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Matthew Gray-Smith
Learning Article : The Minimal Effective Dose: A Language-Learning Technique

Discuss the Article : The Minimal Effective Dose: A Language-Learning Technique

The Minimal Effective Dose: A Language-Learning Technique

Managing your language-learning time can be a daunting task. Don't waste your time! Learn how to better manage that precious resource with the Minimal Effective Dose technique.

Dec 13, 2014 12:00 AM
Comments · 10

While I fundamentally agree with the idea, I don't think you can do it with Asian languages like Japanese and Korean (if you come from a Romance language like French). What are considered to be "word units" often have corresponding "grammar rules", and many variations of them too. For instance, there's about 4 ways (I've learnt so far) to express the future tense in Korean (-을 거예요, -을 게요, -을 래요, -려고 하다) - each with a different nuance, or to want something is "verb root (I don't remember what it's called) -たい" in Japanese so you really just have to go through the grammar individually point by point.


But if it's from a very similar family, these are 12 revealing sentences. :) 


As for highest frequency vocab list - I agree - but I think that the implied notion that the most frequently used words in each language is one that should be challenged. Due to cultural (among other) differences, the words that are used frequently in one language don't always translate to ones that are used frequently in another. 


What do others think? 

February 22, 2015

That's why I'm always extra suspicious when somebody says that it's all much simpler than you think. It's like those "read such and such book and you'll be rich in three days". No, you cannot learn a language easily. It takes hell of an effort.
With all due respect to the author, I think that the article merely states the obvious (be as efficient as possible) and grossly oversimplifies the learning process. Like Baggio said, many languages are not even remotely similar to English and don't bear any resemblance to sentence or grammatical structure of English. Those 12 sentences don't do much if you have a language which is heavily inflected, has many genders etc. I've been learning Icelandic grammar for countless afternoons and am still far from having mastered it. Try doing it in a single afternoon! Of course that's not to mention Asian languages, for instance, which are the whole other universe compared to Indo-European languages. Also you can't say that you need so and so many words to speak comfortably. It may be enough to learn 400 Esperanto words but those 1200 words in Icelandic is next to nothing (according to my experience).

Yes, oversimplified advice sounds comforting but unfortunately it's not how it works.

October 31, 2015

I agree that the "active" vocabulary (what you use to form your own sentences) can be fairly compact.  If you lack a word, you can usually describe it with a phrase of more basic words - however awkward that may sound, e.g.  plumber = "the man who comes to your house to fix problems with water".. ;)

To understand what your conversation partner is saying, if she doesn't simplify her sentences to match your level, and to be able to read news articles, literature, watch movies and news in the language you're learning, the PASSIVE vocabulary has to be much, much greater.  I have found no substitute besides rote memorization of endless lists of words..  Flash-card software helps a lot (I use Anki).

For example, it would be useful to know, what are the most effective choices in amount of time, number of new words, number of reviewed words, etc, when learning vocabulary.

June 15, 2016

Curious to know whether scientific evidence is available to support this. Intuitively, different languages can't quite be learnt in exactly the same way.

May 21, 2015

I totally agree with Mark R on this. 

October 17, 2017
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Matthew Gray-Smith
Language Skills
English, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish
Learning Language
French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish