This somewhat continues from my last post, but I wanted to give this its own room to breathe. As I’ve said before, i’ve experimented with and research various language acquisition methods with varying results. For me, the main issue I have is my stress-based associations to what i’m learning. Is it fun? Am I understanding? Or am I stressed and feeling like i’m running uphill with 100 pounds on my back? Based on how I viewed myself previously as a student, I’ve identified some very negative views I had on myself in terms of my general learning, as such certain approaches feel quite stressful, which sap motivation.
I also noticed that most people who speak several languages seem to have a generally upbeat and balanced dispotion as it relates to what they are trying to achieve. So what this showed me after nearly going bananas through over-studying, too much self-pressure and a few other things, is to engineer the feeling of Victory. Let’s call this the Victory Protocol.
The Victory Protocol
I remember the first time I used the Pimsleur CDs (waaay before I completely changed my opinions on its effectiveness). I bought a sample for 7 bucks and within 2 minutes I could say “Nihongo ga wakarimasu ka?” (do you understand Japanese?) and i felt elated. That was not my first introduction to an audio system, It was my first introduction to the feeling of a speedy sense of victory relative to learning languages. After finishing the first 30 minute lesson, I felt two things:
1. It was possible to learn Japanese.
2. It was possible to feel confident learning a new language in a short space of time.
Number 2 is the most important factor, and is the reason why studying French for me thus far has been “smooth” because using the Michel Thomas method, I felt “victory” listening to the first few lessons. Not only that, the more I spoke, the more confident and victorious I felt in my pursuits. My ability to construct sentences, form my own thoughts and so on in a short space of time, gave me a glimpse into the future of where I could be. This proved to me that having hundreds or thousands of small victories will all add up to future fluent language comprehension.
For self-study, this means for me: one must consistently create frequent situations that engineer a sense of victory as you work in acquiring the language.
Now i’m not saying to create canned situations and fool yourself into thinking you are progressing. I mean create an atmosphere where you are winning in certain areas most of the time.
So right now, I am experiencing “Victory” consistently in using the Michel Thomas CDs because I feel like i’m getting somewhere, I’m correct 98% of the time when I speak and I don’t feel “slow” or what have you.
I want to reproduce this feeling for reading as well. What i was initially trying to figure out how to read without feeling very stressed. Luckily, I found a blog post which talked about intensive reading, and later talked about extensive reading. I’ve already researched extensive reading before, (with Japanese) but found it a little stressful (at the time). But now, with what I know, a basic goal for early reading is to:
ensure that you have 98% comprehension of each page you read.
Now, if you are brand new to a language how do you do this? Well, even though I don’t like it, the answer is A: Children’s books, or B :any media that introduces the information in small, palatable pieces, like SRS (Spaced repetition systems).
Now, I used to have a problem with A because I was dreading having to read a million children’s books with repetitive stories. But if you dive into a novel, or simple newspaper articles in your target language too early it can be quite difficult and a slap in the face. You need to feel Victory, and consistently. To avoid feeling too low too soon, I need a proper structure.
The structure of early victory
This varies from language to language naturally, but here is what I am thinking for French, since i’m focusing on that right now. I’m moving pretty fast in the speaking department, but I realize my pace with reading with be initially staggered (nothing wrong with that). To be more expedient, I need to create a set of high-volume victories that stick to the main tenets of comprehensible input. Meaning, working within the 98% comprehension median of each page rule that introduces grammar and limited vocabulary.
I am dreading watching “Dora the Explorer” in French or kid’s cartoons that are so simple they might drive my adult mind crazy, but I am willing to have a fixed toleration period focused on the acquisition of certain skills.
Toleration period for children’s material – This depends on your personality, but say I was to read 100 children’s books in 2 weeks, with the goal of 98% comprehension of each page of each book, what would happen is that, I would be consistently understanding almost everything I am reading, which will give me the sense of Victory. The key thing I will have to do is ignore the simplicity of what I am reading, but understand that I am getting a VERY solid understanding of key grammar points, common vocabulary and more importantly, a solid understanding of what I am reading. But because tools allow us to move much faster (SRS for memorization particulary) we can lower this “child period” possibly by exposure to a high number of words early on (I haven’t tested this yet)
So i’d say the “child period” will allow me to maintain my 98% comprehension goal of the target material. I will mix this with “intensive reading” where I try to read something a step up. In other words, if I can easily read a kids book, then I am ready to move on to something more complex.
So I guess the Part One is:
1. High volume of children’s reading material with very simple sentences that can be 98-100% understood.
sources – online stories, youtube videos, comics, French books at local library.
2. Mix this with short burts of intermediate reading to learn new vocab and solidify grammar (possibly this can be done with intermediate SRS sentences)
I’m outlining this “structure” personally for reading, reading, reading. I’ve also done a lot of research on different “entry” methods, but right now i’m focusing on the feeling that keeps me going as a top priority. SRSing sometimes makes me feel stressed, especially if the deck I am using isn’t configured well. So its great having a deck with 5000 French sentences, but if I am not able to read French aloud properly, I might have an issue with the deck.
Goals: 98-100% comprehension of everything I have read across all the types of stories. Then this will allow me to transition into intermediate reading.
extras: I haven’t started my French deck yet, but I have a “1003” useful French words deck that I might possibly start, because about 65% of all printed French material uses the same words. When I figure out my daily method of operation which will be soon, I will put that in a separate post.
I will update this once I finish the Tolerance phase. But the idea is to gain solid grammatical reading ability through very simple stories, and then start to slowly read through books (possibly young adult stuff like Narnia or Harry Potter).