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Implement "continually process information at speed (Imron)"

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While waiting for Imron's "bunch of comments" I would direct you to his older post again and to a post he credits here as inspiration.


Neither of them mentions reviewing bigger pieces but I have a good justification for collecting them: I would collect the listening material for review because it has become my body of "comprehensible input". Yes, normally, it is said to be preferable that this input include manageably small numbers of unknown words, and here is how their presence is assured: After a piece is studied (as this thread and those two posts discuss), during early reviews the "unknown words" will be the words I've forgotten (and relearning those should trump adding more new words, right?). Later, as the material is intelligently review-scheduled, it goes away as quickly as desired.


So, my contribution is this suggestion that a flashcard program can be used as an intelligent review scheduler for bigger pieces.

Minimal implementation: name of lesson on the "front", listen to the lesson elsewhere.

Better: Put audio on the front. Find or write a plugin to autoplay the cards. Set the promotion very small or zero so it can play even when not attending. This setup would provide the same service as realmayo's continuous listening setup but would perform intelligent promotion/demotion. (As Anki's options for promotion/demotion are so flexible.)

Even better: Also write a plugin to autoplay the cards without updating their "last reviewed" date. So, every time the deck is opened the cards would play without "moving". When I am attending, a card would move when I promote/demote it.


And THAT, if you wish, circles back around to the fully manual method (in post #2 of this thread), as there would not be thousands of pieces but a reasonable number of e.g. podcasts kept in play. Pun intended.

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Ok, back from holiday, here are my thoughts :-)


What I mean by continually process information at speed is basically just listening or reading or doing some other active with native material, at or as near to native speed as you can manage.


To do this, you need to be able to process a constant stream of input at a speed that is conducive to performing that activity in an enjoyable manner, and being able to do that for sustained periods of time.


With listening, this means reaching a point where you can understand (most) things as they are said without (much) mental effort because if you slow down at all, you'll miss the next sentence while processing the last sentence and it will all come undone, and if it takes up too much mental effort you'll soon get tired and won't be able to process anything.


With reading, it means reaching a point where you can understand (most) things with confidence and without needing to look things up in a dictionary (even just to check you were right), otherwise the constant stopping and starting will be grating.  You need a modicum of speed (no need to speed read, but ideally you'd be able to read at common speaking speed) otherwise you'll never finish anything in a reasonable time, which will cause a negative feedback loop, and you need the stamina to do it for long periods of time without fatiguing your brain.


Getting to that level takes time, and in order to make it you need to be focusing on the task at hand - which in the above two cases is going to be exposure to native material and using that material as your main source of learning - i.e. you want to be able to read/listen to this material and so that is what you should be spending your focus and energy doing.  Flashcards can help consolidate the things you are learning with this process, but they shouldn't take up the main bulk of your learning time and/or be the major focus of your learning - this includes both revision and maintenance/creation.


Flashcards are misleading in that they feel like work, and make you think you are improving because you can see deck size increasing and you're hitting all your revisions, but they rely on you to mark when you know a word and often the bar for 'knowing' a word in a flashcard revision is significantly lower that the bar of recognising a word instantly in a constant stream of surrounding context.  If you pause for a fraction of a second before remembering the word when flashcarding, you'll probably mark the word as 'known' and move on.  If you pause for a fraction of a second before understanding a word when you are reading or listening then it's going to cause problems.


Building up the mental stamina to understand continually for a prolonged period of time also requires effort and is not things that you can do just by flashcarding isolated words or sentences.  The only way to build up that proficiency is to practice doing it.  Obviously 'just use native content' isn't really applicable to beginners, you probably need a solid intermediate level before it starts to become feasible.


Even then it will always be difficult initially, and so you break it down in to smaller pieces - just like the link querido listed above as my source of inspiration.  Take some native content, break it down in to manageable parts, practice listening/reading until you understand each manageable part, then put the manageable parts together, and repeat the process daily for a period of weeks/months and slowly the manageable parts grow in length, and eventually you reach a point where you can listen to TV/radio/movies and/or read native content.


Flashcards are also unhelpful in that they play to fears about forgetting things you have learnt and they use that fear to keep you on the hamster wheel long after you should have gotten off.  The reality is that it's ok to forget some of the things you have learnt (and in fact you'll do that constantly with flashcards anyway).  As I've mentioned elsewhere, you don't really need to worry about forgetting 'important' words if you are getting regular exposure to native content because either the important words will occur with regular enough frequency that you won't forget them, or they won't appear with enough frequency in which case it's safe to say they are not important at this point in time and so you don't need to worry about them yet.


Regarding tools and techniques you should be looking for anything that doesn't require much effort to use and configure.  You need to be spending time on learning, not in wrangling software, not in splitting audio files and not in preparing to learn.


This is why I prefer Pleco over Anki - flashcard creation and maintenance requires zero effort and takes effectively zero time.  This is why I created Chinese Text Analyser because it simplifies the process of extracting unknown words and in determining if something is at a suitable level.


You should also be looking to avoid accumulating things - just keep getting exposure to new content that interests you.  If it doesn't interest you, put it aside and move on.  Also make sure to pick things at the appropriate level - if it's too difficult, put it aside for now and find something easier until your level improves.


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Just one thought, which would be to downplay the importance of native-speaker materials. There's not much material that isn't for native speakers when it comes to extensive reading or listening. So naturally, extensive reading will be magazines, news articles, novels, for native speakers. Similarly extensive listening materials can only really be radio and TV that are produced for native speakers. If you want to read a lot or listen a lot, you're bound to be using material for native speakers.


But for intensive work, I have found textbooks, readers and listening comprehension exercises very useful. I don't care that they're not for native speakers. Okay, I may have picked the low-hanging fruit in terms of grammar and vocab long ago, but material for students make sure that you scoop up all the medium-hanging stuff too, which means you progress faster than otherwise.


I don't agree that just because the goal is to read native-speaker material, that non-native material is not useful. For instance, my goal would be to read prose of significantly greater complexity than, say, a Yu Hua novel. But I don't think there's anything wrong with me starting another Yu Hua novel at the moment.


Flashcards are just another form of training. In real usage, you don't get to see a word or character in isolation. And in real usage, you don't get to repeat and repeat a text or a sentence until you understand it. Train with whatever takes your fancy (I'm a recent convert to goldlisting for remembering vocab) and make sure you're spending lots of time with real-world exposure in the form of reading and listening to lots of (inevitably native-speaker) material.

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I will consider your advice carefully. Thank you.


I won't start at beginner (Cantonese) again but jump back to where I was a year or so ago.

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But for intensive work, I have found textbooks, readers and listening comprehension exercises very useful.

I agree with this.  My advice was mostly for once you have gone through textbooks and readers.


I think graded readers are an excellent stepping stone to reading native content.  Likewise, some of the news article sites/apps popping up nowadays like the chairmans bao and du chinese.

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This post is not a reply to the above posts but is a continuation of the thread.


In another thread I described my simple flashcarding setup (just a Chinese sentence or more on the front with a [...] for the missing word, and just the Hanzi and Romanization on the back), and I didn't give my rationale for not testing for and not showing a lot of other things, in particular for not showing the definition on the back (and this is working fine for me). Then I was thinking that the same rationale I use for not showing the definition would work for not showing the Romanization either. But what does that mean? It means that the last and only thing I must flashcard is writing the Hanzi. And why must I still flashcard for that? Because that's the only thing that the audio itself is not telling me. I conclude that **I really am learning from the audio and I really am using it, rather than flashcarding, for retention** - as I've been saying for years I've wanted to do. Can I say it again?: If I understand the language then the audio is already telling me what it is saying and how to say it; although there are things to remember there's nothing to flashcard. The converse (or whatever) is that if I must dissect it and flashcard it as we usually do then I don't understand it and therefore (drum roll please) I should stop and not go any further until I understand it, not break it into bits and continue forward collecting thousands more bits.  


Now there is just one refinement:

I have two sources of audio. One is the recording provided by my teacher. The other is what I hear in my mind when I read the front of these flashcards derived from that audio (and I don't think there's anything seriously wrong with that as I've always done it in my native language too). And I admit that I've been hearing this second source a lot more than the first. But of course this is suboptimal because (although my teacher says she understands everything I say) it's slower and non-native!

So the last refinement is obvious and very simple: continue putting the text in CTA as an aid to finding and looking up the unknown words (because it *is* necessary to look up unknown words a few times) and to generate the flashcards, and then generate the flashcards, but WAIT before doing the flashcards (denying myself that second source of audio), and instead listen to the recording provided by my teacher as many times as necessary to understand everything easily. While doing that I can use the text as an aid to looking up words (but my own experience says don't bother reading along). 


So my earth-shattering realization - which will sound like a silly trifle to you - is that the text can be thought of as (merely) an index into the audio, as an aid to finding my place when I need to look up a word, as something I can grab (to cut and paste) to look up the word. It's the audio that I'm studying directly, and I think this is now clear in my mind.


What I said above in the thread is still good: Anki can be seen as a review scheduler for keeping in touch with whole lessons, whole books, etc.

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