Friday, January 27, 2017

Active English Vocabulary

From the point I decided to learn as many languages as possible I've been thinking about making the process of learning more efficient. When you learn one language, it's much easier to learn another one from the same language class. Language schools, however, do not offer distinguished classes for "beginners - advanced learners" and "beginners - beginner learners". 

Recently emerged interesting challenges such as learning a language in 30 days on the Internet and as a person with a computer science degree I started to think how can I develop software for such challenge that would help me learning languages more efficiently.

What is active and passive vocabulary

Vocabulary is a set of words a person knows. According to Wikipedia, acquiring an extensive vocabulary is one of the biggest challenge in learning a foreign language. For experienced language learners, however, this don't have to be such challenge. 

What I always found disturbing at language courses was that learning process started right from a point zero, as we were learning our first language; from learning simple words like naming animals, colors, family members, to more and more difficult vocabulary. After years of visiting such classes you weren't able to understand what you wanted to understand. Life around you, newspapers, TV shows, movies. The only appropriate media content for you were kids movies and slow BBC podcasts.

Jumping over this line was painful and included talking to real native speakers in real time. This made me to conclusion that I can learn a language much faster by choosing a different approach. It was ages ago.

Later on I started to think about vocabulary learning. A usual way of learning a new language starts with learning grammar rules and along the way learn new vocabulary. I would like to test a little bit reversed approach which I find more natural, learning vocabulary first and learning grammar and syntax along the way. Children learn their native language syntax empirically and build their vocabulary according to their interests (which is focused on naming things at home, animals and toys first). As we grow old, our interests are changing and we want to talk about emotions, politics, biology or tech. Why don't we also try to learn grammar empirically and build new vocabulary with the mostly used words? The question is which words do people use the most?

Active vocabulary of average adult native English speaker consists of about 20.000 words. However, it's been said that a vocabulary of just 3000 words provides coverage for around 95% of common texts such as news items, blogs, etc.

What if we started learning with top-bottom approach, rather than bottom-up approach? What if we learn the most used grammar rules and just 3000 words first and then build your vocabulary and grammar knowledge?

Efficient way of learning languages based on statistical methods

I came to this idea far earlier than I started working on it, then I forgot about it. I started to study data processing instead with a big passion for going further than just to SQL and relational databases. It was a few years after massive online courses started to spread around the Internet. I picked a course about Data Science and deeply plunged into learning about awesome examples how data processing can help us in daily life, in completely common activities.

That was the time I came back to the idea of learning languages more efficiently using my programming skills ;)

I wrote a program for scraping data from Twitter real time stream in 2015. Processing just about 15.000 English Tweets gave me a list of more than 15.000 unique words I could play with. So many "15"s there, right?

My processing methods were and, unfortunately, still are pretty simple and straightforward. They were still more focused on fast and efficient data processing than on the language itself. According to the frequency of individual words I built a list of the most frequently used words among English speakers on Twitter.

My results weren't that far from official Oxford dictionaries statistics. At least first top 10 mostly used words were exactly the same, just in different order. Among those words were words like the, I, are and so on. Not so meaningful, though, the word love was on 23rd place.

Learning only 3000 words for daily communication

Recently I returned back to work on this project again and saw my naive Python codes. I've never been excellent in Python, neither in linguistics. I've been just a motivated enthusiast with an idea to build something of interest. I decided to build another, more useful version of my dictionary. (The first one consisted of a HTML page with words and links to a Slovak-English dictionary with q= option in URL for each word.)

Active English Vocabulary

The application Active English Vocabulary is now again in the development process. The second version will include following features:
  • Classifying words into groups (part of speech word groups)
  • Building a desktop application supporting translations of English words to another languages
  • Cleaning the data

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Exploring .... Beijing - China, part 1

Today in China!

Market with all traditional and fresh (sometimes too fresh) dishes

Delicious strawberries in caramel

Git merge in real life

Forbidden city

I have no clue what is this

Sunday, August 21, 2016

YOLO ... Simple Survival Rule

I've learned one important thing here in Switzerland - you only live once. Swiss people are especially good in enjoying life, at least in comparison with Slovak people, so slowly I tuned to their life pace and started enjoying :)

I'm great and I visited some interesting places. Here is just a brief preview of the long list:

Trip to Niederhorn

Rock climbing in Wimmis

This is just a posing pic at the very end of climbing, don't worry!

Bike trip to Hani

Boats on Aare River

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Explore Switzerland 2 - Aarebootle

Before you start reading this post, please visit this site about Aare first. You'll learn how does the real Swiss German look like :P

Next, please take into your consideration that photos below are really a masterpiece. Why?

First: There is a princess on each boat.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Explore Switzerland 1 - Spiez

Spiez is a city on the shore of Lake Thun in Swiss canton of Bern. This city has a long and interesting history which can be seen in its medieval castle and church. Another characteristics of the city are beautiful vineyards on along the lake and fishing tradition. Moreover outdoor swimming pools are an attraction for tourists because of the picturesque landscape ...

From Spiez you can get to the other side of the Lake Thun and from there take a cable car to get to Niederhorn. You can see this mountain (on right) in the picture below.

Except the clean and organized look this city has you can walk through the nearby hills and vineyards. During this romantic walk you can see drones, pandas or knights with dinosaurs watching you from balconies of nearby houses :)

You can get to Spiez from Thun by bike, bus or take a train. The map below displays the terrain.

For more information about Spiez use Wiki or just Google it :) I LOVE it there.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Demo Product Sale Presentation

Today I started to work on a Demo Sale Presentation of the Office Add-in I've been working on since June. Of course I searched for some inspirational tips for making a good presentation seeing that I've never done anything like this before. ^^

These slides are from Eric Schmidt presentation about How Google Works. Nothing useful, yet quite motivating. ^^

You can see the whole presentation (and much more) here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

6 Things To Do When Staying Abroad

Hello everybody!

It's been a while since the last time I wrote you and I deeply apologize for being so busy. Good news, finally I am here again, bringing some fresh adventurous stories, tips for places to visit and the top selection of actions from the last week.

Ready for reading? Fasten your seat belt, take a bucket of popcorn, we're taking off!

Switzerland haven't let me down once again and I spent some marvelous moments in Bern, Thun, Wimmis, Grindelwald, Spiez and some other places. Let's go through the highlights of the last days and tips for your travel adventures...

Picture from Grindelwald
1. Visit a football or any other game. If you are staying in Thun, Stockhorn Arena is a right place to go. Visiting a football game in a place you're currently staying abroad should not miss on your MUST-DO list, no matter if you currently live in London, Madrid or Thun. The atmosphere is always unforgettable and I am pretty sure you'll sing the fan-club's song for the rest of the evening.

Fan clubs create the right atmosphere
Tour de France took place in some parts of Switzerland
2. Accept invitations to any event, either it's a tea-session with grandmas, BBQ or a pizza party with your friend's father. Don't stay at home. You'll meet a lot of interesting people, get to know the local jokes or favorite videos on Youtube. You'll get integrated to the social life more quickly. Moreover you'll enjoy a lot of fun preparing food, gathering apricots, riding bikes and much more...

Picture from Spiez. I biked 44km that day.
3. Take care of your colleague's cats. This might sound silly and it is definitely not a thing you can do without a colleague who is leaving soon to the holidays (thanx, Roman!) but this is a good opportunity to get lost in the city while trying to find his house, discover new roads, look around and find some new nice places. Getting lost is always a good idea to see the city from inside, not just from a tourist's sight.

4. Go to Open Air cinema without knowing the weather forecast. It's possible you'll get a nice package with plastic raincoat. If it starts to rain it's a nice chance to enjoy a really funny moments when everybody starts to open the packages while there is a really important scene in tho movie. Nice smiles of people around, sharing spirit of the night with the rest of people in the cinema, that feeling that you understood one single joke from the movie, you'll remember this for the rest of your life.

5. Swim whenever and wherever possible. Floating on Aare river in Bern is the most exciting activity you can do with friends during hot summer days. The streams are quite strong but it is definitely worth it. Speak nothing of the dose of endorphin you'll get.  

Bird's perspective
Ferris Wheel in Thun with Pascal & Roman

6. Never miss an opportunity to speak foreign language. There are always nice opportunities to practice. Random people in the street will ask you for directions, or customers in a company you're working for will ask for spoons or sugar to their coffees. These are just simple small talks but few small steps equals one big step. Go ahead, read magazines, advertisements, comics, wherever possible.

People walk a long way and then "get onto waves"