Advantages and disadvantages of the different learning methods

Yesterday I was reflecting my learning style. Up to now, I had always thought of myself as a fairly theoretical and old-fashioned learner… Now, I realized that even though I was doing grammar exercises like declensions mostly for Russian, I could not get one of them right. For Korean I am using LivingLanguage, but when it comes to listening on LingQ it’s all a blur, I can only make out certain words (and most of the time I do not remember their meaning, just that I have heard them somewhere before). I also tried to write down some Russian words from videos and podcasts on paper, with the result that the words are on the paper ;). The first day or so, I managed to read through the list before watching or listening to new content, now it’s just sitting somewhere on my desk…
I always liked flash cards, and when I had paper flash cards I manage to fairly quickly remember a word, and put it in the second compartment, but once I review this bunch again, the words jump back to status 1 - forgotten, just as easily…

So I started to question my every (learning) move…
Many learners recommend writing out texts, and even though I tried this in the past, it not only seems pretty time consuming and a waste of resources but also inefficient, as one does not do that at the University.

Which brings me to listening and reading in comparison to textbooks…
Advantages of listening and reading lie in the vast majority of possibilities and choices. If you are intrigued by the content, you will likely stick to it, and you can learn the words that matter to you. However, it might be months before you come back to a word, in case they are not the most common ones like connectors… It doesn’t really matter if you understand each and every notion of the material, as it is highly unlikely that you need to know the content, and at the very least you can learn something new in addition to your language. If you think about it, just like me you will probably know someone who attended a class, and cannot even understand the most basic content in the language… so do you think this is efficient?

Advantages of textbook learning are, that you then at least know the content from the book, and some grammar. But is it really desirable to learn just a couple of words, and speak those out grammatically correct? My Russian textbook let me decline the word for grey cloth, not very appealing to me, as I will never buy clothes in Russia, or even be able to visit Russia for that matter… Even though the vocabulary is fairly limited in textbooks, you will not always repeat the words you learn, so you will probably not remember all of them, and the vocabulary not only seems random, but also very unusable for most situations. And as I mentioned before, the grammatical correctness only extends to the things you learned, but if you try to apply grammar to unknown words, you will most certainly get lost. The only real advantage of textbooks is, that they are very contained and prevent decision fatigue…

As a child, you won’t start learning with a grammar, but rather with authentic and spoken language… However, I am still unsure how I will ever manage to understand and learn words, when they are within a blur of unknown content and sounds…I can look up words again and again, but I will still only remember what I already knew before (which in the case of Russian and Korean isn’t much)…

What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of textbooks in comparison to listening and reading?


It seems that your issue with forgetting already learned words can be resolved with spaced-repetition. See here:

I have to use Anki. Otherwise, it does not stick. But I also read and listen a lot recently, especially for passive vocabulary, which is more important for me. One can get away with somewhat limited active vocabulary, but you need to know what people say to you.

Textbooks vary and some might have less-needed vocabulary. I do take academic courses, because it does not cost me anything, and it certainly helps a lot. Our textbook was OK, and I could easily load the vocabulary to Anki, which is crucial for me. Also, I prefer to learn the basic grammar. I don’t worry about all details, or if I remember everything, but I need to know the basics. The main rule of remembering is to understand what you are trying to remember. In languages, the grammar answers the question “why?”. So, in that sense, I “understand” it. See here as well:

BTW, I don’t use supermemo, because I use Anki.

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I agree that textbook learning is just too slow; you need to listen to authentic and spoken language.

"how I will ever manage to understand and learn words, when they are within a blur of unknown content and sounds…? "

You need to listen to the audio while reading the text in a book which contains a parallel translation (L1 on one page, L2 on the facing page).

So you have sound, L2 text and L1 meaning all simultaneously coming at you.

For further discussion, look up the LR Reading Method, e.g. on HTLAL.

When I started learning Portuguese, I thought I was at a disadvantage because besides LingQ, there are very few resources for learners. People tend towards Spanish instead and so there are plently of things for them. However, now I see it as an advantage because it forced me to go straight to the native level things. I do three main thing to learn…Read, Listen & Read, only Listen. So I read native level books with the help of LingQ. I found a website that has tons of free Portuguese books and I upload those into LingQ. I also watch Brazilian TV and videos with the auto generated subtitles on youtube or the ‘frozen’ subtitles on SlingTV. Then I do listening only…I listen to news talk radio online. On the weekends I hang out with native speaker friends.
Relaxation is the most important thing to maintain. If your tense, you won’t learn. if you stay relaxed and enjoy what your doing, your brain will absorb certain parts language when its ready.


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