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This question already has an answer here:

When learning languages where nouns have a grammatical gender, it is sometimes (or often?) possible to learn the grammatical gender by learning the noun together with a definite or an indefinite article. For example:

  • German: der Grammatikmuffel, die Grammatikübung, das Studium;
  • French: un pédant, une brute;
  • Spanish: un empollón, una bici.

But what would be some techniques for remembering grammatical gender in languages that have no articles (for example, Slovak and Hindi)? I know that in some languages, the gender can often be inferred from the word's ending (apparently, this is usually the case in Russian), but this still leaves a number of nouns where this does not work.

The techniques I am looking for should not rely on visuals, so they can also work for people who are blind or have a colour vision impairment. So I need something different than the visual techniques Gabriel Wyner suggested in his book Fluent Forever, and which are also mentioned in this answer.

marked as duplicate by Flimzy Aug 30 '16 at 19:59

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • If you're willing to adjust this question to be specifically about students with visual impairments, as I have already said, I think it could stand on its own. – Flimzy Aug 31 '16 at 18:22
  • @Flimzy: I consider this a duplicate also. – Tom Au Sep 2 '16 at 5:16
  • @Flimzy I have reworked the question a bit. Is it now sufficiently different from the other one? – Christophe Strobbe Sep 26 '16 at 21:26
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I can suggest the following technique:
Learn words with word "my":

My cat
My dog
My table
My chair

I don't know Slovak, but in some other Slavic languages it would work

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    I don't know any Slovak either, but to clarify a little how Schullz's answer would work: obviously the pronouns change to agree with the grammatical gender of the noun. MYLANGUAGES.ORG has an article 'Slovak Pronouns' which mentions: "môj (mine masc.sing.), moja (mine fem.sing.), moje (mine neutral sing.)". 'Google Translate' gives this translation for the above examples: my cat -> moja mačka, my dog -> môj pes, my table -> môj stôl, my chair -> moje kreslo (using capitalized English pronouns - you'll get different results otherwise). – J.Past Aug 30 '16 at 8:03
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    A simple and effective method, as far as I can tell, and applicable to Slovak. I hope to find out how well it generalises to other languages without articles. – Christophe Strobbe Aug 30 '16 at 17:07
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    @J.Past While this works in 1st person, you should be careful - in the 3rd person, Slovak (and other Slavic languages) possessive pronouns reflect the gender of the possessor, not the object, and they do not decline. – Radovan Garabík Sep 1 '16 at 15:23
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1) First of all you could learn whole phrases or sentences with enough grammatical context to clarify the gender of the noun. Common ways would be to use pronouns -as @Schullz has already mentioned in his answer- or adjectives. MyLanguages.org gives an example of how in Slovak pronouns and adjectives change to agree with the grammatical gender of the noun:

While in English an adjective doesn’t change when the noun changes, in Slovak an adjective should agree in gender and number with the noun. For example:

a) Masculine to feminine and neutral example:

Toto je môj malý synček (this is my little son) becomes: Toto je moja malá dcerka (this is my little daughter). Toto je moje malé auto. (this is my little car).

As you can see from the example above, the adjective comes before the noun and also takes the feminine and neutral form.

[EDIT: Christoph Strobbe has mentioned in the comments that MyLanguages.org might not be entirely reliable. The general idea should hold though.]

So if for an example you are using a Spaced Repetion Software (Anki etc.) your cards could contain:

Q: my little son

A: môj malý synček

Or, if you prefer not to use any language except for your target language:

Q: synček (provide the standard phrase for learning the grammatical gender)

A: môj malý synček

In this case you would just have to remember that the standard phrase for learning the grammatical gender for all nouns is either môj malý, moja malá or moje malé.


2) As for congenitally blind people not being able to use Gabriel Wyner's mnemonic technique (or 'game') mentioned in the Answer you have linked to above - there is already a solution indirectly mentioned in the relevant quote from Wyner's book:

Masculine nouns burn. Feminine nouns are ice cold.

And:

Feel the heat [of each word]; the more senses you can involve, the better.

(Emphasis added by me. I have also replaced the phrase 'of each image' with 'of each word', since a blind person would obviously have to make the kinesthetic associations with the words themselves, not with images.)

So congenitally blind people could use a non-visual version of Wyner's approach, based on the other senses.

In the light of this let's also take a look at another example for Wyner's approach, quoted in the answer you link to:

I want you to imagine all of the masculine nouns exploding. Your tree? Kaboom, splinters of wood everywhere. A branch gets embedded in the wall behind you. Dog chunks splatter all over the ceiling and floors. You wipe bits of fur and gore from your forehead. Make your images as vivid as you can stomach.

Even though congenitally blind people don't have the above-mentioned mental images they do have auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory representations for the same things and experiences. They are therefore quite capable of mentally exploding a non-visual representation of a dog, having non-visual dog chunks splatter non-visually over the non-visual ceiling and floors, non-visually wiping non-visual bits of fur and gore from their forehead (even if most non-blind people couldn't really imagine what these mental representations would be like).

There are also many other non-visual ways of mentally associating nouns with grammatical gender: apart from the obvious example of mentally associating masculine nouns with a man's voice, feminine nouns with a woman's voice, and neuter nouns with a child's voice, one could even use voices from different actors, or a theatric, comic or tragic 'coloring' of the nouns to differentiate between the grammatical gender. All this would be a lot easier for a congenitally blind person, who is already accustomed to the exclusive use of non-visual mental representations. (This might also be a solution for some of those non-blind people who have difficulty applying visual mnemonics.)

To sum up: There is nothing hindering a congenitally blind person using a modified, non-visual version of Wyner's approach.

  • Thanks for the answer. The connection with submodalities and NLP is something I had not thought of. However, I'm not sure whether MyLanguages.org is entirely reliable. The site translates Toto je moja malá dcerka as This is my little daughter, but the Slovak word for "this" is "to"; Toto is just a name, as far as I know. – Christophe Strobbe Aug 30 '16 at 17:05
  • @ChristopheStrobbe I just saw your comment after I had edited my answer :-( - I feared I had gone to far with my long NLP references... As for MyLanguages.org you are right: Not knowing Slovak myself, I have absolutely no idea of the validity of their statements/translations. Maybe someone who knows some Slovak could comment. I do think the general idea as first put forth by Schullz is true though. – J.Past Aug 30 '16 at 17:55
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    @ChristopheStrobbe "toto" means "this". "to" means "it". So Toto je moja malá dcérka (note the acute) means "this is my little daughter. Actually, neither synček nor dcérka are neutral words, but diminutives, the neutral ones would be "syn" and "dcéra". – Radovan Garabík Sep 1 '16 at 15:20
  • @RadovanGarabík Thanks for the info. I must have checked the wrong dictionary. – Christophe Strobbe Sep 1 '16 at 17:58
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    @J.Past Indeed (it's not so), the diminutives generally keep the gender. OTOH, augmentatives generally switch the gender to neuter, but keep some cases/singular in the original gender as well (the situation is complicated). – Radovan Garabík Sep 2 '16 at 13:06

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