It’s time for an update on my language learning. As I’ve written before I have learned devanagari so I can learn new words correctly with the spelling and pronunciation. After that I have focused on learning new words to get some basic vocabulary skills. Now I know about 400 words, it’s at least a start and it feels good to be on the way!
I have focused on learning words with the help of flashcards, I have an app for that on my iPad. After reading some tips on a blog about learning a new language effectively by not using translations, I decided to try that. Instead of translations the word should either be represented with a picture or explained in the language you are learning. Since I have just started learning I have used pictures but I will probably have to use explanations in Nepali as well later on as it gets more difficult to find pictures for the words.
When making my flashcards I used a frequency list for English since I couldn’t find one for Nepali. I also used the categories from that site, for example: animals, city/countryside, people-related, verbs, adjectives/adverbs, home, nature, body, food etc. It didn’t really add up to 400 words so I found some online Nepali lessons and took words from the lists there and added to my different categories.
It seems to work quite well to learn words this way, I find it a lot easier to learn the words with picture than with translations. Somehow it’s just easier to remember a funny or cute picture than a written word.
Perhaps I should clarify what I mean with the statement that I have now learned 400 words. What I mean is that I have memorised the words and get them right most of the time. I always start learning a new deck of cards (=list of words) in the setting called ‘Short time goal / Leitner’ to memorise new words. Once I get to 100% on that scale I switch to ‘Spaced repetition’ to really make sure I remember the words long term. I really like this setting since it adapts the time between a card/word depending on how well you know it, so in the beginning the word comes often and if you keep remembering it the word comes less frequent, and the words you have a hard time remembering are the words you’ll practice the most, great! So when I say I know 400 words I mean I have memorised them and switched to ‘spaced repetition’ a while ago.
I also always start with only memorising the new words and only later switch to spelling. I recently discovered this setting for the flashcards and since I installed/activated Hindi keyboard on my iPad I can start using this also. Even though I memorise all the words in devanagari from the beginning it’s not easy to remember the exact spelling of the word so it’s a challenge to do the spell check as well. It’s my third change in settings for decks. When the words are easy to remember and pose no challenge anymore I switch to spell check and continue like that in the ‘spaced repetition’ mode. It usually cause some setbacks in the percentage shown on the progress of the specific deck, but it’s good to learn the spelling properly as well!
So far I have only focused on learning new words and I think I will continue with that for a little while longer. I just want to understand as much as possible from a conversation and be able to say a few things. Also, since it’s probably more than a year until I visit Nepal next time I just want to take that time and learn lots of words because it does take some time before the words are easy to remember and I get them right.
After learning my first 400 words in Nepali I’ll continue to learn some more the same way. I’m still not sure which those words are going to be because all the lists of words to learn that I have found online contain pretty much the same words. Perhaps I’ll take the words from my Teach yourself Nepali book or from other online lessons, or maybe just start searching for good words to know from my Nepali-English dictionary. Either way, I’ll continue the same method with pictures when it’s possible to represent the word that way. It does take a long time to make the flashcards but it’s also a lot of fun and great to have when the cards are completed.
When I have learned more words I’ll start with the grammar. Right now I just don’t feel like I have time to try to stuff my brain with grammar in a new language since I’m in my final year in my master program at the university. Most of my focus will be going there obviously, but I’ll keep learning new words at least. I think, or hope, that doing things this way will enable me to speak and understand faster when I do start to learn the grammar, since I’ll have a bigger vocabulary to use.