Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Comfortable and Curious

150 hours:

I've listened to about 38 hours of news so far. Words which have recently become familiar include words for "nuclear reactor", "agency", and "Germany". The Thai system for numbering years is also becoming more familiar.

A colleague tells me that as an undergraduate math major, I claimed that success in mathematics is a matter of getting comfortable with not understanding everything right away. I don't remember making this claim, but I think there's some truth in it. Being comfortable and curious with partial understanding is a great mindset for learning all kinds of things.

To acquire a word or language pattern naturally through "i+1" input, I have to hear it many times. New words and patterns start as meaningless streams of syllables interspersed with better understood context. Gradually, I differentiate each new word or pattern as a sort of "motif" that's appearing over and over in different contexts. As more and more context is understood, and the word continues to recur, it becomes very familiar. Eventually I recognize and understand it immediately, without effort. At some point during this process, I usually verify my understanding of the new word with a dictionary or native speaker. This breaks the input model slightly, but I feel that it's helpful, since I'm studying without the aid of a teacher. Words acquired in this patient manner are easily available to me, without review, effort, or memorization.

This process requires me to be comfortable with not understanding everything right away.

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