Saturday, May 17, 2008

An Update on Algorithmic Learning

I forgot I was subscribed to a particular Spanish blog about linux until today, when the owner of that blog suddenly started posting again- about his upgrade to Ubuntu 8.04, of course. Anyway, between Anki and Mnemosyne I have maybe 300 words going. Most of them are in Mnemosyne at home. I deconstructed a Spanish blog post on wine and entered every word I didn't know.

This is working. I just read the posts today with very little trouble- I didn't feel the need to get anything translated. I may not know a word or two, but the vocabulary I know, plus the knowledge I have about linux means my comprehension was pretty high just reading it straight through.

I'm really wishing I had Anki on a portable device to carry it around with me. Anki is much more specific: Mnemosyne just has you practice every day, but Anki will tell you to come back in terms of minutes, hours, or days. It can be slightly annoying to stop in the middle of your day just to find out it only has one card scheduled, and often I'm not there to use it anyway. In order to find out if that approach really improves learning time, I need 24hr access to that program. Total access makes more sense on a phone or hand-held device.

I'm already thinking about Latin, German, and the possibility of using this to make learning computer programming easier. But I know I need to stick with the Spanish until I get more proficient.

Incidentally, if you remember your Spanish class you'll remember that everyone gets taught by starting with the infinitive and then conjugating the verb. Well, it seems much more straightforward to put them on flashcards as they come up and memorize them as they are. That way, you just know the word. In the past I would read a Spanish verb and then spend a moment trying to figure out the conjugation. That's not the way we actually learn. As children we knew words like am,is,was, etc... long before a teacher came along and taught us how those words were related. For the language you actually know, learning how to conjugate is more like learning how to take inventory. This is why so many of us go through years of Spanish class with out really learning the language; they are teaching us to inventory before we have enough stock to inventory with.

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