Studying advice? re: grammar points and vocab...

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Studying advice? re: grammar points and vocab...

Postby 80Percent » Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:42 pm

Hi all.

Backstory, i didn't study much in high school and college and never really learned how to study, so i feel like i'm just winging it. Any tips?

Usually i read a grammar point and do the exercises in the textbook, but i want to internalize the grammar points a little better. How to do that? So far I've thought:

Focus on one a day, read the grammar point, do the exercises, find a lot of sentences with that grammar point and look over them. Read them allowed over and over again. Look at resources online see how they teach them.

Anything i'm missing, should add, should do?

Also for vocab, how are you guys memorizing your words? Like, very specifically how, what are the steps?

Find the word, write it down in my SRS. Then what? Just say it over and over again? or something else too?

Thanks! Not even sure the question makes sense b/c it could be super obvious, but trust me, to me it is not, i just never learned how.

tia.
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Re: Studying advice? re: grammar points and vocab...

Postby Nico546 » Thu Jun 14, 2018 2:28 pm

If you want my advice, grammar and textbooks won't help you.
It's not motivating, it's often hard and abstract, and you need to learn them perfectly to apply them... If you like textbooks, it's cool for you (and they can be a good tool to help you if they are well used, but they shouldn't be your only tool).

Learning passes through mistakes. You won't avoid the grammar mistakes, but it's not a problem. The main point you should focus on is: being understood by native speakers.

For this, you need basic vocabulary and grammar basics (how to build questions, negative sentences, present/past/future tenses, conditionnal (would, should...)), but learn them through curiosity and practice, by building sentences, by making mistakes.

Try to start by learning the most important words and those from topics you like, try to find exchange partners, or to comment articles/youtube videos, or to speak on this forum in your target language.

And your grammar will strenghten everyday without you even notice it (by reading your target language, and by trying to imitate native speakers).

Who learnt a language at school, with the traditionnal techniques?
If I would've waited for school to teach me english, I would've never answered your question ;)

To memorize the new words, I avoid to learn by heart (I mean, I avoid to repeat the words 30 times a day to remember them).
I rather wonder what does the word means, and I imagine the idea/image which is related to it (or I even take the object in my hands if possible to give it a name).

There are two great exercices to remember words:
-look at every object around you and search for their translation in your target language.
-read an interesting text/article (in which you understand the topic/the main idea), and try to learn new words out of it.

In both exercices, I recommand you to write the new words you learnt somewhere, and by being confronted to them again, if you don't remember them, you'll just have to check out your words' list to see that you already read them before, and through experience and context, you'll remember them.

You can also try to imagine something exagerated and ridiculous to remember the words.
For example, if you learn how to say: "clown", imagine a ridiculous clown walking down the street.
if you learn how to say: "speech", imagine hitler screaming during a political meeting.
if you learn how to say: "wardrobe", imagine a monster hiding into it.

Give a life/strong meaning to each word, and don't try to translate them through you native language.
See them as a extension of your language, as synonyms. It will be easy. And the more words you know, the more easy it will be.
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Re: Studying advice? re: grammar points and vocab...

Postby Sgt Schultz » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:41 pm

Nico546 wrote:If you want my advice, grammar and textbooks won't help you.
It's not motivating, it's often hard and abstract, and you need to learn them perfectly to apply them... If you like textbooks, it's cool for you (and they can be a good tool to help you if they are well used, but they shouldn't be your only tool).


I agree 100% with this. Studying grammar, in my opinion, isn't the best use of time.

My recommendation to you is repetition. What worked for me in the very beginning was Michel Thomas Foundation and Advanced courses as well as Pimsleur. Those programs will provide the repetition to make the words and phrases stick. Don't be afraid to repeat lessons in MT either. I remember listening to the same disc several times for moving on.

Michel Thomas courses come with a PDF script (which you can download for free from his website at https://www.michelthomas.com/downloads.php). For me, I needed to see as well as hear what I was learning. The PDFs did the trick.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Studying advice? re: grammar points and vocab...

Postby 80Percent » Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:09 pm

.
Sgt Schultz wrote:
Nico546 wrote:If you want my advice, grammar and textbooks won't help you.
It's not motivating, it's often hard and abstract, and you need to learn them perfectly to apply them... If you like textbooks, it's cool for you (and they can be a good tool to help you if they are well used, but they shouldn't be your only tool).


I agree 100% with this. Studying grammar, in my opinion, isn't the best use of time.

My recommendation to you is repetition. What worked for me in the very beginning was Michel Thomas Foundation and Advanced courses as well as Pimsleur. Those programs will provide the repetition to make the words and phrases stick. Don't be afraid to repeat lessons in MT either. I remember listening to the same disc several times for moving on.

Michel Thomas courses come with a PDF script (which you can download for free from his website at https://www.michelthomas.com/downloads.php). For me, I needed to see as well as hear what I was learning. The PDFs did the trick.

Hope this helps.


Funnily enought I just got Pimsleur Mandarin, but was gonna start to use it later. right now my resources are: Textbook + ChinesePod + HelloChinese + Talking to Chinese speaking boyfriend. Would Pimsleur be better than ChinesePod? The reason i use a textbook is b/c there's a class that starts in the fall that uses it so i figured i would pre-study in a way and get a grasp on what's upcoming but i could nix the textbook and do Pimsleur. ugh. so hard to choose! lol. Maybe i'll drop ChinesePod.
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Re: Studying advice? re: grammar points and vocab...

Postby 80Percent » Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:11 pm

Nico546 wrote:If you want my advice, grammar and textbooks won't help you.
It's not motivating, it's often hard and abstract, and you need to learn them perfectly to apply them... If you like textbooks, it's cool for you (and they can be a good tool to help you if they are well used, but they shouldn't be your only tool).

Learning passes through mistakes. You won't avoid the grammar mistakes, but it's not a problem. The main point you should focus on is: being understood by native speakers.

For this, you need basic vocabulary and grammar basics (how to build questions, negative sentences, present/past/future tenses, conditionnal (would, should...)), but learn them through curiosity and practice, by building sentences, by making mistakes.

Try to start by learning the most important words and those from topics you like, try to find exchange partners, or to comment articles/youtube videos, or to speak on this forum in your target language.

And your grammar will strenghten everyday without you even notice it (by reading your target language, and by trying to imitate native speakers).

Who learnt a language at school, with the traditionnal techniques?
If I would've waited for school to teach me english, I would've never answered your question ;)

To memorize the new words, I avoid to learn by heart (I mean, I avoid to repeat the words 30 times a day to remember them).
I rather wonder what does the word means, and I imagine the idea/image which is related to it (or I even take the object in my hands if possible to give it a name).

There are two great exercices to remember words:
-look at every object around you and search for their translation in your target language.
-read an interesting text/article (in which you understand the topic/the main idea), and try to learn new words out of it.

In both exercices, I recommand you to write the new words you learnt somewhere, and by being confronted to them again, if you don't remember them, you'll just have to check out your words' list to see that you already read them before, and through experience and context, you'll remember them.

You can also try to imagine something exagerated and ridiculous to remember the words.
For example, if you learn how to say: "clown", imagine a ridiculous clown walking down the street.
if you learn how to say: "speech", imagine hitler screaming during a political meeting.
if you learn how to say: "wardrobe", imagine a monster hiding into it.

Give a life/strong meaning to each word, and don't try to translate them through you native language.
See them as a extension of your language, as synonyms. It will be easy. And the more words you know, the more easy it will be.


I'll definitely try these imagining exercises. I kinda do something like that but not quite. and the other advice as well. Love the idea of treating the words as synonyms.
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Re: Studying advice? re: grammar points and vocab...

Postby Cavesa » Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:17 pm

I think the textbooks and grammarbooks can definitely help (mostly talking about the A2 Spanish). The problem is: the tricky points require many more exercises than one coursebook usually offers.

So, getting several books, doing the exercises (preferably both in writing and out loud), rewriting a few times every sentence you made a mistake in, that helps a lot. Repeat difficult exercises a few days later. Rereading sentences is nice but simply passive. Wait a bit longer for learning primarily by native input.

What coursebooks and similar tools have you been using btw?

Stuff like naming objects around is nice but not that helpful in the long run because you'll need much more vocabulary than just the things around you. There are very good vocab builder books (at least for Spanish learners). You can also make your own exercises, for example substitution in sentences. Again, use both writing and speaking, to use more neural pathways. Make up funny sentences, those help. Instead of boring textbookish sentences, tell yourself funny, disgusting, personal, vulgar, absurd or other emotion waking examples. Those are likely to make you remember the stuff much better. On the other hand, SRS like anki or memrise can help you get the most out of the classical memorisation, if you can stomach using them (Memrise used to include an important meme function, that served exactly to give you more emotional clues but they got rid of it unfortunately. It was the most revolutionary and useful part of their platform)

Reading lots of books and watching lots of tv series helps enormously. But I think you should wait a bit before that, at least to B1. And you'll need to spend hundreds of hours on those activities. They will help you tremendously, especially with correct use of the grammar and vocab, but it will require some time and dedication.
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Re: Studying advice? re: grammar points and vocab...

Postby 80Percent » Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:53 pm

Cavesa wrote:I think the textbooks and grammarbooks can definitely help (mostly talking about the A2 Spanish). The problem is: the tricky points require many more exercises than one coursebook usually offers.

So, getting several books, doing the exercises (preferably both in writing and out loud), rewriting a few times every sentence you made a mistake in, that helps a lot. Repeat difficult exercises a few days later. Rereading sentences is nice but simply passive. Wait a bit longer for learning primarily by native input.

What coursebooks and similar tools have you been using btw?

Stuff like naming objects around is nice but not that helpful in the long run because you'll need much more vocabulary than just the things around you. There are very good vocab builder books (at least for Spanish learners). You can also make your own exercises, for example substitution in sentences. Again, use both writing and speaking, to use more neural pathways. Make up funny sentences, those help. Instead of boring textbookish sentences, tell yourself funny, disgusting, personal, vulgar, absurd or other emotion waking examples. Those are likely to make you remember the stuff much better. On the other hand, SRS like anki or memrise can help you get the most out of the classical memorisation, if you can stomach using them (Memrise used to include an important meme function, that served exactly to give you more emotional clues but they got rid of it unfortunately. It was the most revolutionary and useful part of their platform)

Reading lots of books and watching lots of tv series helps enormously. But I think you should wait a bit before that, at least to B1. And you'll need to spend hundreds of hours on those activities. They will help you tremendously, especially with correct use of the grammar and vocab, but it will require some time and dedication.


Right now i'm using a textbook (Integrated Chinese) and it's audio and doing the exercises in the book. I really like the idea of making up funny sentences, that will be helpful. Cuz the exercises there's usually like 5 per item. "i don't find x interesting. i don't find y interesting, i don't find z interesting". And that's pretty limited. I guess i could say something like "I don't find it interesting when your dog does number 2". :D. And do funny things like that, then write them down and speak them.

I use an SRS app to take words down that i think will be the most useful and helpful, some from textbook, some from life, and some from ChinesePod so i can hear what they're saying and understand. Unfortunately i can only internalize 3 a day. I struggle big time with that. I see the word, then try to remember and it's GONE. like, gone. Not sure what to do once i see it, how best to play with it. Maybe the funny sentences though. Right now i've also been putting paper ones on my desk and looking over from time to time to play memory. That's what gives me the best results so far.

Agree with waiting til B1 for the regular media listening, that's why i like ChinesePod, i can still do some listening but it's explained piece by piece. Pimselur would be good for this too, but i'm very wary of a 3rd large source of learning materiall. Might introduce even MORE vocab and grammar. And I only have time for 9 hours of studying a week, so adding another without eliminating something would be a mess.

And I use HelloChinese app to add a little knowledge and testing here and there. Have to be careful with it though, can be distracting cuz all the sudden there's 2 more grammar points a day and i haven't full integrated/internalized the grammar points from the textbook.

Too bad about memrise getting rid out that, sounds really cool.

Oh, and i'm done with Spanish, never quite worked well for me and i tried for like a decade. lol. I came to resent it but Chinese is a totally different ballgame, i'm more suited to it.
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Re: Studying advice? re: grammar points and vocab...

Postby Cavesa » Thu Jun 14, 2018 8:42 pm

80Percent wrote:Right now i'm using a textbook (Integrated Chinese) and it's audio and doing the exercises in the book. I really like the idea of making up funny sentences, that will be helpful. Cuz the exercises there's usually like 5 per item. "i don't find x interesting. i don't find y interesting, i don't find z interesting". And that's pretty limited. I guess i could say something like "I don't find it interesting when your dog does number 2". :D. And do funny things like that, then write them down and speak them.

I use an SRS app to take words down that i think will be the most useful and helpful, some from textbook, some from life, and some from ChinesePod so i can hear what they're saying and understand. Unfortunately i can only internalize 3 a day. I struggle big time with that. I see the word, then try to remember and it's GONE. like, gone. Not sure what to do once i see it, how best to play with it. Maybe the funny sentences though. Right now i've also been putting paper ones on my desk and looking over from time to time to play memory. That's what gives me the best results so far.

Agree with waiting til B1 for the regular media listening, that's why i like ChinesePod, i can still do some listening but it's explained piece by piece. Pimselur would be good for this too, but i'm very wary of a 3rd large source of learning materiall. Might introduce even MORE vocab and grammar. And I only have time for 9 hours of studying a week, so adding another without eliminating something would be a mess.

And I use HelloChinese app to add a little knowledge and testing here and there. Have to be careful with it though, can be distracting cuz all the sudden there's 2 more grammar points a day and i haven't full integrated/internalized the grammar points from the textbook.

Too bad about memrise getting rid out that, sounds really cool.

Oh, and i'm done with Spanish, never quite worked well for me and i tried for like a decade. lol. I came to resent it but Chinese is a totally different ballgame, i'm more suited to it.


I feel much less qualified to give advice to a Chinese learner but I hope some of the general stuff is applicable everywhere.

With the sentence changing exercise: Be careful to make correct sentences. That often means changing as little as possible. So, instead of turning "I don't find x interesting" into a huge advanced sentence "I don't find x interesting, when a complicated sentence happens", you might try something like "I don't find x smelly." or "I don't find z scary." or "I don' find y sexy". Make sure not to learn mistakes.

About the grammar point integration (and I think you should definitely put my "easy language experience" based thought in context with the experience of people learning Mandarin or other asian languages): you are highly unlikely to get fully comfortable with a grammar point now, as a beginner. Learning a grammar point happens in "layers". You get to learn the basics and use them. A few chapters later, you add new and new words to use with the structure and new uses for it. A month later, there are yet another ties of this structure to other grammar. And even years later, you'll find a new nuance and interesting use from time to time. While it is important to be comfortable with something before progressing further (I definitely recommend not sweeping through the coursebook too superficially and fast), too much perfectionism can freeze your progress completely (it has happened to me a few times with German). You will get stuck and not allow yourself to expand your knowledge. And you need the new stuff to secondarily learn about the first issue again.

Also, a lot of grammar gets much easier to learn, when you have some idea about the bigger picture. These days, many coursebooks try to chop the grammar in tiny non-threatening looking pieces and spoonfeed the learner. Some people may prefer it (one of the most common horror stories the usual learners tell each other is "oh, but that language has 15 tenses!"), but I find it much more logical and comforting to look at the whole grammar system a bit, and then learn the individual pieces knowing where do they belong in the puzzle.

Your last sentence should be posted all over the internet, everytime someone naively writes "Spanish is easy." :-D or when asking about the universally easiest or hardest language. I would be very interested to read more about your comparison of the two languages, why do you find Mandarin to be so much better suited to you. Have you already got a log?
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Re: Studying advice? re: grammar points and vocab...

Postby 80Percent » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:21 pm

Cavesa wrote:With the sentence changing exercise: Be careful to make correct sentences. That often means changing as little as possible. So, instead of turning "I don't find x interesting" into a huge advanced sentence "I don't find x interesting, when a complicated sentence happens", you might try something like "I don't find x smelly." or "I don't find z scary." or "I don' find y sexy". Make sure not to learn mistakes.

Very true. Thanks!
About the grammar point integration (and I think you should definitely put my "easy language experience" based thought in context with the experience of people learning Mandarin or other asian languages): you are highly unlikely to get fully comfortable with a grammar point now, as a beginner. Learning a grammar point happens in "layers". You get to learn the basics and use them. A few chapters later, you add new and new words to use with the structure and new uses for it. A month later, there are yet another ties of this structure to other grammar. And even years later, you'll find a new nuance and interesting use from time to time. While it is important to be comfortable with something before progressing further (I definitely recommend not sweeping through the coursebook too superficially and fast), too much perfectionism can freeze your progress completely (it has happened to me a few times with German). You will get stuck and not allow yourself to expand your knowledge. And you need the new stuff to secondarily learn about the first issue again.

*nodding*

I'm such a beginner that just making sure i know the parts is so important. Like ordinal numbers is what i did yesterday and today it is "meaning"/"interesting", so for example. i want to be comfortable saying "this is my first time doing this" "this is my third boyfriend" "this is my 10th day studying", etc. Until when i want to say something new to someone the "this is the (ordinal number in this situation)" that part will roll of my tongue. That's how comfortable i want to get.
Your last sentence should be posted all over the internet, everytime someone naively writes "Spanish is easy." :-D or when asking about the universally easiest or hardest language. I would be very interested to read more about your comparison of the two languages, why do you find Mandarin to be so much better suited to you. Have you already got a log?

I do have a mandarin log that i just started https://forum.language-learners.org/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=8270, i briefly had one years ago at HTLAL when i first decided i was gonna learn Chinese but true to my usual form, then i got over it. Spanish, i swear, i could never get conjugating all those darn verbs. And then feminine masculine (Mandarin doesn't have this), then reverse word order for adjectives (mandarin doesn't really do that, as far as I know), all the reflexive stuff, like "pleasing to me" instead of "i like it", oh man, i was losing my mind. Losing it. I would get so mad i can't even begin to say. And heaven forbid i try to use the language, i can roll my r's okay but i'd constantly try to perfectly conjugate the verb and it never got out of my mouth. Mandarin, i like how all their words just add up. it's like x + y + z = xyz. "You give me phone", "I + hungry" = I'm hungry, they just cut words out altogether sometimes so that's nice, AND they don't to use articles as much as English either! (early grammar is easy, it gets not easy later on). Days of the week for instance.. "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday" In Chinese you literally say word for week and it's numeric place, "xingqi yi" "xingqi two", "xingqi three", etc Friday "xingqi wu" (how do you forget that. You can't!) Spanish = "new word for Monday" "totally different word for Tuesday" "hey, here's another word for Wednesday" Oh hell no. Same for numbers. Catorce? Chinese is: word for 10, word for 4. 14. Cell phone is "hand" "computer", hey, i'll take it! And no verb conjugation really at all. Spanish has like 30 words for each verb! English has I guess 4ish for each. Chinese...1 and then an order or a timestamp. Yes please!

oh, and i love that everything sorta rhymes, makes it easier to remember b/c they really only have a few sounds when compared to other languages, AND! everything is sorta broken down to 1 or 2 syllables. So words that are 3-5 syllables in English and Spanish are just 2 in Chinese. Woot! So i can just add and add and add an all the words come out. No more "Septiembre", takes like an hour to get it out of my mouth! lol, j/k. but Chinese "nine" "month". "10 month"

Granted, later in the language Spanish is easier and Chinese gets harder but i love a lot of things about the language and the early stuff is super easy and nice. And the tones are awesome.
Last edited by 80Percent on Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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