Italian flashcards, on heavy rotation !
December 29, 2005 9:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm embarking on an intense italian vocabulary learning routine, and I need some advice on how to maximize my effort using lexicons and flashcard software. [più dentro]

I've decided to expand my italian vocabulary in 2006. I decided to use a Leitner-cardfile based flashcard software, and I was wondering if any of you could advise me on some technical questions.

1. How many words can I realistically expect to learn in one full year of daily practice, knowing that I use a Leitner system, and that being French, Italian is a very easy language to acquire? 80% of the words are the same, although I'll be wary of false friends. I'm already fairly comfortable with the language, and can turn on RAI tv and understand 80% of what is discussed; however, i really want to prevent fossilization.
I read that around 5000 words in a year is realistic, how far can I extend that? I'd like to push to 12.000, but I don't know if it's doable.

2.What cardfile drilling schedule should I adopt? I couldn't find anywhere online a sensible gradation of how many flashcards to have in each box on average, how often to test each box, and what parameters should be used. I'm afraid going through trial and error will waste a lot of time. An exponential interval progression makes sense, but I'd love some real world advice.

3. What source should I use to build the vocabulary cards? I was eyeing three options:
-Use my dictionary to select the highest frequency words indicated in there. Unfortunately, they are listed in alphabetical order...
-Use this really cool picture based vocab book I have, which seems to contain all essential words for daily life, even though it's geared towards kids.
-Use a pretty advanced vocabulary book I have, which lists around 12.000 words, arranged by theme. I would love to master this one, as I feel it'd give me a fairly decent command of italian vocab.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find anywhere online a frequency bilingual lexicon for italian I could import in an app (I can use French or English base languages) - by the way, is building your own vocab file so much more efficient ?

4. Any opinions on flashcard software? Vtrain seems praised on the intarwebs (though it looks like shilling at time), but I don't really need all the extra bells ands whistles. I just need regular flashcards, just writing. I've narrowed other options down to Pauker or Jmemorize, though Pauker is currently getting my preference.

There's a site about comparing flashcards apps, but it seems related to the makers of Vtrain, so...

I'd like to add for context that I'll also work on grammar, conversation, reading and listening to italian TV everyday while doing this, so I feel it'll help isolated words get integrated, instead of being a mind-numbing routine. I never had a problem learning words in isolation, nor did it prevent me from using them in a fluent discourse.

Thanks in advance for any help or testimony from anyone having tried this plan ! :)
posted by Oneirokritikos to Writing & Language (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you can practice every day, or nearly every day, Supermemo is amazingly good. Here's a nice collection of articles about Supermemo, which is better organized than what you'll find on the Supermemo site. The wonderful thing about it is that it completely solves the scheduling problem for you. Roughly speaking, exponential scheduling is right, but that's a nuisance by hand, and you need to vary the exponential base depending on the difficulty of the item to be remembered.

How many words can you learn in a year? An absolute shitload. There's no reason you can't pack away 12,000 words in a year if you've got time to devote to it. But please, please, don't take the path of learning isolated words, one word on a flashcard. Use complete phrases and sentences so that words are embedded in their natural context. Not only do you learn more useful things this way, but the contextual web does wonders for your retention. It is absolutely easier to remember a short sentence containing a new word than to try to remember it in isolation.

I haven't done Italian, but I have made tens of thousands of language items in supermemo; feel free to email me if you want some examples. The ideas might be useful even if you use other software. As for sources, I use FSI-style books to get lots of simple sentences and patterns, then go out on the internet to libraries and newspapers from which I can cut and paste sentences with new words.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:48 AM on December 29, 2005 [3 favorites]

(good/relevant thread from May regarding language acquisition) Bon Chance!
posted by shoepal at 11:43 AM on December 29, 2005

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