Learning with pop songs

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I’ve been thinking more and more the last few days about how best to review pop songs with Anki when I came across a post about memorizing long poems by Soren Bjornstad in the Anki help system. He writes:

But it is quite possible to memorize a text with discrete unordered cards; you just have to do it the right way. Here is what I do for song lyrics, which are similar:
First, I go through the song. I know most of the songs I try to memorize quite well by the time I begin, but I find a recording and listen to it (and usually sing along) a couple of times. With poetry, you should read through it; it would probably help to read out loud if you can.

Then I go to Anki and create cards with two lines of context and one clozed line:


This is the first line
And this is the second line
A: This is the third line

And this is the second line.
This is the third line.
This is the fourth line.

I have a Bash script that automates the procedure of creating these cards from a text file of lyrics; let me know if you’re interested in it.

Once I’ve learned all those cards, I find I can usually sing the song from memory, without ever having gone through the entire thing at all (except in my initial lookover). After you’ve had all the cards introduced for a couple of days, try to recite your poem: you’ll probably be surprised with how well you know it. If you’re still having trouble, take a look at the whole thing again on a piece of paper and try to sequence what you’re still missing, and study for a couple more days.

If you find you don’t know it well enough or are still struggling with putting things in order (which I find is rare, with two lines of context), you can create cards for each stanza and even a card for the entire thing, to make sure you can recite it that way as well. But don’t do this until you have learned the three-line groupings.

Note that, while reviewing, I always sing the entire context (out loud, if I’m alone) before attempting to recall the clozed line; I find this helps with being able to remember what comes next in time later on. (Okay, I lied, I skip this step if I know the entire clozed line off the top of my head in less than a second or so, as that clearly means I know it well enough.)

How to write Diary Entries

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Hardly a day goes by where I don’t post entries at lang-8, sometimes one but usually several. Although now it seems such an important part of language study,  it took a while for me to get in the swing of using it regularly. The last few days I’ve been thinking of some of the strategies that helped me get in the swing. For one thing

Write quickly. Don’t think too much about what you want to write, choose a topic, get some ideas together and spit it out. I want my writing to be as close to how my speaking will be, and I know that I’ll be frustrated if I spend a lot of time working on one diary entry. And secondly,

Be prolific. If you write quickly and you are not worried about how many sentences are in each entry, you can spit out several diary entries every day.

If you want to write a longer or more complicated piece, I’d prefer writing smaller things first and then piecing them together instead of trying a long complicated piece all in one setting.

Tip: There’s a way I help do this — when I’m by myself waiting for something or on the bus I tend to try to think of a diary entry that I want to write, and draw it up in a rough form in my mind. I feel this is part of learning how to think more in Korean and it’s nice when all I need to do is type it out when I find a computer.

When I first started writing diary entries it took 45 minutes to write a small diary entry. But now I can write Korean diary entries much faster than English ones — usually in less than five minutes.

Interacting with your diary entries


Usually when I write diaries I spit out what I want to write rather quickly, upload it to lang-8, and after it’s corrected respond to the comments (in Korean) and only briefly look at the corrections to see any mistakes that I made.

However I didn’t have a good way of reviewing the corrected diaries. I would sometimes for fun or inspiration read the old diary entries straight on the site but I didn’t have any systematic way of reviewing the words and grammar that I had been learned.

As part of my audio library I put it in Learn with Texts. Then I segment it line-by-line  with audacity, and put it in Anki so I can review it. I started this week and already have several diary entries recorded and about 30 cards (with audio) from my diary entries.

These cards really stick well.  Afterall, It’s my story, my ideas, my history. Read by someone else. These are words and phrases and stories I want to say later when I talk to people.

I also originally recorded with Rhinospike but stopped doing that after realizing that (unlike lang-8) there was no way to delete content or protect it after it was put up on rhinospike. I don’t mind much lang-8 readers or my friends on lang-8 reading some of my more personal entries, but i was about queasy about them being searchable on the larger internet.

Fortunately just as I was realizing it, someone on lang-8 out of the blue offered to record my diary entries daily if I would record hers in English. Of course I was more than happy to agree.  We paste our corrected diaries in a shared Google Docs page, and then record on a private audio recording on Sound Cloud.

Of course there is one main problem with using your diary for language input. For language input isn’t it best to use native-to-native resources? Isn’t there a good possibility that your diary entry will have mistakes?

The solution  seems two-fold. First, I depend heavily on lang-8. I combine the corrections I get from several different people there to get an entry that seems the most natural. Often I’ll re-post the corrected version on lang-8 again to get even more corrections that people didn’t see the first time. Then I’m fortunate that my friend who records the audio checks it again one last time before she records it to make sure there is nothing that sounds unnatural.

The second part of the solution is to realize that the input from diaries is useful but limited. It contains words I want to use, grammar that I’m trying to learn, (and perhaps most importantly) corrections to common mistakes that I make so my mistakes don’t get fossilized. And it’s recorded by a native speaker so you get native pronunciation and (somewhat) native intonation.

However it is no replacement to getting loads of audio content from native-to-native sources — dramas, radio podcasts, and the like. As much as I find a diary deck useful, I want to have a much larger deck of native-to-native audio content.


Korean pop & Anki?


I’ve been listening to Korean Pop the whole day with this Korean Pop Youtube playlist. I found them quite by accident but they have a pretty neat playlist of videos they’ve uploaded —  music videos with the Korean lyrics and the English translation all at the same time.

I haven’t listened much to Korean pop the last several months, spending most of my time on the bus listening to Hebrew pop instead. For Hebrew I had a lot of fun segmenting the popsongs line by line and putting them in Anki with the audio. However I’ve never done that yet (with the audio) for Korean popsongs. 

Whenever I can I always ask people how they have improved their pronunciation and intonation in a language they’ve been studying. The answer almost always mention songs as a important key. They were  listening to songs or singing them in any spare moment. The nice thing with Anki is that even if there isn’t time to listen to a whole song I can listen to (or repeat and get the pronunciation right) for just one line at a time.

The importance of audio

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The last few days I’ve been realizing more and more the importance of audio input.  Originally almost all of my Anki cards were without audio and because Korean is a relatively phonetic language, that wasn’t much of a problem. However I find I remember Anki cards with audio so much better than I do without audio. 

The last few weeks I’ve been trying to get my pronunciation more natural and more Korean-like and the audio in the few flashcards I have with audio have really helped. There’s nothing like hearing a native speaker to get the exact intonation and pronunciation right. If I’m reviewing my cards in a place when I’m supposed to be quiet (ie. when my housemates are sleeping) I just listen to it. Otherwise I try to repeat it out loud.

Now I just need to add more audio to my flashcards!