Not picking up words from context

I built a pretty solid foundation of Spanish vocabulary and grammar (5200 anki cards, 1600 words from frequency dictionary, 625 word list, lots of Lang-8 corrections) before tackling the first Harry Potter book while using an audiobook. I'm several chapters in, but I'm finding that there's a significant number of words that I don't know. In order to keep up with the audiobook, I have to simply string together the words I do know to try to figure out what's going on (reading the chapter summary beforehand helps). I'm not sure if it's helping my Spanish at all. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks.

* Originally posted by Zach.

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  • Hi Zach,
    my personal opinion, which may be different from Gabriel, is that watching movies, reading books, listening to radio, etc. is not very useful when you are starting to study a language.

    This is based on my personal experience and my guesses. I think that in the beginning when you are trying to learn words and grammar, you need to review information very often. However, when you hear a word on an audiobook, that may be the only time you'll ever hear that word and it may never be mentioned again in the entire book. This, to me, is not the most efficient way to learn.

    For me, I would try to find ways to speak and interact with people who speak the language I am trying to learn. This is a better approach because you can control what you want to talk about. This means that you can start a conversation with someone and go through a check-list of vocabulary, grammar and various things which you want to review. You can use the same word multiple times and, most importantly you are actively engaging in language learning. Listening and reading are passive methods of language learning and as such the brain is less inclined to make things "stick" when you are in "passive mode".

    I know reading Harry Potter is appealing as it is a fun thing to do. However, if you want to read, I would recommend reading much simpler children book. As you read, mark all the vocabulary and grammar you don't understand and study it. Then re-read the book multiple times (which should take a lot less time, as children books are usually just 10-30 pages long). This way you'll get to review and you'll get a feel for how those words and grammar are used in the "real world" and you'll get pictures and stories to make that information more memorable to your mind. I know children and baby books may seem boring to an adult, but I still recommend that over reading more complicated text. The latter may be more fun, but, in my opinion it is a much less efficient way to study. Also, children books are often specifically designed to help the reader master a particular aspect of the language.

    Another option is to read comic books in the language you are studying. It is relatively easy to find manga, comic books and graphic novels translated in Spanish. I believe there are even a lot of sources of free mangas online and some of them are in Spanish. The good thing about comic books is that there is fewer text so it wouldn't take long to read the same book several times and you can find comic books that will appeal to a more mature audience.

    Hope this helps!

    * Originally posted by Leo_FF.
  • Audio books can be challenging, especially at first. I've found that they get significantly easier when you work with target language chapter summaries ahead of time, and make sure that you can understand those summaries (looking up words and adding them to your decks as needed) before tackling the chapter itself.

    * Originally posted by Gabriel Wyner.
  • I've had good experience with reading books in my target language. However, some books are tougher than others. First, it helps if it's a book you already know the story of pretty well, so you can follow easier and figure things out from context. Second, I'm not sure I would pick Harry Potter, because as I recall there are alot of odd names and terms that don't really mean anything in any other language. REading in your target language does go slowly at first, but be patient. I would actually argue FOR longer books vs. shorter ones. Why? Because you will get used to that author's style and the vocabulary of that story. Initially, I found a familiar novel easier to follow than a bunch of short stories or articles. Definitely start out with something simple, though. I wouldn't recommend starting with Michael Crichton, for example. Your mileage may vary, of course....

    * Originally posted by vvesper.
  • Speaking from experience having developed a high proficiency in French, I wouldn't get super hung up on the words you don't know. At the beginning, you'll be able to pick up the faintest gist of a new audio text, which is why summaries or working with a familiar book are so useful.

    Give it time and allow for lots of repetition. You'll get lost, a lot. It will come. Never as quickly as we wish it would. :)

    * Originally posted by SoniaS.
  • Hi, Zach! I'm glad you asked this question.
    I am having the same problem. My target language is Albanian.
    I can't seem to find any intelligible materials.

    I have not been able to find any audiobooks. I have found some fiction but it is unreadable for me. I have found one book of poetry in translation but I have to look at the English over and over and then back at the Albanian.

    I have found a few people who will write to me but I am constantly looking up their words either in Google Translate or in a dictionary (Albanian--English).

    I don't know how to apply the fluent forever methodology here.

    Any tips recommended!!

    * Originally posted by Carolyne.
  • Carolyne - my target language is also Albanian, I have had such a hard time finding materials also and trying to build my deck. Do you have any Anki files you would be willing to share to help get started? My husband is Albanian as are my in-laws of course so I could lend some people who would be happy to correspond with you if it helps!


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