telophase: (Default)
telophase ([personal profile] telophase) wrote2012-11-12 10:36 am

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How I learned a language in 22 hours.

Okay, he didn't become fluent: what happened is that he used classic memory techniques to memorize a large list of the most commonly-used words in a particular African language, and he did it in short sessions spread out over several months, totalling 22 hours. But it was enough to enable a sort of basic communication.
ellen_fremedon: overlapping pages from Beowulf manuscript, one with a large rubric, on a maroon ground (Default)

[personal profile] ellen_fremedon 2012-11-12 04:51 pm (UTC)(link)
The thing that struck me, reading that, is how much time he could have saved if he'd memorized fewer words and more rules. He had to suss out the grammatical relationships between all the words derived from the root for 'work' himself, whereas if he'd learned the paradigm first, he could have anticipated the derived forms without needing to hear them. And he went to all that trouble devising a mental image to remember 'motele,' which looks like it's got to be borrowed from 'motor' into a language with no l/r distinction-- learning a few basic phonological rules and knowing which languages Lingala borrowed the most from would probably be enough to understand a huge swath of the vocabulary, since Lingala is a trade language and most of its vocabulary is probably borrowings and Wanderwörter.

tl;dr-- learning != memorization. Language learning really, really != memorization.
ellen_fremedon: overlapping pages from Beowulf manuscript, one with a large rubric, on a maroon ground (Default)

[personal profile] ellen_fremedon 2012-11-12 06:14 pm (UTC)(link)
No, I know-- I did read the article. It still struck me as a poor use of his time: not the short bursts of effort, but the complete emphasis on vocabulary over grammar and phonology.


Different language-learning techniques work better for different people. If all I had to learn a language from was a glossary, I would have to start by breaking the word list down into a morphology problem set and abstracting everything I could about the structure before I even tried to memorize the words; if I went the other way, the vocab would just be a distraction. This is why my Latin is still so much better than my German, even though I've used it much less-- I was taught Latin by an approach that didn't even attempt to teach vocab until we hit the second-year curriculum, because we could always look it up.

[identity profile] 2012-11-12 06:22 pm (UTC)(link)
This was really interesting, thanks for sharing. I also wanted to let you know that since LJ changed its comment format to infinite scroll, I and a lot of other people aren't able to read comments on site scheme comment pages. They just won't load. :\ So if you've noticed a lower than average comment rate, that might have something to do with it.

[identity profile] 2012-11-12 06:32 pm (UTC)(link)
I've been having a low comment rate for months (mostly as people move to other services--DW, Facebook, Tumblr), so I hadn't noticed any change. Thanks--I'll see what I can do. :)