Vocabulary / Week

Vocabulary / Week

Postby David M. Miller » August 22nd, 2012, 12:34 pm

Can anyone point me to suggestions regarding an optimal # of new vocab words that should be introduced each week in a typical 3 hour / week introductory Greek course? How many words should be introduced in the first year of study? Factors to consider include (1) the amount of vocab one needs to acquire to develop a decent reading competence in Koine and (2) research on memorization efficiency--in other words, at what point do students reach mental overload?

For the sake of comparison, here are some initial figures (derived primarily from Anki databases) for a few Introductory Greek and Hebrew textbooks:

Mounce 335
Futato 388
Croy 404 (includes some principal parts)
Practico & Van Pelt 490
Kelley 522
Porter, et al.>950
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Re: Vocabulary / Week

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 22nd, 2012, 4:45 pm

Having taught with both Mounce and Croy, I can state, based on my experience, that nearly everyone in the class kept up with the number of vocabulary words introduced by Mounce but that at Croy's rate about a 15% of the class began to have trouble. I cannot imagine giving my students the doublethis rate.

If someone has studied the amount of vocabulary to acquire a basic reading competence for Koine specifically, I'd like to hear about it. A very rough rule of thumb I've heard for languages generally is on the order of 3000-5000 words. (Note that the number of distinct words in the NT is just over 5600.)
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Re: Vocabulary / Week

Postby Louis L Sorenson » August 23rd, 2012, 12:08 am

The best place to look for such data is in 2nd language reading acquisition literature. Blaine Ray (of TPRS fame) talks about how most modern textbooks (Spanish) have gone up to 2000+ words. He says you only need 600 words to get the forms down, and that most other words (outside the mainstream) are learned via reading. He also strong states that beginners cannot process more than 600 words. Porter's 900+ words really pushes the limit - (It does not have a sound base of proven pedagogy ...Students of the GT method (Porter's method) simply cannot (on the whole) handle that many words, especially using the grammar-translation approach where interaction with the word occurs infrequently. On the other hand, when using a spoken approach to language teaching, the stock 300 words (as taught by most GT primers does not suffice. By about 3 weeks, students learning via the communicative method already know and use 100+ words. They are probably up to 300+ words by the end of the first semester, and up to 600+ by the end of the first year.

I read recently in Graben (The 'expert' on 2nd language reading acquisition) or another work on 2nd Language reading acquisition some statistics on how many words the new language learner can handle. I'll see if I can find those passages and pass them on. Those stats included how many words a first year student can acquire on average, how many additional words are added the next several years. Students in school (English students in an English language environment) learn to identify about 10,000 words in about 6 years (they learn the words by interacting with them, not by 'memorizing' them or learning vocabulary. This number is way beyond the needed 95% comprehension limit which is what a student needs to understand to be able to 'guess' the meaning of the words from the context. 2000-3000 words are needed to attain the 95% 'contextual comprehension' threshold, depending on the language. Greek, unlike many languages, has a smaller number of verbs (Greek verbs (must) do a wider range of applications/meaning than English or most other languages. I've read in a number of places, how Greek is different - needs less verbs - than most other languages).

I hope to add some strong content (i.e. academic statistics) to this post to help you understand where Greek stands in relation to other languages and in general, to give some hard stats on how many words a 1st year student can process. You need to understand though, that methodology (learning via the Grammar-translation method versus the Communicative method) differs significantly in the number of vocabulary words a student can 'process'.
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Re: Vocabulary / Week

Postby GlennDean » August 23rd, 2012, 10:27 am

Last year I was trying to memorize all words with frequency 15+ (which is about 825 words in the NT). It was taking me about 45min per day. I found out that I had to review all 825 words every 10 days to get 90% correct (for example if I went every 20 days to review all 825 words I would be down to 70% correct, but I wanted 90% correct rate). So to review 82-to-83 words each day (which is words 825 in 10days), writing down the words I missed, and retesting the words I missed 3-to-5 more times in the day would take me 45 min. IF you take the 45min to cover 825 words as a guideline, then Mounce's 335 words would take approximately 20min per day, while Croy's 404 words would take about 25 min per day.

I think a 3-hour course typically means the student is expected to complete all work for the course by using up 21 hours per week (i.e. 3 hours per day). I think spending 20min per day (which is 11% of your total time) is reasonable. 25min/day is about 14% of your total time.
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Re: Vocabulary / Week

Postby Stephen Carlson » August 23rd, 2012, 10:52 am

GlennDean wrote:I think a 3-hour course typically means the student is expected to complete all work for the course by using up 21 hours per week (i.e. 3 hours per day). I think spending 20min per day (which is 11% of your total time) is reasonable. 25min/day is about 14% of your total time.


The way I understand it is that a 3-hour course typically has three classroom "hours"* a week with an expected homework load of two hours for every hour of class. Thus a 3-hour course would correspond to 9 student hours a week, not 21.

Stephen

(*At Duke, a classroom hour is 50 minutes.)
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Re: Vocabulary / Week

Postby GlennDean » August 23rd, 2012, 11:21 am

It would be an interesting statistics on how much time do students spend on classes (by total time I would mean class time, going to prof's office hours, reading textbook, doing homework, prepare for quizzes/exams, ....). It would be an interesting statistic if you polled 1000 students all taking 12 hours of coursework, how much total time do they spend. If we multiply by 3 (as you recommend) that would only get you to 36 hours. I definitely could be wrong, but my guess is the total time would be closer to 60 hours (so multply the hours by 5). Me multiplying by 7 was probably on the high side (but I've always thought that language classes were super tough, and that it took more time than normal classes so that's why I went from multiplying by 7 instead of 5).
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Re: Vocabulary / Week

Postby Daniel Streett » August 23rd, 2012, 2:05 pm

Much of the discussion is problematic because of the following reasons:
1) Greek profs do not define what it means to 'learn' a vocab word. In most Greek classes it mean quite simply the ability to produce a one-word gloss for the word on a final exam. I hope we all realize that's not really a useful skill. SLA theorists mean much, much more when they speak about acquiring vocab. It entails ability to immediately recognize, to use fluently and correctly, to distinguish between it and closely related words, etc.
2) Not all words are created equal when it comes to vocab acquisition. Acquiring a thing-word (βιβλιον) is fairly simple and a quick process. Acquiring δε is much more involved, as it entails learning when it is and is not appropriate to use it, word placement, etc.
3) From my experience, some vocab can be learned in 'chunks' -- we learn collocations of words, opposites, semantic domains. Learning these words in groups has a synergistic effect. It's also much faster. Thus, my students can learn colors, numbers, foods much more quickly than they can more abstract words.

So, before we can even have a fruitful discussion about vocab acquisition and comparing grammars, we need to be straightforward about what we mean by 'learning' a word. That's something I don't think many grammars have made explicit (though the one-word-English-gloss expectation is implicit in their approach and their exercises).
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Re: Vocabulary / Week

Postby Jonathan Robie » August 23rd, 2012, 5:24 pm

Daniel Streett wrote:3) From my experience, some vocab can be learned in 'chunks' -- we learn collocations of words, opposites, semantic domains. Learning these words in groups has a synergistic effect. It's also much faster. Thus, my students can learn colors, numbers, foods much more quickly than they can more abstract words.


Do you have materials that present these words in groups available online? I'm looking for lists like this. I'm currently using Louw & Nida to look at semantic domains.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Vocabulary / Week

Postby Jesse Goulet » August 23rd, 2012, 7:59 pm

Daniel Streett wrote:Much of the discussion is problematic because of the following reasons:
1) Greek profs do not define what it means to 'learn' a vocab word. In most Greek classes it mean quite simply the ability to produce a one-word gloss for the word on a final exam. I hope we all realize that's not really a useful skill. SLA theorists mean much, much more when they speak about acquiring vocab. It entails ability to immediately recognize, to use fluently and correctly, to distinguish between it and closely related words, etc.

I suspect most of that comes with reading practice and understanding of grammar and picking up on the thought flow, wouldn't it?

2) Not all words are created equal when it comes to vocab acquisition. Acquiring a thing-word (βιβλιον) is fairly simple and a quick process. Acquiring δε is much more involved, as it entails learning when it is and is not appropriate to use it, word placement, etc.

When you look up a word in an English dictionary, there is usually an example or two that gives you the word in context so you can see how t's used. I often wish when I was learning Greek vocab in college that instead of getting a list in our textbook and then making flashcards for them that we would have some examples of the words in context, and exercises or some type of practice that allow you to learn how the word is used.

3) From my experience, some vocab can be learned in 'chunks' -- we learn collocations of words, opposites, semantic domains. Learning these words in groups has a synergistic effect. It's also much faster. Thus, my students can learn colors, numbers, foods much more quickly than they can more abstract words.

The practicality of this needs to be considered as well. For example, how often are colours, numbers, and foods mentioned in the Greek NT? Compared to abstract words such as "grace," "love," "peace," "truth," etc. they are very low. It might work for some words that are used more frequently, such as the words for family members: πατηρ, μητηρ, ὑιος, etc. So things like frequency of occurence in the NT need to be taken into consideration too.

So, before we can even have a fruitful discussion about vocab acquisition and comparing grammars, we need to be straightforward about what we mean by 'learning' a word. That's something I don't think many grammars have made explicit (though the one-word-English-gloss expectation is implicit in their approach and their exercises).

I often wonder if a more "holistic" approach is best. Meaning don't ditch the flashcards with the one word glosses, but include with pictures of objects (for nouns) or actions (verbs), examples of vocab words used in context, homework that involves creating a sentence using new vocab words . . . . . essentially just like how you learned English in your early elementary school years, where you had a variety of ways to learn words.
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Re: Vocabulary / Week

Postby RandallButh » August 24th, 2012, 1:51 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:
Daniel Streett wrote:3) From my experience, some vocab can be learned in 'chunks' -- we learn collocations of words, opposites, semantic domains. Learning these words in groups has a synergistic effect. It's also much faster. Thus, my students can learn colors, numbers, foods much more quickly than they can more abstract words.


Do you have materials that present these words in groups available online? I'm looking for lists like this. I'm currently using Louw & Nida to look at semantic domains.


Jonathan, Louw and Nida is a great place to start and it is a very useful work, but allowance must always be made for its relatively small and restricted base of texts, the GNT.

A parade example is the color θειώδης. A little kid would primarily relate to ξανθός 'yellow', and this helps one perceive the special color of θειώδης 'sulphurous yellow'.

the color for 'blue' is less clear, with ὑακίνθινος becoming common and joining and overtaking κυανοῦς/κυάνεος 'dark-blue, lapis-lazuliean.
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