One commentator on Chris Huff’s Video states “I’m not sure that Davey’s method does reflect Ebbinghaus, but it seems to work anyway”. True or False?

True. It is only a working approximation to Ebbinghaus. Supermemo and Anki can get on his curve much closer, but the problem is in order to work they repeat material you really already know and this method enables you to skip writing that again, thus focusing only on the unlearned material. In order to achieve that economy, I have a working approximation to the curve, which works on reiteration of unlearned material. Like scissors cutting the hair too long but then cutting again until you get what you want versus electric shears with a set depth which might not be precisely the depth you wanted and only work if a short cut is desired, and the shears won’t work at all unless you have electricity.

It’s harder to see the curve that it is with the Supermemo algorithm, but by the application of the 14 days with iteration, you do cover the same thing, only with less work and less risk of switching on more short-term memory.

In addition to that I have a scientifically untested hypothesis which is divergent from Ebbinghaus, namely that short-term memory and long-term memory are distinct functions, the one happening when we remember consciously and the other when we allow it to function like breathing when we forget about it. This idea is my own conclusion from non-scientific observation of my own case and the case of users.

The number of contented users of GLM who keep going with it into repeated projects year on year, some of whom have done as many if not more than I have and probably will end up doing much more, proves that the method certainly works, it works probably regardless of people’s views about their own learning type as long as they at least enjoy the process of writing.

In short you’ve made a fair comment about the relation of Ebbinghaus. I want to acknowledge the input of what I learned from Ebbinghaus, but you correctly note it doesn’t stop there.

Not enough real science has been done with memory and if anyone wants to fund or test in a real university setting the hypotheses underlying the GLM then I’m happy to be involved.

The Psalms of Davey #10 – “O blest and only Potentate”

This is the tenth of my cycle of ten Hymns, called “The Psalms of Davey”. They are being reproduced in a special category on this blog one after another. In only one case is the tune my own (that’s this one – number ten). In other cases, please follow the links to get to the midi for the tunes, courtesy of To find the category of “Psalms of Davey” please review the categories section in the side bar.


(Words and music, Uncle Davey, Cambridge, 1986. Tune name “Alexandra”.) In fact this is the only one of the hymns where I prefer my own tune, Alexandra, which is an 8888 metre tune.

At the moment I don’t have a version of the tune Alexandra to upload.

My suggested chord progression, if the melody starts on E, is C, C, d, e, C / C, G, e, F, G7 / d, d, e, F, G7 / d, F, d, F, C, (G7).

The hymn was written as a one-off, at a different time, rather later than the others, after it seemed that I had stopped writing hymns. I did not even keep it over the years in the same book with the others. Nevertheless, it must be evident that it is much of a muchness with the other hymns written by me, possibly the best of them from a poetic viewpoint, with much theology. Probably if someone felt they could take only one hymn from my collection and add it to a hymn book for use in churches, I suppose I would most rather that this one were chosen, especially as it has its own tune, with number six as possibly second choice.

As befits a closing hymn, this one is based on a New Testament doxology, in this case a pauline doxology for Timothy, that tells us among many other verses that Christ is God. If you have been looking at all the hymns from the beginning of the collection to this, the end, thank you for your patience in bearing with me. I consider it a tremendous priviledge to have a readership, and am always delighted with any feedback, either by mail or on the comments section.  Another project I have in mind for the future is a page linking to my most favorite hymns of all time.

God bless, and please enjoy the articles and other parts of my site.

O blest and only Potentate,
Thou King of Kings and Lord of Lords
I look unto Thy mercies great
And I am lost, am lost for words.

Thou didst in kindness set Thy love
Upon this wicked soul of mine
E’en or Thou camest from above
E’en or the sun, the sun did shine.

Thou hast in anguish lovéd me
When beat the sun upon Thy brow
When nailéd to the accurséd tree
For me at Calvary wast Thou.

T’was then all bleeding on the rood
That Thou didst mine atonement make
Thou didst eclipse the wrath of God
In dying, dying for my sake.

Although Thou righteous art alway
And glorious in Thine holiness
Yet didst Thou take my plague away
And clothe me, clothe me in Thy dress.

Christ, Thou hast scanned mine inmost thought
Yea, known mine every grief and care
And  Thou hast intercession wrought
And holy, spotless made my prayer.

Shall I not say; Thou art my King?
My Lord and God I shall adore
Thy name proclaim, thy glories sing
Henceforth, till death, and evermore.


“I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6 vv 13-16)

First published 27th June 2004, on


Advanced Learners’ Literature Drill (“Advanced Drill”) with the GoldList Method.

I have mentioned this technique for advanced learners in earlier articles on Huliganov.TV, but today I wanted to make one article explaining who the Literature Drill is for and how exactly to do it, and incorporate it into a full learning programme stretching from complete beginner to near native.

Who should do the Advanced Drill?

In a sense this is about the most advanced drill that can be done, it is already intended for people who have completed all the grammar that is currently used and who know the top 5,000 frequency words – they have probably studied already exhaustively such excellent learners’ material as the “Using French” series from Cambridge University press, the Mot-a-Mot series or some similar, the Essential Grammars and the Frequency Dictionary series that are produced by Routledge. These in turn sit on top of having studied through a goof introductory course or two like the ones provided by Teach Yourself, Colloquial series and Living Language – some swear by Assimil and also there is a very good resource made by my friend Mike Campbell called the Glossika series. Each of these resources can be placed into your Goldlist. Prior to Goldlisting I tend to recommend front-loading audio only (though that’s not necessary with the Glossika method as there is audio for all of it and audio is part of the method intrinsic to Glossika) and so for most learners I would recommend going through whatever is available on Pimsleur before they even start the Goldlist phase and prior to Pimsleur for the few languages in which they are available, I recommend taking the very first steps using Michel Thomas method or Paul Noble for the three languages he does. Since all of these audio-only courses are not about writing this is all pre-goldlist stuff but helps to have an “inner voice” and a knowledge of how to pronounce the language which would be missing if we went straight into goldlisting a language form grammar books which we didn’t know how to pronounce. For classical languages that’s all there really is, I suppose – you can’t do audio only before Goldlisting Wright’s Gothic Grammar.

So I basically just went backwards along a list of things which a learner would be advise to do. If you don’t recognise the steps I just mentioned and can’t say that you know the sort of examples I gave for French in whichever language you are studying then probably the Advanced Learners’ Literature Drill I am going to talk about in a moment isn’t for you. Not yet, anyway. You’ll get there. Carry on doing the kind of steps for now that I’ve outlined in reverse order above.

However, if you are someone who has basically run out of learning material and you don’t know what to do next short of goldlisting a 20,000 word dictionary (which has its merits, too, quite a few people have done it to good effect but is a task not to be undertaken lightly). After all, most learning material is for beginners, there is some for intermediate learners and some for what they call advanced learners (usually the choice gets smaller the further you get) but for anything beyond the most popular languages you are going to encounter a dearth of learning material at the right level and instead you are going to have to “go live” with your languages, reading the same classics of the language which the natives did in school which will strengthen your cultural link with them and greatly enhance and deepen your feel of the language.The easy way in to using literature is graded readers. Read the rest of this entry

Question about Slavonic verb aspect.


I received the following question from a person who was not specific as to whether they knew me from YT or some other source:

Hi David,

I have a question. Seeing you are a native speaker of English and a Slavic languages expert, I reckon you can answer this better than most!

What, in a nutshell, is verbal aspect all about? I know the grammar book stuff about “completed actions”, etc. It doesn’t cut it for me! What I need are some solid English equivalents. For example, when a Russian says (using future perfective aspect) “I will visit the museum tomorrow”, would we say: “I will have visited the museum (by) tomorrow”? Or is it more a sense of: “I will DO A VISIT to the museum tomorrow”? (Or is it something else entirely?)

And as regards the past perfective, what’s the deal if you want to say: “Tsar So-and-so built this palace in 1820”? Should that be perfective or imperfective? Or is there a choice? If so, what’s the difference?

I really want to learn some Russian but this stuff is doing my head in! (Cases are one thing – at least there is a clear logic there!) Any simple low-down help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, J..

Verbal aspect is about whether the FOCUS of an utterance is concerned with whether the action of the verb is now over and done with or not, or, in the case where the verb describes a state like lying or standing, whether this state has changed or not.

If the answer is yes, then the perfective aspect is used, and in all other cases the imperfective aspect is used.  Read the rest of this entry

The new location for the GoldList Method Spreadsheet

Version 1.1 of the Goldlist Method Spreadsheet, which contains a stylised version in Excel of how you need to lay out your manual GoldList book, but which can be used – after some adjustments for your own system – to print loose-leaf GLM double pages, is now kindly hosted thanks to one reader who wished to remain anonymous but you’ll work it out anyway, via

It’s not normally recommended to use the GLM as a keyboard input rather than a manual system, but if you absolutely cannot bear writing and want it in digital form, then you can also make copies of it onto a lot of further tabs in one or more .xls files and do it that way.

The most important thing about it though is the cell comments which answer frequent questions I have had about the order in which things get done. By look at the structure and formulae it may be more clear to some kinds of intelligence what I mean than from other ways of explaining it.


Enjoy, and thanks to MC.


The Psalms of Davey #9 – “The Earth had once one Speech o’erall”

This is the ninth of my cycle of ten Hymns, called “The Psalms of Davey”. They are being reproduced in a special category on this blog one after another. In only one case is the tune my own (that’ll be number ten). In other cases, please follow the links to get to the midi for the tunes, courtesy of To find the category of “Psalms of Davey” please review the categories section in the right hand side bar.


(Words Uncle Davey, Hemel Hempstead, 31st December 1984. Music Charles Collignon (1725-1785) Tune name “University”.) The tune is often sung to Scottish Psalms arranged in common metre. The Scottish Church made many arrangements of scripture in common metre, which is the metre we see here, because they believed in keeping all worship as close to the bible as possible, and what better than to actually sing the Bible, and hence there is a whole book of metrical Psalms for use by Presbyterians and it has various other portions of the Word of God other than the Psalms also in metre.

This was my attempt at putting into common metre a particular favorite passage of mine, namely the explanation in Genesis 11 verses 1-9 of where languages appeared. (There is more discussion of this matter in my article “On the Origin of Speeches” on this site, if you have any doubt in your mind about the absolute literal reliability of the scriptures with regard to the Babel event). Note also the ‘us’ of ‘Let Us go down’. The triune God was involved in the confounding of the Adamic Language, and Christ himself, the second Adam and the Living Word, was involved in providing the very words of all the post Adamic living languages!

Collignon is a little known figure, this tune being the only one of his which is generally used. It is named one assumes for Cambridge University, where he lived and taught, and where I also lived and learned, but two centuries later, worshipping the same Jesus, who had not changed a bit over that time.

First published 27th June 2004, Go back to list of hymns, Go back to home page or Go to Bulletin Board
(NB. The picture to the right was taken in 1985, this is how I looked when I wrote this hymn.)

The earth had once one speech o’erall
One tongue men used, to tell
From th’east to Shinar’s plain they came
And settled there to dwell

Among themselves did they conspire
“Bricks let us make,” said they
“To building stones them throughly burn
And slime for morter lay.”

“Go to,” said they, “a city great,
A tow’r to reach the sky,
We shall construct unto ourselves
Our name to glorify

Lest scattered far abroad we be
The whole earth’s face upon”
The LORD then from on high beheld
Their tow’r and city strong.

The LORD said “See, this people is
By language unified
Now can no thing their power restrain
Their will to realise”

“Now let Us unto them descend
Their language to confound
That each the other’s speech and tongue
No more may understand.”

And so the LORD did scatter them
All o’er the earth from thence.
Their city no more could they build.
It’s name is Babel hence:

That there the LORD in mighty pow’r
The earth’s speech did confound,
And He from thence did scatter them
The whole earth’s face around.

Boosting Fluency by Understanding Higher Order Semantic Content (A guest article by Maksim Sokolov )


You’ve been learning a foreign language for many years and are now in possession of good vocabulary and near-perfect knowledge of grammar rules, but you’re still faltering when you’ve got to deal with quite basic situations. Does this sound familiar? The problem could be that you’ve been recognising only words as semantic units hoping to learn and then glue them with grammar. The solution could lie in devoting a bit of attention to higher order semantic building blocks of speech.

In this article I would like to share my perception of the semantic speech structure and the different roles of semantic building blocks. Before I continue, I would like to stress that neither do I claim absolute novelty of the approach, nor the standard of strictness found in books by such pundits as Halliday et al.  Moreover, the semantic perspective of speech I’m going to be talking about is one-sided as it ignores grammar, so it would probably suit only rather advanced learners who’ve got used to taking everything with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, the approach helped me immensely in my foreign language studies and I feel it might be of help to others as well, and I shall proceed.

So what are those semantic building blocks I was referring to? I recognise the following semantic levels of speech.

0. Basic set lexical units: words.

  1. Set word combinations: collocations. Typically, they are more or less fixed combinations, for example ‘to throw a sickie’. However, in the context of the structure proposed I would also interpret quite loose word combinations such as ‘good advice’, ‘highly recommend’ as collocations, as it is done by some linguists*.
  2. Set expressions. These are “Lovely!”, “How dare you …?”, “That’s gross…”, “I’m afraid I can’t.” The main difference between the levels 0 or 1 and the level 2 is that there is now a communication function superimposed on the words/collocations to express your feelings, your situation, your status and so on.Note another aspect to the difference introduced at the level 2: although set expressions can consist of only one word, as in the above example with “Lovely!”, there is context as something that adds to the basic meaning or even changes it altogether. Specifically, when asked to confirm the details of your taxi order, you reply “Yes, that’s correct,” and they reply back “Lovely. Your cab is going to arrive in about five minutes.” In this context ‘lovely’ has the connotation ‘understood; OK; it suits us’, which you won’t find if you consult, say, the Oxford English Dictionary entry for ‘lovely‘.
  3. Set roles: yet another meaning can be superimposed on the speech, and it is the one of modality, or your attitude to what’s going on and it can be aptly inserted by the skillful use of 0, 1, 2. To illustrate, if you are a ‘disgruntled customer’, like Mrs Richards in Fawlty Towers, you would claim %you’ve never met such insolence in your life%; if you are, on the contrary, the one who has to deal with such customers, and you don’t want to ‘get off on the wrong foot’ with a valuable client you would probably try to explain that %it was not your intention to create such an awkward and embarrassing situation%. This client-staff relationship example within the level 3 shows that in the same context – the feature of the level 2 – different roles suggest different language. Other examples of set roles include a bickering couple, a boss and subordinates, friends having a square talk.

To summarise, the mathematics of the speech semantics goes as follows:

  • 0s as provided by the LANGUAGE;
  • 0s + 0s = 1s as provided and governed by the LANGUAGE;
  • 0s or 1s + function/context of SPEECH = 2;
  • 2s + other bits as dictated by the SOCIAL role/archetype = 3.

Now, what I suggest is that instead of struggling with 0s to say something appropriate in terms of 3, we try it the other way round. Namely, you first choose your character or your role (3) depending on what you want or have to do in a particular situation, and all the rest unfolds automatically as a given situation tells you what expressions (2) consisting of what collocations (1) and finally words (0) you should use. Actually, at its heart this viewpoint of placing acting in the centre is not at all new: just recall the passage from William Shakespeare starting “All the world’s a stage…” and the quote from Victor Hugo: “Life is a theatre set in which there are but few practicable entrances.”

It seems also pertinent to draw an analogy between a speaker of a (foreign) language and a music composer, since not only does the latter learn the notes, but also the scales, the harmony, and so on. Moreover, in many cases the restrictions and set combinations of the musical form appear to be by no means an impediment to the composer’s creativity.

Finally, a few more words to the reader: I hope you enjoyed reading my first article on LinkedIn. If it actually does happen that my approach arouses interest, I would be happy to write a continuation of this article that would address not the understanding but the acquisition of higher order semantic content in a foreign language, so please do comment.

Footnotes and References

*In fact, the most extreme case would be if any word combination is regarded as a completely original collocation, i.e. both ‘he drives a car’ and ‘he was driving a car’ would be thought of as different units, so there would be no need for grammar as everything becomes lexical.

The background picture is by Peter Worsley.

By Maksim Sokolov, rebroadcast here with his permission.

Clearing up some points about GLM.

A Facebook friend whom I shall call Miriamm (not her real name) asked me:

Hello, Hallo, Hola, Shalom, Ave, Chaire, Zdravo, Sei mir gegrüßt, sei mir geküßt, etc, etc…

I have a question about the Goldlist Method.

I have already asked this in the Polyglot group, but I didn’t get an answer, and somehow I can’t tag you, so that you get notified.

So, my question is:
Where do you take your first 25 words for the Headlist? Are they just random words or do you read an article, take notes during a lecture, watch a movie, whatever?

I have used Anki for quite long, until I got frustrated by the huge number of words it forced me to repeat before going on. I’m testing Memrise now and it often gives wrong pronunciations (it writes poder, but it says “el poder” for the verb “to be able to” in Spanish…)

It is annoying, because it gets hardwired in my brain like that.

Plus, it just takes random words without any context or grammar built around them.

I want to try the Goldlist method. I wonder how it works to skip the short-term memory, though. If I read an article beforehand and take the unknown words from there for my Headlist, they are already in my short-term memory by the time I write my list, aren’t they?

I read somewhere a while ago that you have to hear or read a word in five different contexts to be able to use it actively.

So, ok, I write my headlist and DO NOTHING (???) for two weeks?

If I hear or see a word from the headlist again in the meantime, it already tickles my memory before I should write my second list, right?

So how can I try the Goldlist method according to the rules?

Do you have a detailed video about it without the charming Russian accent? :-)

Should you start a new Goldlist method experiment or challenge set to a certain starting date, please include me. Maybe I should try it with a language that I don’t know yet, maybe Swedish.

Anyway, I don’t know why, but my brain can’t learn a new language in my mother tongue, which is Rhaet-Romansch. It slows me down extremely. I always learn the grammar of a new language in German and English in parallel, so my Goldlist would also have three columns.

Miriamm, you start a new Goldlist using various kinds of material depending on where you are with the language. At an early stage (assuming you have done some audio only work like a Pimsleur or Michel Thomas course first, so that you have some basics and a knowledge of how the language sounds) you’ll pick maybe a Teach Yourself series book or a Colloquial series book, Living Language, Assimil, you name it.

What goes in the Headlist is the vocab, the grammar notes, example sentences, everything you need in order not to need the book with you when you distil it. You do these 25 at a time because that’s what fits on the top left of a double-page in a writing book 40 lines deep, while leaving enough space for the future distillations.

When you’ve done one of these, taking maybe 20 minutes if you have the material prepared at hand, then you take the page after a ten minute break in which you did something else, like walk a kilometre, make a coffee, peel some vegetables, go to the toilet, etc etc, and you do turn to the next double page in the writing book to do another 25. This is the complicated bit as it involves taking the right hand sheet of the double page in between your fingers and moving it to the left, ensuring you only take one sheet and not 2 at a time. It is known as “turning the page”and does not generally take two weeks to do. The point about the two weeks is  that you do not review the earlier material, instead you carry on deep into the book even though you have not necessarily memorised the earlier material, because you need the book in the Headlist and you’ll memorise the whole thing on later distillations.

This is a bit counter-intuitive for those who are used to really covering and memorising one chapter before they go on to the next and so on until they finish the book, at which point they put the book away and don’t need it again. It is a completely different, but far more effective, way to work through the book, and commit it to memory.

The thing to do once all the material in a book has been covered is either to get a more advanced book to work from or to work through a small dictionary, or start literature work.

In this way you can go from beginner to post-graduate levels all in a single memory system, tracking your vocab numerically and measuring the degree of memorisation of the material all the way.

By the way, don’t miss Christopher Huff’s Academy Award-Winning four minute movie about the Goldlist Method:

Now let me come to the additional point which you mentioned about the fact that your short-term memory is switched on while noting words down from reading an article.

My tendency would be to use the Goldlist as the direct place you note down the words and then their German and/or English equivalents once you have checked them in your dictionary or from a translation of the article (which is why I like to use literature, there is usually an audio-book to listen to, and then you can read the foreign language text to grab any bits you didn’t really understand form the audio, and then finally read the translation in your own language for what you didn’t quite understand in the foreign language original. Right now I am in this process for Hermann Brochs “Die Schlafwanderer” as far as German is concerned.

I would not say that this process switches on a short-term memory learning process. You are focused on understanding a passage and not on committing it by dint of force to a memory to be tested on next Tuesday. Therefore some of it will of course be remembered short term but the long-term memory is free to make its usual samples in a relaxed way and the more you like the story the better that should work. With the Goldlist Method, you carry on confidently with further material and if you happen to come up with the same word again and write it again, this is really no big deal. It happens to everyone now and again. When you know that word as you will after 1-3 distillations most likely, you’ll be able to kick it out even more rapidly so what you lose on the swings, as we say, you gain on the roundabouts. The point is not to repeat material intentionally, partly because it wastes time, you don’t need it for this way of learning, and partly because two frequent repetition builds the kind of synapses which are intended to disintegrate after two weeks, for reasons deep in our history and connected to the lunar hunting cycle.


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