Dutch update: vocab self-test (91 hrs)

I just did another vocabulary self-test. This time I used a 704-word selection from somewhere in the middle of the 2nd Stieg Larsson book. I chose this book because I know there’s some pretty advanced vocab in it, much more than in Harry Potter.

Out of 704 words, I had good knowledge of 678 words, giving me a score of 96.4%. I also had good comprehension of the text…in fact it felt nice to read, so I might be able to make an attempt at the airplane test” soon, which was one of my stated goals. This somewhat surprised me, since in the past few days it’s felt like I’ve been making zero progress, despite getting dozens of study hours in. The problem is just that the overal percentage recognition is only going up a tiny percent, so it’s hard to notice without computing some statistics like this. Therefore, for further projects I think I’ll administer these self-tests more often, to keep up my motivation.

Another bit of motivation was to write down all the unrecognized words and look them up afterwards. I noticed that there were several “unknown” words that I should have guessed from German, such as “onderzocht” (untersucht), “buik” (Bauch), bestaan (bestand), etc. This means that there’s still plenty of low-hanging fruit left to pluck, if I keep working at it.

Since I’m currently at about 400000 words read, I’m now pretty confident that once I hit 1 million words read, I’ll be at a very satisfactory reading level. This mirrors my experience with German, where I was already at quite a decent level of comprehension by the 400000 word mark, and quite happy with my results after 1 million words.


15 Responses to Dutch update: vocab self-test (91 hrs)

  1. surkova says:

    your progress is really great. of course, your background works pretty well when it comes to guessing Dutch words. but judging from your previous posts, it should be much harder for you to get around, say, Russian, with the same strategy. do you have any plans about slavonic languages?


    • doviende says:

      Yes, it would take more time to learn a language that’s further away from the ones I already know. I’m planning to work on Polish next, though. I’ve already got some audio books and parallel texts so that I can do the same steps over again. I’ll be starting Polish at the end of February or beginning of March, after I get back from a short trip to Belgium.

      • surkova says:

        where do you get the parallel texts from? polish is on my schedule too 🙂 (after Swedish and French)

      • doviende says:

        I create them using the English ebook and the Polish ebook. There’s some software around that can match up the sentences for you. I use one called “hunalign”.

      • surkova says:

        I tried to install hunalign (I use Mac OS X), but I’ve got just to running the example from the developer’s website. Really don’t know how to get around and, moreover, how to use the result! How do you get around that?
        One more thing: as far as I understand, you used the same technique with Swedish, so you most probably have those parallel texts you used on your computer. I know that that might be against some copyright rules, but could you share them? Maybe privately?

      • doviende says:

        Actually I found it quite difficult to find Swedish ebooks for the books I wanted, so I don’t have any Swedish parallel texts. For Swedish I used mostly physical books that I bought from bokus.com

        I’m currently writing a how-to about hunalign, so I’ll try to finish that up soon and publish it.

  2. Andrew says:

    This is fantastic! And very encouraging for me personally. I’m sure I could figure this out if I went back through your archives but I’m sure you know off the top of your head so please excuse my ignorance: when exactly did you start learning Dutch?

    I’m just trying to get an idea how much progress you’ve made and how long it’s taken you–so you’ve spent 91 hours studying Dutch which has resulted in 400k words read and an approximate comprehension level of 96% of written words in a fairly difficult, adult-level text, is that right? How many hours per day are you averaging (I know this is going to be a little unrepresentative of what you could normally do since your Dutch learning was thrown off by your sleep experiments because they resulted in you not being able to study as much as you normally would for a week or two)?

    I’m quite curious to see what happens once you start working on speaking it, what I really want to know is just how much being able to read the language fluently helps when you go to learn how to speak it. Do keep us updated, and good job so far, by the way.


    • doviende says:

      I started on December 31st, when I attended a 1 hour introduction to Dutch, while I was at the “JES” Esperanto event…but then I actually started studying when I got home on January 3rd. And yes, your summary is correct.

      If I average my study time from the past seven days, then it comes out to 7 hours per day, but I hope to raise that average to around 9 or so. A few days ago I reached my high-point of 10 hours in one day. I’ve only ever managed this once before, one day in September while I was working on Swedish, so I seem to be getting better at cramming more into the day, plus I have more daily hours now.

      This progression in Dutch is closely matching my results for German in late 2009. I studied German by reading and listening to books, and by watching German TV shows. By the time I read 400000 words of German, I was pretty good at understanding things, and when I reached 1 million words I was even better. So I know this strategy will be successful, because I’ve done it before.

      As for speaking, I found that my German speaking ability came about without much direct effort. I arrived in Germany with high comprehension and very low speaking ability, but with just a little bit of speaking practice, my ability rose very quickly. I’m hoping to see the same effect in Dutch by being able to fully understand the language first, and then rapidly progress through speaking because of my knowledge of and intuition for the language.

      And then in March I plan to do the same for Polish 🙂

      • Andrew says:

        Oh wow, that’s a ridiculous amount of progress for only about 3 weeks worth of work, that’s very encouraging.

        When you say that you very quickly picked up German once you got in-country, were you already able to understand spoken German as well as written German (in other words, was your listening comprehension as good as your reading comprehension)? I presume this is where the use of the audiobooks comes in?

        You really do need to write up a “How to learn a language in a month [or some such thing]” guide.


      • doviende says:

        Ya, it’s not the weeks that matter, but the hours. For German, I typically had a maximum of 21 hours of study in a week (since I also had a full-time job at the time), usually less. I think it’s better described as having read 500000 words along with audiobooks, and then another 500000 without, as well as 130 hours of German TV, but IIRC, the whole thing was about 500 hours or so, over a span of 5+ months.

        At the end of that time, I was able to understand spoken and written German to a high level. I could happily read any regular adult novel, and I could put on any audiobook and understand it to a high level. When I got to Germany and encountered native speakers everywhere, I typically had very little trouble understanding them. I did almost zero speaking practice before I got there, though, so talking was very difficult, beyond a few useful phrases. I had an excellent accent though, which confused some people.

        As you can imagine, it becomes very easy to practice speaking a language when you already understand almost everything that comes up in your conversation. It was no longer a matter of learning phrases, but rather just the need to train that production area of the brain to be better at coming up with the appropriate things that were already known in the recognition part of the brain. Typically, when I asked someone how to say a certain thing, I’d fully understand their response, so it always sounded obvious once I heard someone say it.

      • Andrew says:

        Ok, 5 months makes a lot more sense, but still the amount you’ve managed to accomplish in Dutch in 3 weeks is quite impressive.

        How long would you say it took you to get your spoken German up to the level that your listening/reading comprehension was at once you got to Germany?

  3. Mistral says:

    I think that I’ve seen you somewhere at HTLAL. However, the reason why I’m here is because I found your blog at trypoliphasic.com. What intrigues me the most is the impact of poliphasic sleep on your language learning skills, remembering new words, repetitions etc. What can you say about that? Did you notice that you are not at your peak performance during your between naps time? I’m planning to go for SPAMAYL.

    • doviende says:

      You can expect the adaptation period to last at least 3 weeks, with the worst part in the first week. I barely got any work done in that first week, but the 2nd and 3rd weeks were pretty decent. Yes, there were times where I felt tired in various parts of the day, and definitely wasn’t at peak performance, but that has been balanced out by the resulting number of hours that I now have for studying.

      Also, I recommend that you consider the Everyman schedule. A lot of people insist that it’s easier to adapt to, if this is your first adaptation. The trick is, apparently, to adapt to any polyphasic schedule you can, and then later you can change from one schedule to another much more easily. Maybe SPAMAYL will work, but it sounds like Everyman has the highest success rate.

      • Mistral says:

        Thank you so much for your answer!
        Unfortunately, Everyman is no good for me. I’m still a high school student and breaks at my school are no longer than 10 min. Therefore, from around 7AM to 3-4PM (depending on the day) i can’t take any nap which means that SPAMAYL is the only solution for me.
        What’s more, the most lenient version of Everyman is 4.5 core sleep, right? Well, that’s how much I sleep on monophasic so wouldn’t make any difference for me.
        I have final exams in 3 months so I will probably just try torturing myself afterwards. Good luck with your language studies!

  4. Judith says:

    Even on SPAMAYL you can’t expect to go more than 6 hours without a nap, so school would be a problem anyway. Frankly, if my monophasic sleep was 4.5 hours, I wouldn’t consider it worthwhile adapting to polyphasic.

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