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Author Topic: How do they learn words  (Read 744 times)
K7NHB
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Posts: 230




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« on: January 11, 2007, 08:54:24 PM »

I've read posts here from time to time where operators say to throw the pencil away and copy words. Some say that when they teach, they start with words right away.

That doesn't make any sense to me so I'm asking for an explanation. The part I don't get is... learning any language by sound seems to require real world reference. If you want me to learn Catalin, you'd be pointing at "objects", saying their name, and I'd associate that sound with the object.

But with just the sound - no reference object - how do you ever make the association with the sound and the word.

Imagine I called you on the phone and spoke to you in a language you've never heard. You have no visual clues or any point of reference to indicate what the words mean. I could say, "time flies like an arrow but fruit flies like a banana" to you in this foreign language every day for a year and it seems to me you'd never know what I was saying.

if instead, you showed me a word, then played the sound of that word over and over, I'd associate that group of sounds with that word and make progress. But that implies studying a "dictionary" of words and their CW sound equivalent.

Except that's not what I read discribed in this forum when people talk about learning "words" instead of letters.

If I don't know the word ICOM or Kenwood and the person sends the name of his rig, I won't know what he has, no matter how many times he sends the "word".

So what am I missing. I don't want to be tied to a mill so my current limit is around 20 wpm. I'm happy to go to words, but I don't see how I'd do it just listening to sounds rather than dictionary (ham abbreviations, Q codes, etc.) drills.

Thank you  and 73,
Paul
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NS6Y_
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2007, 01:05:42 AM »

Dunno what to say because I"m working on my copying too and I'm not up to the magic 20 yet, and my elmer says I have to stay on the streight key until I can copy X amount with no errors.

However, I'm finding that words do start to jump out at me, like dah-didididi-dit "the", the distinctive sounds of "FB" and "73" and so on.

I don't think you'll memorize "kenwood" or "hallicrafters" as one word, but by the time you get to "kenwo" you pretty much know what the guy's gonna say.

I don't know what to say...... my inspiration is that Thomas Edison was an extramely smart human being, but he had to work and work HARD on the code. Remember the code was THE telecomms skill in his time, telegraphers were the guys inventing equipment, setting up systems, etc. Old Tom worked like an SOB, was a "plug" operator for a few years before even being considered good enough to copy routine stuff, and his legendary prowess we read about was the end result of something like 15 years as a pro telegrapher.

He said to "learn to write small".

I also know that learning to copy faster involves devloping a "buffer memory" in your mind, which is what it takes to listen without having to copy every character. My present mentor, an ex professional CW op, says, "Write everything down" though. But there are some systems that supposedly start people off writing nothing down, developing that mental buffer first.
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KB9CRY
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Posts: 4283


WWW

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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2007, 05:32:05 AM »

When I first learned CW, I took a weekly class conducted by the local Amateur club and also played the Gordon West tapes in the car every day to and from work.  Once I got my license, I was really nervous trying those first QSOs, I'd flub up both the reception and my own transmitting.

If you listen, you'll see that most QSOs especially the beginning exhanges, all follow the same pattern.

So what worked for me was I developed a script, to use for both receiving and tranmitting.  For reception, I had blanks for Call,Name, QTH, Antenna, Power, etc.  I would just listen over the "standard" parts and just write down and fill in the blanks.  At first I would write down each character sent on top of the preprinted script.  After a while I would begin to learn the sound of QTH or Name, etc. and now know those words by their total sound.  

I think you should use whatever method seems to work for you be it vigorously writing down every character, or listening and only writing down the key info.  With practice you'll end up as the latter.

Phil  KB9CRY
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AD5X
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Posts: 1438




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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2007, 05:43:22 AM »

Keep at it.  Copying in your head really makes CW a pleasure.  I learned by listening to high speed cw ops at the low end of 40 meters every morning before work for about a month.  I'd close my eyes and just listen. After a while I found that a lot of common words just pop into your head (the, of, in, and/es, etc).  And for other words, after a few letters you know what the full word is - especially if you are following the conversation.  

Incidentally, I disagree with sticking to a straight key.  You will wind up with a paddle eventually, and you will have to re-learn sending on the paddle.  So move to the paddle as soon as you can.  I've helped several folks learn how to send cw, all starting with a paddle, and they did great.  

Phil - AD5X
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W9NM
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Posts: 26


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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2007, 06:51:29 AM »

I work cw almost exclusively.  Unfortunately, between business and family demands, my air time is sporadic and limited.  For a time, I was in the mid 20wpm or so, more if had more air time, less if it was a typical year.  Some years I never make it on the air at all, if I used my spare time for building electronics projects.

Well, when the pocket sized mp3 players appeared, it was the solution to lack of air time and building speed.  You can use the cw practice program of your choice for the generation of sound files.  Or, you can download mp3 files, of various speeds, directly from the ARRL web site.  

For $20 or so for a cheap mp3 player (you don’t need 30gb – I bought a 256mb mp3 player from woot.com for $19.95) and about 10 minutes of downloading time you can listen to cw whenever you have an extra 5 minutes, or 30 minutes.

About the ‘word’ thing...  I’m sure that you and any ham that uses cw can recognize CQ, RST, 73, NAME… at a speed much higher than your normal text copy speed… and you don’t think the individual characters when you recognize RST, etc. Why?  Repetition!  And there is no substitute for REPETITION, i.e., practice.

If you Google LEARNING CW or MORSE CODE, or download a demo of Numorse, you will come across a list of 100 or 500 or ?, most common words.  Your list of words and your mp3 player is a tremendous aid to fast paperless copy.  

Just like learning the letters, start with a small group of two and three letter words and keep adding to your recording as you learn.  Only listen, don’t pencil copy. When you initially start listening, not hard copying, you will feel as though you aren’t accomplishing much.  Stick with it... you will see progress.

What worked for me:  I started at 30 or so wpm, with about 15 short words from the ‘most common words’ list.  Depending on how much of a speed increase you are targeting, you may record each word two, three, or more repetitions.  Don’t be to conservative… even if your recording sounds like gibberish the first time you hear it, after a few repeats you will start picking up words.

Don’t worry about memorizing word order… you will still be associating a string of dits and dahs with a word, and as you increase words the memorization factor will decrease.  When you run out of two and three letter words, add four and five letter words, etc.  The more words you learn, the more you train your brain to comprehend and interpret words instead of letters, resulting in more rapid progress.    

Ain’t no easy or magic way.  There may be more or less productive ways, but you still have to put in the time and effort.  (Use of the Koch Method is one of the more productive ways.)  Even if you’re mowing grass or digging in the garden, listening to cw helps the overall process of building speed.  When I head outside to mow, I have my mp3 player in one hand and my rifle-range ear muffs in the other… there is an hour and half of cw time I wouldn’t normally have.

Emil,
W9NM


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N8UZE
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Posts: 1524




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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2007, 07:45:22 AM »

I believe that you first do have to learn the individual character sounds.  Then after that just start listening and letting your brain start making the connection between a string of sounds and the words.

Look at how infants learn to talk.  They start out just making separate sounds (phonemes) I believe the language experts call them.  Then they start stringing these phonemes together to replicate the words they hear.  At all stages, they use constant repetition to "lock them in" so to speak.

So I would agree with the gentleman that said repetition and listening.  For example, I can hear several things and instantly know what they are: CQ TEST RST 5NN for example.  These I do not need to copy letter by letter.  And I recognize them at speeds far faster than I can ragchew.
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2007, 08:03:18 AM »

>How do they learn words       Reply
by K7NHB on January 11, 2007    Mail this to a friend!
I've read posts here from time to time where operators say to throw the pencil away and copy words. Some say that when they teach, they start with words right away.<

::We start out with LITTLE words, not big ones.  When I teach code, which I've done for ~30 years now, I teach a few letters at a time: e, t, i, m, a, n, d, u might be the first group.  They're short and simple and the easiest to remember.  You can make many simple, little words from these: AN, MAN, AND, ANT, DAM, DUNE, etc.  No sentences yet, unless you're really ingenious.  The key isn't to get people to remember what words sound like -- not at all.  The key is to send WORDS, which are much more interesting to copy than "letters" or letter groups, and people can develop a feel for the rhythm required to send words, which is the only important thing.  My students both SEND and RECEIVE, not just "copy."  Copying is boring.  I have them set up in pairs, and they take turns sending to each other, right from the first hour.

>That doesn't make any sense to me so I'm asking for an explanation. The part I don't get is... learning any language by sound seems to require real world reference. If you want me to learn Catalin, you'd be pointing at "objects", saying their name, and I'd associate that sound with the object.

But with just the sound - no reference object - how do you ever make the association with the sound and the word.

Imagine I called you on the phone and spoke to you in a language you've never heard. You have no visual clues or any point of reference to indicate what the words mean. I could say, "time flies like an arrow but fruit flies like a banana" to you in this foreign language every day for a year and it seems to me you'd never know what I was saying.<

::Yes, but Morse code isn't a foreign language.  If you already know English, and are sending and receiving in English, there's absolutely nothing new to learn except the 26 letters, 10 numbers and a few punctuation signs.  How they go together to form words and sentences is something you already know.

WB2WIK/6
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AA4PB
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Posts: 13033




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« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2007, 12:42:26 PM »

Steve has the key. Morse is not a language. Its a method of encoding the characters of the English language (or whatever language you wish to send in). ASCII and Baudot are not languages either, they are methods of encoding characters.
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KC8VWM
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Posts: 3121




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« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2007, 06:52:19 PM »

But with just the sound - no reference object - how do you ever make the association with the sound and the word.

------------

For me it's similar to listening to a song playing on the radio.

When listening to songs playing on the radio you will notice you may recognize a certain order of musical sounds that your mind knows in advance of your ear actually hearing them play.

For example, imagine the proverbial jack in the box toy is playing. You turn the handle and you can recognize the next sequence of sounds before you ever hear the sound playing in many cases.

Similarly when listening to CW "words" you typically  expect and know what the next sounds are going to be.

One of my favorite words I call recall instantly by hearing it is the word "Test" It sounds like:

dah dit dididit dah

Repeat the sound sequence enough times in your head and the entire word will become one fluent single sound and thought in your mind.

A station calling CQ is always a very familiar sound you will recognize with ease.

dadidadit dadadidah

When a station is signing off with me then I am going to hear the familiar sound of the word "73"

dadadididit dididitdadah

Then I usually hear the sound of my own familiar call sign.

dadidah dadidadit dadadadidit didididah didadah dadah

This is usually followed by the sound of "DE" (from)

dadidit dit

Then the unfamiliar sound of their call sign. (not so familiar so I know that it must be their call sign)

Also, if a person is asking me a question that they specifically expect my reply, my mind will be prompted as follows by hearing the following sound

diditdadahdidit

...and so on.

Most of these sounds are recognized as "words" by mere repetition. They becomes as fluent as hearing the English language in your mind over time.

dadadididit dididitdadah

Charles - KC8VWM
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KC8VWM
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Posts: 3121




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« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2007, 07:03:41 PM »

This website will help you understand and relate the language of CW as "word sounds" in your mind.

http://www.philtulga.com/morse.html

Select "Tone" and type in common words like  

73, CQ, your callsign and adjust the tempo to different speeds and try and listen to the "sequence" of the sounds.

You will quickly begin to realize that you are actually learning another language by simply listening to these sounds.

73 de Charles -  KC8VWM
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K7NHB
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Posts: 230




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« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2007, 11:41:18 PM »

Thank you to all who replied. The consensus seems to be that "word" copy is really a dictionary drill. You must know the word that is being sent ahead of time and simply associate the sound with practice. Now whether that is done over time via normal QSO's, or though a concentrated effort of drilling on specific words is up to the person.

It seems unless one developes a large CW vocabulary, with all the variations in abbreviations (very, vry, vy) the QSO will be limited to the basic info exchange of name, qth, rig, antenna, 73 es tnx fer qso.

So I'll have to decide if I want to get there via normal QSO's or dictionary drill. And if I venture into a qso that requires words I haven't "learnt" then it's pencil - letter by letter - time again.

The above may seem obvious, but when I started the question I was puzzled by claims that one just has to put down the pencil and hear words.

The replies suggest that, "...just put the pencil down and copy words..." is a little lacking or premature if the person doesn't have a clue about what he/she is hearing in the first place.

If you say, "listen to this, this is "QTH"." then I can get that word - but I need to know the sound is going to be QTH first  - and that part seemed to be missing from the learning process "word" advocates would describe.

73,
Paul
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K5YUT
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Posts: 3




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« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2007, 07:28:02 PM »

Well, having only recently got active agasin I'm finding it remarkably easy to recover my old CW skills. I guess in '93 when I hung it up for a decade or so I could copy 30 wpm in my head, and, struggling, write down 20 wpm. After a few months back active I guess I'm up to 25 wpm in my head and 20 written down. I never learned how to type, so was never able to write the stuff down very fast, which kind of disqualifies me for high-speed cw traffic nets, but from the beginning in the 50s I've always copied the code in  my head, and so enjoyed cw as if it were a regular conversation.

Cheers & 73,
Jim
Now N5JRS
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N6HPX
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« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2007, 07:56:52 AM »

   When I learned mine years ago it was mentioned to say each letter to yourself, over a period of a few weeks I learned the letters very fast, now I say the letters and words around me in code. My shipmates think I am crazy sometimes but this was my way of learning it. I have had occassions where I listened in of some stations out of India on Marine bands and had to rely on my memory to what I was hearing as I was listening out on deck of my ship and couldnt use a flashlight to write it down. Try it out as it works sometimes.
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