Signs of improvement while learning

I’m a big believer in the natural methods of learning (which of course LingQ is a part of), but in the early stages it can be difficult to identify definite signs of improvement, unlike taking tests, which give you a sense of progress, albeit false.
I wondered if anyone has had moments where you’ve actually felt “Oh, that’s good… I never used to be able to do that!”

I’ve noticed recently while reading that if you read fairly quickly, you build up some momentum and you somehow ‘get it’, even though, consciously, if you focus word-by-word, you can’t recall them.
For me it feels exactly like how I can type fairly quickly, and yet I couldn’t tell you where the letters on the keyboard are if I try to think.

For me this the first unconscious improvement I’ve felt, and I’d be fascinated to know if anyone has felt other such milestones. :slight_smile:

Hi, I find learning about how other people learn very interesting. I have a question. What do you mean when you refer to ‘natural methods’?

@ColinPhilipJohnstone Hi, yes, me too. By ‘natural’ I meant learning by immersion in the natural language, listening and reading etc., as opposed to school-type exercises. It’s probably a very personal thing, but it happens to suit me :slight_smile: My wife, on the other hand, is just starting out with Italian but feels she needs something much more structured than LingQ, at least in the early stages. How about you? I’d like to do German next, but it’s a little too similar to Swedish to do at the same time.

I also find being immersed in the natural language to be a great way to learn. Listening and reading, and specifically listening and reading to the same stuff is the most efficient way to learn vocabulary and to learn to understand a language. This of course might be different for other people. However, I think that it is good also to add in some very unnatural stuff such as flashcards and word lists, especially if it is combined with the natural stuff (i.e. I mostly only study flashcards and word lists from the texts that I am currently listening to).

How did you start Swedish? When I started German, I went to a very intense language school for 4 months and did very little except grammar exercises. I learned a lot in those four months, but mostly because of the sheer intensity of it (2.5 hours a day, 5 days a week) and not because of the efficiency of it. If I had not been to the school, I don’t know if I would have been able to get past the really difficult beginning part of the language.

I just started Chinese (a week ago) and find that starting with LingQ is a bit difficult and I would like a bit of hand holding while I learn some basic stuff. I am about to start using Chinese for Dummies and Assymil (the stuff aimed at German speakers of course, so no English allowed), both of which come with text and audio and might buy a small set of Chinese/German flashcards to help with the basic vocabulary.


I think a feeling of unconscious improvement you described has something to do with natural guessing of meaning which leads to fluent speaking. I have had this feeling with German these days. It is like you understand, but you can answer just in your native language.

@Colin - So if I understand you correctly, you’re learning Chinese via German as your base language? Brave man, I’m not even close to that, but I can imagine that with Chinese, any Latin or Germanic language must feel comfortable in comparison :slight_smile:
I started Swedish 6 months ago on Babbel - I think for the first few weeks, any system is OK as long as you’re putting the hours in to get some base vocabulary, but I’d exhausted Babbel in about 2 months. I like the open-ended nature of systems like Lingq.

@Makacenko - Yes, a kind of ‘guessing’, and I suppose that once you can guess at the speed of speech, we can call it ‘understanding’.
Is this what happens with our native language anyway? When my friend talks to me about golf, I’m unfamiliar with about half the words he’s saying, but much to my annoyance, my brain is guessing and understanding!


@Steve: "I wondered if anyone has had moments where you’ve actually felt “Oh, that’s good… I never used to be able to do that!”

Oh, blimey, yes. When I first had a Russian conversation where I felt I had said what I wanted to say clearly, that felt great. When I read a humourous book in German and actually recognised some word-play, that felt great. When I read my first novel in French, without a dictionary, I never thought I’d be able to do that.

If you want these moments to come regularly, weekly even, I suggest you watch your LingQ stats carefully. I find that, on average, every extra 1000 known words reduces the percentage of unknow words in a text by about 1%. So a book that starts off at 20% unknown works comes down to maybe 12% unknown by the end of the book, the sequel will start in at 17% unknown words and finish up at maybe 10% unknown words by the end of the book, and book 3 in the series may even seem not challenging enough to bother reading.

Great to hear that. I had actually been wondering about how to correlate the stats with a sense of progress. As you said, with a related series of books which will re-use a lot of vocab, the progress will feel accelerated. Lately I’ve been concentrating on current affairs, and conversational chit-chat, which of course is making newspapers easier and easier to read.

On the other hand, I just started reading Doktor Glas by Hjalmar Söderberg from 1905… I did a double-take to conform it was actually in Swedish! It feels like starting from Day 1 again.

As you seem to have tackled a few languages, can I ask you; One of the reasons I’m interested in noticing these milestones is because I hope that when I start my next language I’ll know what signs to look out for, and what progress to expect. At the moment it feels like groping around in the dark, with just the occasional pat-on-the-back that I’m on the right path. Did you find subsequent languages to be easier in this respect?

Language learning is definitely a trainable skill, and after 4 years with LingQ I have a good feel for what works for me and what doesn’t.

BTW one thing that I have just realised works is to import a lot of material, even if you don’t get round to studying it all. When you come across a new word LingQ will find instances of it throughout the LIngQ library and throughout your imports, which gives you an idea of the word’s “range”. So if a word’s used in 2 or 3 different books I’ve imported I’ll put more effort into learning it than if it appears only once in one book.

Keep looking out for those pats on the back. Getting a few each week is really good for your motivation. Just like school really.

Since we are on the theme of signs of improvement, I think with any activity that requires a lot of learning, it is very easy to improve a lot without noticing. Although I could give many examples from my life in general, I have a good one from LingQ. When I started using the system in late December, I usually studied Intermediate 1 texts and found them very difficult. I opened an Intermediate 1 text last night and understood the majority of the audio on the first pass. I now find native material about as difficult as I found Intermediate 1 texts back in December. This entire time, it was never obvious to me that I was making progress.

I was watching some Russian TV show the other day and a presenter made a joke to another one. I didn’t get it for a few seconds and then it suddenly made sense and I burst out laughing. It’s so much harder for me to understand spoken Russian than it is to read it so it feels really good to understand what is said.

Oh and listening to a song in Russian and understanding some lyrics.

Which TV show was it and how did you get access to it?

@btotheb - nice, and I think jokes jokes a really good way to remember unusual words and phrases :slight_smile:

Skyblue, I can’t remember which show it was, it’s not something I watch regularly, but I came across it on youtube. If you’re asking because you want to watch some Russian shows I can give you some links to a couple of good sites .