Developping my writting skills and foreign languages : the lexicon tool
Hi everyone !
Writting, whatever we write fiction or non-fiction, is also a matter of technic and language mastery. But what does that mean "language mastery" ? Is it a talent to use awesome rare words ? I don't think so. From my point of view (which is questionnable, as the rest of my further presentation), it depends on a lot of factors and one them is the accurate choose of words.
Intro : lexicons and my works
While writing my novel in French, I've found myself stuck in search of synonyms, words, expressions, a never ending quest for using lively semantic fields of words. This is a wast of time : while in search, my ideas fade away. It is especially prononced when I write about feelings, like the love story from my novel. I have made researches about love itself, but not about the way to express love for example (and romances novels can be… hum… not my tastes at all, so it was hard to find examples and that subject is a kind of mystery to me so… I dig into into it).
So, I aimed to create a tool to create natural ideas connexions between words, meanings, symbolism, making them more natural and spontaneous. I add to this tool my own definitions of words, but also synonyms, metaphor, personal imaginery pictures and example from my own writings and other litterature examples.
This tool is also usefull for deepening my other languages learning. While I use heavily my memory for non-useful languages (for example : Japanese, I don't want to learn it in full depth because I have no one to speak it with), English is an other matter, it is essential to learn for my work, personal curiosity and here, to communicate with you. I used to talk it fluently and I don't want to loose it again. So I added a part to link words and expressions.
Other tools may be essential as well, like typography and grammar learning, but today, I will focus on vocabulary.
Nothing is worthier than first hand experience. Let's take a look !
The note itself
I begin with the core of all of this story : the note. I will not translate every parts of it, because it represents a heavy load of work, but I will explain every parts.
--- date: 2022.04.27 révision: (review timestamp) --- # Champ lexical de l'obstacle (Lexical field "obstacle") #Lexique [[12.220427125719.Developper son écriture]] (the hub I want to integrate it as an example for a futur article) ## Définition : (definition ) - Quelque chose qui se met en travers de la route de quelqu'un, qui l'empêche d'accèder à son objectif en travers de sa route. - Qui crée un problème, un résistance, qui tient à distance, qui s'oppose. - Ce qui **arrête ou ralentit le mouvement**, la progression, le passage de quelqu'un ou de quelque chose. - Difficulté d'ordre matériel, moral ou intellectuel empêchant ou gênant la réalisation de quelque chose. ## Synonymes de l'obstacle : (synonyms) * Adversaire, adversité * Affliger, affliction, affligé * Barrer, barrage * Bloquer, bloqué, **blocage** * Cage * Complication * Contretemps * Écueil * Embarrasser, Embarras * **Épreuve**, éprouver, < !--emphasis on words that I may use the most--> * Fermer, fermé, fermeture * Fossé, fossoyeur, * **Labyrinthe**, Labyrinthique * Limiter, limite, limitation, limité * Frontière * Handicaper, handicap, handicapé * Perdu, perte, perdre * Problème, problématique, * Mésaventures * Obstacle * Obstruer, Obstruction, * Opposer, opposition, opposant * Prison, emprisonner, emprisonné * Résister, Résistance, , résistant * Ralentir, ralentissement, ralenti * Retarder, retard, retardé, retardement * Tourmenter, tourment, tourmenteur, tourmentant * Tirer en arrière, tiré en arrière * [[14.Tribulation]] ## Images et métaphore : (Metaphore, images…) * Une montagne/un mur/un océan dressée sur le chemin/la route à gravir pour grandir et s'élever * Un **fossé** entre deux personnes, un fossé entre le point de départ et l'objectif * De la **glue** sur les chaussures, de la pois qui tire **en arrière**, un **élastique** qui tire en arrière * Le fossoyeur d'efforts, ce qui anéanti, ralenti, brise l'élan de progression * Une épreuve à surmonter, quelque chose dont on sort grandi, ou abimé. * Sous ses formes graves : Une prison, qui s'interpose et enferme, qui isole, un blocage profond qui empêche totalement d'avancer * Une épreuve à surmonter, des tribulations * Le mauvais vent qui pousse l'embarcation de l'autre côté, les écueils à éviter, * Le piège sur le chemin ## Réactions face à l'obsctacle (what reaction are possible in front of an obstacle ?) : * Abandonner, abandon, abandonné * Accepter la défaite, défaitisme * Chuter * Colère, se mettre en colère * Combattre, combat, combattant * Contourner, contournement * Déjouer, déjoué * Dénouer, dénouement, dénoué * Échouer, échec, échouant * Évader, évasion, évadant * Éviter, évitement * Exaspérer, s'exaspérer, exaspérant * Faire un détour * Fatalité, fatalisme, * Fuir, fuite, s'enfuir * Rebeller (se), rebel, rebélion * Reculer, recul, reculé * Résigner (se), résignation, résigné * Réussir, réussir, * Sortir, s'en sortir, sortie * Succès ## EN English : * A **hindrance** **to** **V+ing** * (voir [[1.220425091221.Geuss.Clareté et oubli]]) : *« Clarity […] can in some circumstances be a positive hindrance to attaining various important human goods »* * A **hurdle** * *The next hurdle will be to hire a good team.* * An **impediment** **to** +nom ou V+ing * qui gêne, un obstacle, un problème * A **snag** * Un petit problème dans une situation * To **get/be stuck** in/at * Être coincé * *I was stuck at the aeroport for hours.* ## Exemples in-situ : (Example in litterature) * Lifh et Ardal sont séparés par le [[Sanzu.]] et la [[Fortuna.]] : ce sont leurs obstacles. Les **Vœux**, dirigés vers l'avenir du monde et Pandore aussi font obstacle à leur réunion. * Pour Timanthe et Dante leur passé et leurs traumatismes font obstacles à leur bon développement dans leur famille et à la confiance dans l'avenir. * [[Déméthos.]] : Lifh pense que le dieu fou est le principal obstacle à la réalisation de son Vœu et de sa mission comme Main d'Ouros. * Cerbère : sa peur du changement fait souvent obstacle aux décisions qu'il aimerait vraiment prendre ou qui devraient être prises. * [[2.220428120344.Dédale et le Minotaure]] (à créer) : le labyrinthe créé par Dédale est un obstacle non seulement pour le Minotaure, l'isolant de la société comme une prison, mais aussi pour Thésée qui s'appuie sur Ariane pour sortir et poursuivre sa quête. ## Voir : (zettels links) * [[12.220427144231.Récit.Obstacles - Type d'obstacles]] : quels sont les obstacles trouvé dans un récit et comment s'en sortir
OK so I get this big note here with a lot of french babbling and all. Let's go deeper.
First, I add the timestamp in frontmatter, and will add the review timestamp as well, it will answer the question "is it still accurate ?".
1 - Définition : (definition ) : part one, I write my own definition, to make the word "mine". You can copy a part from an official dictionary if you like, but this part works like every parts of Zettelkasten : you'll have better memory and insights if you write your own.
2 - Synonymes de l'obstacle : (synonyms) : Here I create a vocabulary linked to the main concept. I can help myself with a specialised synonyms dictionary, but it is more effective to make it yourself first and try to bounce between words. It creates connexions in your brain, ideas associations, and your writing will be more spontaneous. It works for me like that, so maybe it will for you too ? I tend to stick with the same structure : I begin with verbs first. Strong verbs choose can prevent you from redundancies and adding adjectives to correct a poor choice of verb. If i need further investigation about an other word, I add a link to a zettel to explain it. Here "tribulation" needed enlightement.
3 - Images et métaphore : (Metaphore, images…) : that's the most personal part. This is where you will develop your own set of semantic nest and personal pictures of the concept. I compare the "obstacle" idea to "glue", "mountain", "maze", "prison", "trap", the bad wind in your veils, a "trial" to overcome.
4 - Réactions face à l'obstacle (what reaction are possible in front of an obstacle ?) : as "obstacle" is a block or a slowdown thing into human's path, I've created a part to detail how can humans react in front of an obstacle. "Flee", "fight", "be angry", "overcome", "to be resigned". I add every needed subparts, like "effect of water on human body" or "sounds of water" for an other lexicon for example. Sometimes it generates an new lexicon.
5 - EN English : The words related to the main concept in English, this time. I always add the structure, how to use the word, and an example sentence with it. I skip the obvious ones "obstacle = obstacle… wow, so surprised" and add the ones which learn me something new. I can link to citation if I learnt a new word thanks to it.
6 - Exemples in-situ : (Example in litterature) Examples in situation of the concept. For example, the Sanzu, the magical life and death river, is an obstacle between the lovers Ardal and Lifh in my novel. The maze is an obstacle for Theseus to follow his journey.
7 - Voir : (zettels links) : Zettels to go deeper into the obstacle concept, here a link to "what is an obstacle and how to overcome it" into fictionnal writing.
Why sharing it ?
To give you ideas and inputs for your own Zettelkasten ! My process is not perfect, and could beneficate from enhancemens.. But it can gives your ideas to do your own way
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Nice article! I really liked how you presented the ideas.
I find it interesting that we arrived at a similar structure for Zettels on definitions:
[(N/A/V)/(C/U/T/I)] plural/singular *plural form* (context). N, A, and V mean noun, adjective, and verb respectively. Also, C, U, T, and I mean countable, uncountable, transitive, and intransitive respectively.
Information is presented top-down. Items with bold text represent headings and bold text is what goes in the heading. Items without bold text are details of their parent heading. If an element is missing, doesn't apply, or is unnecessary, it's not included.
Since a definition describes the idea labeled with a word[], including the following is important:
An idea may be labeled with different words. And if you know those labels, you can tell when someone is talking about that idea. Thus, synonyms are important.
Models are important for achieving deep intuition[][].
Can't think of anything to say about the importance of examples or antonyms.
I don't have a Zettel that uses all items. Also, I'm still organyazing the Zettelkasten, meaning that some of the tags aren't fitting. All in all, we get what we get.
Indeed, the structures of our notes look alike. Your note is closer to my "only one word definition" (for example in my previous note it would be "tribulation" linked to it). You focus your attention into the definition with accuracy and search for examples to demonstrate the definition which is a good approach for words-only note.
The lexicons ones are broader, skip the grammatical part as they focus on concept (the world "obstacle" is not the one I try to define), and linked themselves with "in text" litterature example , because they are meant to be tool for writing texts and developping semantical "net".
I think I could use you skeletton of note "as it" for comparative definition of "world only" note to define better meaning (for example "oxymore", "oxydation", "bow window"), while lexicon needs the exploratory approach I try to adopt for creative writing.
@Loni Have fun with the structure, fur-end! /ᐠ. ᴗ.ᐟ\ Please let meow knyeow if you come accross something interesting, like a nyeow element. That'd be paw-some.
Thank nyou ! I am not a specialist, but I find your definition-centered note already well structured and gives me ideas for mine in parallele of lexicons. What would help you to enhance it ? I'd like to help nya fur'iend !
Ah, you are using something similar to me. I would call it like cultivating the lexical field:
When I want to understand a concept I collect as many similar words and try to create a definition for each word, the differences and similarities, underlying patterns etc.
My goal is mostly to get into the similarities and differences by having building blocks that are the underlying substance of those concepts.
I am a Zettler
/ᐠ –ꞈ –ᐟ\ I forgot to meowtion that your comparison of our approaches is spot on. Better late than never, I guess.
I too think that my structure is good as it is. It's just that, you knyeow, purr-haps you discover something along the way. E.g., maybe you find out that pronunciation is important. So, there's nothing you could help meow-t with, but thanks for the intention. /ᐠ｡▿｡ᐟ\*ᵖᵘʳʳ*
By the way, I sent you a direct meow-ssage about the promised video. You may be busy and thus don't have enough time to see it, or might not have noticed it. It wouldn't surprise me if it were the latter, because that used to happen to me a lot. Without notifications enabled, I used to furr-get following up on comments to my posts or to other comments.
Ooh, interesting. I'm stealing that. —ฅ/ᐠ. ̫ .ᐟ\ฅ —
You've hit on a process applicable to capturing ideas besides language learning. I particularly like your intention to capture synonyms and metaphors. Finding synonyms and metaphors has occurred randomly, and when this happens, I'm struck by the sparkle it brings to my note. I'll now consider looking routinely for these embellishments to a note's central idea.
My peak cognition is behind me. One day I will read my last book, write my last note, eat my last meal, and kiss my sweetie for the last time.
Thank you @Loni for sparking this discussion! Your OP and all the other subsequent comments have helped me as I am in the midst of learning a new language and I can foresee the benefits for learning. Going to apply this in my zettelkasten as well!
Thanks all for sharing your versions, and @Loni for starting this. I have not read your note deeply yet, will do over the weekend, but wanted to chime in to say that I have started doing something similar. For me, the issue is that I reach too easily for certain words, when in fact there are various ways that differ in important ways. So the goal of the note is to direct attention to these differences, to see what flavor I care about.
Oh, I would add for example citations of sociology studies for some words, or citations from litterature maybe ? But that would be the only I would add into the whole structure.
Oh, I see, you focus more on the "definition" of the concept, while I focus on the expression of concept. It is interesting as well ! I maybe tend to do less solo-word note, as I want to associate words and context to use them very quickly, like a reflexe !
Oh thank you ! I also make special notes with quotes from poems I like, one with beautiful metaphors and other chunks of texts. Ideas come more fluently now =^^=
My pleasure ! The solo and the lexicons formats are compatible with learning a new language, I am curious to see how you'll tweak this !
Just to be sure I am understanding you right : do you look for nuances and degrees about a same lexical field ? From point A (insignifiant) to Z (vital) ?
What I would do is to take this big note as a hub one after the harvesting phase, with maybe smaller note : 1 for Insignifiant, 2 for Unimportant, 3 for thing that worth attention, etc… And work with more precision inside it. Does it ring a bell for you ?
I am sure I should not venture into this discussion, as I am sure I shall derail it, but the temptation to say something is quite strong. So forgive the observations that follow, which are not strictly about using the Zettelkasten method for language learning.
I should state my experience: I am English, and I spent about ten years of my life teaching English as a second language (in Italy), I have written a history book, and a PhD thesis (in psychology), and I have spent numberless hours marking English exams for Cambridge Assessment.
One thing I have always noticed is that some non-native speakers of English seem to have a feel for the language, and others do not. If I had to define "mastery" of the language, that would be high on the list, though it is very difficult to say what it really means. But I suppose you could say that, crudely, it is using the possibilities offered by the second language rather than trying to adapt ideas and expressions from one's own language, and fit them into the second language. In a sense, it is the ability to "forget" one's own language, and live exclusively in the second language, using phrases and expressions that native speakers use, in the way that they would use them.
My view is that the best way to arrive at that sort of comfortable familiarity with a second language is by exposure to native speakers and writers. I do some coaching (online) of a young man who lives in central Europe and has English as his third language. He has acquired a considerable command of the language mainly, it seems, by watching YouTube videos and reading posts on the internet. One thing that is particularly striking is that the rhythm and cadence of his spoken English is quite close to that of a native speaker. I have to confess that the whole subject of rhythm in writing is a bit of a "hobby horse" (obsession) of mine, but I think it is sadly overlooked, and it seems often to be overlooked by people learning English. Cadence and rhythm can be powerful tools for expression in English, and no doubt in other languages as well. (It has been observed that it is perfectly possible to say "yes" in such a way as to communicate "no", though maybe that is stretching things a bit!) It has certainly been my experience that using the wrong cadence and rhythm can make it much harder to understand spoken English, and using the right cadence and rhythm can make it possible to guess the meaning even if all the words cannot be heard properly. In my view, it is an important aspect of the "feel" of the language, and the best speakers and writers always seem to have a grasp of it. How one might incorporate this into a Zettelkasten, I do not know.
This is all a massive digression, I know, but definitions can only take one so far. English is changing rapidly, and I constantly observe native speakers in England who use words in ways that have nothing to do with their dictionary definition. Many, many people seem to think they know what certain words mean, but their usage betrays the fact that they really have no idea. Examples I have heard over the past few years include: carnage (used instead of chaos), decimate (instead of destroy), reticent (instead of hesitant or reluctant), and various others. And there seems to be a rapid erosion in the understanding of the difference between "bring" and "take". As to the recent invention of the nonsensical "nerve-Wracking"(!!!) instead of the correct "nerve-racking" ... don't get me started (sigh!).
Pardon this meandering ...
And just to excuse myself for my intrusion, here is a passage of poetry that I sometimes think is germane to our "knowledge work"!
Thanks @MartinBB for your intervention.
You are right, just putting definitions and some uses cases into lexicons side by side with the native language is not a full learning method.
When I try to speak or write in English, i try to switch my thinking into "English mode" and put off "the French mode". In others words : I try to fully think in English. It is a hard step to cross. What I need right now is vocabulary, and associate quickly those words with concepts and context.
You use the word "feel", which describe this "feeling" when you understand something new, an intuition, and insight from the language. The lexicons fulfil my need. But a lot of insights I would obtain through a lively learning method for a lively language are quite difficult to record. Maybe I can use my lexicon note for an English only concept, or set up a more precise system for learning.
And also : targets determine the method of learning. Maybe the one who tries to become fluent has to listen native speakers and read a lot, speak a lot themselves too. But someone who wants to study England's History, or classical Litterature might adopt other methods.
I have ideas for historical study, but I think like you that become fluent ask for something else than written notes.
Oh, my, that's awesome, English and French language lovers are on the same page for resent some strange novelties ! I grind my teeth sometimes too. (I might plead guilty for some of them in English, the usage of "carnage" looks like a lot of ours here…)
Thank you for your intervention Your message highlights the shortcomings of my idea in the foreign language learning field, something that learners should be conscious about.
@Loni How would citations to sociology or literature help? Literature would purr-haps provide some in-sentence examples, but I can come up with them on my own, so I don't knyeow.
@MartinBB My goal is nyeowt to learn English but the ideas. Still, I wonder if the right language learning meow-thod could help to learn ideas better than how I am approaching this. Thanks for bringing this up! /ᐠ ̥ ̮ ̥ᐟ\ฅ
In some subject, it can help you to dig further and learn new things. For example, gender representations has evolved through civilisations too, so you can have new ideas around this evolution with antic Egyptians representations.
In application, I love to answer to "oh men now are so effeminated nowadays" with those kind of pictures :
King Henri VIII wearing skirt and jewels.
Or this one :
François Ier from France, saying goodbye to Leonardo da Vinci. Wearing pink, skirt, ballerine shoes… Ingres made this painting.
Pink was a really manly color, representing power and strenght. Dress was also a symbol of power : judges and priests still wear dress nowadays. This is art and sociology facts which could feed your thinkings
I am not sure if we differ so much in how we do it. I think I take one more intermediate step since I try to follow the way how the brain understands things: It starts with just presenting (right hemisphere gives us single examples, events and feelings) then the left brain starts to unfold, rip apart, dissect until there are only dead pieces (analysis, components, mechanisms, definitions) and no whole anymore. The left could try to come up with a whole but is ultimately doomed to fail. It can only build mechanisms void of any true living. What is now dead needs to be digested (in part it already is) and then absorbed by something living. The right hemisphere as the one living in the world and not spectre of the world (the left) can do it if we allow it (sleep, time in nature, being true to ourselves, doing nothing but not sleeping, art, crafting, walking). We feel it by becoming the master of both worlds. We can now access the understood part of the world by thinking, intuiting and feeling if we make it properly.
This is why meditation and awakening is teachable (it is already dissected and put together in religious texts). But the journey must start from a certain condition (Bodhicitta, accepting Christ and all the other pictures the religions came up with), go through formalisation and end with something that is not communicable nor teachable (the actual experience(s)).
Coming closer (but perhaps not all the way back) to the topic: This is why I don't think that one can get from all the examples to intuition directly. The Ballet Dancer can get into any other style of dancing the same way a gymnast can go into any acrobatic sport but the Streetdancer has a hard time to get into Ballet or transition to far away and the calisthenics athlete looks sloppy and does not have the same advantage going into others sports like the gymnast.
Finally, back to topic: I think you could benefit from having a intermediate step in which you get all formal. But at this moment in time, I am only speaking from theory. So, I lack any authority here.
I am a Zettler
@Loni Ah, nyeow I understand. I've seen that approach in studies that seeked to define terms, such as Self-image, self-concept, and self-identity revisited by Joseph A. 2nd Bailey. I'll see how I can integrate that into meow workflow. I don't always benefit from learning the evolution of a term, but as you said, it might inspire ideas. So, thanks! /ᐠ ̥ ̮ ̥ᐟ\ฅ
@Sascha You neowd a mix of thinking and not thinking to master ideas. Did I get that right?
What is this in English?
I am a Zettler
It's 猫語 for 'need'. 猫語 is pronounced neko-go and is Japanese for 'cat language'. Japanese has very good words for this.
GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0.
Thank you. This part is very useful as you put words on a process that I feel through my intuition, without being able to verbalise it.
Practice and theory It is like learning a crafting : when learning to handcraft materials, one can reads books and listens masters, but they have to "feel" by themselves and adds direct experiences. Without theory tool, no consciousness, but without experiences, no mastering at all.
If I understand you well, you propose to come back to theory before adding practice to my lexicons.
You are right, I was already considering it. Now, I am sure
Cat-ified English. That translates to "need". Don't shoot meow, purr-lease.
I think one can make the final intuitive leap given the right examples. This is why often multiple people simultaneously invent the same thing when the right conditions are met. It’s like bringing two highly charged electrodes close enough that a spark can bridge the air gap and then the flow of electricity through the air creates a very bright light. Though what is “right” may depend on the person or group!
@ZettelDistraction I didn't know there was cat language in Japanese. Thanks for pointing it out. My vocabulary will get worse richer.
I take this compliment with caution. My English is still a 2/10.
Perhaps, a better way to phrase it is formal. To me, the other side is not so much theory as in not applied but more isolated from another thing. Similar to drills in boxing which are not theory but are an isolated practice from the real thing.
I am a Zettler
Ah, I see.
It is not just not-thinking. It is about thinking and doing something in the real world.
I am a Zettler
@Sascha Oh, it's what you've been advocating a lot both in the blog posts and around here. I do meow best to follow this. I don't always catch the mouse, but failure is such a good teacher, so meow doors are always open for it. That's why, even though meow respawnse to your feedback may have seemed disappointing, I actually took it well. /ᐠ｡▿｡ᐟ\ *ᵖᵘʳʳ*
Also, thanks for nyeowt spraying meow with water for committing word crimes.
Translation of terms used:
What is your scale ? The last 2/10 I read was far from writing correct English ! In yours, Shakespeare might be at 5/10.
Language is limited by nature. If I want to fully understand the concept, I still have the possibility to read neuroscience articles by myself, it's all right. You give me hints, I'll follow the trail.
Drills. Concept -> Drills ->Association -> Creativity. I'll go further into conception of my tool.
It is a purely subjective scale based on my satisfaction.
Absolute masterpiece: The Master and His Emissary by McGilchrist. To me, one of the books that I'd include in a curriculum of a studium generale.
I am a Zettler