Numbers can be difficult - idea to help you improve

I’ve studied four languages over the last few years and one common bugbear for me has been comprehending numbers when they are spoken mid-sentence, within a larger context. By numbers, I generally mean bigger numbers, dates, times etc. They (for me anyway) are tricky little things - if you don’t get them immediately it’s too late, as you just haven’t got the time to unravel the meaning, or you lose the flow of the piece. I quite like listening to news reports and not to get a date or a number (of people etc. in the hundreds or thousands) can be quite annoying, as you immediately lose a lot of the context.

I had an Italian tutor some years ago and, to help me with this he made me up some tape recordings of 2-3 minutes each, in which he spoke rapid-fire random numbers within a certain range. I listened to these and wrote down the numbers as a kind of dictation exercise.

The ranges he used were:-

  1. numbers between 1 and 20
  2. numbers between 1 and 100
  3. numbers between 1 and 1000

We didn’t get round to larger numbers, dates and times etc. But I have to say the method worked a treat and a few minutes a day spent on these exercises worked wonders after just a few weeks.

I’d be interested in others’ views on the subject of numbers and whether it would be worthwhile creating a special content category in the library of each language for this type of exercise.

I appreciate this is slightly anti-LingQ, as it smacks of drilling. However, I have to say it worked very well for me (in Italian) and “cracking” numbers is quite difficult to do just from normal content alone, as they come up somewhat sporadically. I believe special exercises like these would speed up this process significantly.

This can be a good idea and I have nothing against members creating this kind of content. Whether people would listen to this, whether it would help or not, I have no idea. Numbers are hard, and I never worry about it. I know they are hard wired in our own language and they will slowly come around. I find that trying to nail down things like numbers, colours, parts of the body, what to say at a restaurant, noun cases, verb endings, etc…is like nailing jelly to the wall. I occasionally review these things with no illusions that I will learn them, go back to reading and listening, and wait for them to stick.

But to each his/her own.