Thursday, April 27, 2017

My Method For Learning New Words

Hi everyone,

As of today, I've reached the three-quarter mark in the study of my French dictionary.  In today's post I would like to write about how I actually go about studying new words from this dictionary and share my thoughts on memorizing and forgetting new words.

It might come as a surprise to some of you, but I don't use flashcards to memorize new words.

What I do is to simply highlight the words that I want to learn, look at their meanings, and if the explanations are unclear or ambiguous, consult my other dictionaries until the meanings become clear to me. Afterward I glance through the highlighted words page by page on my Kindle.

As simple as it may be, that's all I do in my daily learning routine.

(Above photo from my Japanese blog post dated August 12, 2008)

I used to be a huge fan of flashcards and created tens of thousands of them before, but I discontinued making flashcards (both physical ones and virtual ones using the Anki software) for the following reasons:

  • They are too time-consuming to create, easily taking up 1 to 2 hours if not more to create 40 to 50 cards per day, and that doesn't even include the time required for actual memorization;
  • They give you a sense of obligation and urgency in such a way that, when you see a stack of cards in front of you, you kind of feel obligated to memorize each and every one of them perfectly before moving on to a new set of cards, leaving you feeling sated and exhausted at the end of each study session. 
With my current learning method, I simply glance through the highlighted words without forcing myself to memorize them. I make a point of going through all the words that I have learned during the past three days. Learning new words and reviewing the past three days' worth of highlighted words takes me roughly 90 minutes per day.

A few years ago I would have regarded this method with deep suspicion as being unreliable, but now I find it to be just as effective in terms of committing the words to memory.

The inevitable fact is that I forget tons of words that I learn every single day, but this occurs regardless of whether I create flashcards or not. The important thing is that nowadays I hold a more zen attitude regarding the words that I forget, in the sense that I do not fret about the forgetting per se, but instead view it as a natural and necessary occurrence in the learning process.

As I wrote in my previous blog post, I try to retain my newly acquired knowledge of French vocabulary by reading French novels. If I come across a newly-learned word in a novel, it can help me consolidate my knowledge of that word, but those words that seldom appear in books will eventually pass into oblivion.

If you ask me, this is really the way it should be, as frequently used words should be given priority in memorizing over arcane and obscure words that hardly appear in conversations or novels.

So, these are some of my thoughts as regards learning new words in a foreign language. I hope you have found it somewhat useful or intriguing.

Will update you again whenever I get hit with a new idea.

Wish you a good evening. :-)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Learning French Vocabulary Again

Hello again from Singapore!

I was astonished to find that I hadn't updated my blog for 2 years! I'm writing this post to update you on what I have been passionate about lately.

In early January of this year, I decided to study French again in earnest, as it was getting quite rusty due to lack of use.

I've decided to focus on vocabulary this time, and purchased a French-English dictionary to study from cover to cover.

The dictionary that I am studying now is called Collins French to English Essential (One Way) Dictionary (Collins Essential) (French Edition).  I purchased it from Amazon in a Kindle E-book format.

The paper format of the same dictionary comes with 448 pages.  I think it's targeted for intermediate learners like me, and I find it quite suitable for my current level of knowledge in French.

According to my tweet, I began to study this dictionary on January 10 of this year. As of now, I am about 73% done, and I expect to finish learning the entire dictionary around the end of May if I can keep up the current pace of learning.

I am increasingly of the opinion that studying vocabulary is one of the most critical aspects of developing functional skills in a foreign language, along with grammar and pronunciation.  When I finish learning this dictionary I intend to switch to another more comprehensive dictionary to further increase my vocabulary.

In order to retain what I learn from my dictionary, I also make a point of reading a novel in French, although I can only manage a few pages a day.

Just yesterday, I finished reading Affaire de coeur, which is the French translation of a Danielle Steel novel. Given that I study numerous French words from a dictionary every day already, when I was reading this book I didn't stop to look up the words that I didn't know and focused instead on enjoying the story.  This is a very well-written novel and I had fun reading it. I enjoyed the novel so much that I restarted to read it from the beginning today. I believe that reading French novels is an effective way to consolidate my knowledge of French vocabulary.

As for French grammar and pronunciation, I am not focusing on these areas now, but I will need to seriously re-learn these areas eventually. I watch French television news and listen to French podcasts from time to time, but not on a regular basis.  I will set up a more rigorous routine when I get more confident about my knowledge of French vocabulary.

So, that's about it for a quick update on my current learning activities. I don't know when I will be able to post the next update. Hopefully soon.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend! :-)