What do you do when you see a 'New Word'

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Arnaud
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Re: What do you do when you see a 'New Word'

Postby Arnaud » Fri Aug 03, 2018 5:43 am

For russian, I have the same problem as you: a lot of new words, only a few of them that I can retain everyday, I think I forget 95% of the new words that I write in my notebook.
What has helped me, I think, is studying the roots : now when I see a new word, I can recognize the stem, prefixes, suffixes and can have an idea of what it means in the context, or I can understand the path from the prime meaning to the figurative meaning. When it's a loaned word, I try to find which language it comes from, etc. For russian there are several books on the subject, but for polish I'm afraid the choice is more restricted (but still, a lot of polish words are close to russian ones, once you know one slavic language, life is easier: there are a lot of cognates).
Also, now I read several times the same articles (not the books) at a few weeks interval, a kind of space repetition of texts, and I read several texts on the same subject: from an article to the other, the new words are coming back. Repetition, mother of learning... 8-)
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Re: What do you do when you see a 'New Word'

Postby Ani » Fri Aug 03, 2018 5:52 am

Morgana wrote:
Ani wrote:Well, I've only succeeded in learning Russian words by audio repetition because of the phonological thing. I still do the same thing -- look it up (maybe listen a few times if that's an option) and then move on. I just count on life/tv/course books to be my "SRS". Are you listening enough?
Not to put you on the spot Ani ;) but I've occasionally wondered what "enough" listening is. (Or reading.)

Can people who use natural SRS volunteer the "how much is enough" in their cases? I think it's related to OP's "what do you guys do [to remember vocab]." I think the "how much" can matter just as much as the "what."


Well, this is off topic to the OP because he's way more advanced than I am :)

"Enough" depends on how fast you want to learn and your personality I guess? I don't listen to "enough" Russian to make great progress, because it's kind of a back burner thing, but I do get "enough" to hear the words I've been studying fairly often in a natural setting i.e in tv :) I think I watch about 5h of Russian TV/week? Confession: usually with English subs :) Still I get all excited when I hear my words.

French, I need a LOT more to hear words I had to look up get repeated, if I can manage at all. I think I listen to about 5h a day now of tv or podcasts. Over the past few years I probably averaged 2-3h/day reading+listening? Natural srs starts to fail at high levels. Part of me wants to say that Anki is great for absolute beginners, and then again at the advanced levels, but I'm not sure I'll ever commit to Anki for French so I'm not sure about that.
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Re: What do you do when you see a 'New Word'

Postby zKing » Fri Aug 03, 2018 6:20 am

On the memory bit, I can very much relate to the "looked it up, forgot it by the time I switch windows back to the content" syndrome. Ditto for the "words from a distant language don't want to stick to the brain" issue. Italian words just stuck to my brain much easier than Cantonese words. That is getting better and better as Cantonese feels more and more natural to me, however.

Two other things I'll say about this:
First, I read somewhere that the brain actually builds stronger connections for words that you've actually forgotten and then relearned. I don't know if this is true, but I can see the logic of why the brain would behave that way.

Second, there is a super-silly thing that I find surprisingly effective. If there's a word that I really want to remember and am willing to take a half minute extra, I do the following:
1. I create my own sentence containing the word, it can be a VERY simple sentence.
2. I imagine/visualize a situation where I would say that sentence, and I try for an emotional one where I can stress that word. (e.g. "No, the RED one!" --- said like a spoiled child and trying to picture a desired red item and throwing away some other color item.)
3. I say the sentence out loud and, particularly for a long/difficult-to-pronounce word, I will repeat it until I can say it smoothly and with the emotion I imagine in the situation. I try to get the "music" of the word in my head (particularly important for Cantonese given the tones).

It seems a little silly when you do it, but I find it surprisingly effective. And I think imagining an emotional situation + your own sentence works better than the simple "repeat the word 5 times to yourself" thing. It is probably a very similar mechanism to the memory palace / silly image / mnemonic thing that people use and I think more 'direct' as I try to tie the actual meaning to the word and not some sounds-like image, i.e. "let's see, the image is a donkey standing on a pizza... what does that mean again?".

I actually should probably do this more.

But the real truth is... I believe sheer volume solves all (ok, most) problems in language learning.
Just keep going and learn the words that are easy to learn now, don't worry about the others as they will become easy later.
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Re: What do you do when you see a 'New Word'

Postby aaleks » Fri Aug 03, 2018 7:44 pm

Morgana wrote:Can people who use natural SRS volunteer the "how much is enough" in their cases?

I guess, it's my case too :) .

How much? It's hard to say. I've never kept the score/numbers. My English vocabulary is the words I've learned from watching-tv/listening + reading, but mostly, especially in the first 1-1.5 years, I was learning words by reading. In the beginning, when there were about 10 new words or so per page, I was able to read about 5 pages per hour and that was my goal. Then it became 10 pages per hour. So I was reading at least one hour every day, or almost every day. And I probably was spending on listening something like 1 to 4 hours a day.

How did I learn new words back then? When I saw a new word I looked it up in a dictionary. Usually I read the whole vocabulary entry. I tried to memorize the word. And then I moved on. The next time I saw the word if I couldn't recall the meaning I did that all one again, sometimes skipping the part of reading the whole entry. Once I tried to write down new words but I realized that in my case it would take at least twice more time. I had written 10 or 15 words and I couldn’t recall even one of those words whereas if I'd been doing it my usual way I would've learned some of them already. Besides, the writing took time, and then I would've had to spend some additional time revising and learning them.

p.s. I stopped learning English words somehow actively some time ago.
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Re: What do you do when you see a 'New Word'

Postby StringerBell » Fri Aug 10, 2018 3:53 am

I've tried a bunch of stuff that hasn't worked for me in terms of remembering words. What I've finally learned is that there are three main reasons why a word firmly implants itself in my memory. The first two I have no control over, but the third one I do:

1) I come across it multiple times in various contexts
2) something about the word really appeals to me, I find myself excited to see it/hear it and then I find myself thinking about it spontaneously later in the day. There seems to be no rhyme or reason why this happens. Right now I tend to experience with Polish words that have multiple "ą" in one word like "osiągnąć" or a "ch" in the middle like "wepchnąć".
***3) I attempt to use the word myself during a conversation (sometimes once is enough, sometimes I need to do it a few times)

I used to try all sorts of strategies like flash cards and mnemonics but nothing beats #3...for some reason, actually using the word(s) myself work better than any SRS or mnemonic thing I've tried.
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Re: What do you do when you see a 'New Word'

Postby Jim » Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:54 am

I try to create memory “hooks” as described by Mattias Ribbing here. It’s tiring to do it with word lists, but in context as you come across words I find it works.
Last edited by Jim on Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What do you do when you see a 'New Word'

Postby Iversen » Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:12 am

I explicitly define some of my activities as intensive, others as extensive. If I just sit down with a magazine or book or homepage and read for pleasure or for the sake of some interesting content then I accept that I don't learn many new words. Only if I feel that the whole comprehension of a passage hinges on a specific word I pick a dictionary or look it up (and I still prefer paper dictionaries). Sometimes I do notate it on a sheet of paper, but unless that sheet of paper is reserved for words in a specific language it is fairly unlikely that I'll ever do more about it.

If I study intensively I do take pains to find out what the new words mean. For instance I often sit down and copy a text to a folded piece of paper with a margin to the right for new words, and the words I notate here will be used in one of my special three-column wordlists. When I make the wordlist I'll often look it in a dictionary to check its morphology and possible other meanings - even if it comes from a bilingual text where I in principle already have a translation. The point is that even human translations may be wrong, and a word may also be translated in a slightly skewed way because of a specific context, and I don't want to memorize translation errors. I have written about Google Translate in this thread, and I have written a lot about my personal wordlist layout in my guidebook so I won't repeat the whole lot here - but if I didn't use wordlists my passive vocabulary would in my languages would be much smaller than it is, and I would take longer to learn to read for instance WIkipedia articles or newspaper articles in new and weak languages. With some more conversation training such a background could also ease my transition to active speaker, but alas, I don't do much about that side of language learning when I'm at home. But without my use of wordlists I couldn't activate my weak languages fast during travels so they are essential even for making languages active.

So you don't get the whole sermon about the concrete layout here, but I would like to emphasize that this layout only is part of the tale. When I mamorize a word with its translation it is important to produce memory hooks. Mostly they will be associations based on sound. It is not necessary to invent 'funny histories' that cover the whole word - mostly it is enough to remember that a word sounds somewhat like something in another language, and it is better with two partial and not very precise associations than one perfect associtation which it takes several minutes to come up with. It is also important to use the memory hooks while you still remember them, so repetition is essential, but in my experience the repetition has to come shortly aftert the original memorization - otherwise you'll just have forgotten one thing more. The whole point in memorization is to form some kind of semantic halo around every new word, And context? Well, some of my wordlists are based on texts, and there I have the context in the text itself - but other wordlists are based directly on dictionaries, and there the only context is the alphabetical order. The better I know a language the less I need a full sentence to remember new words.
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Re: What do you do when you see a 'New Word'

Postby StringerBell » Sun Aug 12, 2018 7:42 pm

I forgot to mention something else that I do that has worked really well for me...when I come across a new word that I want to remember because I think it will be useful, I try to physically "do" the word while saying it, or if it's a more abstract concept imagine a situation where that word would apply.

For example, I had a hard time remembering the Polish word that means "to squeeze". I was listening to a story where a person squeezed a sponge in a bucket of water. I had a stress ball nearby, so every time I read or heard this Polish word, I squeezed the stress ball to associate the word "squeeze" with the action of squeezing something. I had a particularly tough time differentiating between the words for "smile" vs. "laugh" in Polish, so now every time I come across them, I actually do it. (If a character smiles or laughs, so do I)

Abstract words are a little tougher, but I still try to do something like this...if someone says that they are feeling really grateful, for example, I imagine a situation (sort of visualize it in my head without words) where I'd be really grateful while simultaneously reading and/or saying the word out loud.
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