I don't know how it is for you, or others, but I learned all 40 characters in little less than 3 months, and I have no sense of music or tones in this life whatsoever.
In fact, in the beginning I doubted very much that I would be able to learn all the characters at all, as I had even difficulties distinguishing between the sound of dits and dahs!
But to my astonishment, I learned all the characters pretty fast, with 20min training each day. I was though, more astonished when I realized that learning the characters wasn't the hard part at all!
The whole process to me, is like deciding upon climbing a mountain, and the process of learning all the characters, is in fact only the journey from your home, to the foot of the mountain. The hard work, or the climbing, starts right there - building speed - only after learning all characters! But you only know it, when you're right there.
I thought also that the sending would be my biggest challenge, and I worried a lot. Now, less than a year after I began training CW, I can easily send text directly from any book, flawlessly with 24wpm, but I can still only copy 17wpm and with difficulty that is - go figure!
If I just knew a year ago, how much work it would be, I don't know if i'd take on the challenge, but I'm now at the point of no return. Too much time is spended, without going all the way now! But virtually all my practice now is listening. Trying to copy in my head.
Again, I don't know if this copies to everybody else, but I know how is was for me in the beginning, and with my lack of musicality, I can now say for sure, that everybody should be able to learn CW, at least to my level.
I'm not done at all, but I am on air with my CW, and have done several CW QSO's already, yet not many - and QRS that is, of course. I'd say I'm still only in the low part of the mountain, and it seem like there's no fast lane og cable car going up there to the top. Only the small winded road that must be walked step by step.
I hope I don't discourage you by this, because I don't intend to. It's very rewarding indeed, not only the goal, but the training itself, almost addictive!
If I just knew a year ago, how much work it would be, I don't know if i'd take on the challenge, but I'm now at the point of no return. Too much time is spent, without going all the way now! But virtually all my practice now is listening. Trying to copy in my head.
I think OZ1SPS said everything there is to say. The key is make your practice part of your daily routine and not think too much about it.
The ones who agonize about things and talk endlessly about their difficulties don't complete the course.
Yes it gets harder, when you go to higher lessons.
I am totally a-musical, so don't play any instrument, never started to try it, and I got no problem learning Morse code.
However the first lesson let you chose between K and M. Easy, but the difficulty at higher lessons is growing for two reasons:
1. More characters to chose from
2. The probability of occurance of a new character becomes lower and lower when you reach the higher lesson numbers.
So you have to find out for yourself (when you wan't spent time on old forum posts) that
a) Morse machine as a warm up becomes increasinly important
b) From lesson 9 upwards playing Words exercises
beginning with short words are extremely important
I did that with regular spaced characters (effective speed= character speed)
I can say for me it got harder, before it got easy. I went through the Koch and when I could barely pick out a single character from a QSO I went through Koch again and again. I thought I had to get every letter down to a reflex without a delay before I could copy a QSO. I was ready to quit.
nonagenarian on this site suggested I move on to words starting with 3-4 letter words. I quickly started to really copy code.
Once you get through Koch so you really know each letter you are finished with it. By know I mean I send any single letter, for example .-.. and in a short moment you are comfident it is a L, it is time to move on to words. At this point do not expect to copy code.
I could learn the sound of each letter in French and not understand spoken French.
I did a lot of word exercises starting with 3 letters at 17/17, I listened to plain text, and I binged on the 100 most common words and stories on youtube.
This is where thing start to get easier. You can probably copy CQ at 25wpm, it is because we learn it as a word, not C Q. You will hear T H E at 20wpm and find the wait is long to see if the next character is a i, or y, or m, or a space. You will have time to "decode" the word you missed as familar words are copied. The question of how to write fast enough to copy every letter goes away. When you are following along hearing words at 20 wpm it is easy but really you only needed to wirte down things like a nanme, callsign, QTH, and a topic or comment you want to pick up on when it is your turn.
Peter made many of the same points.
In summary, learning each character isn't too hard and there are only 26 of them. The hard part is groups of 2 to 10 characters (words) where there is a large number of possible combinations and each combo sounds different.
I have always had trouble with verbally spelled words, phone numbers and knew code would be difficult. After 3 years I find I myself following a QSO that is on in the background that I'm not paying attention to.
Thanks for all the input. I'm wondering what's the correct tactic. I'm learning at 20wpm character speed, slower makes ma count the ditdahs. Currently I'm only at lesson 3 at 8wpm effective speed. I wonder, if I should more to lesson 4 or build up speed to eg. 10 wpm effective and then go further. What's your experience?
The issue is less one of learning effectiveness than a psychological one.
LCWO's drop-out rate seems to be roughly 90% (informal estimation), so the key is to settle on an effective speed which is rewarding enough, psychologically, that you will finish the 40 lessons.
At that point, as OZ1SPS says, you will be "at a point of no return", the loss on your investment of time and effort will be so great that you will continue and reach a meaningful level in morse.
If you make it too hard on yourself at the beginning, the odds are very great that you will give up and will have nothing to show for your efforts, whereas, even if you learn in a sub-optimal fashion, if you stick with it, you will accomplish your goal.
We human beings are different. Maybe it gets harder, because the letters get more and more, maybe it gets easier, as yout get accustomed to the sounds, the rhyhm and the melodies. May be both is the case but has a different influence on you. It does not matter.
You will face harder times and you will have easier times. What helps is: keep on going. Sometimes you have to switch gears and cruise along at moderate learning speed. Sometimes you have to press the accelerator, and take some effort. It is not always obvious, what will work best in a given situation. Then you will have to find out. Also keep an eye on the other criteria, which help the learning process to move along. They will change too.
My lifetime experience is that people just starting and questioning, because they are obviously too lazy or not interested at all to read old postings on this (and other like eham.net) forums; or are the type that just question without the urge to invest any own effort to investigate, are generating a lot of answers on their multiple answered questions but quit very soon.(before reaching lesson 7)
So best advice is just to quit, you are not the type of person to learn the code, you can't buy proficiency and invested time for up to lesson 7 will be lost time, that you are used to spent better in your opinion in the way you are spending your leasure time.
@Stehpinker: Being an experienced audio engineering teacher and before that sports coach myself I will take what you wrote as friendly advice and not an insult, I know how hard it can be when people are starting out with something. I am devoted to learning and have learned a number of things in my life requiring effort and persistence and yes I have read a lot of topics in this and other forums. Hope I havenít wasted your time asking this question and Iíd like to thank others that took their time to share their experiences. Thatís what makes for a good community. Personally I feel that excessive use of ďthe question has been asked before, use searchĒ by senior forum members puts a lot of beginners off. Sure many of the questions have been asked before, but sometimes the conditions and experiences vary, thatís why people are asking these.
Practice as much as you can. Do 90% accuracy 10 times, not consecutively, before moving on to the next lesson. After completing all 40 lessons, move on to word and plain text training. Keep in mind as in music start slow and go faster with the word and plain text training. I have not moved on to callsign training yet, but I plan to in the near future. It does get easier, but as in music, there are always challenges as you move on into this very interesting and challenging activity. Don't give up. Keep going. As always practice always pays off.
AdamKBZ: I'm learning at 20wpm character speed,...
AdamKBZ: Currently I'm only at lesson 3 at 8wpm effective speed. I wonder, if I should more to lesson 4 or build up speed to eg. 10 wpm effective and then go further.
Thats a good question. Similar questions will come up again and again.
The question sounds simple, but it isnt simple to give an answer. Thats why some poeple get nervous :) .
The answer depends on what your current situation is. Did it take very much effort, to reach 20/8eff for lesson 3? How many days with how many minutes of practice did it take, to get there? Please answer with exact numbers, to let us know, what we are talking of.
If you can reach 20/10eff or 20/12eff with reasonable effort, it is better to increase the speed first and add new letters then. At 20/10eff or 20/12eff you can reach a better "flow of decoding" which makes things easier. If it is not possible this way, try the other one, as a workaround: Go on some lessons (maybe till lesson ten) and try to increase effective speed then. With more different letters, the signal isnt that monotone any more. Maybe, it gets easier then for you.
If its still not possible to increase effective speed, do all the 40 lessons and may be doing the 40 lessons once more at higher effective speed will work wonders.
Just now I do a lot of plain text, random characters and words, but parallel I do the lessons at 23/16eff and try to go to 23/23 till lesson 40. We always can find a way, which works well for us.
If you can get to lesson 40 at 20/5 and 90% you have met the goal of knowing each character. You will only learn the language once you move onto words, plain text, and short stories at 17/17 or above.
A early dead end I found was copying at 20/20 with a keyboard. I mastered the ear to finger process skipping the brain. I didn't know what I copied until I read it back. This is good for random 5 letter group.
Here is a interesting article found on this site: https://w6rec.com/learn-morse-code/
your progress is quite good and the effort is reasonable.
I would go to 20/10eff first. It is better to increase the speed first and add new letters then. At 20/10eff you can reach a better "flow of decoding" which makes things easier. The skill which you acquire in this way is more realistic.
Please always remember: the goal at this stage ist go go over 90%, not to reach 100%.
Thanks for your statistics, they are a tribute to your determination.
I looked through the stats you posted and, as far as I can see, you are following the Koch method strictly with a Farnsworth slant.
There are quite a few of us who feel that the Koch method is perhaps a bit too rigid (he was German, after all!) and that you can just move on when you get a reasonable score (i.e. it doesn't have to be 90%).
The code does tend to gel by itself, like a language (I am a linguist by training and languages are learned by learning patterns and drilling them over and again).
All the languages I have learned (some 10), I have learned to listening to a lot of material (we're talking hours every day) and appropriating the material by talking.
As far as morse is concerned, that would mean, in addition to the 40 lessons to:
1. listen to random groups of the characters you have learned 30mns/day minimum and to start listening to text as soon as you can (even if you can't understand anything, the parsing functions of the brain will learn to distinguish patterns, without knowing their meaning, then when you learn the meaning of .--. , it will be easy, your brain will associate that with "p")
2. listening and sending back what you have heard, i.e. appropriating the material with, for instance, the Echo function on the K44, or just going on the air as soon as possible.
Just an update to my previous comments, because something happened to me this very week!
I have been copying random english words in 14wpm, back and forth from my work, whilst driving. I was able to copy, but thought it was time to speed up a little. So I tried copying at 17wpm, and guess what, it got easier for me to copy, as I used less energy memorizing the first letters in a word.
Then I tried 20wpm, and I'm still copying..., so actually and apparently YES, it does get easier sometimes as you move along... So my advice now is, don't get stuck. Raise the bar all the time!
I thought I was stuck at 14wpm, but I wasn't...
I'm listening to the letters while deriving too, at lesson 5 currently. What I've found is that it's the stress of writing stuff down and being correct that's a major psychological obstacle. Once I relax, it's much better. When I'm not writing stuff down (obviously) when I'm driving the letters pop into my head easily. Can't wait to get to lesson 9, so I can start the word exercises.
you dont need "to be corrected" every time, you write the decoded characters down. Type the written text into the form, if you want to get a feedback. In between you can decode and write down, without asking for feedback. May be this can help to acquire an more relaxed attitude when writing decoded cw signals down.
I need feedback, but I consider it a waste of time, to type my written text into the form every time. Every other time or even every fifth time is sufficient for me.
I've reached almost the end (39/40). It has taken me a year and a half to come to this point. There have been plenty of times of overwhelming disappointment, but I didn't give up. The biggest ones have been the most recent ones, meaning the last 10 lessons, where I was struggling with a single character for more than one month. Most recently, I was ready to give up just before some weeks, having made no advance for my "6" character for almost 2 months, trying to tell it from "B" and "D". Yes, indeed, there are plenty of breaking points.
When you get into the tunnel, the entrance slowly diminishes, while the exit is yet to come. And you try, and you try... everyday, every hour...
Nowadays, I have learned completely my "0" character, but the fact that I still haven't yet cleared my problem between "6", "B" and "D" characters makes a handicap to achieve the 90% to pass to my final character, "X" ;) But I am patient. I struggle every day. I will overcome.
My personal view is that apart from the general advice, there is no "correct tactic". Each tactic fits every individual by him/herself. Whatever works for one, cannot work for everybody else. Learning the code is a very lonely road the biggest enemy of one is his/herself.
My only rule yet was to practice. Either by hearing / copying the code or by finding workarounds to copy more easy. Every day, no exclusions. For at least 45 minutes (except maybe when I was ill, where I practiced for 15 mins). For one and a half year.