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More answers to questions on the Goldlist method


Hangeul placement and the Romanization of Kore...

Hangeul in a Nutsheul.

Loyal viewer Kahnkanter (but unfortunately not yet subscriber, hint hint) in Youtube has had to wait nearly two weeks for the answer to his last questions. Sorry about that but it is that time of year for accountants!
Here goes, and they are excellent questions, as ever:

Hi again 🙂
As you may remember I asked about the goldlist method for learning Korean. I am at a very casual start, about to do D1 for a batch of 200 initial words.

OK, not a very rapid pace, but there’s no rules about that. When you get the taste for it I think you will speed up naturally.

I still have some questions, and I would appreciate your insights on these:

1. What exactly happens in activation – just be in that zone where you need to speak? What about for languages no longer spoken, or when you cannot go to a place for 3 days + to activate? Is it enough just to hear snippets of real-life dialogue day by day? Does it count enough if you skype with someone of that target language for 3 hours a day for a week?

I think that it may differ from person to person, but it will either be having with you a guest with whom you can only speak that language and who wants to be spending time with you at the rate of like 6 hours or more a day. The realisation that you’re needing the language will tell your brain that it needs to bring that set of knowledge to the fore. I’m not the person to say how that works in terms of synapses and electrical pathways and all that brain surgeon stuff, I don’t even make pronouncements on what parts of the brain are involved in language learning as I see it as of little relevance to me – the fact is it’s a phenomenon that many people have observed and you can try it yourself and see it.

The easiest of course is to go there, but if you go to the country and you are accompanied by people who will not let you spend about 6 hours a day with the language, then you may need longer to activate or in extreme cases you might not activate at all.

If as you say you cannot go there, either because the language is dead or because the place is not open politically, then either you need to find a community or if there is none then you have to fall back on reading literature. A good book in the language could do it, if you spent 6 hours a day reading it for a few days. When I was reading War and Peace in Russian I had a dream in which I was looking for Pierre Bezukhov and speaking Russian. The question is, though, is there any actual point at all in being activated in a language which is dead or beyond the pale? You only really need passive knowledge in that case.

2. I have noticed a password only section to your website for the future goldlist book – I would like to know what is required to be involved with reading the draft or pre-order copy of the book? It would be an honour to be involved in any way, and if I may have your email I can attach some files for you to browse, such as charts or graphics that may help with delivering the book’s message.

I’d be delighted to have your collaboration, and I’ll get back to you when the book is that far on. As it is your questions here are already helping.

3. My current approach is (hopefully) still congruent to what you’ve prescribed – interested, not rushed, uses writing, doesn’t force through with this or that technique. I am starting with learning maybe 1000 words in different categories – people, actions, feelings, and then do some more grammar-focussed headlists. I’m doing this as I’m not too sure how to integrate grammar early on and not feel rushed (within the 20 minutes) and to stay interested.

You’re still talking about Korean and I don’t know enough Korean to even know at which point it could become prejudicial to leave grammar out, but as the language is from what I understand not an inflected language, you should be OK learning a thousand words without focussing much on grammar. You need to get the pronunciation right, that seems tougher in Korean than in Japanese. If I were going to learn Korean I would have done the Pimsleur before ever putting pen to paper on the Goldlist. Not that Pimsleur is brilliant, but there’s no Michel Thomas in it as far as I know – and a pity that is.

As an update, I have learnt the sounds of Hangeul and with words in Hangeul on the left side, I put the English and the Chinese (which I’m capable of) on the right column. I only put the chinese in if it’s a direct word loaned from the Chinese language. E.g. Gwa Bu is 寡婦widow. I had wondered if that was too much work in one go, but I guess I’ll see! The moment I read a chinese-loan word in Korean I can make good guesses on what it’s referring to.

Thank you 🙂 I look forward to distilling my first batch of words and hearing from you!

If you know Chinese characters and speak Chinese well, then it will not be too much at once. It sounds like a good plan. However, in due course you might want to know which character goes with which word in Korean hanza even if they are not loanwords. It depends on how far you plan to take Korean.

All the best, and please keep me posted!

A radical, “gen(i)us” new idea for learning Chinese characters


Chimpanzee head sketch

Monkey with character?

My idea stems from the fact that I always had a facility for learning the Linnean binomials of animals and plants which as you probably know are made up of a genus name, bearing a capital initial letter and then a species name. Sometimes you get a third part, which is subspecies.

For example, chimpanzees and bonobos share the genus Pan, bonobos being Pan paniscus and there are no subspecies, whereas common chimps are Pan troglodytes and there are four subspecies, P.t.troglogytes, P.t.schweinfurthii (North Zaire) and two others.

So my idea was to give each Chinese character a linnaean binomial as a way to drive it home. It might be a way to help people latch mentally onto some of the harder characters. I don’t have ZH font installed on the machine I’m writing on now, so I will just describe it in terms of the “rules” for doing it.

The “genus” name would show the radical of the character, but in Latin. So if you have the hand radical in a character, it would be in the genus “Manus“.  “拍” to beat or clap has the hand radical and the white component, so its Linnean binomial would be Manus albus, the common beat or clap.

You could consider the link ups of two characters in one word as like symbiotic relationships of two living things, its frequency in linguistic use could be acquainted with its rarity or endangeredness, whether it’s in the list also for Korean and Japanese could be the zoogeography, and even the stress could determine what kind of an organism it is. The first tone could be for herbivores, the second for carnivores, as they have to jump up and pounce on often larger prey, the fourth for insectivores, pouncing on the lower prey, and third tone for omnivores.

It just may be a way to learn some of them. I don’t think it’s any crazier than Drs Goodman, Heisig or Hoenig, all of whom are pretty much in the mainstream, so please don’t unfollow or call for the white van just yet!

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