I am now returning, having received a moment ago a timely reminder from Victor Berrjod, to the discussion on the above diagram, and what it can show us of use to the learners of language.
In the earlier article, I wrote about how in reading and in listening the language user is passive – not having to generate his own grammatically correct language or have the right word at hand. Therefore reading and listening are intrinsically less challenging than writing or speaking. For someone not in an active state with his command of a foreign language, reading and listening creates less of a problem than writing or speaking. If he, or she, knows the word in their passive memory then it should be that they can deal with reading it or listening to it. In order to be able to speak or writing a person must find that word for themselves.
So we have compared the two rows in the diagram. Let us now compare the two columns.
In the leftmost column, the one containing reading as the passive skill or function and writing as the active skill, we can say that the learner is able to exercise more control over timing when reading and writing than when speaking and listening.
It is clear that listening with a pause button enables a similar control of timing as reading and speaking into a recording device that enables pauses, repetitions, breaks and then a later edit allows a similar control as in writing, and the use of recordings – making them as well as listening to them in that way – certain makes for an excellent bridge between the skills where we have all the time we need – reading and writing, and those skills where we don’t have all the time we need, such as conversing with someone who is not particularly inclined to wait around while we find the words we need.
In reading and writing there are also scenarios where we don’t control the time, for example reading subtitles in a foreign language cinema when an English language film is shown undubbed, or certain chatroom scenarios where if we are not careful we will not keep up with the flow and our contribution to the chat will look lame. These therefore are also bridging scenarios.
However, in the main if you are on your own and reading and writing for yourself, reading a book or writing the goldlist, you can control how fast you want to do it, therefore you can be relaxed and therefore you can more easily get into a state where the subconscious, long-term memory is the default information pantry and not the conscious memory, which switches on in states of nerves or stress and which remembers in a short-term way, recycling its hastily constructed synaptic pathways after only two weeks.
The unconscious memory may only sample 20-30% of what you cover and place in the short-term memory if it is activated, but then it will keep it for decades whereas the short term memory loses pretty much everything after two weeks. 100% of 2 is much less of course than 20% of 1,000, so a preference to use the long-term memory methods and avoid the short term memory methods should be a no-brainer for all of us.
The problem is of course that people want to be able to speak and listen, they want to be able to rely on their language knowledge in real life situations, and so people want to get to the point where they can speak at will. And language classes seem geared around the getting of students to speak phrases and be able to engage in conversations, as well as getting the students to repeat a lot and rote learn. All of these ways are short-term memory ways, they encourage the learner to feel as though he or she is making faster progress but it will prove to be an uphill struggle as the learner is always fighting against his two-week barrier, and later on blaming himself and not the teacher’s method for the fact that not much gets retained after class.
Now you can ask any polyglot you know, and even though some of them seem to take a delight in the act of activating their languages, and make no mistake about it, it is an extremely pleasant sensation to activate a language and to really start speaking and thinking in it for the first time, you will still learn from them that they do a lot of reading and writing and they take their time over it and do it alone at home. They don’t rely on the classes. If they use classes at all it would be for them just an adjunct, a social dimension to the real learning which they do alone, reading in the main and writing.
When reading and writing you can be as relaxed as you like and so the unconscious memory works nicely. It will work less nicely on listening if you feel stressed, but that is why good audio course such as Michel Thomas, Paul Noble, Pimsleur, all emphasise the use of the pause button. You have to have the feel that you are in control of the timing at which the language is coming at you and can repeat any part of the recording ad nauseam if necessary. However actually repeating things over and over is also something that calls forth the conscious memory because while doing that we are TRYING to remember. The long-term memory works when we are not trying to memorise.
The short-term memory methods used by language schools of course are in their interests as the teachers of languages are paid for their time and if they can feed you with an illusion that either you are progressing quickly or if you are not progressing it’s not their fault, then people carry on for much much longer than they would need to learning alone, and all the time paying for lessons. Paying for lessons is not bad if there is a language which needs a lot of explanations which the books are confusing you on, and you stay in control and ask the questions. If you have a teacher who lets you do that, then they deserve their money. If you have a teacher who coaches you in the proper use of your brain and in the selection of good materials and clear explanations, then again you have a teacher who deserves their money. The other 80% are ripping you off either consciously or unconsciously.
From what I have said so far, it is clear that reading is the least challenging function of the four as in reading most of the time you have control over the time, you can relax and make it a pleasant experience and you don’t have to waste time getting yourself into a continued state of activation in the language in order to do it. As a reminder to those who have read me before, or an aside to those who haven’t, activation from a non-active state takes three days.
Recently no less a language learner than the polyglot A-lister Steve Kaufman of Lingq.com, a great believer in the learning power of reading by the way, such that he doesn’t feel the need to keep a record by writing in the way the Goldlist works – he feels it slows him down – which is not necessarily wrong, but doing so has many other advantages we can come on to – wanted to test my three-day activation hypothesis by coming to Prague after learning at home in Canada for I think about a year. However, when he came, he was already very nicely active in less than three days – because he had been spending his time in Canada already on regular Skype calls to his Czech native speaker friends and therefore he didn’t come with a completely passive knowledge and so the results of his experiment were – unfortunately for me – not very conclusive. I would have been fascinated to see his reaction if he had come genuinely passive and seen the remarkable effect of immersion over a few days from a passive state. It really is quite exciting and I can recommend just trusting the Method and trying that one time.
Anyhow, one thing I do agree with Steve on, and this is by far not the only thing, is that reading is a great way to learn languages to a high degree of perfection having a great time and freeing the long-term memory. In my opinion, though, to get to the point where we can just comfortably read away in the literature needs quite a bit of groundwork. In the old UK way of doing things, literature was brought in at A-level, only after a vocabulary of some 2,000 of the most common words had been achieved along with a thorough grasp of all the required grammar, which if we are talking about French literature (the most commonly learned language in that old UK system) requires the subjunctive and the past historic, even though you could live a month in today’s France barely using either and nobody would think any the worse of you for it.
In a similar way both Steve and I love the Jaroslav Hasek classic “Osudy dobreho vojaka Svejka” – but even this, a twentieth century document unlike the works of Voltaire and Goethe, is written in something fairly removed from modern Czech and the idioms we can learn in it, the greatest jewel of the Czech literature, might not stand us in good stead in daily life.
This does still leave reams of modern things worth reading in Czech, and in most of the languages which are available to be learned, some of course more than others.
I would say that if the four functions diagram shows you that the easiest thing to do when learning is to read, but people nevertheless want to progress from reading to speaking, there has to be a route or a choice of routes by which we can get from reading to speaking also encompassing the other two skills or functions. namely the writing and the listening.
And how we do that will be the topic of the next in this series.
- Chinese from scratch – a 1260 hour work Programme optimising your result. (huliganov.tv)
- Mental Spring Cleaning (bar201050.wordpress.com)
- 8 Tips for Improving Your Memory At Work (tymebeatagencyin.wordpress.com)
- Popular myths in psychology (part 1) (gmbcblog.wordpress.com)
- Method (funnyeasyitalian.wordpress.com)
- Question from a Student (“Why Should I Learn to Read and Write Chinese?”) (cityhotpot.wordpress.com)
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)
Dołączył: 21-luty 09
Napisany 15 luty 2011 – 21:04
Słyszeliście o tej metodzie zwana Gold List? Metoda została stworzony przez David J. James który potrafi mówić w 20 językach! Rozmowa z nim w DzieńDobry w TVN
Najpierw oglądnąłem ten film który podałem powyżej i zachwyciłem się nim niedowierzając, że ktoś jest w stanie komunikatywnie rozmawiać dwudziestoma językami!
Znalazłem go na youtube (ma ponad 1000 filmów na youtube w różnych językach) i znalazłem filmy jak mówi po Polsku – jestem zaskoczony jak on jest w stanie mówić po polsku – jakbym nie wiedział, że jest z Anglii pomyślałbym, że to rodowity Polak! I wtedy znalazłem ten film
Metodologia Gold List #1 – Pochodzenie i Dlaczego To Dziala
Metodologia Gold List #2 – Jak To Dziala w Praktyce
(nie wiem czemu, może tak jest tylko u mnie, jak kliknie się w ten link zaczyna się od 24 minuty więc trzeba przewinąć na sam początek)
Ten post był edytowany przez Mikulew dnia: 15 luty 2011 – 21:08
Życie jest po to żeby żyć, a nie da się żyć bez osiągania. Nie żyje się po to żeby osiągać. Żyje się po to żeby żyć i żyjąc osiągamy.
Read the rest of this entry
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)
I have been lucky enough this week to receive questions from two people on YouTube about aspects of the Goldlist Method, along with their permission to respond here so that I don’t have to fiddle about with the 500 character cut-off or however many it is over there.
Let’s kick off with this one from YouTube channel WellConditionedChimp
I’m wondering whether you are familiar with Mnemosyne, an open source computer program that is reminiscent of your method – it makes digital flashcards that come up for review after a variable interval of time. The interval is determined by how quickly you remembered the material the last time, if at all. In what ways is your method superior to this one?
I assume that you are referring to the Mnemosyne Project in which case I was not familiar with it, although it seems to be building on Piotr Wozniak, who in turn builds on other researchers going back to Ebbinghaus. In my case I only learned about Wozniak’s work on memory after my own system was complete, but as you will see if you read the Polyglot Project (available via syzygycc channel on YT as an e-book for free, or in paper printed and bound on Amazon.com for $16.95) you will know that my inspiration came from reading second hand about Ebbinghaus, plus my own experience as a linguist, plus the fact that getting back into numbers in order to become an accountant started to make me think along the lines of a numerically controlled learning system for languages. Read the rest of this entry
As part of the discussion in one of the pages here I got into a discussion with how one reader, Abdul, can tailor the goldlist to his study of Arabic. The nesting in the meantime has become so narrow that I need to continue with a fresh article. Have a look under the page “About HTV” to see the earlier part of the conversation, I’m only quoting the latest part.
Hi Victor, That explanation has really helped me out and I think I now know what I need to do. Based on your explanation I attempted to create a basic plan for learning over the next few months, which I really would like for you to see. The one query I had at this stage was ‘overlap’. For example, in my plan I’ve planned to do 4 headlists a day, 7 days a week, 28 headlists a week. Over the course of 4 weeks, this gives 112 headlists and consequently 2800 words. Do I do ALL the headlists first (112) and then move on to D1 – do ALL D1, then D2 and ALL D2, etc etc all the way to D7. That is, do I leave 4 week gaps for all movements across distillations? Or do I move to D1 after two weeks, in which case D1 distillation of headlist 1 will coincide with the beginning of headlist 57 (28 headlists per month, beginning of 3rd week), and this overlap will keep on continuing with D1 distillation of week 3 coinciding with beginning of D2 distillation? I know that sounds complex and I’d really like to send you my excel plan sheet if that’s confused you. I just want to know if its ok to be doing distillations and headlists on one day etc? Many thanks, Abdul
Abdul, you’re welcome to send me the excel file on firstname.lastname@example.org , however maybe it isn’t needed, as we can try to use the notation to set you a programme.
If I planned to do 2800 words, I would do the following bit of mathematics at the outset.
2800 words, each goldlisted off equates to an average of 3 iterations per word, so it is a task of covering 2800*3 ie 8,400 words, spread over the 8 levels of distillation including the headlist. At a rate of 28 sessions a week, which is, including the scheduled ten minute breaks a 14 hour a week job, you are able to headlist and distill the words you have in your target, namely 2800, in precisely 336 sessions (8400/25) and by the same token you would know all these words if you keep up the work flow without flagging in the course of 12 weeks. However, you know that it is in fact not possible to keep to the standards of delay and still do everything in 12 weeks because you have two weeks minimum standby time for each one, and hence the bare minimum to take it to 7 distillations would be 14 weeks.
I suggest we therefore take the following order:
Action 1 = H1-H2100 which takes three weeks of your time at the work rate
Action 2 = D1 1 to say 1500 which distils H1 – 2100 and takes a little over two weeks so hopefully you don’t run within two weeks of the headlist. If you do, just go back and add H2100-2300 or something to keep the flow right.
Action 3 do the rest of H, that is take H to the target of 2800. This will take you another week. We are into week six at the moment.
Action 4, and 5 So we’re in week seven and you’re turning the D1 words from D1 1-1500 to D2 say 1-1100, which will take you a little over a week, when you get to the end you are still nicely timed for turning H2101-2800 to D1 1501-2000 or however you manage it depending on your material and your confidence.
Action 6 If it were me I’d now be going back to H and adding more words beyond 2800, but if that was the target, then that was the target, so you’re left with nothing to do at H if you want to adhere to the target. If you are now far enough on in time (two weeks) to take the first words of D2 and turn them to D3, then you can do so, and you’ll follow that by doing the second batch of words which initially were H2101-2800 and take them to D2 level. But the process of taking 2100 headwords to D3 and 700 headwords to D2 from the respective preceding distillations is only about 5 or 6 days work at the work rate you gave, so now you have to wait unless you want to add more at H.
And so you continue, until the target is done.
Please let me know if I should elucidaye any part more clearly.
Excellent question, by the way, for which I thank you, and which you every pleasure and success with your study.
- Question about the Voynich Manuscript (huliganov.tv)
- The Goldlist Method and Kanji (huliganov.tv)
- Buy “The Polyglot Project” on Amazon via my aStore, or download e-book (huliganov.tv)
- Is Vinegar Safe for a Gluten-Free Diet? (everydayhealth.com)
- What are the most commonly used words used in a grade 4 spelling bee (wiki.answers.com)
The Goldlist Method – Response to Appraisal and Critique by Group of Hardcore Polyglots and Linguists
Here is an article on the goldlist method which I wrote very recently on the How to Learn any Language forum in a thread which was very useful on the whole for the system – some of the top linguists and polyglots you can find on the net are there in that discussion, and they are putting this methiod to the test. Now some of them have already had the most tremendous success learning languages with their own preferred methods and are naturally suspicious of new-fangled approaches like this here Goldlist Method – some of them had criticisms to make, which are addressed below, but among them are plenty of hardcore linguists and polyglots who seem to really like the method. They are the hardest group to please, and you’ll see that despite the dissenting voices there are many who stand up for the method and more people do seem to approve of it than disapprove. And I don’t think I’ll ever have a tougher audience for this. Read the rest of this entry
Uncle Davey’s “GoldList” methodology for learning to the long-term memory.
1. No reliance on mnemonics and no creation of strange methods to try and “visualise” words in contexts. No “think of a cat in a cot and you’ll remember that Polish for ‘cat’ is ‘cot’ “. – These are the ways by the way that course makers like Daniels gets phenomenal results over two weeks but they never last. Just as well, if they did, they would create a learner who, when he came to fluency, would not be able to say “kot” without thinking about a baby’s bed. Ridiculous. Oszustwo. Don’t let the oszusty deceive you by filling your shoes with the letter O at tea time.
2. No cramming, no learning against the clock. No learning for next week, or for tomorrow, or for a test, or for an exam. No conscious “memorizing”. The long-term memory is not a conscious function. Its samples are taken automatically and subconsciously out of the material which is run through the conscious. What we decide to memorise or forget only relates to s/t memory. You cannot decide to learn to the long term memory any more than you can decide to forget to the long-term memory. Disciplines based on the ‘aha!’ moment of putting two and two together to understand something can use the short term memory and be sure that they will get a long-term effect, but in languages there is very little “aha!”, and so short term memory is of next to no use at all.
You need to think of memory as a similar function to breathing – we breath best for our bodies when we don’t think about it, trying to breath at a special rate or especially deeply. The body regulates itself. We breathe ideally when we keep our mind off the process of breathing. For memory, when we take over the process consciously, like holding breath or breathing at a faster rate (‘hyperventilating’) we shut out for a time the body’s natural function. In other words when we take control of our memory by trying to memorize something there and then, we automatically shut out the possibility of long-term memorising and switch on instead the short-term memory function. And we can’t keep it up for long, and also it results in repetition of items in order to learn them which might be sampled on first reading even, if we just let go and let the God-given faculties of our body work. That’s why cramming methods and deliberate memorisation methods waste so much time for language learners and serious polyglots never use them.
Chomsky once commented on the inability of the child to learn language so well after the age of five or six, whike language seems naturally to be acquired until this time. Chomskyites and other linguists have conjectured on numerous occasions what this faculty is that is lost, and how to measure it. In fact, there is nothing to measure being lost as nothing is in fact lost. What happens is that at that age an ‘extra layer’ comes in as the child learns by then to be self-consciously learning. The child, by school age, is aware that it is “now learning something” and making an effort to remember, not just being put through life’s algorithms passively. And so the short-term memory starts to come more and more into play, blocking the long-term memory function essential to the easy learning of languages. This method is all about putting back the long-term, unconscious memory into the learning process, which it does by taking any effort to rote learn or memorise on demand out of the progress, and focus instead on the mathematical process, the algorithm of the goldlist method, and on the pure enjoyment of writing out new words and just liking the experience of touching those words with our minds in a relaxed way, without pushing them on our memories.
3. Pay attention to study times. Because the l/t memory is not a conscious function, we are not aware of when it tires. This is measured to happen after 20 minutes. At that point, the sampling process will be become less than optimal, and so the learner to the long-term memory is wasting his time, although he or she may feel interested and want to keep going. The rule is, after 20 minutes, take a break of at least 10 minutes in which a completely different sort of thing is done.
It really doesn’t matter whether the student comes back for one more or ten more sessions of twenty minutes in the day, as long as it is not forced and the interest is still there and therefore the motivation. It is not necessary to do the work every day. The more regularly we come to it the less likely it is that the habit of doing it will break, but we do not need to feel enslaved to it. The language learning is a relaxing, fun thing, not a chore.
4. Get comfortable when learning, don’t rush, and use attractive materials. We banish unpleasant experience from the long-term memory and garnish pleasant experience to the long term memory. By all means eat and drink during the 20 minute sessions of learning, but not alcohol, and also avoid music and background noise. After all, when learning to the l/t memory, you don’t have to work that hard. Less is more – less effort to cram means more of what you do learn actually sticks.
The use of Omega 3 and Vitamin D is helpful. The goldlist can easily be taken on walks and done outside, because it is ink and paper and not a screen that whites out in the sunshine. Similarly sleeping well assists the balanced functioning of the memory. If the gold list system doesn’t work for you even if you are sure that you understood the whole rationale and why it should work even though it is counter-intuitive (and by now there are videos all over the internet which back up the fact that this works – you’ll find some of them below) but you are finding a different story, then you need to look at how much Vitamin deficiency you may have, get sunlight, omega-3 and other vitamin and mineral supplements and ensure you are getting enough rest, enough sunlight, fresh air and water. Check your water for fluorination, which is something everyone should do anyway, and use filtration in the home.
5. Use a variety of materials that present the content in a different way. For example, which explain the use of a particular tense or case in different ways. One book should be the “pace setter” and the other courses supplement it. A good choice of pace setter will be a course book which has vocabularies in the back going in both directions and which clearly teach something like 2000 words or more. There should be graded explanations of grammar, not shying away from grammatical terms but giving plenty of explanations and examples. Lengthy passages just on culture are a mere padder in language books – you can learn about any culture without learning the language properly. Photographs likewise, as well as cartoons and pictures. Discount these when choosing a language book in the shop. But give a premium to courses which offer a lead on second book for intermediate level, and advanced.
6. When using the key item in language learning, the vocabulary book, ensure that all the grammar for each word accompanies the word into the book. For instance, you would not just write “to begin” but also (began, begun) to show that it is a strong verb. You would not just write “Jugend” but “die Jugend” or “Jugend f.” Write the word on the right hand side of the page in your own language or the language from which you are learning the target language, and do 25 words at a time. 25 words can be comfortably written out that way in the course of 20 minutes, with time just to read the list through aloud at the end. Always work with units of twenty five head words, which wshould be written at the outset on the top left hand page of a double page A4 hardback writing book. You number the headword list from the beginning onwards so that the 5th such page will have numbers 101-125, etc. You always note the date you added the owrds to the list. You make an overall target of words to cover with no short-term time limit. It will be something like 2,500 words, which gets a learner up to what we used to call O level, and means that they become intermediate and most teach yourself course have roughly this number of words. I’m coming to the timing shortly.
7. You write the words into the vocab book by hand, in a beautiful hard back book, as neatly as you can, without getting stressed over it if it’s not as neat as you would like – so that the learner can take a pride in the look of it and not hurry over it. Write at a pace that is comfortable and natural. Do not do this in a computer, latch onto the natural memory that is linked to handwriting. It is a long-term memory function, which is why your signature always comes out the same, year in, year out, and you don’t even need to think about it consciously. Also, as stated above, you want to take your goldlist with you, and do it in the sun and in the bathroom and all sorts of places – even on aircraft when the fasten seatbelts sign is on and you can’t have the computer on. Also fiddling with diacritic signs means that the computer is not the best place for this – you will work slower and more arduously and less flexibly than you think. I like the computer as much as anybody does but we need to remember its limits. With computers it’s a bit like with the guitarists in a student Christian Union meeting or a youth worship meeting – the best guitar is the one that knows its place and doesn’t chime in when not needed, and the best guitarist in the church is the one who knows when to stop playing and give primacy to the voice. Computers are best when we reserve their use for the bits they do best. You could have your source word list or grammar book open in the computer, for example, no problem with that. Especially when so many good language books and audio files, often out of print in paper versions and replaced with more dumbed-down versions, can be found being file-shared on pdfs.
8. The explanation of the grammatical models and the practising of basic sentence types goes like any other system. The gold list is not a course book it is an approach to the course book. In fact you don’t only need the goldlist method for languages, I’m sure it also helps with history, geography, case law for those studying law, and latin names of things for scientists and doctors. There are many possible uses for goldlisting other than languages, but languages is the place where the dividends it pays are the most clearly evident.
My system differs in how you approach the learning of the vocabulary, which is 80% of learning a language if you consider that the irregularities of grammar can and should be linked as I say to the specific words they refer to.
9. After writing out the vocab set of 25, and reading it through, a process which should take 20 minutes, you break for at least ten. You did not try to learn those 25 words, you just enjoyed writing them out in a nice book with a nice pen slowly and in pleasant comfortable surroundings. you do nothing more with them. If after ten minutes, you would like to go on to the next session, then you turn the page of the vocab book, go to the top left of that double page and do the next 25 numbered words. Then read them out aloud, and then take another break. You are enjoying the language, not cramming it.
10. Don’t do more than about 10 such sessions a day. If you get anywhere near that, make sure they are spaced out with other things going on between them.
11. After no less than 2 weeks and no more than 2 months, go back to the headwords. No less than 2 weeks because the short term memory effect has passed, so anything you still remember is already learned to the long-twrm memory, and you will not deceive yourself. No more than 2 months in order to keep up a certain tempo. This should be a relaxed process, but there should be a limit to stop the laziness that is in human nature from making it ground to a halt. By 2 weeks a really enthusiastic learner may have already put all 2,500 words in their headlist but not have memorised them, resulting in words being repeated by accident, but that is really of no importance in this process.
12. What you then do with the words in the vocab book headlist that are more than 14 days old, but less than 60 days old is that you “distil” them. And this is what I call a “distillation”: Hermann Ebbinghaus’ experiments and the knowledge about the sampling habit of the long-term memory means that some of these words will already have been learned, despite the fact (actually because of the fact, but this is of course counter-intuitive) that all you did was try to enjoy them, not memorise them. In fact the prediction is that up to 30% of the words will be retained. You are looking to distil out the “hard to learn” expressions and obtain a concentrated, whisky-like list of distilled words that are an absolute bugger for you to learn (by which time you will, of course, actally have learned them, because they will have gone through this distilation process ten times with two weeks’ break in between each time). I call that the “gold list”. On the way to the gold list you will use up the first hard back book and a thinner second one.
If you intend learning, say three or four languages to fluency (over 10,000 words) then you’ll need three or four first books per language (with the head list and the first three distillations) I call these the bronze books or the bronze lists. Then you will find that as the 4th time you distil there are only about a quarter of the words left that you started with, you only need one second level book, or “silver” book, as I call it, per language. And likewise when you come to the final distillations in the gold book, you’ll find you only need one gold book for several languages to fluency, as by those higher level distillations there is less than 10% of what was in the first head list in the bronze books.
13. The first “distillation” therefore takes the first 25 words from the top left hand side of your A4 hard-back writing book and you pick from them 70% of the words which you least remembered, and write them again on the right hand side. You can test yourself by covering over the English, but that is not the best way. The best is to say “I know that I must now discard 8 of these 25 words which are on the top of the left page and write 17 of them on the top of the right page. Which do I think I have remembered best? These you ignore, and list 1-17 the least remembered of 1-25 from the headlist. If you cannot bring yourself to drop out a full eight words, then instead in one or two places you can conjoin words to make a phrase, and then learn them together in the system from then on. When writing the words of the first distillation, you take it nice and slow and keep to all the princliples of the writing of the headlist, namely easy, confortable work, not more than 20 minutes work at once, and read the side aloud when you are finished.
14. The act of discarding words from the distillation by the way is the final stimulus to learning them, by the way. Psychologists have discovered that, just as in physics for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, for every conscious action there is a subconscious reaction. Note that we tend to lose and spend time looking for things which we intended to keep and often put in a special hiding place, but we rarely forget the things that we have thrown away or given away. We don’t usually think we still have them and look around for them. So the very conscious act of discarding tricks the subconscious memory, namely the long-term memory, into being sure it jolly well has got those discarded bits. So if in doubt, discard rather than merge, when distilling.
15. Again, you do nothing with the words of the first distillation for a period of at least two weeks (this is why you always date when you do the distillations also) and not more than two months (same reasons as given above) and then, when that time comes, you go back to the first distillations on the top of the right side page, and make from them the second distillation on the bottom of the right hand page. From those 17 words you will be looking at keeping 12 and discarding or merging 5. Again, first plan and ask yourself “which 5 of these seventeen words did I remember best?” and put a cross next to them, don’t write them out again. It is a game with by our brain, an exploration of how our own memory worked – in some ways a discovery of ourselves and can be very interesting as an exercise in its own right – actually it is a lot less boring than cramming the vocab for a Callan lesson. Some users of the system have found it an interesting voyage of self discovery – why did they find this word so easy to remember and some other word harder? And for each learner it would be different, which means that group learning of languages is intrinsically wasteful of time as each person in the group has their own individual things they remembered automatically. The only common thing is that for each person, if they had allowed their long-term memory to function not just the short-term, it would be in the order of 30%, as Ebbinghaus found.
16. It will come as no surprise when I mention that you put the third distillation on the left side under the head list at the bottom, and that it has the best remembered 9 words of the 12 on the bottom right, and that you need to leave between the two a space of no less than 14 and no more than 60 days.
17. A person can structure this so that they are working on the later parts of their headlist while bringing the early parts already into the second or third distillation, or do the whole of the headlist, then the whole of the first distillation, etc. That depends on the learner, their time available, and the number of words they plan to cover in their language learning. For really big projects, learners will be working on different distillation levels for the earlier and later parts of their vocab stock. As long as all the above rules are kept, this won’t matter at all.
18. The head list and three distillations will cover the full space available on the ‘bronze” excercise book, and so after that you take a fresh book, the silver book, for distillation number 4, etc. Now distillation number 4 will have numbers 1-25 of that distillation on the top left hand corner of the first page but they will be taken from the first 36 of the third distillation which was the toughest to remember of the first 48 of the second distillation which was the toughest to remember of the first 68 of the first distillation which was the toughest to remember of the first 100 of the head list and therefore will be taken from the first four double pages of your old book. The gold list system in full f/x, used here on basic Spanish. This illustration shows a mature vocab book with the head list and the first three distillations finished.
19. So the second book (‘silver’) will only need to be a quarter of the thickness of the first one (‘bronze’) or there will be one silver book while there are three or four bronze books, getting your headlist up past 16,000 words, which is a degree level knowledge, if you want, and will be worked through on the same principles as the first one, but in a quarter of the time. Always taking 20 minutes and taking your time and sticking to the same principles throughout.
20. The second vocab book then takes you to the seventh distillation. That would be enough for most people, but if you want to take it further then you probably don’t need a book for the last bit, as the 2500 words in the headlist have become 150 words identified in this process as the toughest to rmember words. by this time you already know them better than most people anyway, but of out of interest you wanted to continue than in little time engaged you could keep going on and distill this away to nothing. If you get to the seventh distillation you cannot be less than three and a half months from the beginning of learning even if you learned it to the max, as two weeks should be rested in between, or the short-term memory will deceive you.
21. Because you are in for the long haul with the long-term memory system, use the fact that you have numbered the words to motivate yourself. You will know that you are 40% through your target of 2500 words when you have 40 pages of headwords. As the number of repetitions on average that are needed in order to learn the words to the end is 3.3 (some are learned after one but some will only be learned on the tenth reiteration or ‘distillation’) then we know that having 40 percent of one’s head list in place is equivalent to 13 percent of the whole work. Use these numbers and statistics to motivate yourself, and note that even a small learning session can represent a small but irreversible advance on the road to learning the language. The s/t memory method makes huge advances at the beginning which are forgotten and the learner goes backwards, despairs, and drops out of class. The l/t method means that you are only ever going forwards, so the method is a more effective use of time, and much more motivating once the student understands memory in language learning and understands what is going on.
22. Need to activate – language learners using the long term memory will obtain a large passive knowledge of the language. They will quickly move towards being able to read newspapers and novels in the language. But they may have difficulty and be discouraged when placed in a situation where they have to “activate” their knowledge and start talking. They will feel tongue tied, and not be able to find words that, when someone tells them, they know they knew. The activation of a language learned well in my method by means of immersion in the environment of the language takes a maximum of three days. In this time, the person who has spend the hours with his vocab book doing what I suggested above, and doing grammatical exercises, suddenly starts speaking the language with fluency, and the experience of this “activating” can be very exhilirating, actually. The person who thinks that they will learn by immersion and have not put the hours in beforehand will not have this, and will learn to the short-term memory, and forget it all on his return out of the milieu, and not achieve the results of the learner to l/t memory, who is able to reactivate his language every time he goes into the milieu for a few days, for the rest of his life. He appears to be someone who has learned thousands of words in a few days – a claim which not even the boldest short term system would make – but of course he knows them, he is only bringing them “to the front of his mind”, which is a different matter to putting them there in the first place. Some people, witnessing the remarkable effect of immersion on activating the language ability of the long-term memory optimising student, and not giving full credit to the work this student did in his own time beforehand, think that the immersion method is a great way to “learn languages”. So you get people trying to combine Callan and immersion, then doing more Callan and more immersion, and then more of the same, and never getting off the ground with it. One Callan victim I knew had done the callan-immersion mix three years running, and when her boss came from England the first thing she said was “would Meester like the cup off tea?” and we’re talking about an otherwise educated person whose knowledge of her mother tongue is nothing short of eloquent in both speech and in writing.
Any questions? Please contact me, but questions are MOST appreciated from those who have seen the available videos which are all here in the same “goldlist methodogy” section here on www.huliganov.tv and still have queries about things I may have overlooked to talk about so far.
Also your feedback is appreciated. The more people come back and tell me that they had success with the method the more I am motivated to keep sharing it on and developing it. Also please tell your friends about it, and anyone who thinks they cannot learn a foreign language, like that was somehow more difficult than learning his or her own.
Teachers – consider teaching this method to your students so as not to waste their time – they will thank you. Spend lesson time showing how it works and working on their lists with them until they get the hang of it. You will not only have liberated them for the learning of the language you were teaching them, but also put a tool in their hand which they can use throughout life to learn many languages.