Monthly Archives: May 2014

The promised activation article…

Today since I finally have half an hour of free time in peace and quiet, I would like to come back to the very good question posed by Fintan (I won’t say his surname as that would identify him, I’ll leave you guessing which Fintan it is) several weeks ago already (sorry about that), and in particular the second part of his question where he raises the issue of activation and asks what I think about things like “full circle method” by Luca Lampariello.

The first thing I want to say, is far be it from me to detract from what any accomplished polyglot, be that Signor Lampariello (who is a capital fellow on top of being a great polyglot) or any other of the well-known polyglots who do follow some form of activation. I make the assumption that these people know what they’re doing, and that they do what they enjoy and what works for them.

If continually activating during the process of language learning is something that keeps you motivated in which you enjoy doing, then it’s valuable. Anything which keeps you going in the marathon of learning languages, is your friend. Anything which you find demotivating which detracts from the pleasure of doing it, is not your friend.

And in the above I said the most important thing that needed to be said. Having said that, I will now go on to explain the core of my own approach and philosophy with regard to the question of activating language knowledge in the whole course of study. Read the rest of this entry

Is it time for the Roman Catholic Church to repeal the celibacy vow imposed on those who would serve?

While there were traditions of celibacy even from early times in order to embolden ministers of the Gospel in times of tribulation, the requirement for celibacy is from the twelfth century. Churches whose schism with Rome predate that do allow marriage of elders and deacons (the only terms for Church officers which I can justify biblically, since these are the only ones which are defined in the Epistles). The Bible itself requires that a “bishop” (from episkopos or overseer, a synonym with elder or presbyter) must the the husband of one wife and haven proven parenting skills. The new Testament also clearly defines the forbidding of marriage as “a Doctrine of Demons”. So we know where it comes from. The mechanism by which it appeared sensible in the Middle Ages was purely carnal – the coffers of the church were depleting through a widespread disinterestedness in faith in Europe, and money was not available to provide for the widows and orphans of ministers. Aware of the verse that says (1 Tim 5 v 8) “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel” they simply cynically made sure that such claimants would not exist.

This was not the action of spirit-filled Church leaders but of carnal eccesiastical politicians whose effect has always been hard to combat in the Roman Church because of their interpretations of Apostolic succession and Church governance and from where, in the life of a Church, authority derives. These were the key issues of the Reformation which at the time led to bloodshed as they were politically charged. These days and for the last 200 years Catholics and Protestants have been able to discuss these issues in a civilised way, often a way of great love and respect, and still we have differing views. I am ready to say that most protestants are wrong on something – there are so many strands of thought in Protestantism that of course we are all wrong on something probably many things, hopefully mainly secondary things but are right in having a personal relationship with God based on faith in Jesus – but the chances that only one denomination has got the whole of theology right – how high are they? Catholics also therefore need to be able to question where they derive authority.

This celibacy doctrine, which began so unworthily, underscores so many of the sexual scandals and crimes of people who have been ministers in the Roman Catholic church since the twelfth century, right up to today. of course if someone does not have a normal sexual relationship which is considered not sinful they will be at a higher risk of temptation to have a sinful one. It is hard enough, Lord knows, even for those of us who are lawfully married. It is all very well for Brother Francis to apologise for the sexual crimes of church ministers and say that he takes responsibility, but unless something is then done by him to correct it, it will doubtless seem to many to be an empty and bogus acceptance of responsibility.

If on the other hand Brother Francis has the will and ability to right this wrong, this denial of basic human rights to his colleagues in a way Christ never commanded and which indeed is in flagrant disobedience to Apostolic Revelation, then many Christians, Roman or non-Roman, will respect him and it will be a huge step towards enabling more Christian union around the feet of our Saviour

What’s so special about 14 days?

Fintan, a language learning fan, wrote to me the following:

Hi David, I am a language learner and am impressed with your Goldlist system. I want to ask you a question about the Goldlist method if that’s ok. Why did you choose 2 weeks as the minimum period for the first distillation? Was it efficiency/management of growing bronze lists that decided this period of time as I can’t find info on the association between 2 weeks and the end of short term memory? I understand the 20-30% retention by this passed time but I just want to check with you. Also, it occurred to me that one could activate this first 20-30% after only 2 weeks rather than waiting to be finished all distillations. By activating, I mean using a full circle method like Luca Lampariello to translate the known passive sentences back into the target language. I think this does not contradict the long term memory goal as you are only activating known words. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Fintan.

My reply, as ever when someone asks a great question which others could really benefit from;

Can I write the answer as an article on

To which Fintan kindly responds:

Absolutely 🙂 Looking forward to it! Thanks

So here goes…

Now and again in my writings (which anybody could be forgiven for not having read all of), I have spoken a few times about what the significance of the two week fermentation period in Goldlisting is.

However, I don’t think I’ve really said enough about it and so this question is a very useful one for those who would also like to know more about the topic and many readers no doubt will be interested in delving into this particular issue more closely just as Fintan is.

As you know, the Goldlist method is based upon the findings of Ebbinghaus, known as the father of the study of memory as well as the father of clinical psychology. Very little prior to Ebbinghaus’ work had been done on the human mind and memory using the scientific method, namely experimentation and the testing of various theories by performing logical experiments giving tangible evidence which can be repeated by other people. Ebbinghaus was groundbreaking because he did this for the first time in a very imaginative way – and in a way very interesting for polyglots. That is to say he taught himself nonsense words and measured how quickly he would forget them. One weakness about his method was that he used himself as the main subject, being too kind to inflict the rigours of learning nonsense for the pure sake of forgetting them while measuring the rate of doing so on his students.

If you want to know more about this pioneering scientist, a good place to start would be the Wikipedia articles on him and on his theories.

Reading them however you will probably notice that two weeks per se is not mentioned. And neither is the idea of there being a short-term memory which is for conscious and long-term memory which is for unconscious learning. You can look for these concepts in the work of Ebbinghaus in the way that you could look for the term Trinity in the Bible, or indeed the name of God in the book of Esther. These are things which are intrinsic, and go without saying to a degree. It is not possible to understand all the observations of fact without such a theory, and therefore it emerges from the work even if not explicitlt mentioned.

Of course, it is also possible that I’ve read into what Ebbinghaus did more than he ever intended, and if that is the case then of course on the one hand that would put me in a position of being less “scientific” than such methods as Supermemo by Wozniak or Anki which certainly do map onto the forgetting curve in a way which the Goldlist method does not, but for reasons I’m going to come to an moment that actually doesn’t matter.

Let me just grab a picture of the forgetting curve if I can. Bear with me one moment.

Right, here we go. Thanks to for this, which he placed into the public domain.


As you will see, it is not that you remember everything well for two weeks and then get a sudden deterioration. Not according to this, anyway, and not according to the raw data Ebbinghaus made from his experiments with himself.

There are reasons that I will go into a little bit later on in this article that make me think that such phenomenon does exist. However I don’t know of any actual scientific evidence proving the observation is measurably true rather than simply anecdotal but I will give you all the reasons why I think that the two-week cut-off is more than just an arbitrary point in the forgetting curve. That’s coming up below in the article. Read the rest of this entry

Measuring sarcasm

I was asked today in a private message how to measure sarcasm.

The idea of sarcasm is that what a person says in plain text is different to what they actually mean, and certain parts of the audience are supposed to understand it, possibly find a humourous twist in the juxtaposition of what you said and what you meant, while the person or people who is the butt of the sarcasm ideally should remain confused by it and publicly shown up as stupid.

There are two ways of measuring sarcasm in a remark, one is the effectiveness of the sarcasm in doing the above job, while the other measurement refers to the pithiness, as sarcasm is particularly appreciated by connoisseurs if it has a “pithy” quality. The thing is, sarcasm is seen as “the lowest form of wit”, while brevity is called “the soul of wit”, and souls like to rise up, so therefore sarcasm which is both pithy and also very sarcastic sarcasm has forces in it moving up and down at the same time creating internal circulating flows like a storm cloud or a galaxy and draws into itself the energy and attention of the audience. A much-appreciated sarcastic comment then needs to have two measurements, a pithiness score and a score for sarcasm effectiveness.

As explained above, effective sarcasm is all about the intended listeners understanding the hidden meaning or it being lost on them, depending on the intention of the remark issuer (RI). Therefore, the formula for sarcasm effectiveness (FSE) is (n/e)+(u/i)*100%, where n = number of those not understanding the comment from those who were not supposed (by the RI) to understand it, e = number of those who were not supposed to understand it, u = number of those who were supposed to understand it and did understand it and i = number of those who were supposed to understand it.

I hope you understood that.

This is separate to the measure of sarcasm pithiness. An ideally pithy sarcastic remark is supposed to have five words in it. The pithiness score is therefore 5 minus the actual variance from 5 words, plus or minus. So a one word sarcastic remark as well as a nine word answer achieves a pithiness score of 1. This only applies to the final sentence if we are referring to multi-sentence pieces of sarcasm.

Hope that answers your question.

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