I’m reposting here my response to the article about why the Owner of the blog Polyglot Posturings isn’t attracted to using the Goldlist system. Please first read her objections here:
OK, first off, I don’t think that flash cards focus on the short term memory. It all depends on how they are used. If you cram them, then you’ll switch on the short term memory. If you take them at a measured pace and make a sort of SRS for yourself from them, you’ll be OK. I have one major problem with flashcards, namely where am I going to keep 16,000 cards? And why bother to waste card for each word when some words will be learned the very first time we see them?
Having cleared up that I am not anti flash card (and I use readthekanji.com as well as goldlisting Japanese, and that’s a flash card approach, only on line) let me take your objections in order.
1. It was twenty minutes, but it doesn’t have to be twenty uninterrupted minutes. It is not necessary to do 25 words at once. I am saying don’t do too much in one go because the long-term memory is an unconscious function so you can’t tell when it’s got tired. You have to anticipate that instead, by having breaks. If you were to do 5 or 10 minutes a go that would also be fine. Only not to be stressed about it.
2. Once you get the system going then you develop a batching system and when you get to the end of the new batch of the headlist, then you simply automatically go back to the beginning again. You remember about it because the book is with you. It’s not necessarily a big book. Oonce you get into it it is relaxing and even addictive, and you don’t have to be in front of a screen or playing with scissors, cards and envelopes. The tools are very simple.
3. I found this argument the most surprising, and I would politely take issue with what fluency means and if it’s really the most important thing. If speaking is the most important skill, moreso than listening, reading or even writing, then I understand why people focus on keeping their smaller vocabularies actuve. It gives them the impression that they have really gone somewhere in a language, even if all they have is 1000 or 2000 words on the tip of their tongue. You cannot watch a film and understand it properly with that, you cannot really read a newspaper, you cannot delve into the literature of the culture you are looking at. You can get by like a glorified tourist, and that’s that. If all the vocab you need in a language is the vocab you’ll use all the time, then you’ll be on a par with the thickoes of that language, able to talk nineteen to the dozen but not being able to formulate very precise thoughts and limiting themselves always to a small pool of words. Your written work will not be interesting to read, anything beyond ordering food or buying shopping will be tough as you will struggle with nuances on only the words you have when you stop being a beginner. If you want to have a decent vocabulary, then it’s a question of building it up to 10,000 or maybe 15,000 words or more. Certainly that is the level that professionals using English in their work as a non-native language are attaining to and if you want to speak their language to them rather than have them simply override your attempts and slip into English with you, that’s what you’ll have to achieve. And that task takes time. Much much longer than the time spent learning just the basic grammar and the main irregular points of grammar,
Let me give you an example from real life of how I once countered the argument against the amassing of vocabulary: I was in a car with someone who said his university lecturer in English said to concentrate on grammar and not vocabulary as if you didn’t know the odd word you’d be able to guess from context what the meaning is. So I said “I see your teacher is an imbecile”, to which he said “is that good or bad?” I rested my case.
Nobody is saying that you have to achieve 15,000 words if you don’t want to. I would say it is very well worthwhile to achieve that “degree level” knowledge and it does mean a completely different kind of fluency than that pseudofluency of always having the 2000 words on the tip of one’s tongue, which actually isn’t possible for more than a few languages at once at 1000-2000 vocab levels anyway. The the passive acquisition of larger vocabularies is a better way to spend time than to spend it continually activating and reactivating a small and stagnant vocabulary.
There is nothing wrong with knowing words for the sake of knowing them. Words are the tools of thought and of ideas, and you never know where they will take you. Words are deeply exciting. So are phrases, for that matter. Knowing words for the sake of knowing them is infinitely preferable to not knowing words for the sake of not knowing them.
Learning 15,000 words in an ineffective way can take so long a person may well never do it. Using Goldlist it should take 600 hours in total, but in small bursts. You can see at every moment and calculate exactly how far along the road you are, and this aids motivation. You know when you pass the half way mark and every other numeric milestone.
- Initial thoughts on a long term vocab learning system (kaetslanguages.wordpress.com)
- 70 Ways To Improve Your English (doetaec.wordpress.com)
- Goldlist thoughts by Cyderspace (huliganov.tv)
- Goldlist Method Discussion on LingQ Forums – How to learn languages (huliganov.tv)
- Flashcard systems (kaetslanguages.wordpress.com)
|Playout date:||6 October 2006|
|Post Production:||Windows Movie Maker – slight use|
|Location:||Home – 12th floor of building|
|Other people featured:||None|
|Music used:||Andrey Vinogradov – Kak na Moriul|
|Languages used:||Bialorusian, English|
It was a pretty active storm, with plenty of lightning. This year we’ve had several like this, but this was 2006, and back then it was more of a rarity. The hurdy gurdy music by Andrey Vinogradov also attracted a lot of comment over on YT.
- Hurdy Gurdy Metal (patrickriggs.net)
- Hurdy Gurdy Tip # 438: String Hooks (rodneyanonymous.com)
- Japan storm leaves deaths in its wake – Aljazeera.net (news.google.com)
- Tropical Storm Talas leaves 29 dead, 56 missing in Japan (cnn.com)
One Polish viewer, Krzysztof, asked me the following questions about the Goldlist over in Youtube, and agreed that I could answer in English and over here so that more readers can benefit. I haven’t translated the questions, as the questions will be obvious from the answers.
Chciałbym zadać kilka pytań o Gold List, otóż mam taki który ma 40 lini jednak gdy piszę 25 słów pod sobą to jest to mało czytelne, czy nie mogło to by być 20 słów ?
If you have large handwriting, and go over the lines, you may need to look for another book with larger lines, but these ones frequently don’t make up 40 lines per page. In such cases instead of having 25 lines in the headlist, you might need to reduce it to 20. 100 is easily divided by 20, so dividing the headlist up into 20s instead of 25s is a very valid alternative method.
Even for people who can easily fit in 25 in the headlist, limiting to 20 allows the goldlist book to take an alternative form which may appeal to some people: 20 for Headlist in the top left, then D1 (1st distillation) on the top right has maybe 14 words of the 20, in the middle right you have D2 with let’s say 10 words, and D3 on the bottom right with say 7 words. You would then be coming back up the left hand side with D4 on the bottom left on about 5, and have D5 on the left in the middle with maybe 3, and just take maybe 2 forward to the next book, if by that stage you even wanted a second book. I’d see it as a perfectly viable alternative.
Czy dobrze zrozumiałem, iż nie mam się tego uczyć, czy może warto to przeczytać kilka razy po napisaniu ?
Ciężko mi uwierzyć, że po przepisaniu 25 słów w języku niemieckim zapamiętam je.
You won’t have learned them all, only about 30% will have stuck. But you won’t know which really have stuck unless you leave it lie for two weeks at least at each stage. If you want to read your page out loud once, after writing it, that’s not likely to be a problem, but for pleasure. Repetition is what starts to feel like forced learning – you switch on your conscious memorizing and the unconscious one turns off – they don’t both work at once, you see. And the unconscious memory is the one that samples effortlessly a certain percentage of all you see when you are not actively trying to memorize, direct to the long-term memory.
Jednak to pan się zna, więc proszę o radę.
Te słowa mam pisać pod sobą, czy w jednej linijce można napisać
Po co są następne zeszyty brązowe, czy tam trzeba robić kolejne słowa z danego języka czy kolejne destylacje ?
Jednak pan mówił, że na kolejne destylacje jest zeszyt srebrny.
The second bronze book keeps going with the headlist and distillations 1-3 when you have run out of space in the first one. The silver book can be a lot thinner and contains distillations 4-7.
- The Goldlist Method and Kanji (huliganov.tv)
- Question on lexical sufficiency (huliganov.tv)
- Answer to Question comparing Goldlist and Mnemosyne Methods. (huliganov.tv)
The following review can still be read for Derek Offord’s “Using Russian – A Guide to Contemporary Usage” on Amazon.co.uk (not the American Amazon and I really don’t understand why they don’t carry these reviews over, when I want to write for only the UK or only the US I shall forget about the internet altogether!) As it was way back in 2001 I seem to have lost the accreditation for the review along the way. At first it was under my name, but at some stage they must have had a technical blip and the older reviews became “A Customer”. but it’s mine, well enough. I don’t know if my style has changed much in ten years.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars
This is essential reading for those doing a Russian degree.
28 Sep 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Using Russian: A Guide to Contemporary Usage (Paperback)
I bought Using Russian when I was browsing in a bookshop for another language, as I already speak Russian, but when I looked at a few pages it immediately appealed as an excellent update to the way the language has developed since I did my degree. Sections in the book refer to different problems that face the English speaker in particular, such as faux amis. There are also sections on homonyms and other confusing aspects and they act rather like a checklist of what you need to have got right in your head in order not to make too many ‘howlers’ in translations or in conversation.
One particular plus in this book and as I found out in the whole series of ‘Using’ books that this is part of is the focus on register. If there is one thing that separates the wheat from the chaff among language students. it is the understanding and application of the idea of register, and this applies to Russian perhaps more than most European languages, as this is a language in which not only the vocabulary, but also the syntax, grammar and phonetics are all subject to complex nuances. This book was not available when I needed it. Now that it is I urge you to make use of it. It is the book about Russian that I would have liked to have written myself. If I thought there was demand for it, I’d offer to do a sister volume for Polish.
In any event it made me go out and by the sister volumes already in existence for French, German and Spanish. They are of a similar quality to this volume, the weakest is probably the German one, the Spanish one I would put as second favorite. It can be read cover to cover, or simply dipped into as a work of reference.
It is not material for learning the language from scratch, but would be a very useful second step after completing any of the standard self-instruction books such as the Colloquial series, the Teach yourself series or the Linguaphone course.
Either A-level or degree level students of the Language will profit from it and find it enjoyable because of its good presentation and readable style.
- What to make of illiterate “romaji” Russian courses, or audio only courses? (huliganov.tv)
- Still Fighting Russia, This Time With Words (nytimes.com)
- Foreign languages ‘the preserve of private school pupils’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- How should I get started with programming? (daryn.net)
- You: Russians told to mind their English (guardian.co.uk)
I received the following question from Timmytom7777777 on YT and then got his permission to answer it here so that more people could read it – and also I don’t have a character limitation.
I have a few questions about the gold list method to which I have been unable to find answers. I am currently really fascinated with Icelandic language and have been studying it off and on for about four months. I was wondering how I should apply the gold list method to memorizing the countless grammatical changes to any word depending on its use. Should I write a sentence showing the word being used in each different case. I also have questions on what should be done when writing the headlist. Do I just write the words and definition, say them aloud, and then move on to another headlist after a break? What mental processes should be happening when I go over the gold list? When I see the word in Icelandic for dog should I see a picture of a dog in my mind or should I think of the English translation. I also have a few questions concerning audio. Is it okay to listen to audio while doing the gold list? Also should I practice writing sentences and speaking Icelandic to work on my pronunciation?
Icelandic, for those who do not know it, is highly similar to Old Norse and has a grammar containing largely the same elements as German. Unlike in other Scandinavian languages you have noun paradigms with different endings in Nominative, Accusative, Genitive and Dative. You have weak and strong verbs, and in addition to the usual verbal tenses you have the supine.
This makes it a medium difficult language. Attendant difficulties are the relative paucity of materials and the existance of some aspirated versions of consonants which can be tricky for some to master. A large number of cognates with English and other Germanic languages gives us some ease in the other direction also. And the language is a beautiful one which easily catches the mind and the imagination.
If you have an audio course in Icelandic, something like a Pimsleur (if they did one, I’m not sure) which doesn’t need much by way of attendant reading and reading and the doing of exercises, then just go ahead and do that course first before starting the Goldlist. That is a good order to take them in. The audio courses are never very long and rarely do more than scratch the surface of the language, and already having an idea of how the words are pronounced, especially how to deal with the double consonants and their attendant aspiration, will avoid the risk that the Goldlist, which is heavily a writing based system, should serve to reinforce a wrong approach to pronunciation.
When using the goldlist, at headlist stage I will happily include a statement of a grammatical rule in English as a line item, in note form. When dealing with regular paradigms of nouns, I would give all four cases of the noun in singular and plural so that this example noun covers 8 lines in the headlist. But the other nouns that follow the same paradigm I would not write out in that way it would be just “as ‘h’ “. Each class of conjugations needs one noun that you use as the captain of its class, and know it well, and which other nouns are in its team.
Similarly for verbs. I would always write the strong verbs out so that in the headlist all the irregularities can be seen. For regular verbs, just write afterwards the name of the verb whose pattern they follow.
Sentences are good for understanding word order, syntax, or examples of how to use words where it differs from English, or where the article use is different, etc. Or if I just liked a sentence and thought it was worth memorizing for whatever mileage I’d get out of it at parties. However, you will get more by building your own zany phrases by combining words on the later distillations. Sometimes a zany combination of words sticks to the long-term memory better than either word did on its own, and producing these combinations is not an activity that seems to switch the conscious memory function on and the unconscious off, which is what you don’t want to happen.
So on the later distillations you are packing more on one line where you had it over various lines, combining items and first and foremost jettisoning from the list items you already remember well enough.
At the end of every 25, you can go back and read them out loud if you like, but just for the pleasure of the sound. Don’t try to remember them or think of ways consiously by whjich you’ll remember them, just enjoy the sound and enjoy the thoughts flowing naturally from the word. You ask when learning the word for a dog, should you see a picture of a dog in your mind. The answer is, don’t push the dog picture into your mind. If you happen to picture a dog, go with it, but don’t go looking for it. Or you might notice something else, such as how “hundur” is like the German word, and has an English cognate “hound”, but don’t necessarily go forcing yourself there either. Let the subconscious do the work. You’re on a train here, you don’t have to hold the steering wheel like when you drive a car.
Then take the minumum ten minute break doing something entirely different, and do another 25!
I would not have music or other audio playing at the same time, I would avoid distractions. I would not be drinking alcohol while doing it, as this doesn’t aid the memory, and I would not do it while in a foul mood or exhausted. It can nicely be combined with exercise, such as doing a machine during the breaks between learning sessions, or doing learning sessions on breaks on walks. Looking back on those days when I did a lot of physically active stuff around the goldlist, I usually have a better recall level.
Don’t expect to ‘feel’ the result of this method like you do in the short term methods where you really feel like you’re learning something and it later wears off after two weeks, but two weeks is the time given to return the course if you don’t like it. This is happening all passively, but happening it is, and using precisely the same subconscious and passive mechanisms that served you so well when you learned your mother tongue.
- Abdul’s question on Goldlist scheduling (huliganov.tv)
- The Goldlist Method and Kanji (huliganov.tv)
- Question about the Voynich Manuscript (huliganov.tv)
- “WikiLeaks” Becomes a Recognized Word in the English Language (mashable.com)
- “Icelandic pagans celebrate Yule today” and related posts (icenews.is)