shorthand progress

Hello everyone,

I’ve been working at the Anniversary Edition about an hour every other day for a couple months now, and I’m finding my reading is still REALLY slow (1-3 seconds per form). Because both the Anniversary Manual and the Functional Method books are so dense (ie. one or two practice readings with new forms and immediately onto to the next set of forms), staying alert for the always-new brief forms and correct vowels make me feel like I’m decoding and not reading. The wide context of the first few practice texts is keeping my pace slow, even after I read them many times. 

Is this typical progress in shorthand? I’m trying to gauge what’s a normal expectation, and what’s unrealistically optimistic. Thanks for your advice.

(by Tom for group greggshorthand)

56 comments Add yours
  1. Mcbud is 100% correct. Today's shorthand students don't seem to realize that the different texts were designed for 5-day-a-week students. To complete the 2 volumes of the Anniversary Function Manual would have normally required TWO school semesters; i.e., from beginning of September through the beginning of the following June. As mcbud stated, classroom presentation usually lasted an hour and homework (reading, writing) would usually take another half hour or so. When learning the original theory, it's very important to be completely at home with the current lesson BEFORE going on to the next.

  2. Try this simple experiment: instead of working every other day, try doing one week, five days a week for two weeks. See if you read the passages better after that experiment. Do not go forward on a lesson until you have mastered the previous one. That means reading the lesson like you read a book.

    Shorthand lessons were designed with a 5 days/week schedule, sometimes the lessons going two days in a row. Plus independent homework study (30-60 min) was expected from the students. I don't know of any introductory shorthand class that skipped one day, especially when starting because the beginning is the hardest part!

  3. Search the group (via the home page) for flash cards others have uploaded. They're sometimes worth the effort to make.

    Try reading out loud. It's easy to fool yourself into thinking you're reading every word when you read silently. It also gets another sense and other body parts involved.

    Read and re-read until it's fluent. Next day, read and re-read the same passage. If you end up memorizing the passage, point to each word as you say it, to keep focused.

    Close your eyes and point to the page at random, then read from there. It may take a few words to build context, but it's still good training.

    It feels right (harder) to continue to sound out each word, even when we know the word, but the goal is sight reading. (It's the same with writing. The goal is one outline, not several sounds strung together. I'm just crossing that line.)

    Once you get a decent vocabulary, it will go much smoother.

  4. Fortunately I'm already reading aloud. It's clear, at least, that I have to accept the high amounts of repetition and high threshold of reading proficiency before moving on to the next lesson. Thanks for putting it in perspective.

  5. On this site you can find the Teacher's Handbook for the Anniversary Functional Manual which contains not only a transcription of ALL the shorthand in the two volumes but introductory chapters which provide great insight as to how shorthand was presented in a classroom situation. The methods described are exactly how my shorthand teacher presented the material. Best of luck in your endeavor!

  6. If you have an iPod Touch or an iPad, download the App called "Instapaper" and you can get all of the Anniversary Edition chapter by chapter, and it's nice and visible even on the iPod Touch. You'll get an Icon to sit on your computer's toolbar and when you click it, it'll save that page so you can read it any time offline. The beauty of this is that you get each chapter, not just the whole book, so finding what you want in the book is easy because the book is divided into Chapters. And a link to the transcriptions are at the bottom of the pages of assignments.

  7. The OP said…."The wide context of the first few practice texts is keeping my pace slow, even after I read them many times."

    Well, misery loves company and that's what I'm experiencing too. I just started this on Monday and have read the first assignment about 3 times, but every time I read it it gets a little easier. I'm moving on to the next page now and there are some brief forms I need to learn.

    So did you experts sort of start out with the same experience? (Please say yes) 🙂

  8. Hi gsmember, I'm finding that useful, too. I have the Functional method teachers' handbook and fundamental drills on my iPod, since I don't have those books. The Anniversary book and Functional method books themselves are small enough to bring anywhere. A week into the 'experiment', I'm seeing some progress, but I'm not quite yet able to read the lessons at longhand speed. I don't see how it was possible for beginning students, in the pace of a taught course, to read the assignments at longhand speed before moving on to the next lesson (I'm guessing 3-4 days for the span between reading exercises, based on an hour instruction + half-hour homework per day. Or is that not a typical pace?) Despite the questions (which the teachers' handbook tells me not to answer 🙂 ), I'm still repeating and re-reading…

  9. It's strange but a fact that we beginners really do need to know that the experts also went through what we're going through now, this very awkwardness at the beginning. I do feel good about actually recognizing 'words' when that happens and not always having to spell them out, but right now I'm still spelling out most of them. It doesn't help that I've been thru the assignment so many times that I already know what it's supposed to say.

    One thing I'd love to know from the experts is, when you're real experienced with reading and writing shorthand, are you actually recognizing the words w/o having to spell them out, the same as you recognize words in longhand? Do you get to that point, and how long was it before you recognized say….at least 50 words w/o having to spell them out?

    tg99, I'm experiencing what you are but after one week of this, it's probably taking me longer than 1-3 seconds to read each word. I'm just glad I can read these words at all, and am looking forward to seeing some progress from week to week. That'll be enough to keep me going! I enjoy your posts, keep them coming!

  10. That's good to know. It sounds like, then, that reading at the same speed as longhand isn't necessary to progress to the next lesson, but rather slow steady reading without the need of the key.

  11. I would guess that it's maybe one word in every 3 sentences that I get stuck on and when that happens I try to look at each stroke in the word so it makes sense to me. Every now and then when I check to see just what this word is I almost laugh because I should have been able to figure that word out on my own. So I'm more careful now to try a little harder to figure it out before checking the key.

    mcbud, you don't know how much what you say is encouraging me. I've been at this for exactly one week now and most words in assignment 1 I recognize quickly but that is still thru spelling them and not necessarily recognizing the word as I would in longhand. But even the spelling seems to come quicker. (I get a little stuck on the "k and r" forms but the repetition in reading them is helping. I'm on the 2nd assignment now in the Functional method book and am learning the brief forms there before attempting to read the long assignment. I'm still taking baby steps with these little common words like "is" or "was" but the more I read them the more I'm 'recognizing' them as those words.

    tg99, yes, I agree that steady slow accurate reading is better than fast reading with mistakes and it encourages me that I can read this stuff at all! 🙂

  12. Just curious, what percentage of the words you don't recognize? That number should be very small. Make a note of those words and study them separately, spelling them out loud, and reading them. Read the passage again now, slowly. The reading speed will be slow in the beginning and will increase with each successive lesson. For example, after six lessons in the Simplified manual, you should be able to read 84 words and phrases (including brief forms), spelling them out loud, in 8 minutes or less. That's about 6 seconds on each word. After 18 lessons, you should be able to read a passage with familiar words on the first reading at a minimum of 32 wpm (that's 2 seconds/word).

    Steady slow accurate reading is better than fast reading and being stuck on a word for one minute. If you can read the whole lesson without stumping, but slowly, you are ready to move to the next lesson.

  13. Glad I can help. You're doing fine. Another thing I would do is go back to the previous lesson and read the word list in a different order (backwards, or skipping one word, etc.). The more you see them, the more you will recognize them.

  14. Thanks for that. Also, although I'm getting encouraged because the more I read the better I read, I'm wondering just how discouraging it will be when the lessons start adding more outlines that look too much like the ones I've already learned but mean other things. Does this get awfully confusing?

  15. No, because you will read words in context, so even though an isolated outline can have many meanings, when you read it in a sentence the meaning should become apparent. Also, when an outline has many meanings, each meaning is usually a different part of speech, so it should not be confusing. For example, you will learn that "sp" can mean "speak", "speech", or "special": one is a verb, the other is a noun, and the last one is an adjective. Same thing with "dr", which can mean doctor (a noun) or during (a verb). So you know which one will be the correct word by context.

  16. Having the same outline mean different things is often raised as a problem by shorthand detractors, but it is something you are already sorting out with longhand.

    How about the word "read"? Do you say that with a long "e" sound or short "e" sound? Yes!

    "I read your letter with lead weighing down my heart."
    "I read the newspaper to lead off every morning."

    I'm sure there are other examples. (I tossed another one into my example because I couldn't help it.) Sure, there are not as many examples as in shorthand, but it is just a matter of degree.

    Don't get me start on homophones …

  17. Yes, I see what you mean. I think it'll just take a lot of reading for this to come as natural in shorthand as it is in longhand.

    Can anybody tell me….is the "Making Shorthand Teaching Effective" on eBay book helpful?

  18. I haven't read that book. It is a reprint from an old book by Gregg (30 pages), published in 1921.

    My opinion is that perhaps the greatest progress in teaching shorthand came with the introduction of the functional method. Up to then, most teachers taught by memorizing rules and constant drill (even though Gregg didn't like that a single bit). That changed with the introduction of the functional method. Afterwards, starting with Anniversary and in subsequent series, teachers used a combination of drill (rules, like the old manuals) and language art instruction (just like the functional method manual). In fact, the teaching manual for Centennial Gregg uses a mixture of the two methods. So I'm not sure how helpful the book will be for you.

  19. Thank you for your answer. I don't think I need that book.

    Is it okay to change the subject here or do I need to start a new thread?

    What I need to know from the experts is….when you first started writing shorthand, did you feel awkward and did your outlines look kind of funny, not smooth and pretty? I know I'm not supposed to 'draw' the outlines but right now that's the only way I can make them look like they should (readable). Did you get better at this just with lots of practice?

  20. Thanks for the encouragement again. The tip on proportions is helpful, I'll remember that. I'm not even supposed to be writing yet, I need to learn to read 21 assignments in the Functional book before I start writing beginning with assignment 22. But really, the temptation is just too much. Then I look at my own shorthand writing and just get back to reading the assignments. 🙂

  21. Oh yes, the outlines will look funny when you start writing. And after many years, with some writers, their outlines will not look textbook-perfect. But those writers can understand what they wrote. The important thing is to keep the proportion between the strokes and that you're able to read what was written. The smoothness comes with practice.

  22. I couldn't wait that long, either. My first book didn't recommend it, so I developed some bad habits that still haunt me. The book didn't say that there was a 3rd length in the T/D series, and I still make my D's too long.

    You need a bit of speed to make the outlines look good. Yes, it's counter-intuitive, but it forces your hand to flow.

    Once you start writing in earnest, add reading yesterday's writing to your routine. It's annoying to go back, but it's useful. Once your writing stabilizes, add reading something from last week to the routine.

    Do not write new material until you've finished the entire first book. It's too easy to use a wrong outline, and it takes 5 times as long to correct something you've learned wrong than to learn it right the first time.

  23. As promised, here are a few comments following mcbud's suggestion to work everyday on reading for two weeks (I'm working through the Functional Method), as well as a mix of other posters' comments.

    I can say without a doubt that my reading is improving at a noticeable rate. I'm starting to read some of the more common words as outlines (or word-images), as opposed to spelling them out. Two things that are helping me the most are

    1) re-reading the same material until they become quasi-fluent (some of the first texts I had to read many times (if you're a musician, think of it as rehearsing a piece over and over); and

    2) reading aloud, probably because it lets your brain understand what you see through what you hear with a real tempo, and not just working it out in your head.

    But the most exciting thing I'm starting to grasp is 'feeling' my way through a sentence. It's hard to explain, but it's a similar feeling to studying a foreign language and becoming sensitive to it by listening often to other people speaking it.

    I'm feeling that with shorthand; I'm starting to become sensitive to how the game is played. Breaking through the initial resistance has been difficult, but it's happening through regular exposure, concentration, and repetition.

    Going back to the example of a foreign language: through listening you are building a knowledge that is based on responding to your senses, and not, say, thinking out how the language system works. At the same time, you're breaking down the attachments in your head to uniquely English sounds and language concepts. So, it's worth mentioning that I found that at some point, after the pace of the books become familiar, you have to turn off the questioning and second-guessing. I found over-thinking to be a main obstacle.

    This is obviously a work in progress, but I hope this helps others out there.

    Thanks again to everyone for their comments; confirming that the frustrating bits are pretty normal has been inspiring, letting me focus my energy on learning it, and not HOW I learn it.

  24. Congrats!

    All this advice about re-reading and fluency and context and reading out-loud and whole-word reading and checking the key rather than stopping to sound out words could come straight from the "helping your child to read" booklet the kindergarten teacher gave us.

    I sometimes describe it as mumbling the outlines, especially if you can't tell the details of a line. Related lines have related sounds, and your brain will fill in the difference.

  25. Another challenge I had with shorthand was phonetic spelling rather than English. I'm a voracious reader and was (until I finally gave in and let spellcheck spoil me) a good speller. The differences between English and Gregg affected my reading as much or more than my writing. Eventually, my brain accepted it as an accent. It's only a problem when you're still breaking down the phonetics. And, as before, watching a child work through the sounds of short-A when deciphering C-A-N and C-A-T (especially when the teacher lumps both of those under "short-A" sound) puts it into perspective.

  26. Mumbling is what I'm doing now, which helps. I'm also struggling through the phonetic-style reading, along with keeping alert for the super-basic brief forms (was it 'add', 'aid', 'had', or 'I would'?) Speaking of which, I ran across an ambiguous form in a drill: is the form for 'I would be' the same as for 'had been' ('had been' was in the key)?

  27. Cricket, I am going through that process of accepting the shorthand as an accent. I went through a long phase of resisting it, similar to the culture shock of living in a different country. Your posts are a great help to me. Thanks!

  28. yes, I'm getting better at guessing right the first time as I'm reading.
    On the related point to reading connected material, here's a question: the texts from the Gregg Writer, for example, assume a certain level of vocabulary and brief forms for understanding them. What certain level is this? All the material in the Red Anniversary book? Or more?

  29. Excellent. Keep us updated.

    If the reading selection does not say anything about the level, it means that you need to have completed the basic book. In other selections, they will say something like "to be read after finishing Chapter 5" or something like that. Check the Drill on the Manual Lessons post, for example.

    In a few days, I hope to publish material correlated with the chapters of the manual.

  30. Don't forget that you have extra reading practice in the "Fundamental Drills in Gregg Shorthand", as well as the "Gregg Speed Studies" (preferably the third edition, which is better correlated with the manual). In my opinion, these should be used along the functional method manual for faster progress.

  31. The key to the fundamental drills is posted here, but my recommendation is that if you have a question about an outline, just post it here. You should be able to read most of it without the use of the key.

    The other recommended book is the Graded Readings in Gregg Shorthand (Anniversary Edition). The readings are also correlated with the chapters of the manual.

    So for learners, there are plenty of books to read from!

  32. Believe me, I know how to use a key. I don't need to cover it because I want to learn this stuff, so I only refer to the Keys when I'm totally stumped on a word. The App I'm using to study this particular book is especially nice because I don't even need to be near my WiFi to use it. It's funny how this reading gets easier day by day. It's true, how learning actually takes place is really a mystery.

    Does anyone know how to get rid of the Ads some people place in our Inbox?

  33. The Inbox is not really part of the forum, but of your account (I made a link in the What's new? menu option). A way of getting rid of those "Sponsored Links" is by using an adblock add-on for your browser. That's how I do it and I don't see them in my Multiply Inbox.

  34. Okay, I get it. I don't know if I can control that on my iPad. I have Firefox on my computer but don't know if Safari is all I can use on the tablet. I haven't had it but about 3 weeks and I've got lots to learn. But like shorthand, it's fun. 🙂

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