Sunday, June 9, 2013

Verbs Are Hard, And Learning Words In General

I don't know about you, but I find learning verbs harder than learning just about every other part of speech.  I'd say that for me they are about ten times harder than learning every other type of word.  And Polish verbs just seem particularly difficult.  Polish is a fairly alien language for a native English speaker, and it's probably not much easier for anyone else who doesn't already speak a Slavic language.

I find myself reading the average sentence and doing pretty well with most words in the sentence except for the big gaping hole of meaning where the verb sits.  Actually, it's not as bad for me as it used to be because I've learned a decent number of verbs at this point.  But verbs are still the weakest part of my Polish vocabulary.   Maybe the first fifty verbs were relatively easy, but after that, learning verbs turns into a slog from hell.  There's a reason that you see books devoted solely to verbs in a given language.  And there's a reason you might not see, say, a book entitled "500 Italian Adjectives" (Now I'll probably get a comment from someone who has a book on 500 Italian Adjectives.  Still, if such a book exists, I don't think it disproves my point).

Often I study verbs by themselves, in isolation from other vocabulary, because I have to put in so much more study to get them down.  If I rotate them in with other words on the flash cards I am studying, I'll get a high percentage of all the other words, and then nothing when it comes to the new verbs I am looking at.  I can look at them over and over again, and still get no glimmer of recognition.  I read somewhere online that somebody suggested that you picture verbs as being on a sports field, like a football field, and picture somebody moving with the action the verb embodies.  Yeah, that didn't really help me at all; I tried that and then abandoned it when it wasn't giving me any better results.  What does seem to work for me is just to grind out the learning of the verb slowly and steadily, and not add too many new ones to my flash cards at the same time.  And I also try each time I see the word, to try to picture how to use it in different ways, to look at the conjugation of it and try to use different conjugations and tenses, and basically just work the word as much as I can.

The strange thing is, with verbs as well as with other words, I think they get stored in my brain fairly easily.  It's the retrieval that's a bitch. I can tell it's the retrieval end that is hard rather than the storage end because there's so many times when it just pops out of nowhere when it didn't seem like it was going to come forward at all.  And then there are what I call "savant days," when the retrieval is just simpler than usual for some reason.  But in general, it seems like it takes a while to build that neural pathway that allows for a consistent retrieval of the word.  It's like having a really cluttered closet and knowing the widget thingy you want is in there somewhere, but you have to do a ton of cleaning abd organizing to find it.

I do eventually get there with verbs as well as with other words.  It just takes a lot longer.  That's one reason I make so many blog posts that are centered around the different verbs (and other derivative words) one can make from a given root.  They are basically my study guides for when I find a verb or group of verbs I am finding to be difficult to learn, and I just look at the whole universe centered around the root for a unique look at the subject.

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