Deciphering a book from scratch: good way to learn?

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Quenouille
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Deciphering a book from scratch: good way to learn?

Postby Quenouille » Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:01 pm UTC

I'm currently considering picking up a german novel and already have a dictionnary. I barely know anything about german aside from counting up to ten. My question is, is the extra effort worth it in terms of better retention versus steeper learning curve? Has anyone done a similar thing and would have some feedback?

More importantly (because the above is definitely vague), do you have a good recommendation for starting out?

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Kewangji
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Re: Deciphering a book from scratch: good way to learn?

Postby Kewangji » Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:13 pm UTC

I'd pick up some children's novels first, if I were you. And also get the audiobook version, for pronounciation.
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steewi
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Re: Deciphering a book from scratch: good way to learn?

Postby steewi » Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:28 am UTC

It's a really useful thing to do, but it's only really useful after you have a decent basis in the grammar and what to expect.

If you do it straight off, you're going to get confused by all the grammatical differences and so on. It's better to do it after you've been to a night class and got the basics, or something like that. Starting with some glossed texts can also help. A glossed text is a version that has the German (for example) and underneath it the literal translation with the words broken up, and under that the English version.

The problem with learning from a book is that it's all passive knowledge. After you do it, you'll be good at reading German, but you won't be able to speak it, or understand it spoken to you. To develop a good knowledge of a language, you need active practice - reading, writing, speaking and listening - where you interact with someone. It'd be like teaching a baby to speak by plonking them in front of the TV but not speaking to them. They won't learn properly because the interaction isn't there.

Tips:
- Try not to rely on the dictionary. See what you can work out first and then look up words you don't know.
- Try not to translate it all the time. Understand the German, rather than translate it into English.
- More than an hour at a time will fry your brain. At first 20 minutes will likely be too much, so pace yourself.

tl;dr - It's a useful learning technique to add to the knowledge you already have, but not as a sole learning method.

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GhostWolfe
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Re: Deciphering a book from scratch: good way to learn?

Postby GhostWolfe » Tue Jun 09, 2009 3:44 am UTC

I've tried something similar to this, and it was really frustrating. The vast majority of "words" aren't in the dictionary: they're conjugations and have prefixes, suffixes, compound words, and so on and so on. Some words can be really easy to find the root word in the dictionary, but others will just confound you.

It's something I'd love to do one day, but you need a pretty soild grounding before you start ;)

/angell

Edit: d'oh, basic grammar fail.
Last edited by GhostWolfe on Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:22 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Quenouille
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Re: Deciphering a book from scratch: good way to learn?

Postby Quenouille » Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:00 am UTC

Thank you all for the feedback. I'm taking a german class this fall as an elective but I was impatient, I think I'll keep it for after I have at least a grounding in the basics.

GhostWolfe wrote:I've tried something similar to this, and it was really frustrating. The vast majority of "words" aren't in the dictionary: their conjugations and have prefixes, suffixes, compound words, and so on and so on. Some words can be really easy to find the root word in the dictionary, but others will just confound you.
/angell


I hadn't thought of that at all, especially all the little quirks and slang that forms the author's style.

AtlasDrugged
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Re: Deciphering a book from scratch: good way to learn?

Postby AtlasDrugged » Tue Jun 09, 2009 11:02 pm UTC

Yeah, definitely hold off for now. As has been said, being able to decipher a book presupposes knowledge of the grammatical structures of the language. Trying to deconstruct it with a dictionary is rather like putting phrases into free translation software: it just leaves you with a horrible mess at the end (not to mention idioms and references that will only be familiar to native speakers of the language). It's not so bad if, for example, you already speak Spanish and are trying to learn Italian by that method, since a lot of the fundamental principles will be familiar to you; but since you have no such analogue I would join the others in suggesting that you leave it until you've got the foundations right.

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Re: Deciphering a book from scratch: good way to learn?

Postby Kizyr » Tue Jun 09, 2009 11:40 pm UTC

It's an awful way to learn a language.

Most likely, you'll get frustrated after a few paragraphs of translating every word and still barely having any idea of what's going on (this is more true the greater the difference between the target language and English). It'd basically be like that all the way through, with the only difference that the further you are in the book, the harder it is to understand what's going on.

There's the added problem that even if you do manage to understand it, then you'll pick up a very limited aspect of the language: one style, from one author, on one topic, from one period of time. KF
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gaurwraith
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Re: Deciphering a book from scratch: good way to learn?

Postby gaurwraith » Thu Jun 11, 2009 4:21 pm UTC

If you start you 'll give it up soon. Not worth it. Try with children books. For 3 year olds. My mom loves me; my friend Catherine is furry and the like.
I've tried all kinds with arabic. Comic books can be better, because they give you visual hints, but a big fat book, no
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