Sentence Mining

Sentence Mining: Inputting Sentences in a SRS

A mining tunnel!

As I explained in Picture Cards for Learning Vocabulary, you have to space your learning intervals shorter if you want to learn faster. If you’ve completed those steps, you should now be able to recall about a hundred words from your native language to your foreign language without looking (that includes the spelling). You have to have your vocabulary completely memorized before you go the next step. You have? Okay, then it’s time for sentence mining!

The principle is quite simple. You look through native material to find sentences that contain the new words. You enter the sentences in a SRS like Anki or Memosyn. The reason is that it’s important to see and understand the words in a context. Context is everything, right? There’s a huge spectrum of language-learning websites in the Internet and a lot of them recommend sentence mining. If I’m not mistaken, it was AJATT that coined the term. The sentences can’t be too long or too complicated, either, otherwise you’ll get overwehlmed and give up (it happened to me).

Use Dictionaries to Mine for Sentences!

So where do I get the sentences for the new words? The Internet has grown quite a bit in the last 10-15 years. As long as you’re not learning a super exotic language, you can find online dictionaries that have example sentences.  I use for Japanese. Just a short search and I found dictionary french-english  for French.  Many foreign language learners go to  Tatoeba, but you have to make sure they’re not still having database problems. I’ll keep you posted on that.

Use SRS and Forget the Forgetting Curve!

Have you ever had the feeling that what you’re learning is “in one ear and out the other”? You’re not alone. That’s called the forgetting curve. If you want to want to remember things long-term, you have to look at what you’re learning more often. A good spaced repetition software for your mobile device can help. There’s quite a few tutorials for SRS-systems in the net and with Anki you can even add audio files.

If you’re inputting new sentences then you won’t be able to avoid getting one or two unknown words. That’s why the sentences have to be as short as possible. Sometimes you can even increase the amount of repetitions by having sentences with two of the words you’re actively studying. This is one of my example sentences:

“The question is where to start.”


Though this sentence has a bit of grammar that I don’t recognize, it has two of my new words, 問題 and 始める. So I can kill two birds with one stone (sentence). The grammar I’ll look up later. You don’t have to learn everything at once. The main thing is that you understand the word(s) in context. You’ll train your reading comprehension skills and your vocabulary will increase.

You can either skip the new words in the sentences (you’ll see them again later) or you can add them to flashcards (part 1). With new words from sentence mining, the number of vocabulary you’re learning will exponentially increase. Next time I’ll offer tips on how you can find the right tempo for learning.

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