Three more notes on using dictation to learn languages

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I wrote a post one month ago on the most effective method for learning a language on your own - simple dictation using a program like Audacity where you can listen to a sound file one bit at a time, over and over again until you either have written the entire passage down or have to give up and check the source text to see just what it is you're hearing. The effectiveness in this lies in doing a lot of it - hundreds and hundreds of pages, and writing it down with a pencil is much better than typing since it forces you to slow down, and every mistake you make that needs to be corrected is also done slowly, by first erasing the offending part and then rewriting it as it should be.

Since then I've had the following three thoughts on dictation while doing it myself:

1) Try to avoid punctuation when doing this, as you can't always guess by the voice alone where the commas, periods, parentheses and everything else are supposed to go. At first you should just write it out like this without commas or periods or anything as it is much easier to add them in later than to redo something that you've already written and erase it first the only downside is that you will end up erasing a lot of lowercase letters and replacing them with capital letters afterwards but there really isn't any way to avoid this.

2) One interesting occurrence that you should take as a good sign: sometimes in the middle of dictation you will find that you have written down a word that you haven't heard but one that is the same or almost the same as the one you have heard. Just a few minutes ago I found that I had written "und hatte Furcht vor ihm" when I actually heard "und hatte Angst for ihm". That's a good sign, and means that your brain is listening to the meaning of the words, and not just the sound. Be happy when you find you've made such a "mistake".

3) Something I should have known all this time but didn't: when using Audacity, remember that you can use the space bar to start and stop a selection of sound. I didn't find out about this until about 50 pages in to the work I'm doing and this has saved me a lot of time.

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