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Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category

Graded and Guided Readers

April 20, 2011 2 comments

One of the most frustrating things (primarily because of how time consuming it is) I experience as both a teacher and a learner is finding bodies of text that are somewhat related and contain crossover words and phrases.  Back in the days when I would occasionally get roped into teaching private English lessons I would buy a bunch of those Penguin Readers (out of my own pocket of course) and force my students to choose whichever one looked interesting to them and read it on the days between lessons.  Then they’d have to come back and tell me what it was about.  If their English was still on the low end I would tell them what it was about in different words over and over again while asking them questions to keep them involved and confirm that they were actually trying to read.   While the majority of these students faded out after a while,  a few of them actually put in some effort and improved dramatically in a short time.  It was just a matter of gradually letting them build up the vocabulary and perhaps more importantly confidence to talk about something.  When they didn’t know a word, I’d just tell them to use one from their language and then I’d note down what words they didn’t know so I could pummel the learner with them over and over in future lessons if they were important for telling the particular story.  If they started to get bored or frustrated with a book we’d start a new one,  but we would always come back to the previous one.  I’d spend a few minutes during each lesson asking them to tell me the story of The Murders in the Rue Morgue or whatever stories we had already read.  This significantly reinforced the whole process because I didn’t give them the opportunity to completely forget anything.  Many people do not have the slightest amount of discipline for doing flashcards so I would just sit and do the cards with them.  This allows me to to have them read it or turn the screen away so I can turn a card into a production card (where the learner is producing something as opposed to just reading/understanding) on the spot to check if they truly know it or are just able to recognize it.  Admittedly this is a pricey way to do flashcards (as I’m being paid for my time), but people tend to work harder when people are watching them.  I can’t stress enough how well this stuff works.  This is of course affected by how much effort the student and the teacher put into it.

It’s be pretty awesome if Penguin translated some of these books into other languages so more people could benefit.  Me for example.

The other day I read 3 headlines in the Thai wiki that were perfect for this post.  Enjoy.

เกิดเหตุมือปืนบุกยิงในห้างสรรพสินค้าแห่งหนึ่งในอัลเฟน อาน เดน ริจน์ประเทศเนเธอร์แลนด์ ทำให้มีผู้เสียชีวิตหกคน รวมทั้งผู้ก่อการ
  • เกิดเหตุ – [เกิด เห็ด] to happen; to occur
  • มือปืน – gunman; gunslinger (lit. hand+ gun)
  • ห้างสรรพสินค้า [ห้าง สัพ สิน ค้า]- mall; shopping center (usually just use ห้าง)
  • แห่ง – classifier for places
  • ทำให้ – to cause
  • มีผู้เสียชีวิต – there were deaths #  (lit – had people die)
  • เสียชีวิต – to die
  • รวมทั้ง – including
  • ผู้ก่อการ – perpatrator; instigator (lit. person build การ)

มีผู้เสียชีวิตอย่างน้อย 11 คน และได้รับบาดเจ็บอีกอย่างน้อย 20 คน หลังมีผู้บุกยิงเด็กในโรงเรียนแห่งหนึ่งในรีโอเดจาเนโร บราซิล

  • อย่างน้อย – at least
  • บาดเจ็บ – injured
  • หลัง – after
  • บุก attack
  • ยิง shoot

เกิดเหตุระเบิดรถไฟฟ้าใต้ดินในมินสก์ ประเทศเบลารุส ซึ่งทำให้มีผู้เสียชีวิตอย่างน้อย 12 คน และได้รับบาดเจ็บอีกอย่างน้อย 200 คน

ระเบิด – bomb; explosion
รถไฟฟ้า – train (lit. vehicle+electric)
ใต้ดิน – underground
รถไฟฟ้าใต้ดิน – sub
ซึ่ง – which; that
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Your Favorite Dic.

February 6, 2011 3 comments

These days, the only dictionary I use for Thai is http://dict.longdo.com/.  It is very possible that there are better dictionaries out there.  I know that there are a few others that access the same information as the above site, but I haven’t spent any time looking because there hasn’t been any need.  If anyone knows of better ones, please let me know.

Here are the main reasons why I’ve been using this one –

  1. No transliteration + it usually has the Thai phonetic spelling for words with multiple or odd pronunciations.
  2. Search results for definitions at the top are in Thai.  Often times the Thai def will give you a much better idea how to use the word as opposed to the Eng def.
  3. Many of the words have usage examples.
  4. Many words also have entries in Japanese and Chinese (as well as French and German) that occasionally appear in the results.

As an example I’ll use อึมครึม which I SRS’d fairly recently and haven’t seen again since.

อึมครึม [ADJ] nondescript, Example: บรรยากาศทางการเมืองในรอบสัปดาห์ที่ผ่านมามีลักษณะอึมครึม โดยพร้อมที่จะมีความเปลี่ยนแปลงทั้งในระบบและนอกระบบได้ตลอดเวลา, Thai definition: ภาวะนิ่งงัน ยังไม่ปรากฏเหตุการณ์ชัดเจน

The Way of the Blog

September 4, 2010 1 comment

I often feel that the greatest weakness of the blog format is that old content tends to be forgotten and needs to be repeated. Regular readers rarely access old materials for whatever reason.  I am not much different.  On sites in my rss feeds, there are a handful of posts that contain information that I want to go back to and I will usually email them to myself, but aside from that I only go back to most sites when there is new content to read.  While I hope to continue creating good content, I feel that I’m nearly always asked the same questions.  People learning their first 2nd language tend to ask the same questions.  They don’t really know what to do and simply telling them isn’t enough for them to believe it and find the discipline to actually do it.  I completely understand this as I often feel that I spread myself far too thin by always dabbling in a too many languages and could always be spending more time than I actually do.  So in order to streamline the process for newer readers, I’m going to provide links below to older posts that should anticipate and hopefully answer some of those questions that come up while you are climbing the language mountain.

Sometimes people seem to want me to tell them exactly what to do.  I then expend a lot of time and energy creating routines and flashcards for them, but then they don’t do it.  While this can be frustrating, it doesn’t really matter as long as you are doing something.  Chances are there will always be ways to improve on what you are currently doing so it doesn’t hurt to experiment.  If one way up the mountain seems impassable, go back down and find another way.  Master the basics, don’t fly through them.  Don’t just learn them.  Absorb them, conquer them.  Be able to run circles around the bottom of the mountain with ease before trying to make it all the way to the top.  This isn’t a race.

Don’t let anyone discourage you.  They will try.  This is normal as people tend to be pretty lame and rarely actually know what they are talking about.

Basic Tips/Concepts

The Rules of the Game

Be a Cheater

Consistency

Don’t Stop

Remembering Stuff

Spaced Repetition System

Stages of Learning

Thai Tips

Rhythm

De-Farang-ify

Reading Stuff

How to Start

News

SRS Tweakage

June 11, 2010 3 comments

While I was in Korea I started doing something a little bit different and it seems to be working really well.  First, I take a piece of audio.  Usually from a short conversation from a podcast or whatever.  Than I put the whole clip on the front of an Anki card.  I put the text on the other side.  No English, so it’s stuff I kinda know, but might not catch because I’ve never really heard anybody say it before.  Then I break the clip into a bunch of pieces.  Usually an entire sentence, sometimes more if the context calls for it.  I make cards for all the individual pieces.  Then I take all the little audio clips and I throw them on my ipod and I loop it.  If a sentence pops up that I don’t really understand, I make a note to pay more attention to the card next time I see it.  This almost never happens though.  I kinda get the gist of it when making all the audio clips and typing up the conversation.  Then the repeated audio makes sure I can’t forget it.  After the audio has been floating around in my head for a while – the sentences just pop up in my head and I can say them.

LTfaWG – Why study with me?

May 20, 2010 2 comments

I realize that while I have created a number of resources here, much of it isn’t very useful for a beginner that doesn’t know where to begin.  So I’m offering myself to you, dear readers.

Reading is ez!  It takes 1-2 weeks to go through the alphabet and all the tone rules, however, it will take a bit of regular practice before you are able to fully master/internalize everything.   From there we start reading the Wimpy kid books. We start easy with captions and go back and forth with that while drilling essential phrases until you can handle longer passages.  Then I keep feeding you useful language bits while you keep reading and working out the class/tone rules until you no longer need to think about them. I supply you with flashcards with audio for everything so you can review it.

Once you are ready for longer passages, we jump around in the Wimpy Kid books with you reading while I create flashcards for the more useful phrases and tell you what things mean. After you have a decent vocab and have begun to figure out how the language works, you can go off on your own or you can cut back your time spent with me and we can go through the whole book together.

It works slightly better in person because the internet in Thailand isn’t what I would call reliable, but via the magic of skype or google voice/vid chat distance really isn’t much of an obstacle.

Key Points/Strategies in my Method –

  • No Textbooks
  • No Phonetics/Transliteration
  • Only Authentic Material that is Interesting (Wimpy Kid books!)
  • SRS Flashcards (So you can’t forget)
  • No Word Lists
  • Fun Super-Useful Phrases (ie – 100 sentence project)
  • No Pressure
  • More Bang  for your Baht

Get Your Spike On

April 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Some genius has created something that has loads of potential.

Basically, I am completely sold on the fact that audio SRS cards are soooo much more effective than reading alone. The problem has been getting audio for the sentences you want. Our native speaker friends don’t always want to sit around recording loads of sentences for us. I usually cut up things using Audacity and have the text on the back of the card.

Anyways, Rhinospike is a site where users can submit text to be recorded and others in the community record it. I’ve put up the 2 pages form the Wimpy Kid book that I typed up and broke down in the hopes that I’d get a good reading of it. I was a bit disappointed with the results, but that doesn’t stop me from realizing the potential of this tool. As the recordings are made by error-prone humans, quality will vary, but it is still worth looking into.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately about people wanting to study with me. I am not in CM at the moment. I have come to Korea for 6 weeks to improve my Korean. It’s slow going, but I think a video of my busted Korean will be happening very soon.

Blizzards and Breakdowns

February 11, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m in the US at the moment just in time for the snowstorm.  My first time back in many years.

Anyways, I did a couple more breakdowns for some of the more recent vids.  As before, if there is a request for a particular vid I can always do that first.

I’d say nearly everything in these 2 vids is worth SRS-ing.

http://learnthaifromawhiteguy.com/2009/09/10/i-cant-remember-transcript/

http://learnthaifromawhiteguy.com/2009/09/18/what’d-you-do-today-transcript/