The Polyglot Conference will soon take place in October of this year in Reykjavík. I usually watch the lectures on the conference’s YouTube channel. So, whilst waiting for this I re-visited a few lectures from past sessions. A useful one for me today was by the highly-respected polyglot Judith Meyer.
Her lecture was on methods and goals and so I thought I’d share her idea of ‘goal-focused learning’. This is largely to identify the resources that allow you to achieve your goal. Her example was that she was interested in the Japanese game Go and her approach to the language was focused on that. So whilst she argues that she is very much a beginner in the language for, say, conversation, when it actually comes to watching TV shows or anime about Go! she is a master. This then, as she says, would allow (if she wanted to) to use that specific field to move onto something else in the language. So, as she again says, if your interest is in reading literature then why spend time doing Pimsleur? Not only is having a specific goal important but if you try to focus on reading, writing and speaking then progress in the language will be slower than if you simply narrow your field. Meyer isn’t saying don’t do all the other things, if you want to do something then do it, but she gives some great advice about how to help your goal. These are just two of the things she outlines.
In order to become confident at speaking you begin with Lang-8 (write what you would say and have it corrected), then move onto Self-Talk, Text Chat and then Skype (can still write things if having difficulties). Next stage is to speak in person and finally phone conversations.
Judith gave a number of resources to use for this. You can begin with books like ‘German for Reading’, ‘Spanish for Reading’ etc. Parallel texts can also be useful and when confronted by, say, difficult, descriptive passages not to feel frustrated but read the native language side. The point is to enjoy what you’re reading. Meyer also recommended the ‘Little Prince’ for its simplicity and nuances and writers such as Dan Brown where interesting things are always happening and you won’t get bogged down with difficulties. In fact, it’s useful even to have a variety of books by the same writer as you’re likely to come across the vocabulary again and therefore this provides great reinforcement, In non-fiction, autobiographies and travel writing can also be useful. In addition, Meyer added that she sometimes does a two hour grammar session before reading to get a sense of the language.
Aim – ‘Learn Language in Context’
What is it?
I’ve only recently discovered this website/app and so far so good. It’s not really for beginners, as it’s own description says it’s more for those post-Duolingo or probably any comparative beginner practice. It also says it complements SRS vocabulary sites like Memrise which it obviously does do. However, I’ve recently started German and I found I can work through the listening option – I listen to a sentence, I’m then given the sentence but with a missing word which I then choose from four options.
The free version means that you only get one audio session and the rest are simply multiple choice – fill in the gap with the correct word. This has worked fine for me for awhile now – I was able to review and learn new words both for my Italian and Japanese. I’ve even used it for Chinese. Though this does not have audio (which is a shame) it has been great to review the six months I actually spent on the language – surprisingly I remembered a great deal! So, it’s worth giving it a go for free
I’ve been enjoying it so much that I decided to take out a monthly subscription for $8. I must say that having the audio sentences really tests my aural comprehension and I’ve started to use the ‘Text’ option more often – listen then write the sentence. I think this is an invaluable tool to become more adept at listening and recognising the sounds of words and their corresponding spelling. Another advantage of the subscription is that you can click on any word in that sentences and see other examples of how it is used and even use the link to Google Translate. All examples/clarification are immediate and very useful. There are other benefits to the free and subscription membership including setting goals for the day, email reminders and a break down of stats (subscription only).
How I’m using ClozeMaster
Italian – focused on verbs. I really want to have a clear awareness of conjugation so I’ve chosen the ‘Verbs – past tense’ to begin with to support my studies using books.
Japanese – brushing up on my knowledge. I’ve had a break from ‘studying’ the language but as I’m reading through my grammar books for gentle reminders the sentences on ClozeMaster are reinforcing that knowledge.
Chinese -dipping into HK1 but haven’t decided if I’m going to take it further. It’s been about a year since I’ve studied any Mandarin but it’s nice to see that I haven’t forgotten everything. However, it doesn’t have any audio at the minute and I’ll need that to take it further.
German – a new language for me so I’m mainly using it for listening but still get a great deal out of the sentences given
Russian – I’m not using it for this language until I’m confident with the writing system.
Go to: http://www.clozemaster.com