articles

Postby devilyoudont » Fri May 17, 2019 12:26 am

Personally I like reading wikipedia, so I think it's a good exercise. However, it can be a huge struggle if your level isn't quite high enough.

For people learning English tho, there is a version of wikipedia in simple english here:
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Re: Language learning through Wikipedia articles

Postby Adrianslont » Fri May 17, 2019 1:12 am

devilyoudont wrote:Personally I like reading wikipedia, so I think it's a good exercise. However, it can be a huge struggle if your level isn't quite high enough.

For people learning English tho, there is a version of wikipedia in simple english here:

I agree absolutely with devilyoudont and want to add that not all Wikipedia articles are so hard to read - there are plenty of lengthy, comprehensive, complex articles, but here are also easier articles. I find it easier to read articles about individual people or places I am interested in.
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Re: Language learning through Wikipedia articles

Postby golyplot » Fri May 17, 2019 6:31 am

I mostly use Wikipedia for finding technical volcabulary about specific topics. You can just go to the English page for the desired topic and then switch to the corresponding page in a different language using the links in the sidebar. However, other language Wikipedias vary in size and are all much smaller than the English Wikipedia. (On the other hand, they cover local topics much more comprehensively. For example it's common to see German Wikipedia articles about topics related to Germany that have missing or poor quality English pages.)
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Re: Language learning through Wikipedia articles

Postby Ezra » Fri May 17, 2019 1:18 pm

In my opinion, a book in general would be a better tool for language-learning, but I found Wikipedia is indeed a good way to obtain specialized vocabulary. As a tool for getting knowledge, it is good to get a cursory introduction in a certain topic, though it can be quite superficial especially in case of obscure/non-mainstream topics.

And Ancient Greeks would say that "knowledge" obtained this way is not real knowledge but only an opinion ;).
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Re: Language learning through Wikipedia articles

Postby sirgregory » Fri May 17, 2019 8:22 pm

This is a good idea. I should do this more often. I read Wikipedia all the time and it's easy enough to browse the other language versions at the same time. I'm spot checking a few articles and the French, Spanish, and German versions are often substantially different.

The Spanish article on conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo is more detailed than the English version. Not too surprising.

This Spaniard from around the same era has no corresponding English article at all.

I also use Wikipedia to read about languages and grammar. The articles can be kind of scattered, but it's good for getting a high-level sense of a language. This page for instance gives a pretty thorough and efficient presentation of German declensions.

Not many people can learn everything by looking at a big page of tables and trying to memorize all the forms. And that's why language courses aren't organized that way. But it's good for reference and also good for getting a sense of the general morphology, etc. That way when you do come upon it in a course lesson, you've already anticipated the material.
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Re: Language learning through Wikipedia articles

Postby Iceberg » Sat May 18, 2019 1:20 pm

I think Wikipedia can be used as a tool for language learning. More specifically, you can use it for both learning a language and gaining knowledge. That said, you should not rely on solely on Wikipedia for your reading purposes.

I use Wikipedia as one of the tools because of several reasons. For instance, it is available in 301 languages, including constructed languages and dialects (as of my time writing this post), it is free of charge (24 hours, 365 days per year), and there are usually references for further reading, images and tables to facilitate the reader’s comprehension. There is a way to create a pdf from those articles (sometimes I do so to transfer into my kindle when I go to places where there are no internet connection available so easily) and it has a large data, too.

LLorg.jpg (145.67 KiB) Viewed 269 times

If you study Winaray, chances are you will not find a better data base in that language, other than Wikipedia! :D It has more than 1 million of articles. Of course, I cannot check its quality as I have never studied it, though...

I usually use Wikipedia as a general knowledge source in topics related to my hobbies. For example, I love reading books, traveling and I’m very interested in other country’s cuisine. Therefore, instead of searching for a translation of some specific food in my target languages, I can simply use the Wikipedia and check what it is written there.

I once wanted to know how the name of the Japanese sightseeing and food would be called in Armenian, one of my target languages. That helped me to boost my vocabulary in both hobby related topics as well as technical vocabulary in some specialized fields.

For languages that I feel more comfortable with, I like to compare about how much it was written about Genghis Khan in Chinese, Korean, English, German, Spanish and French, for example. It is “2 in 1”, as you have stated. The thing is, do I rely only on Wikipedia? No. I think one of the ways to read about Genghis Khan in my target languages is to take a look at the further references, if available. This would apply obviously to any language and topic.

I once had to prepare myself for a presentation in Korean on topics related to Lithuania and Latvia (because I was studying Lithuanian and Latvian at that time). Instead of looking for words in a dictionary (which I don’t actually mind), I first read about those places I visited in Korean. Of course, I did in-depth research later on and read about food and cultural stuff. It has helped me to gain time.

Wikipedia is not obviously a course book and it is aimed to native speakers. That said, there are non-native speakers writing in other languages, especially in English. Consequently, sometimes you will find spelling mistakes, some linguistics errors or sentences that a native speaker would have written in a different way (despite not being grammatically wrong). As any tool, Wikipedia is not perfect and there are some cons as I have mentioned one.

I have just checked your profile and since you are already at B2 (CEFR), I think you can go for fiction books. But, I am saying this out of blue. I don't know what your goals are. I am pretty sure you can get lot of benefits by expanding your reading tools. :D
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Re: Language learning through Wikipedia articles

Postby Stefan » Sat May 18, 2019 3:28 pm

Shame the app doesn't have a built in dictionary for quick lookup.
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Re: Language learning through Wikipedia articles

Postby Storyling » Tue May 21, 2019 9:25 am

I think Wikipedia is one of the best sites out there when it comes to reading material for language learners.

Mainly because you can read about something you already got some knowledge on and that you are actually interested in the text.
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Re: Language learning through Wikipedia articles

Postby OwenE » Wed May 22, 2019 6:46 am

I would try to focus more on Books, Music or Youtube if you want to see some fast progress. Wikipedia can be a bit difficult depending on the topic.
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