Wipe out all of my lingqs–learning, forgetting and the bad habit of translating

No, I havent lost all of my links, and I’m not asking for them to be wiped out, just thinking about this issue (see other thread of some who can’t see their links (“My Lingqs are gone”). When learning French, my Quebecois conjoint admonished me for always translating into English, said the way forward was to avoid this habit, something that I think linguists call “going native.”

I recently began Bulgarian, but not on this site. Now that we have Bulgarian (YAY!!!) I have uploaded all of my old stuff and had to begin again, with 0 known words and 0 links. What a great experience! What a learning opportunity for me. So while I understand that people are attached (pun intended) to their Lingqs, I try to remember that I am not curating a dictionary but trying to learn a language, which means freeing myself from whatever notes and lingqs I may have made, and reading, listening, eventually interacting with native speakers, untethered from resources other than what’s in my head.

I face a similar situation in my work. I teach physics in college and, when showing a model problem solution to my students, I will quickly erase it before they can copy it down or take a picture. They hate that! They want good notes. but the idea is for them to try to reproduce the solutions. The same goes for notes; some students take meticulous notes but of course can’t bring them into the exam (that’s called cheating), so the idea is to be active and get the understanding and fluency in your head rather than on paper or database. For me the most efficient learning has always been to–sure–construct good notes, then shred them, try to explain something about it to someone else, then try to sketch out the notes again.

I think all of this is important for language or any type of learning–be active, forget, review, renew, shred, start again, and–most importantly–try to go semi-native ASAP.

I look forward to hearing from others.

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Your teaching method is interesting, and makes me think of my sister who says that she received top marks in calculus, and that scared her because she didn’t understand any of it. She was just able to reproduce what was taught in class when taking the exams. Fortunately she became a manager, not a practicing engineer, and does not need the calculus or a deep understanding of it in her day-to-day work.

My experience at university was somewhat the opposite. I grasped the concepts but did not memorize the detailed steps to solve the equations. My roommate and I made a good team – he was more like my sister, so when we studied I analyzed the problem and set up the equations, and then he solved them. I needed the mathematics and physics only to receive my degree, but have never needed it in my career, so that’s okay. My roommate, on the other hand, became an engineer, and engineers need to analyze and understand the problem first and foremost.

As for language acquisition, not translating and “going native” was gradual and happened because of the “massive input” method that Lingq enables. Its fast look-up takes much of the tedium out of reading new material, so it’s possible to ingest so much more volume. That increased volume means that I saw the frequently-used words so often that I didn’t need to translate them and didn’t need to think about not needing to translate them.

I’ve noticed that when most of the material is understandable, new words are easier to learn. That should be obvious, I suppose, since words are easier to learn in context – it must be easier when you better understand the context. It also helps that the roots of Russian words are often very accessible. E.g., the roots of the Russian word for “contradict” mean exactly the same thing as the roots for the English word, but the roots of the Russian word are other Russian words, not Greek or Latin. That happens a lot, and it helps a lot. Maybe it happens also with other languages that are not as much of a mongrel as English?

As I’ve got to the point where I can understand a lot of native-level material (not all), my use of Lingq has decreased. I do a lot of listening on YouTube, and a lot of reading on web sites, mostly news. Occasionally I will import an article into Lingq if it’s a bit too opaque, but otherwise all the blue and yellow and slowing down to make Lingqs becomes more of a distraction. I freely admit that I would probably continue to learn more faster by continuing to use Lingq more. But Lingq has got me to the point where I can often just consume the material for the sake of the material, not specifically for learning the language.

Haven’t started to talk, though…

Starting to talk, yes, that’s an issue-- I’m reluctant to begin, but will soon force myself to do so.

I also use lingq less for the language that I know better, namely French.

I use LingQ for the listening and reading materials, not for the statistics. I want to spend as much time as I can USING the language (listening, reading, writing, speaking), so I try to minimize the overhead. I see activities such as creating LingQs, importing materials into LingQ, etc as extra overhead that I do not need. I do not set my language learning goals in terms of statistics. I set goals for being able to understand specific listening and reading materials, and I get my sense of achievement and progress from those goals.

Translating from the target language into your native language is like training wheels on a bicycle. You need them at first, but at some point you outgrow the need for them. When I am listening to an audio, I do not have the time to translate, but I still have a feel for the meaning anyways. When I am reading, I still do a lot of translating. However, I do not feel the need to translate everything into my native language (English). I do not feel attached to having to understand everything in terms of English. At some point, translating into English will become extra overhead that I no longer need…

“When I am listening to an audio, I do not have the time to translate.”

That is very true, and why listening to audio IMO is very helpful in getting over the impulse to translate. I have found movies and videos clips very useful for this. Seeing related action aids understanding, and even a talking head I somehow find easier to listen to and understand than the same material from an audio-only source.

Oftentimes I feel like a bit of a fraud if I cannot freely translate material that I claim to understand. But consider translating from English to English – the vocabulary is large enough for you to find a synonym for most words, but doing that for any material, especially in real time, would be challenging.

Just a minute ago I came across a new Russian word that I had not encountered before. Eschewing Cyrillic for the moment: “vodokhranilische”. Back to what I said above about Russian roots, I immediately recognized “voda” (water) and “khranit’” (to keep), and suffix “-ilische” making a noun from a verb. So I saw “water keeper” and immediately understood “reservoir” in the context. But I had to search and grasp for that English word as a translation. The same also happens for any number of words that I already “know” without that kind of analysis.

I’m not sure what my point is, other than perhaps that I really admire people who can translate, especially in real time, but that translating and understanding are two different skills.

Fluently bilingual people often can’t recall if they’ve just heard or said something in one language or the other, so I imagine it’s similar with real-time translation. Yeah, it’s very impressive, but I thi9nk it comes naturally-- I recall my children (anglophones who attended French school) watching TV and not even being aware if they were watching in English or French.

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