Saturday 23 June 2012

Progress Update 1

As I've been going through the third Harry Potter book, I've been experimenting with how I go about reading it as a parallel text. I've got a lot of free time over the next few weeks and intend to make good use it and am using a slightly different approach. I am now just reading through it sentence-by-sentence first looking at a Norwegian sentence to see if I understand it all and if not, I look to the English and then back to the Norwegian until I can understand it. I then simply continue this without going back over a page or chapter.

This is allowing me to cover more ground and allows me to get more engrossed with the story. I am sacrificing listening to audio at this stage but thankfully as I have visited Norway every year since I was a baby, I've heard enough Norwegian to be able to read Norwegian and get the right pronunciation the vast majority of the time. Once my reading comprehension becomes very good unaided, I can go back and shadow material along with the audiobook.

Today I covered 54 pages and, though I have not done this quantitatively my recognition of vocabulary has increased a lot today. I'm starting to notice a lot of words coming up again and again and I'm starting to get a lot of random Norwegian "noise" mentally when doing other things. People who have used the Listening-Reading method have also reported this and it is probably to be expected when doing this relatively intensively. I am understanding more and more sentences without needing to make much reference to the English translation.

Will see if I can put in a good number of hours tomorrow. I certainly find it more enjoyable by not repeating anything and considering I have five books worth of material that I enjoy and in the one idiolect, I don't think I'm missing much by not repeating pages and chapters.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

A Photo of my Reading Layout

As requested by "keke_eo" over at LingQ, here is a picture of how I lay things out.

Simply slide the covering books slowly downward as you read and you'll be able to easily keep your place, keep the books open and have the freedom to take your hands away at any time. I recommend you do this at a high table as this will save you from having to bend your back too much.

I also have a tip for preventing damage to your books. Assuming you are reading a language in which you read from left to right, when you begin a book you should start off with the left half of the open book being very thin and the right half being very thick, or vice versa for a language like Japanese.

This means that the weight of the covering book is pretty much entirely being supported by one half of the book which you intend to read. If you put another similar sized "support book" under the thin half of the book you are reading, the weight of the covering book is evenly distributed and puts less strain at the point where the page joins the spine. (If you look at the book on the right of the picture, you will see the red "support book" sticking out a little.)

Doing this will help prevent the pages from coming away from the spine. By the time you are midway into reading your book however, you don't have to do this anymore. When the other half of your book starts to become quite thin though, place a book under what has now become the thin half to again reduce pressure at the spine.

Anyway, I'll be updating again soon within the next couple of days about my progress in reading this Harry Potter book.

Friday 15 June 2012

Similar Reading Methods

I came across this blog post about learning through reading novels that I think anyone interested in this type of approach should check out.

It is best to try a number of different approaches when it comes to using the likes of novels for input and find what fits best with you. The bulk of my blog will be about the particular methodology I use which will no doubt evolve the more I learn the language and hopefully I can eventually distill this into some sort of rough guide through beginning to more advanced stages of reading that could be of use for some people.

Considering I am emigrating to Norway in August, there is no way that I am not going to continue this until I am fluent. I will also post a little about other methods I try out as a supplement to this extensive exposure.

The most important thing I think though, is finding a way of getting immersed in native media in a way which is enjoyable, relaxing, and that you are constantly learning. I'm not going to say you should ditch courses or not use textbooks, they can certainly be useful but at some point as a language learner you will come in contact with native media. I am hoping that for some who find the idea of approaching native media intimidating, this blog will help give some ideas for tackling native media and hopefully enjoy the process.

If anyone has anything to add about different methods of input focused learning, please put in a comment with a link to an article, blog post etc. and I'll eventually make a post with links to a collection of resources. A collection of resources for learning to produce output would also be useful. I'll set about researching relevant resources but again, please leave a comment for any suggestions.

Thanks for reading.

The Method I Use

I'd like to make an outline of how I go about reading a novel in Norwegian along with an accompanying translation in English.

For some languages you can buy bilingual books. Unfortunately they are not particularly numerous, often consist of a number of short stories, and are usually based on older rather than contemporary works. For other languages there seems to be little if any bilingual content. Thankfully you don't need to be at the mercy of what little bilingual content is out there and can make it for yourself.

You can find some parallel texts online which are usually in pdf or word document file types but finding these can be tricky and so far I haven't found any for Norwegian aside from one short story.

It is possible to take text files of a book and its translation and make your own parallel text as described in the following links, but I can show you a pretty simple method of reading using two paper books. Making Parallel Texts Pt. 1   Making Parallel Texts Pt. 2

Thankfully, it is entirely possible to comfortably read a paper book with its translation and not have to perform a juggling act.

First lay out your book and its translation on a table. Then, choose another two medium sized, preferably hardback books, and place them horizontally across the open books you want to read; spines facing upward. Your "covering books" can now act as a means of both holding each book open and act as place markers. As you read, the spine of your covering books can underline the particular line you are reading, and all you need do is slowly move the covering books downwards as you look between your book and the translation.

At first, I'd read a sentence in English then jump over to the same sentence in Norwegian and try to make sense of it, see if I can identify the meanings of certain words but without too much analysis. I'd then move to the next sentence in English and then look at the Norwegian and keep moving on, not worrying much about the literal meanings of some sentences but thinking more of their essential translation. Once I'd covered a page, I'd read the whole page in Norwegian and see how much I'd understand and then move to the next page and break it down on a sentence by sentence basis again until I'd covered that page and would re-read that whole page again without consulting the English. I would do this process until I had finished the chapter and would then read the whole chapter and see how much I could understand while listening to the audiobook in Norwegian.

It's after at this point I would get out my dictionary and note down only some interesting words and phrases with their translations in a notebook to look over later. Common words would come up again and again so it's not really necessary to note these. They will get absorbed anyway. After a few chapters I'd begin to notice certain words and phrases cropping up again and again and their meanings would start to be reinforced.

The usefulness in this method lies in allowing you to read at length without tiring yourself too much. I found doing this for a couple of hours or more at a time quite easy and enjoyed the process of noticing my understanding steadily increase. I found that if I didn't stress over the details and spent more time covering as much material as possible I got more benefit than looking up every word. Some words I wouldn't quite get but the more I read, the more words and phrases I'd pick up and the easier the process would become.

I started off with the novel "Naiv.Super." by Erlend Loe which is written in a rather simple and endearing style but now I am a couple of chapters into the third Harry Potter book which has been wonderfully translated by Torstein Bugge Høverstad. He has also translated the "His Dark Materials" trilogy by Philip Pullman, and look forward to reading his translations of that too. I should note that I don't have the first two Harry Potter books in Norwegian but have them all from the third book onwards.

Using this method with a series of books by one writer seems like it could be very effective as each author writes in their own style and will use certain vocabulary and turns of phrase pretty often across their books. This consistency across new material means it will be easier to absorb the language.

I hope this post will prove useful to anyone wanting a way of getting into making sense of native materials. If you are doing active study through a class or textbook, then this should help reinforce what you are learning and be an enjoyable means of spending time with the language.


Welcome to my blog.

I'll be using this to document my ongoing experience of learning Norwegian, primarily through reading books along with their translation. Like many people, I find most textbooks very boring and don't find they help create a positive association with learning a language which can be very useful in strengthening motivation to spend a lot of time learning.

I've found that there are many language learners online who take a more immersive approach, focused on being exposed to "Comprehensible Input". This can take the form of initially relatively simple examples of the target language which are made comprehensible, getting a lot of exposure to such content, and then progressing to more difficult content. In the process of doing this, you acquire a sense for the language subconsciously which gets strengthened the more you are exposed to the language.

From time to time you can leaf through textbooks and read explicit grammar instruction which becomes easier to understand and remember due to the amount of exposure you've already had with the language. It becomes easier to relate to and can help reinforce whatever instinctive sense for the language you have gained through exposure. At the beginning you can go through a "silent period" where you only start to speak after a certain amount of familiarity with the language has been gained. This somewhat mirrors what a baby goes through in learning their native language though the process can be dramatically sped up for adults.

For many people it seems this approach is more comfortable, enjoyable, and manageable than starting off with textbooks and then trying to move on to native media. There are also different input-based approaches you can try. On the language learning site "LingQ" you have access to and the ability to import texts in a variety of languages, and can use online dictionaries to look up each word in a text and then save these words in a personal database. Any new words in a text are highlighted in blue but once saved will appear as yellow and if a word you've saved crops up in a new text, you need only move your mouse over the word for the translation to pop up. After a while you can change the status of the word as your familiarity with it increases until it is "known". This approach is essentially "intensive reading" where you pick apart a text before moving to another one, starting off with relatively easy texts and preferably ones you find interesting. Slowly you move on to more and more difficult texts as your familiarity with the language and vocabulary increase.

There is also the Listening-Reading method, a.k.a. L-R, which I won't describe here but provide links at the bottom to descriptions of the technique. It has worked very well for some.

I'll be focusing on reading through novels in Norwegian with the English translation at hand and not spend too much time analyzing words or phrases but try to keep pressing on and bathe myself in the language. I'll be noting down some words and phrases for future reference but not all as I will no doubt keep coming across them and through continuous exposure will internalize them.

I'll write a post shortly detailing my current technique and hope it will be a useful thing for other people to try.

Here are some potential links of interest for anyone wondering about input-based learning.

Wiki article on the "Input Hypothesis": Input Hypothesis

LingQ Website: LingQ  (free access to available content though a subscription is required in order to save more than 100 terms or "LingQs".)

Learning With Texts: LWT (a great free program which provides the same functionality as LingQ offline but you have to import all the content yourself.)

The YouTube channel of Steve Kaufmann, a founder of LingQ who has produced a lot of videos about language learning focused on input: Steve Kaufmann's YouTube

Steve Kaufmann's blog: The Linguist

Brief description of the L-R method: L-R Method

A massive thread discussing the L-R method: L-R Thread