Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My New French Learning Method!

Happy Chinese New Year from Singapore!

I'm having two days off from work due to Chinese New Year holidays.

Being a non-Chinese, I don't celebrate CNY, so I'm spending my holidays holed up in my apartment, surfing the net, studying for the CFA Level II exam (which I will be taking this coming June), or otherwise just taking it easy.

The purpose of today's blog post is to share with you my thoughts on how we can boost the efficiency of language learning, with particular reference to growing our vocabulary.

The way I see it, there are two main pillars of what helps us expand our vocabulary in a foreign language, which are:

1) Reinforcement of old knowledge by means of revision and repetition;
2) Integration of new knowledge by means of importing fresh content into my study materials.

Both of the above are vitally important. If you want to achieve optimum results for a given amount of time and effort, you need to incorporate both activities into your daily learning routine, and avoid at all costs neglecting one activity in favor of the other.

Here is one example of how I put into practice the incorporation of the two main pillars mentioned above.

Presently, my daily French learning routine consists of watching French television news podcasts on my iPhone/iPad and learning the new words and phrases that appear in each podcast.

It's an extremely simple process, but it works well so long as I mechanically follow the rules below that I've set for myself:

Rule # 1: I will always keep three consecutive episodes in my library, no more and no less.

Rule # 2: When I actually get down to studying French, I will make sure to watch the three episodes back-to-back, in one sitting, always starting from the oldest episode first. Each episode averages about 15 minutes, adding up to a total of about 45 minutes. Given my busy schedule, this is about the utmost that I can manage per day.

Rule # 3: Upon completing each sitting of three consecutive episodes, I will make sure to download a new episode and delete the oldest one, thereby ensuring that the total number of episodes will remain unchanged, as mandated by Rule # 1.

This methodology works because it systematically ensures that I watch each episode three times before it gets deleted from the iPhone, thereby making certain that enough repetition of the same vocabulary words takes place, in order for them to be etched into memory.

In fact, repetition of the same words also occurs in watching consecutive episodes, because some news stories develop over the course of a few days (e.g. murder investigations, major accidents, natural disasters, etc.) and consequently the same subject matters might appear in the newscast over and over again.

Also, by constantly importing the new episode and deleting the old episode as mentioned in Rule # 3, I make sure that I come into contact with some fresh content everyday, thereby making it possible for new words and phrases to be incorporated into my vocabulary. Otherwise, I will be stuck with the same old content, and my vocabulary will soon stop growing.

The reason why I devised this learning method is because of my lazy personality. I'm a creature of habit, and I detest having to constantly look for some new innovative ways to enlarge my vocabulary. For one thing, it's extremely tiring, and for another, the results can be unstable at best, with no guarantee whatsoever of solid, continuous growth of knowledge.

By comfortably following an established routine, I don't even have to think what to do, and yet my French vocabulary keeps growing in a stable and predictable manner.

By the way, when I watch the podcasts, I take down the new words and phrases on a medium-sized flash card (10cm x 15cm, or approx. 4" x 6"), as shown in this picture. I note them down as and when they appear, and look them up immediately with my pocket electronic dictionary.

In order to save time, I normally write down the vocabulary words only, with no explanations, but as long as I give it a quick glance-over at the end of each podcast, I can remember their meanings anyway, mainly because these vocabulary words can be memorized in connection with a particular news story and its related sounds and images, which is far easier than trying to retain them by rote memory.

I believe that with the learning method mentioned above, I'll be able to make great headway in enlarging my French vocabulary this year. My goal is to acquire enough vocabulary such that I can read contemporary French novels without having to consult the dictionary by the end of May next year, which will mark the tenth anniversary of my French learning. It's a daunting task for sure, but I'm absolutely determined to achieve it at all costs!

For those of you who are language-learning enthusiasts like me, I hope you find the content of this blog post somehow useful for your language studies. Should you have better ideas or suggestions, please make sure to let me know!

Wish you all a magnificent Year of Dragon ahead!


Keith said...

Hi Uncle Polyglot! Great post!

"no more or no less" → "no more and no less"

I once started a similar rotation method for writing Japanese. I did 4 lessons a day, about 7 sentences each. I listened to the sentences and wrote them out by memory. I added one new lesson and dropped the oldest lesson each day. That turned out to be too much writing for me because it made my hand hurt.

Uncle Polyglot said...

Hi Keith,

How are you? It's great to hear from you as always!

I've just amended the sentence in question to "no more and no less." As you have rightly pointed out, the logic gate "A AND B" indeed denotes that the output is true only if both conditions are met at the same time. This kind of subtlety always gives me away as a non-native speaker, and it shows that I still have a lot to learn. :-)

Anyway, I'm convinced that the learning routine that I've mentioned in this post is a sure-fire method that leads to a steady expansion of my French vocabulary.

The only catch is that it takes a lot of self-discipline to put it into practice, so obviously it's not for everyone.

As I consider myself as reasonably disciplined (if I say so myself), I'm sure that I'll be able to stick with it, while I work toward my goal of being able to read French novels without consulting the dictionary by the end of May 2013. Will keep you posted as I progress in my studies.

Good luck on your Japanese/Chinese studies also!

Talk to you again soon! :-)

chihiromom said...

Hi, Uncle Polyglot.

Thank you for introducing your learning method. It is really useful.

Last month, I got iphone and I use it everyday to learn foreign languages.(Now, I think iphone is one of the most useful devices to learn foreign languages...It's just great!)

I listen English news podcast, but so far I just listened only once.
I am sure to try this method from today.

Thank you very much!

チヒロママ said...


Uncle Polyglot said...

Hi Chihiromom,

Welcome to my English blog! I'm really delighted that you have taken the time to read this blog post.

Like you've mentioned in your comment, I believe that repetition is vital when it comes to memorizing new words and phrases in a foreign language. I will keep learning French vocabulary with this method and see for myself whether it works or not.

(I'll switch to Japanese now to answer your question in Japanese.)


実は僕はもう長い間中国語の勉強をしていないので、単語力や作文力の面で完全に英語に水を開けられています。今年の夏にCFA Level IIの試験が終了したら、中国語の特訓をしようと今から考えているところです。


らららん said...

Hi Uncle Polyglot!


Uncle Polyglot said...