Do you train Gender and Plural? (ex. for German)
If you want to take this to a higher level, look at Constantin Vayenas, Der, die, das: The Secrets of German Gender (2017, 2019). The author, who had the same problem that all non-native German speakers have in deciphering gender classification in the language, sets about a serious study of linguistic patterns. He is Greek but knows Latin, which assists in unravelling some of the ancient mysteries.
Given that nouns constitute 70 per cent of the words in the German language this is certainly a very important topic for language acquisition. And particularly so when you have the worthy aspiration, as you do, to go on to serious writing in the language.
Yes, of course you can slur over a ‘d-apostrophe‘ or two, particularly in the spoken language, and you might try occasionally going ‘Southern German’’ (by turning words into the diminutive and giving them an umlaut and a ‘-lein‘, ‘-chen‘ or even a ‘-li‘ ending!) but you will be found out in the harsh spotlight of written German. And yes there are these baffling ‘wandering nouns’ too: Duden, the preeminent dictionary of the German language, points out that it was generally thought to be ‘das Virus’ as befits medical and scientific terminology with a Latin basis, but with the current pandemic and particularly in everyday language and increasingly on radio and TV it has become ‘der Virus’. So-called ‘multiple-gender nouns’ are just 1.3% of nouns listed in Duden, but it looks as though der Virus is rapidly following on the erratic trail of ‘der/das Laptop’...
Computers of course have assisted greatly in analysis and have highlighted some very interesting - and not always obvious - results. The author has two over-arching rules: categories and sounds. He points out that these classifications, and all their derivatives, are rarely ‘taught’. This is of course to the vexation of all German language aspirants, who are usually told, as Mark Twain was, to learn each noun’s gender ‘separately and by heart: there is no other way’.
But the author shows that there is assuredly ‘another way’, albeit not always simple, and he delves into a huge amount of detail, which is absolutely fascinating.
If you want to check even further into the statistical demolition of the traditional claim that ‘gender assignment is arbitrary and unpredictable in German‘ look at a Cambridge PhD thesis which proves it is ‘in fact a largely regular, systematic process’; Emma Corteen, The Assignment of Grammatical Gender in German 2018 www.repository.cam.uk
German children inevitably learn these ‘secret‘ pathways by immersion, but it is uncanny that when tested at age seven with ‘fake words’ they allocate gender in exactly the same way that adults do when taking these simulated linguistic tests; Dieter and Karin Krohn, Der, das, die - oder wie? (2008). At age five German children, when puzzling over some of the ’fake words’, tend to go for the feminine - not a bad guess as almost half of German nouns are feminine - but by age seven they become unerringly ‘accurate’! So there is most definitely a logic underlying the allocation of der, die and das.
I would thoroughly recommend the book by Constantin Vayenas as it has so many useful insights, backed up by percentages from the research. Occasionally I caught myself thinking ‘oh the author is just inventing yet another sub-rule to fit the random idiosyncracies of the German language’... but not too often! And his last three chapters, mercifully short, deal with some impenetrable remaining mysteries for the non-native speaker: ‘one or the other’; nouns with more than one gender; or even ‘nouns with no gender’...
There is even a list of five nouns using all three genders, varying on a regional or dialectical basis: der/die/das Bookmark, Dingsbums, Spam, Triangel and the infamous Joghurt (with very slippery spelling too, as it can also pop up on a shopping trip as Yogurt, Yogourt, Yoghourt...)
Wow, thank you for all these details. I bought the book by Constantin Vayenas and I'll see it in the next weeks. I truely believe there is always a logic but that we didn't and don't understand it rationally. I think we make more mistakes because we wrote grammar books in the past trying to "understand" how we speak but we didn't and we keep following those models. That's why we always have thousands of exeptions.
Unfortunately this is what we get and so, learning with those grammars rules that are often wrong we start to change the language in a way that wasn't supposed to.
Probably, the reality is that most of the rules should come from the sound of the language that we are unable to decrypt. In the same way animals communicate so do we.
Anyway, thanks for all the info, I wish I could just have more mental concentration to read and learn more in this period.
I must say LingQ is not helping me learn the genders. It should have been included in the vocabulary training. Its not enough that some translations have it included.
It's true, LingQ doesn't help in this situation, and not even with separable verbs. But you can add other tools for that or focus in the sentences more and more. You can often guess the gender from the adjective declention before the noun or articles and so on. Not easy task!
I'm wondering why though, since it supports so many of these languages which have words categorized by gender. Adjective declension is ok for difference between say der and die but der and das have somewhat similar declension. I came to search in this forum if someone else was struggling with this aspect of LingQ and am glad I found your post. Its only my 5 day into the streak with LingQ, so I need to give some more time to see if this tool helps.
Let's say that the tool works very well but not for everything. It could be improved like any other tool. Right now I'm trying to understand all the general rules about gender and then catching them when I read or write something. I create my own logic because I don't think flashcards work for remembering gender either. It should come with more and more experience on the language and at the end unlock the sound of the language in your brain.
Check out easygermangrammarstories - the author has written 4 books and self published them. Each book has a story only in one gender, helps grasping the concepts. The 4th book is for Konjunktiv-II and verbs and prepositions.
Awesome, thank you for this. I've bookmarked the website and I'll check it out better in the next weeks.
If you are serious about learning German, you absolutely must learn genders. I have heard Steve say he does not care about them, but then he probably only uses German in casual conversations and not in writing or for professional activities (?)
When you learn a new word, do not just learn the word e.g. "Regen" (rain), or "Regen (masculine)" but learn it with the article: "der Regen". If you do, then you will memorise the sound of "der Regen" and will realise something is off if someone says "die Regen".
yes, I definitely believe so. But do you think that exposure on reading and listening, and being mindful at the same time, would create the ability to acquire gender anyway?
I don’t know because I’ve never done this way but sooner or later you’ll encounter the same words with different declensions and probably there will be “der Regen” too. And the same word in accusative or dative and so on. And the plural version.
Would be this exposure enough to, as you said, realise something is “off”? And remember it when writing and speaking? Or a sort of SRS would be necessary?
" But do you think that exposure on reading and listening, and being mindful at the same time, would create the ability to acquire gender anyway? "
I tried this approach in high school for French. Basically, I hoped the articles would just stick and I did not really focus on learning them as I described above. The result was rather disappointing. It was basically just guessing and more often than not I was wrong. Admittedly, I hated French in high school and I did not really do any extensive reading in French in my spare time. So, I do not really know if it may have worked.
Thanks for sharing this. Yes, in high school could be a lot different. The way I study and learn now is completely different compared to when I was young. I’m trying to understand how better use LingQ for gender and also for separable verbs. But this last might be for another topic.
There is an app quite useful for learning genres in German. The name of the app is der die das (Tim Freiheit), available in ios and android. Not only useful for genres, but vocabulary. With practice it is not very difficult guessing genres in german, the only thing you have to do is take a look at the endings of the declensions. For me, it's far more difficult to master german noun plurals.
Thanks Xavimo. I know the app you mentioned and I have it in my phone. I've used it a few times but I'm wondering if it's really necessary compared to use a better strategy with LingQ. As for now, I think I've found my answer.
I'm a German native so of course I don't have any personal experience with learning German genders. However, I've worked with some people learning German. I think that I would at least take a look at the rules that exist. For example that all words ending with "ung" or "heit" are female. Also probability is your friend. If you have a word ending with "e" and don't know the gender you have a good chance of being correct if you assume it's female. These rules of thumb can be quite helpful. Not everything you need but a considerable reduction of complexity.
Hey locutus, thanks for your insight from a German perspective.
Yes, you’re right, I usually do so already and I learn about patterns or possible “rules”. My curiosity was to understand if LingQ would be enough to get the gender of nouns. So with continuous exposure from reading and listening and creating LingQs.
Without for example using flashcards, or “games”, or other possible parallel methods for learning gender faster.
In French and Bulgarian (also 3 genders) I just rely upon my ear to get it right. i.e. input, input, input. If I had to actively study these types of things I think that I would give up language learning. I feel that I can become quite accurate by reading and listening and speaking. When I make a mistake in gender I get a kind of uncomfortable feeling, I just know that I'm wrong, but speaking is automatic so I continue and will eventually get it.
yeah, that’s is what I was talking about when referring at the ”sound” of the language. Which I believe is the true grammar of the languages.
So, you’re studying Bulgarian without paying attention to the genders with any other method and only using LingQ? Or similar in attitude, let’s say. And this is enough for nailing the most of them?
When Lingq'ing I try to select the popular translations that have the article. If I'm creating a different translation I probably have been lazy about that, but it is something I've been doing lately.
Regardless, I'm not doing anything extra. As you read you will encounter the correct articles and just like everything else you should learn them to some degree just through input of reading and listening. You'll also notice patterns for gender...There are a few patterns. Not 100%, but pretty good I think.
Other than that...I'm not worrying about it. I think it will sort itself out with more exposure. If you watch Steve Kaufman's videos on when he learned german (he's got several), he's said that he didn't really start progressing until he stopped trying to remember all those declensions. Essentially, it's a waste to do extra work...you will forget them again anyway in this isolated separate work.
I've asked my German gf's father about the article genders before...whether I would be understood if I got them wrong. He's said many times that a native would understand. There are some situations where it might be a little ambigous but much of it can be gleamed from context. Or clarifying questions or statements.
There are two different questions here: one is how you can master the grammar, which was OP's original doubt. A completely different one is "How much improper grammar can i get away with?". The latter depends on your goals. If all you want is communicate at a basic level, sure, you can get it wrong most of the time.
However, be aware that this is similar to someone not minding about when to use plurals in English or the "s" for the third person of verbs or the past tenses, or eschewing articles and so on. Sure, native speakers can still understand most of the time but it demands making an effort and it doesn't really sound good or give a good impression. It also often makes people believe that you can't speak very well and they may either stop trying or reverting to English in the case of a language such as German.
The question is to what extent grammar can be consciously learned. There are plenty of people who study English grammar for ten years straight in school and have terrible grammar. Other people know virtually nothing about the grammar of their target language and speak (almost) flawlessly.
" It also often makes people believe that you can't speak very well and they may either stop trying or reverting to English in the case of a language such as German. "
Interesting. I only switch to German when I can tell that the other person doesn´t understand me or just seems really uncomfortable. I couldn´t care less about whether they say das Bus or der Bus^^
I definitely share ftornay answer to this. It's true what Steve does but he always says that he does train himself more for reading and understanding texts. He doesn't focus on writing for example.
ftornay gave the exact feeling on how you hear other people using your language and missing "s", eliminating articles, using verbs only at the infinite form and so on. Sure, as tourists there's no problem with that but if they keep talking like that after years studying the language or living in your country you're not gonna have a good impression about it. It's inevitable, it's unconscious.
I probably didn't phrase my reply well. I certainly don't mean just just forget about the genders altogether or just use "die" all the time =). What I'm saying is that, with enough exposure you will learn them, and learn the patterns. You will likely get a lot wrong early on, but less as you progress. I'm merely pointing out that you are going to make mistakes even if you practice genders separately anyway.
Is it better to spend more time reading and listening where you are picking up the genders anyway as well as lots of new vocabulary and phrases? Or to spend time flashcarding nouns with their genders (maybe there's a better approach to working on genders separately?). I think I would vote the former. It's not like the flashcarding is a magic wand that will prevent you from making mistakes.
I also think it's not accurate that there isn't "specific logic" to the genders. There are some patterns that can help. Here's a random link I found that lists some of them:
BTW...I'm still much in the intermediate stages of my German language learning so I'm by all means, not an expert!
Hey ericb100, yes, I know there is some logic in some gender structures but I didn’t want to elaborate on that. Yeah, you’re right, I could probably write something like: (I know of some).
edit: I’ve just put a couple of quotation marks.
That’s said, I agree with you if reading and listening on LingQ is enough. That’s why I asked that, to better understand from whom did it and obtain great results. I would definitely prefer to simplify my learning method instead of having too many different tools. But only if they are truly effective.
I'd definitely defer to others who are at a higher level than I. I think for the most part I have a good sense of the articles on many of the nouns I know, but to be open and honest, I've not done much *output* (speaking and writing). So I might have an inflated sense of confidence. I wonder if there's a website or app that has a "guess the article". I'd be curious on how well I'd do, even on words that I'm not familiar yet.
So I did find an app on German (looks like there are severals).
You can choose the "game" that will give you nouns and you pick the correct article. I chose "Beginner". I'm not sure what this signifies to be honest because some of the nouns I'm only barely familiar with.
In any event, I scored a 76% (19/25). So not perfect, by any stretch but still hit a decent rate...and again, many of the words I wasn't familiar with or hadn't had much exposure with.
I think you mentioned you are on OS? Supposedly there's a similar app called "German Articles Buster"...but you might also look for "Der Die Das".
This is a nice test, thanks for trying it. I think the score is pretty good considering that you didn’t focus on doing any specific training for gender before.
In fact, I was wondering if it would be the case to do some gender training after reaching a certain LingQ level. So to refine and improve the most difficult ones.
I know Der Die Das, which is a little well done app, thanks. I probably tend to focus more on what I don’t know than what I know. The problem is not on test though but on the speedy to remember the gender when writing or speaking (and use all the proper declensions). Now the process is pretty slow but I‘m only at a beginner stage for now.
Anyway, thanks again for checking this.
Replying here David to your response as we seem to have hit "depth" in this reply structure.
I did try the "Advanced" one and faired much more poorly at 60%. Most of the words I didn't know. Extremely small sample size but that might indicate to some extent that through exposure it has helped, while less familiar nouns with little exposure I'm closer to 50/50 guessing. I think with review of some of the typical patterns with endings and what not, that could bump up the accuracy with less effort than working through a bunch of noun words list. To what degree, I'm not sure.
You're spot on in terms of producing with speed. I think it goes in combination with speed of actually producing the language at all through speaking and writing. With less speaking or writing so far there would definitely be a lot of stumbles, not just with the articles but with producing the words.
I suspect though that your active vocabulary, as you acquire and use it will be very attune to the proper genders for the articles of those words you speak a lot. Poorly at first, but getting better with more exposure on the input side and then practicing speaking/writing on the output.
Thanks for trying the advanced as well.
I think the best would be to have an overall ideas of the patterns before and recognize them more and more when reading or listening on LingQ.
Once we start acquire the 100% sure patterns like -ung, -heit, and so on, our brain could benefits to focus on the less precise patterns that are not 100%. For example, alcohol (but das Bier), or others like that. Let’s say the 80/90%. And then switch to focusing to the less obvious patterns. Lastly, probably train some random ending and group of words.
Just an idea.
And I think this could go along with what ftorany was saying when mentioning to be mindful of gender and plural. I think this could be a good approach to acquire a lot using LingQ.
When I was learning German and other gendered languages, I tried to be mindful of what gender each word was and I often checked gender/plural. It also helps if you lingq phrases in which the gender is apparent, rather than just isolated words. Being mindful, checking and getting exposed is what really works. After that, begin speaking and, again, try to be mindful of the correct grammar, while accepting that you'll make lots of mistakes.
I never used separated tools to learn gender for pural and I don't think it's necessary or particularly helpful, but I did repeat from time to time, say, "Das Gewehr, die Gewehre" when I came across the word and checked the inflexion. Same with "lesen, liest, las, gelesen" and such.
Thanks for your insight but I’m not really sure about what you mean for being mindful.
Do you mean paying attention to the gender of the word when you encounter it by reading or listening? Like you said, sometimes repeating the gender of the word and so on?
Lots of mistakes are good at the beginning but not forever. Of course, I don’t aim at perfection but I don’t want to write or speak all the time with lots of mistakes. At least not in 1 or 2 years time.
Of course, speaking correctly and with the right grammar, including declension, gender and so on is one of my priorities. I don't think I make many mistakes in that area in German, French, Italian or Russian.
By being mindful I mean to stop and think as you read "so what gender is this?" What would the plural/singular be?", "Can I tell by the sentence?", if I can't "Can I remember it, guess it?" If not, I woud often (not always) look it up and try to remember it for the next time. In difficult cases I may consider editing the Lingq to add that info, so I would have it available next time I encounter the word.
I forgot to mention something else. When I read on Lingq I usually have a god online dictionary open on another tab (I tend to read on my laptop) and I routinely look up words whose grammar I am unsure of. I sometimes write that info on my Lingq.
So, the main takeaway is that I don't just read on, especially in the beginning. I often stop, and check the grammar By checking and rechecking and being mindful you end up becoming very familiar with the vocabulary.
I do the same with grammar or dictionaries. I'm just wondering that I will forget most of the gender words compared to using another parallel tool to train them at the same time. Not sure which method is "faster".
Well, the only way to know what works for you is go on and try but, for me, this is the only method that is effective.
Ich wünsche dir viel Erfolg beim Deutchlernen!
I just had a look at your stats. I am under the impression that German is the first non-Romance gendered language that you learn seriously and your level, although is clearly improving, is still not very high.
It is usual to have many doubts at that stage. Again, try several methods but my own opinion is that you'll become more confident in a while, even with genders/pluras and so on, if you just keep your current method.
yes, exactly. But I’ve just started with LingQ and found many benefits. But I was wondering how gender is handled by learners just by using this method. So I can drop others and focus on this.
I don’t care about my stats for now as I’ve just started using LingQ and I’m not methodic yet. And I do English, Spanish and French just for fun without really thinking about it. But I’m converting more and more on using LingQ.