i+1 reading or LingQ for vocabulary acquisition?
I spend years being overwhelmed constantly by Greek and much prefer LIngQ. i plus less that 20% texts are still hard to find (currently using Easy Greek) but I can mix easy and harder texts for a mix of interest and ease.
We are at the approximate same amount of known words. But I have many more LingQs than you (21k vs 9k). I remember a while ago you mentioned you did a lot of repetition of the Mini Stories. I did too, but not as much as you. So for me, texts will have a lower % of new words, because many of them will already be lingQed (but not currently known but in the process of learning).
I don't see a distinction. Whether you use a dictionary or not (and it's definitely ok to use a dictionary), you still need mass amounts of input at the appropriate level. It's enormously inefficient to work with material that's too hard. You end up deciphering the material rather than listening/reading/understanding the material. It's just a fundamentally different cognitive process. That's how I discovered comprehensible input. I was a severe casualty of traditional skill-building classes and I was regularly spending a couple hours to decipher one article in Le Point, but then one day it struck me that I could read (actually read, not decipher) far more French in the same amount of time if I read children's books instead and that would have to be better. A sort of you must walk before you run type of logic (but of course, my professor was telling me to study grammar more. Not a single teacher had ever mentioned the idea of comprehensible input, or the importance of input at all. Just keep doing grammar exercises buddy...) Then of course found Krashen's work right after that.
From a listening standpoint, Krashen is the way to go.
Once you've hit a high upper beginner or low intermediate level through your favorite combination of methods: LingQ mini-stories, language apps, flashcards, graded readers...you've got traction in the language.
Find some of the easier podcasts where they speak your L2 at normal speed, speak in just the L2 (not English interspersed), and that you understand 80% or more of what's being said. When you've found that, you've hit paydirt.
Stay there for a while and grow.
It's a fool's errand at this point to reach for high-intermediate and advanced podcast comprehension where you're struggling to understand the gist of what's being said and can only vaguely follow the story, mistakenly thinking that you're building great language muscles that way.
You won't. Bask in the sweet spot of finding those podcasts that are spoken at full speed and that you understand. When you listen to an episode and you understand it well, delete it from your playlist and download some more.
Periodically check out the upper intermediate (or higher) podcasts to see if you understand them. If you understand 70-80% of the content, move up to those podcasts. If you don't, stay in your zone of understanding with your regular podcasts.
Is listening to a podcast (i+1) the best way to increase vocabulary? Then you have zero opportunity to look up the definition of a word (compared to reading) or while listening to a teacher/tutor/friend, you can interrupt them and ask them what the word means. Sometimes you just encounter words, where you just cannot guess from context.
It doesn't take much resourcefulness to look up the definition of word(s) I hear.
Apple podcasts has a pause button and I have the Deepl and Google Translate apps on my phone if I need them.
So you can break them down into extensive reading (i+1) and intensive reading (dictionary-based). It's really a continuum in the sense that for extensive reading you aim for <2% unknown words, whereas intensive reading can be as high as 30%+, but what do you call reading at 4% unknown words, where you only use the dictionary for every third unknown word? Semi-intensive reading? Semi-extensive reading?
We know from studies that extensive reading does work for vocabulary acquisition. Quite well, actually. And we also know from personal experience (using LingQ) that intensive (and semi-intensive) reading works too. So, in reality, both are very practical, effective methods for acquiring vocabulary. And they are not mutually exclusive. You can do both extensive and (semi-)intensive reading.
Benefits of extensive reading:
- More fun, as the flow of the story/article is not interrupted by consulting the dictionary
- Less mental energy because texts are easier
- Can be done offline with paper books
- You read more, so you reinforce more words/grammar structures.
Benefits of intensive reading:
- Can read more interesting (harder) texts (which at the beginning is important, because graded readers can be very boring...)
- You encounter more new words (so you can learn more words)
Both strategies are great for increasing vocabulary and both have unique benefits to themselves. It's probably best to do both. I do like paper books, but I also like the ability to deal with more interesting (harder) texts. I also like the option to consult a dictionary (such as for a word I cannot guess in context). So in an ideal world, I'd have paper books, where I can have an instant dictionary, if I want, and I'd switch between easier and more challenging texts.
But your question was regarding which is more efficient for vocabulary acqusition. I'd probably say intensive and semi-intensive reading is probably more efficient, because it means you can encounter more unknown words.
If you watch Steve Kaufmann's YouTube videos, you may remember his process for studying Persian/Arabic. He reads only half the podcast transcript, but after a while (cause it takes too long), he just stops reading it all and instead just skips to the yellow and unknown words. I guess this is kind of almost flashcard-style learning words (but in a context). This way, he encounters many new words, so increases his vocabulary.
TL;DR I think (semi-)intensive reading (with a dictionary) is probably more efficient for vocabulary acquisition, but both intensive and extensive reading are highly effective techniques to improve your vocabulary. Extensive reading has other benefits.
Second that. One thing I do in Polish is that before reading/listening a lesson I sometimes go through the blue and yellow words and check if I instantly know their meaning. Then when I really go through the lesson some days later I can focus more on the new and unknown words.
Another thing I do to emulate extensive reading is that I almost never look up yellow words, unless I really have to know their meaning.
A mix of two.
My words known number isn't very high in the languages I'm learning since I'm new on LingQ and my level isn't that high either, but my eventual goal is to focus on content containing 10-20% new words. I think this range will work better on this platform than 2% considering that LingQ doesn't count word families but every individually individually.
In the end the two aren't exclusive because LingQ isn't something that takes care of everything and serves you the best content available, but only a tool that makes it easier to do things you can do otherwise (quick dictionary lookup, all unknown words at glance, some content available right on the platform, etc.). As such you can use it any way you like and there's nothing stopping you from importing content that only has 2% unknown words.
LingQ is much better. By reading in LingQ we can very, very quickly progress to content that actually interests us, instead of being stuck with graded readers. The progression is much, much faster with LingQ.
I have not found any academic evidence that translation hinders language acquisition. On the contrary, both Professor Paul Nation and Steve Kaufman say that translation does not hinder language acquisition.
Using LingQ for language acquisition has to be one of the fastest ways of acquiring massive amounts of vocabulary IMO. Not only can you read massive amounts, but you can easily export unknown words to a flashcard program for targeted study. It's such a powerful tool.
LIngq. I couldn't read Mr Men books in Greek. I'm approaching 5000 words from a base of abot 2000 words before starting LingQ this year. I know about 80% of the words and sometimes less if I really like the text.
I'd say LingQ approach. Krashen, imo, hasn't gotten with the times to use technology available to him as evidenced by his recent interview with Steve. I'm sure someone can provide what n+1 equates to, but I think we're talking 98% comprehension or so??? I know it's in the 90's and I think at least 95%. This is fine for those still using paper dictionaries and books, but with LingQ I think you're better off in the 10-15% LingQ range. (85-90% comprehension---actually it's probably less because the LingQ percentages don't count yellow words).
I say this because the speed at which you can look up, plus the ability to do quick phrasal or full sentence translations means you can can by a lot easier. If you had to look these words all up in a paper dictionary it would be rough.
I think if you're doing a lot of n+1 reading on LingQ or other sources, you're not adding a lot of vocabulary imo...you are reinforcing words you do know, which is good in building speed of translation so there is benefit.
Plus...as you point out, it's really difficult to find material that really is n+1...even in the languages where there is a lot of graded readers. There's only so much of this material, and I think once you get beyond a certain level there probably isn't much material. LingQ helps with these jumps where you can't truly get an n+1 stair step. Also, the other reasons you state make graded readers not a great solution to the problem. I think they're a great asset, but ultimately not good enough for an overall strategy imo.
Caveat...I have no evidence for anything I'm saying =)
I suspect the i+1 approach would be ideal.
Not just for picking up new vocabulary, but for the sake of acquiring the structure of the language.
In my opinion the more comprehensible the material is the more mental bandwidth you'll have to put to work on how the language is put together.
If you're dealing in content which contains a ton of unknown words it's really hard to focus on the bigger picture sentences as you're constantly zooming in on individual words.
If you look at 5 year old kids, they're pretty much fluent in their native languages already, albeit with a limited vocabulary.
I think this is mostly due to how deeply the structure of their language is engrained in their minds, and because of it they can grasp new vocabulary with relative ease because they understand the context the word is surrounded in very well.
Another thing I noticed about kids learning their native language versus adults learning foreign languages is how quick kids are to pick out unknown words.
It's as if as soon as they hear a word they're unfamiliar with an alarm goes off, meanwhile as adult foreign language learners I feel like we kind of develop an unknown word blindness, possibly because unknown words are the default.
We kind of have the opposite process where alarms go off when we hear a known word, at least until we start to grasp the language, but that can take awhile.
It all kind of boils down to compelling media though.
If we could watch and read content intended for children with the same level of interest I think we could somewhat tap into the language learning potential that kids have.
But that's easier said than done, it takes a lot more to stimulate the mind of an adult.
I've watched Peppa Pig for language learning purposes and I think it's a decent way to practice, but I don't have the need to know what's going on the same way a 4 year old does, our motives are different.
The observation about "unknown" vs "known" word blindness is very smart. I've never heard that before but it really rings true.
It's possible that this looks like a difference between children and adults because we can only really recognize children's attention to unknown words when they reach an age when they happen to have enough language to no longer be experiencing the language as a huge smudge of unknown words. But yeah, as an adult learner, it is true that the beginning stages, at least, are experienced as this blurry, indistinct cognitive processing, with the solid words standing out against a background of fuzzy unknown and semi-known words that all blend together.
Kids also have a high tolerance for repetition. They will watch the same thing over and over and over again, but they will also watch new things and watch those over and over again.
I think ideally, for language learning some amount of repetition is helpful, but I think most of us don't tolerate it very well and would rather move on after one reading, listening, or viewing.