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Language Learning Tools: Sentence Generation & Hearing Order (06/30/2020)

Sentences In Text

Sentences can give a context that allows one to more fully understand the meaning and usage of the individual words that comprise it. This characteristic is so important that there are language learning methods [such as "10,000 Sentences"] that encourage one to seek out a large number of sentences composed by native speakers and study them in various ways.

One might be confused as to which sentences to collect. Ideally, they would be about the things that one normally talks about (such as daily life), subjects that one cares about personally (such as hobbies), and/or things that one doesn't mind repeating thousands of times (such as affirmations).

However, while gathering a large number of sentences can be quite useful, we only need a few basic sentences to learn a lot about a language. [A wonderful example of how to do this is Tim Ferriss' "Language Deconstruction".]

Further, if we pay close attention to the "parts of speech" (i.e.: which words are nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.), then we can switch these words out with others of the same type to make new sentences. We just have to be cautious that we do not make anything nonsensical. If we are unsure, then we can ask a native speaker. Or we can look up the sentence in a search engine dedicated to that language to find something that seems similar, and then copy and paste it into an online translator to check it.

As an important aside, online translators frequently produce sentences that are grammatically incorrect, especially if they are anything larger than the most basic of sentences. But, so long as we don't rely on them too heavily, they can be very helpful in quickly deciphering the general meaning of a piece of text.

Sentences In Audio

If we have some movies in the language that we are trying to learn, then there is an interesting way to use them in our studies rather than just passively listening to them. We will focus in on movies specifically, not music, for a couple of reasons:

• We are looking for sentences that are easily understood. Music lyrics have a tendency to be more poetic, and some lyrics can be quite cryptic in what they are referring to.

• Movies provide an added visual context, are longer, and often come with subtitles.

People sometimes focus in on the subtitles and ignore what is being said. We don't learn any of the language if we use them in this manner! So, how do we use them?

First, it is important to note that meanings can be visualized independently of words. For example, for the word "fire" I can "see" a fire in my mind's eye. Even for more abstract concepts, I can visualize something to represent it. As another example, with the word "quickly" I can imagine a fast turning wheel.

Subtitles are not usually word-for-word translations, but their meanings can help us to narrow down the actual words that are being used. Once we are aware of every word within that sentence and the general meaning of each, we can practice listening to them in the order that they appear when spoken.

The overall order in which words are spoken can change subtly or dramatically from language-to-language. Therefore, the order in which the meanings are triggered within our minds upon hearing a sentence will be different to some extent as well. If we listen carefully to this order and try to recall the associated meanings within this same order, rather than translations within another language, then we quickly get an intuitive feel for the grammar of the language.

How powerful an effect this kind of active listening can have on our understanding cannot be overstated. It helps one to build up the ability to instantaneously grasp the meaning of what is heard instead of attempting to translate it in one's head.

Before we end, we would like to point out a couple of things...

• Whenever possible, we should try to get movies that are native to the language that is being learned, and with subtitles in languages that we already know. This is because translated movies sometimes have word choices and grammar structures that might seem slightly "unnatural" to native speakers. However, we may not have enough familiarity with the language yet to be able to notice this.

• We can also use movies to practice pronunciation by paying close attention to how a person shapes their mouth when saying something. This may seem trivial, but mimicking how a native speaker holds their mouth can actually make it much easier to say things within that language!

Happy Studies!

Some music:
原子霏 - 福運來

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