Friday, April 27, 2012

Embarrassed by your vocab?

bread, cat, dress, house, finger, March, quiet, to taste

There's a bunch of words from a core vocabulary that you would think one might know in a Second Language (L2). But when I try and summon up suitable words in Greek or Latin, I would struggle with half that list.

This morning I was reading, this article, and it spurred me on a little. One of my convictions is that translation is not enough, you need to learn to function mono-lingually in your target language. And, especially when it comes to Greek and Latin, there are a host of basic conversational and everyday expressions and constructions and vocabulary that I don't know, and even to which I've never been exposed. So the conversational language documents are one thing I'm working on to correct this (slowly, slowly), but I've also taken the lead of the writer of that first article. I've set up a spreadsheet which lists firstly a core of 450 words or so, and I'm trying to fill it in across 6 languages (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Gaelic, Mongol, German). I'm then loading them into Anki with pictures instead of glosses. Once I get through the first 450 words, I have the most common 2000 English words, which while not necessarily specific-language useful, I think is still a good way to deal with general words, rather than literary words.

A great test was just running down the list and filling in from memory suitable L2 words.

I'm doing 3-4 sessions on each language a week, for about half an hour. For some this involves reading texts, others it involves listening to audio as well. My Greek and Latin reading is pretty solid at the moment, but I am very bad at active Greek. Latin lives in the recesses of my mind, but needs summoning. Gaelic is going well, thanks to the skype course I've been involved in. Mongolian is also coming along well, thanks to 3hrs of class each workday. And German is pottering along, thanks to duolingo.com.



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