How did/do you learn vocabulary?

Godmy

A Monkey
My personal opinion is that it is not silly to speak any language I learn as a language.

If I learnt Latin as a ... "physics" or a "programming computer language", then I would deem it silly. (because it's not for speaking neither it has evolved so).

I like to continue myself in the traditional medieval and postmedieval method when Latin was taught as a quite working and efficient medium of communication. But I'm not doing it because I miss such a medium (I've got English). But because I'm learning "a language". I would have a slight problem learning a language and not treat it so... (maybe not so big problem, but I think it's just not so efficient - even more so when we talk about natural languages).

I'm not forcing anyone to anything, I simply like to treat languages as languages. (the other way, in my opinion, makes the learning artificially and unnaturally hard(er) <- and people had the same opinion for centuries... the tradition has changed in the last 100/150 years I believe ).

But that's just my opinion.
 

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
If I learnt Latin as a ... "physics" or a "programming computer language", then I would deem it silly. (because it's not for speaking neither it has evolved so).
Off-topic joke:

A proud father was at his son's graduation party in a rural community. Eager to show the guests how much his son had learned, he told him to "say something in algebra!"

After a moment's hesitation, the son said, "pi R-squared". The father, blushing, took his son aside and whispered in his ear, "they didn't learn you nothing in school! Pie are circle, cornbread are squared!"
 

Decimvs

Aedilis
Staff member
When taking the series of grammar courses at my university, I was given a sheet each week with a list of 20-30 words written on it. At the end of the week, we were quizzed on the important parts of the nouns (usually nominative and genitive singular) and the gender, and the principle parts for verbs. After a year or so of this, a huge amount of vocabulary stuck for good. But, I still use some online flashcard type sites, and things like that, just to make sure I stay sharp with it.
 

Kosmokrator

Active Member
to memorize vocabulary alone doesn't help if you don't learn also its semantics and evolution through time.
The most difficult latin author i ever studied it's Tertullian; he uses a lot of "bold" words: true neologisms, semantical neologisms and so on.
 
I find learning Latin vocab to be quite difficult. I have 16 months of Latin under my belt. I did Wheelocks in 8 months and have been reading straight Latin (no macrons or notes) for the last 8 months with a tutor.

On average, I would estimate that I read about 30 lines of Latin per week, divided over a few different Latin authors. I look up words and make a vocabulary list on note cards, which contain old words that I have forgotten or am learning new meanings of, and new words. During the week, I devote a few 10-15 minute sessions a day toward memorizing the new Latin words by trying to associate them with either the context within the passage I am reading, or by associating them with some other object/idea that will help me remember them.

What I find most frustrating is that I will memorize a word one week, not see it for a number of weeks, and then forget its meaning, or forget its perfect form, or participle form. In the past, I would come along a word like "datae," and not recognize it as the past passive participle of "do" although I was fully aware of that do, dare, dedi, datum means to give/offer.

My tutor is crazy smart so I feel embarrassed even mentioning this to him, but I feel like I'm not making the kind of progress I should be making by forgetting words I've already come across or by not noticing forms of words that I already know.

Anyway, could anyone pass along any advice on how long it takes to build a firm foundation of Latin vocab? I realize that 16 months is very long for an endeavor like Latin, and I mostly want to make sure that I am making the kind of progress I should be making and not wasting time. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

nunc est bibendum

Active Member
I have an app called LatinWord, which (believe it or not) gives a new word each day and shows it in a sentence. Assuming all of the words are new to me, I learn a new one every day, and I spend some time repeating it in my head, and trying to put it into sentences.

A bit slow perhaps, but it works for me.
 

socratidion

Civis Illustris
I offer my own experience anecdotally. When I got to the stage of reading Latin authors, every word I looked up in a dictionary I would write in the margin of the text, but it would also go on a list, with meaning and basic grammatical info. All this I kept in a little notebook, and when I could be bothered I would spend time learning what was on the lists: cover up the meaning, usually, and go through the whole lot ticking them if I got them right. Then the same thing again, ticking again if I got it right. And then again. Any word with three ticks I skipped over. Any word which still had no ticks I wrote out again at the bottom of the list.

For those intransigent items that continue to resist, there are plenty of memory tricks you can use -- you know the sort of thing, mad, surreal images and stories based on the superficial appearance or sound of the word.

For rote learning like this, one meaning per word is probably best, and probably the more specific the better, as long as you bear in mind that it's not the only one.

It could be objected that I was only learning Latin to English -- what about the other way round? Actually I found that just doing it that way I got what I needed, even for translating from English to Latin.

'When I could be bothered', I say -- which usually meant around exam time! But if you ask me, there is no single thing you can do that has a bigger payoff for effort expended, than learning vocabulary. The problem is only, it's so boring. Of course, I'm not saying it's the only thing you need: far from it -- all those other posts are completely right which stress the importance of acquiring vocabulary in context, through reading. I'm just saying it is a surprisingly effective tool which can give you a huge boost.

By the way, I prefer this approach to using flashcards compiled by someone else: my lists were firmly based in my own reading, and so carried little traces of context.
 
When learning wheelocks' vocabulary I used this site: http://www.warmenhoven.org/latin/vocab/index.php
It tests you on vocab in multiple ways, I found this more useful than flashcards.
I too used that site. It was tremendously helpful. Unfortunately, I haven't found anything similar for my post-Wheelock reading. I've tried sites like memrise, but I think one really needs something that concentrates one the vocab he/she is trying to learn each week.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Personally, I think that when you really start reading regularly, vocabulary progressively gets "impressed" in your head without your doing anything special. Few first times you encounter a word, you go to the dictionary to check the different meanings and make sure you got it right in the context, then you eventually memorize all principal meanings.
 
Personally, I think that when you really start reading regularly, vocabulary progressively gets "impressed" in your head without your doing anything special. Few first times you encounter a word, you go to the dictionary to check the different meanings and make sure you got it right in the context, then you eventually memorize all principal meanings.
Well that's good to know. I was holding out hope that things would start sticking and I would have a pretty good vocabulary in a year or two. Thanks.
 

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
Personally, I think that when you really start reading regularly, vocabulary progressively gets "impressed" in your head without your doing anything special. Few first times you encounter a word, you go to the dictionary to check the different meanings and make sure you got it right in the context, then you eventually memorize all principal meanings.
Seconded. This is the easiest and most efficient way to learn vocabulary.
 

Godmy

A Monkey
Seconded. This is the easiest and most efficient way to learn vocabulary.
I think it is the second easiest and most efficient way to learn vocabulary, the first one is of course to repeat what other people say in order to communicate with them and be/remain a participant of the live conversation:
- somebody says something and you are unsure, but the conversion (an internet chat for instance) must continue, so you check what it is and then you manipulate, use the word.. work it with it - when you are thrown to the environment where the language means "survival" = when you are under time pressure and other people don't have time to wait for your brain and memory to start working (let's say other languages are banned at the moment).

That's how it works in the reality, that's how people learn words one from another in every language, that's how the language becomes "a language" (that is a code more than one person uses to communicate thoughts with the other).

Of course that not many people have this opportunity with Latin - hence the second easiest way just having been mentioned :p (but it is not impossible)

------

From the point of the human brain it is no big news that this way is the easiest for a human to grasp a language when the reason we have the language in the first place is to make our survival easier/more possible by having an ability to communicate better and more efficiently with others... when you are just reading a book, you are not really doing that... = the pressure to learn the language is naturally near to zero -> that depends on your commitment - how much you can overcome the nature.
Of course that all of this makes Latin for many people impossible.
 

Aescleah

Member
Hi i am really new here, and very new to latin like about a month. as for vocab thats one of the things i like the most learning new words. every morning with a cup of coffee, i get a latin word of the day. i copy it into my main latin note book and then in little pocket notebook, then start my review and then lessons. its a great way to start the day.
other times i just look for simple words in the dictionary and get the root meaning knowing full well there is probley more it but as my understanding grows so will my understanding of the word and not get to frusterated and other times i will just flip through and find cool words. i like not writing them down just enjoying how close it really is to english thinking wow so thats where that came from. lol even doing that some of it rubs off. i dont like flash cards very much, and i have somehow kept ahead of my lessons with the vocab its sort of nice already knowing the word before i learn it offically in a lesson.

Ashley
 

socratidion

Civis Illustris
Not addressed to Ashley but to some previous posts. Since my own experience so exactly opposes that of other learners, I can only conclude that different methods suit different people. The one where you just look things up a few times and hope they stick never worked for me. Of course I agree that reading, continually reading, is an essential part of vocabulary acquisition, to practise and deepen what you learn, but I've always found that I need to make the initial effort to fix a meaning in my head, before I can rely on the unconscious to take over. Driving a stake into the ground, it feels like. Seeding a crystal.

It's clear from the discussion, however, that osmosis works: having witnessed Pacis Puella's phenomenal rush up the learning curve, I am forced to concede that what works for her must... work. But I also have to report that -- well, let's not take Latin, but German and modern Greek, two languages I started learning as an adult, mostly through reading -- my progress was slow until I made the decision to compile and memorise vocabulary lists; and after that, progress was noticeably more rapid. Considering how cheap it is in terms of time and effort, I can't see a downside.

(But is it just the way my mind works? Or, to put it another way, do other people's minds work so differently that they would actually lose ground if they learned vocab lists? Or benefit in no way at all? Or get discouraged?)
 
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