18 February 2014

Not Novice Enough, Genius Hour Experiment, part 8

A Spanish teacher learning Portuguese really does have an unfair advantage. I mean, there's no question that I'm still in the Novice Low, maybe Novice Mid range, but I do not have the pleasure of the utter blankness that takes over when faced with letters strung together in swaths of seeming gobbledy gook. I came close with my listening endeavors, but I still had a pretty strong arsenal of cognates to work with.

So I made a Pinterest board in Swedish.

Follow Laura Sexton's board svenska återvinning on Pinterest.

And suddenly that paralysis I have seen in select students' eyes during pinning and retweeting time hit me right between my own.

Here are some new novice conundrums I discovered with this exercise:
  • I see a handful of words whose meaning I'm pretty confident I can guess (papper, Hus, lampa, ringar) but I see a LOT more that could lead me astray if I guessed (I guessed med en fot av was "made in the photo of"--nope: "with a foot of." Woohoo! 1/4!)
  • I'm not entirely clear on the capitalization rules, or with names, locations,or brands in Sweden, so I can't be entirely sure if what I think is a name really is a name.
  • I don't know any prepositions or linking verbs to fill in any basics. I got av was "of" and år was something like "are," but even those I had to confirm with Google Translate (although to be fair, WordReference has yet to add Swedish). In other words, other than the pictures and the odd cognate, I had almost nothing to hang my hat on.
  • I have not the faintest familiarity with Swedish morphology or how it compares to anything I've ever seen before. With Portuguese, I'd picked up on Spanish Ns turning into Ms and -nh- and -lh- combinations before the Genius Hour experiment was a twinkle in my PBL eye. Man, but Swedish? I don't even know how to form a plural or what å IS. I couldn't even begin to tell you what's a verb and what's a noun--aside from paper, lamp, and house, of course, though those 2 years of German in high school have kind of helped justify connections AFTER I look something up. Which brings me to...
  • I do a lot better forming my connections after the fact rather than trying to guess before. I suppose the shame of thinking a foot was a photo might be enough to build some solid synapses, but that doesn't really ease the sneaking sense of a tidal wave of the complete unknown swooping up before my very eyes. 
These revelations lead me to two and a half conclusions:
  1. Revisiting vocabulary regularly is vital. We need to write down A) words we can figure out from context (and confirm with dictionaries and/or translators), B) words we can't figure out that turn out to be useful after we look them up (I doubt I'll need to know skedar is "spoon" or Bostadsguiden is "living wizard," and while knowing knasig means "nutty" is fun, it won't really help with my endeavors), and C) connector words like conjunctions and prepositions.
  2. It would be helpful to keep track of different forms of the same word to observe patterns and eventually describe the patterns, independent PACE style, if you will. So far, I've got 
    återanvänt, återvinning,
    and återvunnet in the "recycled/recycling" family...
2.5. Rather than insisting on a naked list of vocabulary in the target language, maybe it would be worth allowing mnemonics to help build our little synaptic bridges. I'm not completely sold on this one, though, as I think the naked TL list still could offer the appropriate connections over time, but the metacognitive benefits of consciously connecting to prior knowledge could be a powerful tool.

Every once in a while, I'll have to at least return to my Swedish pinning to become the deer in the target language headlights, but for the sake of the experiment (and readiness of resources), I shall return to Portuguese.

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