The Goldlist Method

Has anyone ever tried using the so-callled ‘goldlist’ method for learning vocabulary?

The method was first invented by an English guy living in Poland (I believe his name is David James.) He seems to be a little strange - making some of his Youtube videos in a faux “Russian” accent, etc. But he is also undoubtedly a very accomplished linguist (fluent in Polish, Russian and German.)

As a rule I’m against learning words in any kind of lists, because they are divorced from natural context. But this method does seem to work pretty well for some people - as can be seen from the review linked to above.

UPDATE Mr James himself explains the method here:

I tried David’s Goldlist method a few years ago with Russian and found it definitely more effective (and less time consuming) than using flashcards (I had used ANKI before). Compared to flashcards, the Goldlist method has the advantage that you simply kick out (“distill”) all words which you already know. So you don’t have to review them again after 4 weeks, 4 month or a year. Nevertheless I stopped using this method at some point. (I learned Russian at that time mostly through interactions with people, movies and literature, what made it inconvenient to use Goldlist).

However, I will use the Goldlist method again, if I start a new language.

It’s seems that it works well for him and others, and I have started such lists a few times, but could just never keep going with them long enough to see if they worked. And since the actual learning of the words occurs between writing them in the first places, and the series of later reviews, it just seems like more of a record of words you do or don’t know : /
I figure I either know the word or a don’t… keeping up with the lists didn’t seem worth the time vs. amount learned.

I see that David James actually claims fluency in no fewer than 20 languages!

He really seems to be quite an interesting guy. Many of his Youtube videos are made “in character” as a phoney Russian called Viktor Huliganov! I can’t understand why he does this? Perhaps he is simply living proof that human genius and human madness are very close together!?

(But then again, it probably takes one madman to know another one…:-0)

He impersonates not just the Russian Huliganov, but many persons from different countries (Count von Weytzentrenner; Pierre Delauney, Peter Paczek, Thomas P Jameson III and so on). Some of this videos are funny, some aren’t. I wouldn’t call it madness. If I remember right he recorded his first Huliganov-video, because he was playing with his new webcam. The youtube viewers liked his performance, so he continued. You can watch the impersonations-playlist here:

By the way: He doesn’t speak German and Russian just fluent, he speaks both practically without any accent. And he also doesn’t claim fluency in 20 languages. He wrote once: “I speak 5 languages fluently, and then there are another 15 which I speak from fairly comfortably right down to a couple of sentences only.”

Thanks for the playlist, Sebastian. :wink:

(I’m thinking of trying out this goldlist method myself.)

I really like the idea of this method, before discovering LingQ I did something similar. Here are my thoughts: not having context really sucked on some words, and I spent a lot of effort memorizing a “word” without the slightest idea on how to use it. However, I could learn a crap ton of other words. Its a simple fact that some words work better as isolated “word list or flashcard” words that others. If I do start up a “gold list” I will limit it to concrete objects which need no context for understanding: such as ball, drain spout, french tickler, computer, couch, etc. and verbs which express a clear action, such as kick, eat, etc. Verbs with a hundred different meanings will be left to being absorbed through reading and listening.

This method sounds like it could be integrated with LingQ study somehow, anybody got any ideas?

Also, you think this would work with phrases?

I seem to remeber Huliganov does use it with set phrases and such. Sometimes with grammatcal notes too (gender, case triggering etc).

anybody got any ideas?

Perhaps a combination of vocabulary tags - one tag per date - and the built-in SRS - press level 4 twice and select 15 days.

Also, you think this would work with phrases?

The guy in the first video uses it especially for phrases.

I think I’ll stick to the built in SRS system here. I’ve been a heavy SRS user before for many years and had great success. This time I’m trying to adopt the don’t worry about forgetting approach and get my “reviews” through extensive reading. Less vocab and more reading.

I’m not really sure how this is much more beneficial or time-saving than just using an SRS. Perhaps I need to examine it more closely.

For me, I love writing and believe strongly that writing words down, especially ones in different scripts, helps me to learn them. Another thing is that I do so much work on the computer that SRS work is just a pain in the backside. More typing, copying and pasting, deleting, editing…man, enough! hehe

I’m going to give this method a go for Yiddish and Navajo. We’ll see how well it works. If I persevere, I think it will work very well. Plus, I can’t do either of those languages with LingQ anyway, so I’ve got to try something. :smiley:

If I have understood the ‘goldlist’ method correctly, it differs from SRS (or let’s say, “normal SRS”) in two ways: firstly it is meant to be geared entirely towards the long term memory; secondly it eliminates review of any information which really has entered long term memory - thus using time more efficiently.

Apparently there is a lot of serious research to show that a person’s long term memory naturally assimilates about 30% from any set of information, while around 70% of the information will eventually get forgotten - even if it was all put into the short term memory. Apparently you have to be able to remember something after a period of 14 days (at least) has passed by without any review of the material, in order to be sure that has entered long term memory. But after this there is no further need to review the information.

This is, at any rate, my understanding of the method. On the face of it, it does have a slight feel of the “too good to be true”…

As an experiment I may try learning words from some randomly picked language that I don’t know (Czech, Croatian, or something) and see whether it really IS possible to learn many thousands of words in a few months.

(It would certainly be a massive breakthrough for me if it did work!)

I’m not so worried about learning thousands of words in a few months, although that would be really cool if I did! I’m just going to take it easy by doing 2 or 3 Yiddish lists of 25 words and 1 Navajo list per day. Not massive gains but for me, it’s a nice way to work on 2 of my less active languages. I’ll raise the stakes a little after a month and try doing 4 Yiddish and 2 Navajo.

Good luck to all those trying it out! :slight_smile:

I do think I’ll give this a shot, I’m just not sure in which language I’ll start it with. One thing to keep in mind with this method, you give up a bit of control to your long term memory over which words you learn first. As in, you have 25 words you want to learn, it seems that your memory gets to choose which ones you learn now, and which ones you learn a month from now…

I have been using the Goldlist method since last December, and it seems indeed that on average I remember 30% of the words in each list. I have only done the first distillation so far, but it seems to work indeed, and it is faster than an SRS protocol.

I got two frequency lists for German and French, and I have written down about 1500 words in each language.

In theory, you could learn, say, 30 words each day very easily, if you have the time to do five lists of 20 words (which is what I did in the beginning). As you start to do the distillations, it gets a little time-consuming to do new lists AND the distillations, so I’m currently not doing any new lists, but I intend to start all over as soon as I have more time.

Rank, I’d add to your description, which sounds right to me from the descriptions I’ve now read, that writing out longhand the words that are to be learned is vital to this technique. Flashcards and electronic flashcards don’t seem to be part of it.

And note that only 1/3 of the words reviewed will be learned in a 2 week period, and then only 1/3 of those in the next period of two weeks, and so on, so that it is not a lightning-fast method.

Thanks for mentioning this method. I’d never heard of it before.

Ernie, your are correct, you only learn 30% of the words you write down, but the theory is that your long term memory guarantees that without effort you WILL remember 30% of the words you write down. So the trick is to write down a crap ton of words. 25 a day for 30 days is 750 words. 30% of that is 225 words you will learn with little effort. The next month you will learn another 220 words from the head lists plus 30% of the remaining first month’s remaining 525 words. So the second month you will learn 383 words with little effort. Using the same pattern, with the second distillation the third month you will learn about 500 words with little effort, and so on. It may not be “lightening fast”, but learning over 1000 words in three months without any deliberate memorization is an attractive proposition.

Of course, if you do multiple head lists a day and shorten the distillation cycle from 1 month to two weeks, the number of words you learn will increase much quicker than that (providing that, as Uncle Davey suggests, you take a 10 minute break every 20 minutes to give your long term memory time to rest and congeal what it has learned.)

That’s exactly what attracted me the most to this method. It gets quite exciting when you start doing calculations. If one could, as I said, write down 100 words a day for the first two weeks, that would be 420 words learned before you even started the distillations.

But real life often gets in the way, and two or three lists a day is much more feasible, and I personally don’t get enough time to do the distillations and new lists everyday, so you really have to balance it out.

A side note on David James, Sebastian mentioned that he speaks Russian practically without a foreign accent. Do you think the fact that he takes on this “persona” of Viktor Huliganov helps his pronunciation? I have known it to be popular for some language teachers to insist that their students take on new personas as that language version of themselves. A form of method acting perhaps?