Thanks to all of you for the above posts.
I just got back in to return to my laptop to find your posts - yeah I know, if it's a laptop why didn't you have it with you?
I want to try write this post quickly so that I can stop procrastinating and do some French reading!
To reply to "daveyboy",
Yes, sorry if I didn't make it clear, I don't remember what I actually wrote. I am pressed for time so I don't want to bother looking back at what I wrote, but I believe you are correct about Byki. Just looked at it and it does say that you can: "Add new items to the included lists. Make your own lists to study, or to share with others on List Central." But you have to upgrade it to a Deluxe, obviously.
But if I was going to go in the direction of flash cards then I would rather do one of these systems: SuperMemo, Mnemosyne or Anki. Because they are geared specifically to making your own lists – they don’t have premade lists. Premade listed programmes that also provide making your own lists, sound more like an after-thought, a bonus. Whereas programmes that were made only for making your own lists, without premade lists, seem more serious to me. I could be wrong but that’s my preference. Heck, even “a method” agrees with me about premade lists.
< Is reading in your target language really that good to get your self on the road to fluency wolf727, a method ..?>
"daveyboy", I agree totally with “a method” and with Tomasz P. Szynalski at http://www.antimoon.com/learners/tomasz_szynalski.htm
At the above link you will see the face of the guy who created this site and you can hear how perfect his American accent is. Heck, it sounds so good I feel like giving up my Canadian accent and start learning the American one! No, just kidding.
I have been to university in Canada reading French but I was doing all the wrong things, as far as I was concerned. Yes, I got my degree in French but, my French was still “crap”!
I had the same problem as you. I thought in English and I had to translate it into French, my mind was always stumbling around searching for the right French expressions and words. We stumble around because we do not have enough INPUT! You get THAT from reading.
You must read these links by Tomasz:
At that time and for many years afterwards, I was concentrating far too much on perfecting grammar and not enough time on reading and building up vocabulary. You won’t believe the number of years I wasted on trying to be perfect with grammar.
Tomasz and “a method” are right about reading, it is the way to go forward. And yes throw in the other “stuff” like doing some writing practice – as “Patroclus” mentioned in the above posts, listening to a beautiful girl etc – I’m going to get a bad name here soon!
Even with native English speaking individuals, you can always pick out the ones who read a lot, because they are the ones who have a larger command of the English language than the average Joe who makes abusive comments on YouTube. The ones who read a lot of English books are the ones who use English words that the average person in the street has to look up. And because they have read a lot they are able to be more concise and express themselves better.
Bloody hell! I’ve done it again haven’t I? This was meant to be a short post.
Don’t know what “a method” will say here, but personally, I would start reading Spanish novels that are easier to understand, that are interesting and fun to read. Forget about reading out loud. Your goal here is to increase your vocabulary, words and phrases, this is INPUT.
You need a large reservoir of input that your mind can turn to. When you are in Spain and you find yourself hesitating, stumbling, searching for Spanish words and expressions, it means that you do not have at your disposal enough words in your reservoir, your input. Because the Spanish word or phrase does not readily pop into your mind, you then have to resort to thinking it out in English first, and then you start the laborious process of translating it out into Spanish.
For example, in my case with the French language, I find myself with a French person who looks at me in a puzzled manner, for instance, and without doing any mental translations in my head, the French expression, “Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?” or “Qu’est-ce qui ne va pas?” which means “What’s the matter?” springs immediately to mind. There is no hesitation. Because these are expressions that I have come across in reading quite often and/or I have written them down in my Vocab list to be remembered later. It is now input for me to use.
If for example I was a complete beginner in French, my mind would be racing around for words or expressions that corresponded to the meaning “What is the matter?”. Finding no input, my mind being a complete blank, would then start searching for words in French that corresponded with “What”, “is”, “the” - is that a masculine “the” or a feminine “the”?, and the word “matter”. All of this would be very literal and therefore sounding wrong in French. In the English expression, “What is the matter?”, there is no word “matter” in the French expression, “Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?”.
< i do read books in spanish [ maybe not enough though ] but everything i read is outloud for the pronouciation. What ways of reading do you guys recommend ..? how long everyday..? read all out loud or mix it with reading silently..? when i talk in spanish i have problems constructing what i am going to say.! I translate from english first and thus it takes double time..>
I can’t wait for “a method” to help me out here! Only joking. But actually I like his philosophy and methods. His method of adding word lists to the Word document and occasionally hitting the search button in Word to find that word, I thought was a good simple idea.
Start with novels, stories that are more simple to understand, so that it isn’t too laborious that you have to keep looking up every single word – that’s rich coming from me! Nothing heavy like classic literature or novels that are too difficult. Read the Spanish translation to the Harry Potter’s books, for instance.
By reading sentences that are a more basic, not using too many hard words, you are able to notice the peculiar word orders and what prepositions are being used etc.
This introduces another step to follow. This time when reading, read the sentences slowly and critically. Try to make a conscious effort at NOTICING what preposition is being used after that Spanish infinitive. Notice the word order of the sentence and how it differs to English. Did the adjective come before the noun or after it? Why was that adjective spelt with an extra “e” at the end? I didn’t see any feminine nouns! Oh yeah, right, that noun there is feminine! I thought it was masculine. And so on.
Read the sentences slowly and deliberately, mentally keep yourself alert to what is happening in those sentences. Come up to a verbal expression you don’t know. Look it up in the dictionary – the biggest one you can find! Not those tiny ones. You need large dictionaries that have example sentences. Or use electronic dictionaries. I’m told they are better but I haven’t got one yet. I’ll probably get one when I return to England in the Spring/Summer. Bye bye Italy. When you look the word up, have it written down somewhere, lists as in SRS, Word document vocab, notebook, whichever works for you. Then continue reading to the next sentence and you will find another word you do not know. Look that word up. Add it to your list. Later, at another time, you can devote a bit of time to writing out the new words with their expressions that you may have added as examples. Write it out a few times in order to get it into your memory. Later, when you start reading again, you may come across that same word and you will have probably forgotten it, search it again to see if you did in fact write it up in your Word document by pressing the “search” button, then read it again. You can even write it out a few more times and then you return to your reading. Find out which method works for you in keeping track of words you do not know. “a method” has already explained in one of his posts above the method he uses for writing out vocab lists to his Word document.
By the way, I told you to read sentences slowly and deliberately. I just want to add here that yes, there are going to be times when you are tired and you couldn’t give a damn about reading it slowly and you just want to enjoy yourself. My answer to that is fine. Do it if you feel tired and not in the mood. But it is important that you know about slow reading for content. Please check it out with the above links, Tomasz explains it better.
When reading for the sake of gaining input, I wouldn’t bother with reading it out loud. That’s just my opinion. Just concentrate on reading it quietly to yourself, enjoying the book, looking up words, and noticing the constructions of those sentences.
You’re probably not reading enough. Okay so, just read more.
On the question of how often or how long? Well obviously the more the better. But consistency is probably more important. If you are able to set aside reading at least half an hour a day with conscious effort then that is a good thing. Obviously, if you can stretch it to an hour, the more the better. Because at least you got yourself sitting there reading and not procrastinating as I am doing right now! Joke. When I finish this post I am going to get something to eat and then I shall return to my room to read!
I have always said this to other people. The hardest part in learning a language is NOT so much learning the language;, the hardest part is getting yourself to sit down to learn it!
If you want to practice pronunciation, then set a different time to just practicing vowel sounds etc. Do it in the morning when you first get up for instance. I use to do that myself when I was at university in Canada. I had trouble pronouncing the French “u” or rather I just wanted to be perfect and sound like a real French native.
Read up on how your are meant to place your lips and tongue for that particular sound and just keep on slowly trying to pronounce that sound. The sound is going to be wrong at first. Because your tongue and mouth muscles are not used to being put into that new position. It’s a bit like figure skating practice…hmm…maybe not. Maybe not. I use to love that sport! What I mean is that when you are trying out something new; the muscles have to be forced into a new position, it will feel awkward, and the muscles are slowly and slowly moving over to that new position. Eventually you will make that sound! I used to do this every morning at the university practicing with the French “u” sound. I knew that if I keep at it eventually my muscles will free up and the sound will come out.
Okay, can I go now please? Joke.
Personally, I think reading is important. Many years ago I spent a two week French immersion course in the north of France. The woman who was teaching me French used to be the headmistress of a school. On the final day when I was to return home, she took me to the train station and she told me, now remember, when you go back, you must read, read, read.