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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!

Questions from Kahnkanter about activation and Hangeul.


The word Han-geul in Han-geul. Hangeul is read...

This is how you write Hangeul in Hangeul!

As mentioned in the last post, I also received a couple of questions from another YouTube viewer this week, and this time it was channel name Kahnkanter.

Hi David,

Thank you for sharing your method. I would like more information on two things:

1. Activation. How does that happen? You have mentioned that it takes a maximum of 3 days, and uses the passive long term storage of vocabulary in that language. But how does one ‘activate’? By simply being surrounded by that language?!

 

When I talk about activation taking three days, I am referring to the case where someone learns a language in a country where it isn’t spoken, and has the problem that not everything they learn is on the tip of their tongue. I explain to people that actually that is not a problem. As long as they know something passively (ie, they immediately remember and know the meaning of the foreign word when it is presented to them, would notice if it were misspelled or mispronounced or used in a wrong context, etc) then the fact that they are having trouble at five minutes notice to be able to put themselves into the language they learn well enough to have their whole vocabulary at the tip of their tongue is normal, is part of the economy of the mind and is there to actually enable us to learn and know more without having a consiousness overload.

People talk about the back of one’s mind and the front of one’s mind, but those are old ways of talking about it and don’t necessarily equate at all to where the physical synapses are. I never worried too much about left brain, right brain frontal lobes, medulla oblongata or all of that as I never had, and still don’t have, any plans to perform brain surgery on anyone. So when I talk about these things I am talking about them in a push-button-user’s way. Don’t even ask me what the physical mechanisms are.

I know it takes three days because I have travelled a lot and spoken to many other linguists who say the same thing. It just means being in an environment where you can sense that you need all that knowledge and it all comes to the fore pretty quickly. Three days probably evolved as you can get by in extremis even without water for three days, but after that things start to get rather nasty. You need all your linguistic mental resources to be completely focussed on a given situation within three days, but you don’t always need them immediately. 

Now I think I understand right that you are living in Korea but you are not Korean. You want to learn Korean and you are either in Korea now or about to go there. In this case you will not experience becoming activated until you leave Korea for more than three days and become unused to learning the language. Especially if you have to think into using a different language that also is foreign to you in that period. When that happens, wait till you go back and see how at first you have to think for a bit before finding some words, but you don’t have that any more after three days, even for words which didn’t come up in conversation or your reading in those first three days back.

In short, if you learn in the country, you won’t experience the strange but fascinating “miracle” of three day activation that people learning at their desks away from the country can get. You’ll be activising as you go because you live there. You’ll just get a mini version of that if you leave and don’t speak Korean for some weeks before going back.

2. I am hoping to do this for the Korean language. It has its own script and so I wanted to know whether I put a word in its own characters (most of which I can read) plus its romanization on the one line, then continue for another 24?

Thanks!

 

I think that as far as using the Hangeul / Hangul is concerned, it’s not an unduly difficult thing and so I recommend starting to rely on it and not romanise as soon as you can manage it. I would not necessary be saying the same if you wanted to learn Korean kanji, but since not every Korean even knows Korean kanji (it drifts on and off the syllabus in the education system there, sometimes it skips generations, like an embarrassing mental illness)

In the time before using the Goldlist I would have just played about with Hangeul by writing out all the ways they transliterate Western personal names and place names, then go on to recognising, (if you want to be ultra rational, in population order) all the names of cities as they look in hangul. This would be like a pre-Goldlist just getting used to the script, and enjoying its uniqueness, cleverness and exotic feel.

Then for the Goldlist proper I would put everything from the first thousand words in Hangeul and romanisation in the head list, but only use the hangul in the D1 distillation unless there are any you didn’t remember in which case you could keep those Romanisations on the line by way of exception. That’s what I would do.

Hope this helps, and please let us know.

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