Statistics to motivate


Steve the Linguist wrote and article Motivating Language Learners Through Statistics.

Are you the type of person who keeps a running log, detailing how long, where, what weather conditions, and speed of each run?  Then you probably will find keeping statistics on your language learning motivating too.

People typically over estimate how much they really exercise and underestimate the number of calories consumed.  We optimistically assume we are doing the right thing, and it takes feedback like the scale tipping to make us face reality.

When I first started learning, I was consumed with wanting to know how many “known words” I had in Korean.  It got a bit dicey on deciding what qualified a word as known.  I have adopted the 0 – 5 scale with 0 being never seen/heard before to 5 being ingrained in my long term memory.  I don’t consider a word fully known until I can read it, write it, pronounce it, be understood by the person I am speaking to, and use it in conversation without needing to consult a phrasebook.  I think by that scale, I know 2 words – hello and thank you.  Haha!

Wildly inaccurate statistics.  My known words are closer to 300.  Adding a particle does is not the same as a new known word.

Wildly inaccurate statistics. My known words are closer to 300. Adding a particle does is not the same as a new known word.

LingQ proved inadequate at keeping track of my “known words” and the hours I actually spent listening to audio.  I’m a computer programmer with a tendency towards getting obsessive about collecting data.  I have spreadsheets for tracking the exact interest calculation for my mortgage payments and  used Quicken to track every penny I spent.

LingQ isn’t the only place where a language learner can collect data for analysis. Memrise’s new premium membership seems to have gone statistic happy too.  Wonder why your servers are running slow Memrise?  You are tracking too much data!

Part of me wants to keep track of the time I spend learning Korean.  I imagine pie charts, graphs, goal setting and knowing the exact number of known words.  Yet I also think that way lies madness …  learning a language is my hobby, my recreation time.  If I turn it into a project, it becomes work.  If I start keeping track of how many words I learned today, it will depress me, because I seems to lose words faster than I learn words.

My compromise is I have a little notebook next to my PC where I am making note of where every half hour goes.  Occasionally, that means I glance down and see that 6 hours have passed and I have no idea where that time went.  I am resisting the urge to look back at these logs to classify time spent in language exchange with James, KDA studying, blog writing, tutor homework, etc.  My mind also suggests that I should classify the time by skill: reading, listening, speaking, writing.  I am sure there are clues in the data if I analyze it.

Not today.  Today, I resist the urge to micromanage my learning.  If I reach a plateau in my language learning, maybe then I will gather data and analyze.

Right now, I am so overwhelmed, that if feels like all I do is Korean related activities in 80 percent of my waking hours.  OK, so I have no data to back up this claim!  I lump anything I do that I would not have done before I started learning Korean into a general category of time spent on Korean.  This includes chatting with Koreans, taking photographs to share with Koreans, writing this blog, watching Secret Garden, mailing packages and post cards, and many other activities that have very little to do with actually studying the language.  I don’t want the data that shows I am only studying 15 minutes a day.  That would only demotivate me.  I give learning Korean all that I can.  Given that I have no financial or romantic reward for the time spent doing this, what I give freely to Korean will have to be enough.  To collect statistics on it would just turn it into the kind of thing I did for work with billing hours.

Do you keep track of statistics?  What do you track?  Has it motivated you?

(Julia notes that one email from Steve spun me off to reading his article and writing this blog post.  Time spent: 1 hour.  Language learning? Zero.)

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