Just the word in the question in a SuperMemo-like app?

Leon Goo   Fri Feb 22, 2008 12:13 pm GMT
Hi all!

I'm using a SuperMemo-like application, Mnemosyne, under linux.

I just put the word in the question. This way, it's faster, less confusing and duplicate-free.

And I just leave the answer blank. During the review, I type the word in an external dictionary (Collins COBUILD) every time. This way, I can memorize the spelling, see the various definitions and example sentences of the word, and hear the pronunciation. And when I can recall the word with no effort, I skip the look up in the dictionary.

But after reading the articles in this site, I start wondering whether my approach is effective enough. If you have experience with this, can you tell is it really worthwhile to invest a lot of time in making the items? Especially to express the word definition in my own words and keep it concise, and hand-pick the example sentences?

Thanks a lot.
Guest   Sun Feb 24, 2008 11:36 pm GMT
Hi Leon, I've been using the same piece of software for over a year, you can hardly say it is a very featured program, so I've got several external scripts to do some interesting things, like quickly check whether a word or phrasal verb is already in the database or not, manage pronunciation records, IPA symbols, videos, pictures and so on. I've got nearly 4500 items now, all of them created for me, so I do reckon it is worth it. When you are skilled in computers you can do it much faster.

I don't like leaving the answer block empty, and I don't like trying to learn all the senses of a word at once either. I prepare a single item for every sense, and only do it when I come across that meaning in books, movies, etc. I completely ignore the other senses of the word in the dictionary.

Most of the time I look at the Cambridge dictionary on line for the definitions, it is really priceless, but instead of its examples, when possible I use my own ones, taken from TV series and films. That way in many cases it wouldn't be necessary for me to look at the definition part, I know the dialogs and quotes almost by heart. And I don't have to care about synonyms. This elaborate examples are also a way for me to regularly read aloud, something important since I don't speak English to anyone in my daily life, and I've never do it. For things that can be represented by a picture I prefer to use just that, a picture instead of a definition. That's of course the bulk of the database.

I'm very pleased with this method so far, although I'm always looking for better approaches.
Leon Goo   Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:23 am GMT
Thank you so much for sharing your invaluable experience.

Actually, I'm quite skilled in computers. It's English that I'm still not comfortable to write in. Are you really still learning English? I mistook you as a native speaker :)

I've already switched to an approach similar to yours. I go with one meaning at a time, and fill the answer block with definition and examples. I hope it will pay off.

As for dictionaries, I just came across the 4th updated edition of the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, and it immediately became my new favorite. Like Collins COBUILD, it uses computerized corpus analysis to determine the frequency of the word. But it's much more powerful. It sorts different meanings and homographs in frequency order. It helps you choose the right word from similar ones. It has decent pronunciations for example sentences and extra examples. Of course, all these feature s are only available in the CD-ROM version, but I think it's worth buying. You can check out the online version for some selected example sentences pronunciations (for words started with D or S), and see the online guided tour of the CD-ROM version for those advanced features.

BTW, actually I can do python and decided to make some contributions to the Mnemosyne project. I'm going to find out how to participate in the project. Do you have in mind any particular desired features of Mnemosyne? I will try to implement them first :)

Guest   Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:43 am GMT
That would be great, cause until I know there is only one developer. Since I can cope with the lack of some minor features (most of the time by writing my own shell scripts), I would ask for some core improvements, like for example some kind of support for the concept of incremental reading in supermemo.

That would involve creating a new type of item, which is neither memorised nor not memorised, but rather something you are working on. I actually manage to do something similar in Mnemosyne by keeping items inside the zero grade group, but this leads very often to some odd schedules.
Leon Goo   Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:34 pm GMT
Don't expect too much. I haven't got started yet. I see it as a long-term project, maybe for decades :)

I've been curious about incremental reading, but haven't had a chance to try it out. And I will if I have enough time.

In the mean time, can you explain more about it to me? I probably got the wrong impression that it's only useful for materials containing lots of facts, and would undermine one's appreciation of literature. What's your opinion and how have you been using it?
Guest   Fri Feb 29, 2008 11:09 pm GMT
I haven't given it a whirl yet either because I'm a bit of an obstinate linux user, but I'm interesting in it too since, as I said earlier, I've found myself trying a similar approach even before I read about incremental reading. I think that in the end all this is about helping you in the process that finally lead to new items being added into the database, something that, as you said in your first message, can be very time wasting compared with the time you spend on revisions. Maybe this is only partly useful in languages learning, but a program like Mnemosyne is not just about studying English.

With partly I mean that I don't care too much when the planner show me the item I'm working on, or reading in their terminology, in my simpler way they just contain texts and blog entries that I've found interesting, or movies that I split in pieces, usually scenes, and added to the program along with the subtitles, etc. I just want the program to show me those items from time to time in order to work on it for a bit and extract the words and expressions I haven't learnt yet, adding it into the memo system aswell. Silly maybe, but I think it would be sillier not to take advantage of the fact that I use that program every single day :)