Less boredom

Skype recordings revisited

I mentioned that I recorded the conversation I had with a German conversation partner about a week ago. An unintended consequence of the way I recorded it was that my voice wasn’t in the recording. What I had then was my partner’s voice, speaking mostly German — sometimes switching to English to explain things to me — with long pauses in the middle (was I really that long-winded?). I took this and used Audacity to cut out the silences and the English portions as much as I could. The result, from the original hour-long recording, were six, three-minute-long monologues in German.

I’ve listened to a few of them pretty much every day for the past week or so. But what am I actually learning? The recordings are full of repetitions, interruptions, and English words. There are points where they jump incoherently from one topic to another. Unsurprisingly, it’s like listening to a one-sided phone conversation: distracting, but not always interesting.

Part of learning to study independently has been learning to gauge my own motivation to do certain things. Forcing myself to study something I don’t want to study saps my energy a lot faster than letting myself learn what I’m most interested in or curious about. This sounds like common sense, but when I first started studying I didn’t think this way. One reason I made so little progress in Chinese and Japanese for such a long time is that I kept trying to force myself to study boring material or study in boring ways.

I’ve noticed over the past week that my motivation to listen to these Skype recordings I’ve made has been wearing out along with their novelty.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re useless. Maybe I’m just using them for the wrong thing. Maybe they’re better suited to passive listening, playing in the background. It could also turn out that they’re more interesting if I leave my side of the conversation intact.

German acquisition routine 3.0

I’ve been adjusting my German studying even more recently. This is what my routine has become these past few days:

Warm up ~ 30 minutes

Bilingual programs by Deutsche Welle (Harry, Mission Berlin) while eating breakfast.

Anki maintenance ~ 20 minutes

Create MCD-style Anki cards from the transcript of whatever Slow German episode I’m working on (see below).

Semi-active listening ~ 30 minutes

Listen to the Slow German episodes that I’m recently working on while doing other things like washing dishes, folding clothes, or stretching — anything to keep my mind from wandering, since I’ve found this listening alone isn’t enough to hold my attention. If I feel like it, I might try to mirror the German, but I don’t force myself to pay close attention the whole time. I do this with Sesame Street sometimes too. My Cookie Monster impression is gradually getting more convincing.

Anki listening support ~ 20 minutes

Do the reviews of MCD-style Anki cards I’ve made from the Slow German transcripts. This is just an experiment, but it seems like doing these helps the Slow German get more firmly rooted in my brain.

Anki 10,000 sentences ~ 30 minutes

The goal is to learn grammar through inference and to improve direct comprehension (i.e. comprehension that doesn’t require translation to English first). I try to visualize the meaning in each sentence without resorting to mental translation to English, and only compare to the English if I’m not sure or don’t understand something. I find this gradually getting easier with more repetition, especially as my brain starts to discover that it takes less effort to skip the translation step.

Shadowing Slow German dialogue ~ 10 minutes

I started out trying to shadow both sides of the conversation (the natural speed version) and found that I was actually getting exhausted and running out of breath. Then I had the brilliant idea of just shadowing one side, so that’s what I’ve been doing. I shadow while walking or pacing on the balcony, scaring my neighbors and their cats.

Slow German + MCD-style Anki cards

I’ve been deleting all the other cards in my Anki deck and just using it for this purpose. The effect is that over the last few days I’ve actually been doing the Anki reps instead of finding clever ways to avoid them. In other words, these cards are more fun than the other types I’ve tried.

This is how I’ve been making these cards. I take a transcript from Slow German and copy it into Google Translate. Then I open Anki and choose “Add MCD cards” (to add this option to Anki, download the Anki MCD extension). For the front of a card, I put just one sentence in German, and right below it I put its English translation. The translation goes right on the front since the point isn’t to guess the meaning of the sentence, but just to guess a particular word that’s missing. It’s not important if the Google Translate English version isn’t perfect, since it’s just there to give me a hint about the meaning of the missing word.

On the back, I put definitions of particular words I don’t know. If there aren’t any, the back is just blank.

Then for the cloze deletions themselves, I choose somewhere between one and ten words. I don’t yet have a good strategy for which words to choose — so far I’ve just been guessing which words I think will be most useful to know. I tend to choose common words and prepositions, things like sich, gar, ein, der, das, auf, aus, im, gibt, haben, etc. over less common vocabulary words.

I hope this will do two things. First, it will help me learn the sentences in the Slow German episodes more thoroughly, making it easier to shadow them. Second, it will start to give me a sense for how these words are used, and in what situations. I’m less sure about this latter use, especially given that I don’t see how it fits into the language acquisition theory. More later.

German movies

Did I mention I found a site with links to lots of movies dubbed in German? Yes. Unfortunately, the only mirror for Harold and Maude seems to be broken. What other movies are there again?

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