What does it mean to you to "know" a word?

What does it mean to “know” a word? Specifically, when do most of you take a word out of your LingQs? Do you require yourself to know it so well that you can spell it and use it in conversation? One can build up a huge list of LingQs one usually recognizes but one can not recall for conversation or writing, that one makes errors in spelling and in pronouncing. If one takes them out of LingQs, one loses the reminders and practice. If one leaves them in, first there are hundreds and then maybe even thousands of words in LingQs. Meanwhile, one’s statistics on “known” words is quite tiny.

Advice from experience on how long you hold out on marking something as known?

I usually put a word into the “known” section if I can read it and know what the word means.

I generally try to use the same definition of Dillio90. If, while I am reading, I come across a blue or yellow word while reading, I will set it to known if I understood it without needing a hint. Of course there are exceptions. I might set a word to known even if I didn’t understand it before looking at the hint if I think I will understand it next time. For example, maybe it’s a word I understand, but I just misread it or the context got me confused. Similarly, I will not set a word to known if I did understand it without a hint if I don’t think I will understand it next time. For example, I might understand a word, but only because I looked up the hint for it 10 minutes earlier.

Anyway, I try to vaguely follow the above guidelines, but the final decision is usually just to go with my gut feeling. I set a word to known if I want to, and leave it unknown if that is what I want. I can always change the word another time.

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Same as Dillio90 and ColinJohnstone. Known Words, blue words and LingQs are (for me) to do with passive reading vocabulary. I don’t worry about not getting “practice” by converting them to known, because (if they come up frequently) they will soon become part of LingQ’ed phrases - and on the whole I never move LingQ’d phrases to known unless they interfere with other phrases. Gradually the page does turn yellow, but yellow with phrases not words.

Same as Colin. It has more to do with my expected recognition in the next instance. Some words that I really know already I choose to leave the yellow training wheels on for a bit longer. Other words I check as known, if I’m sure I’ll understand it well next time it shows up.

Passive knowledge of a word in a specific context is enough. That should be good enough to enable me to guess at the meaning in another context, although at times I will have to go the dictionary again. If I see these words often enough, or hear them often enough, they will become better known, and possible enter my active vocabulary. It is hard to know when that happens, but I do know if I confidently understand a word in a specific context and that is enough for me to move it to known.

It’s interesting that all the answers so far agree that knowing a word is passive, rather than active, and you decide during your reading rather than your listening. Do I understand from this that your main goal is to read the language?

Could I hear from some of you for whom the main goal is to speak the language and understand what is said by others?

I can only speak for myself but this does not mean that my main goal is to read the language. My main goal is to speak and understand.

However the point is that to achieve this you need to acquire a large passive vocabulary. In your native language you understand many many more words than you use, and so this is what we are doing by focusing on reading.

I know from experience that words and phrases gradually trickle through from passive reading vocabulary, through to passive listening vocabulary, and finally reach spoken and written active use. To put it another way, I read a lot in order to speak better later :wink:

My goal is to speak and understand the language fluently, but my use of LingQs is similar to Dillio90. I move the yellow words into known once I recognize and understand the word without looking at the context. I listen to the readings on my MP3, and if I don’t understand a phrase or word, I go back and check the text. Usually my lack of understanding the spoken word has little to do with whether or not I know a specific word or phrase, I just can’t catch it when I hear it.

So, how do you handle the dictation? If you take things out of LingQs, you don’t get practice hearing and writing them.

For me, as a beginner, having to write the word or phrase helps me hear it better. I have a terrible time with long and short vowels because it’s a matter of duration, not the sound itself as it is in English. Dictation sharpens that. Plus I need to write emails in Czech sometimes, and similar words to my eye are often dramatically different to a Czech reader if I omit the hačky and čarky, those “little pepper flakes above the letters” that are so easy to ignore. This must be true in other languages as well.

Living here I have probably learned to recognize [passive] at least 1,000 nouns, because you can not survive if you don’t know your foods, household cleaners, ingredients on packages, road signs, businesses, etc. I have picked up relatively few verbs or idioms. What I can’t do is have a conversation on a topic that interests me, talk to a doctor or pharmacist who only speaks Czech, or write an email about some business matter [active].

Possibly I am coming at this from a somewhat different angle because I live here in Prague. With much help, I worked my way through Čapek’s Insect Play because I wanted to see it in performance. This did not help my speaking one whit. I love Čapek, though – very witty. I can see why he was considered a master of the Czech language. It is impossible to get that sense from translations. It’s a very long way, however, from household cleaners and radishes to reading Čapek on my own, and to speaking to anyone about it in Czech!!

Kitty, I think the reason why the answers focus on passive and not active knowledge of words is that in your question you specifically referred to when we set words to known on LingQ. I can’t speak for the rest of the kids, but that was how I approached answering the question. Reading is not my main goal, but when it comes to using LingQ, I use a reading comprehension based definition of what it means to know a word.

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I visited Prague recently. Lovely city.

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Well sounds like you are making progress doing what you do, so I wouldn’t worry too much if we have different methods!

I also live in the country where I am speaking the language (Ecuador, Spanish). It helps that Spanish is wonderfully phonetic which means if you can read it, you can have a pretty good go at saying it. I guess I have just learnt from experience that reading directly helps my listening and speaking. My memory is very visual so if I have seen a word on the page many times (or even better, a phrase) my ear will pick it out in a conversation. And the more I read it and hear it, the more likely it is to pop out of my mouth. And that is how it works. It is quite magical and requires very little effort or thought.

And as I said before, LingQ’d words are really just the first stage of LingQ. I don’t care if they disappear and become “known”. The most important stage is LingQ’ing phrases. Groups of 2, 3 or 4 words. Reading extensively and LingQ’ing these phrases is gradually teaching your brain how all these words fit together. It is this step that massively improves my speaking fluency and also listening skills.

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“Reading extensively and LingQ’ing these phrases is gradually teaching your brain how all these words fit together. It is this step that massively improves my speaking fluency and also listening skills.”

This helps me understand much better what you meant. Today I started to create lots of phrases, wondering whether it was the way to get where I want to go. I want to HEAR them, write them. I want meaningful units. You just affirmed this!!! Thank you!!

Czech is also nearly completely phonetic. What a relief to an English speaker!! It does not have the “music” of Italian, but I love listening to those who speak it with a staccato rhythm and beautiful r’s. [This seems more common in parts of Moravia than in Prague.] And I so much want to understand the jokes. The Czechs have a strong sense of the absurd, and so do I.

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Excellent! I’m very pleased to hear it!

I’ve just finished my second book this year reading on LingQ and in the process made almost 20,000 LingQs. The real power of this website it its ability to allow you to read intensively (making LingQs) and extensively (reading a lot) at the same time.

Stay absurd, it is the best way.