Anyone learning another language? How's it going? Here are some resources. (1 Viewer)

Tony Pro

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Let's discuss learning foreign languages. What good resources have you found?

I'm hopeless when I try to teach myself a language, but for some reason I keep trying. I've been working on French for about six years and I can finally say I'm at conversational level. This small success coupled with big travel plans has me eyeing several others.
It's a dream of mine to hitchhike to central Asia, in which case I'd need either Russian or Persian as a lingua franca...Persian is piss-easy, but Russian would be more useful in the long run. Decisions, decisions.
I was going to make a serious effort with Arabic but I couldn't decide which dialect, so I'm avoiding thinking about it at the moment.
I've also been using PDFs from the Peace Corps website to learn the basics of a couple of African languages. That's been a lot of fun.
Lately I've been watching Disney sing-alongs in French on youtube. I felt awkward as a grown man sitting home alone singing kids' songs, but then I learned Phil Collins wrote and performed the entire Tarzan soundtrack in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Latin spanish and Quebecois. Need any more inspiration than that? ::singing::

Here's a list of the online resources I've used to my advantage:

Audio courses: (find them on youtube or torrent)
Michel Thomas method -- far and away the best audio course for learning any European language. It's like being taught a language by your favorite grandpa. He's the guy they hired to teach Grace Kelly French when she married the prince of Monaco. The guy had a really amazing life.
Pimsleur -- Bueller.......Bueller..... Imagine that guy teaching you how to pick up French girls. Slow, sterile, and uninspiring, exactly the opposite of Michel Thomas. but I do like how you learn by participating in conversations. Plus they have a shitload of languages available. I had some success learning Persian this way.
Assimil (Audio & text) -- I can only speak for the French version, but I am a fan. Really helps with listening comprehension, and explains stuff well.
Livelingua has a comprehensive list of Foreign Service audio courses. Some of the most obscure languages you can think of are listed. I haven't used any of these, so I dunno if they're good.

Websites:
Duolingo -- The most important thing in language learning is to practice every day, so it makes sense to turn the experience into an addictive web game. but there are drawbacks. Duolingo tricks you into thinking you've finally found "the easy way" to learn a language. Don't believe its lies. Good if used in combination with other methods; garbage if used by itself because A) it doesn't explain grammatical rules and b) you'll find yourself able to read the new language, but not to speak it. Also the mobile version sucks.
Memrise -- Cross between Quizlet and Duolingo. Crowdsourcing means pretty much any language you can think of is available. but get past its friendly veneer and you realize all you're doing is plugging away at one word at a time. Which is great; vocab is important of course. I'm undecided on this one.
Clozemaster -- I just discovered this once recently and I really like it. Good way to learn words in context. Seems like it's intended for intermediate-level learners.
Quizlet -- personalizable way to learn new words, or anything really. I use this mainly for learning new alphabets. Fun, flexible, and works well; highly recommended.

I hope someone finds this helpful. How's your learning experience been? please share!
 
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roguetrader

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@Tony Pro sounds like you got so many languages you want to learn you could benefit from going way back - some ' History / Origin of Languages ' type degree i'm thinking ! as you must know most dialects have parent languages so knowledge of the base languages of the regions that you're mainly interested in would help - Michel Thomas hints at this in his courses i think when he talks about the similarity between Latin based European Languages - i've only tried French / Spanish / Portugese myself and have found that while i'm IN the relevant country and go into (say) French mode mentally i can get up to a basic level of communication quite quickly but soon as i'm back in the UK it leaves me pretty fast and i have to repeat the learning period for a while next time i go there.....
its amazing what some people achieve with languages - i was reading about the explorer Sir Richard Burton in Richard Grant's 'Crazy River' - he could learn a language in a matter of weeks and supposedly knew dozens fluently by the time he carked it
 
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Rowan

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I've been learning Irish on and off for a few years but it's tough to get used to without a conversational partner. I've been using Duolingo and books but recently decided to take a break and work on Swedish since I know someone who speaks it (using Duolingo for that too).
There's too many I want to learn and it's hard to take it one at a time. At least most of them are different enough that I don't mix things up.
 

Tony Pro

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sounds like you got so many languages you want to learn you could benefit from going way back - some ' History / Origin of Languages ' type degree
man, I didn't even know languages were a passion for me until I got to the 4th year of my English degree and studied Beowulf in the original language. If I could do those four years over...

most dialects have parent languages so knowledges of the base languages of the regions that you're mainly interested in would help
Good point, and in a lot of cases those parent languages have far more resources available for learning. I want to learn the Berber dialect spoken in Southern morocco but I'm wondering if I'd have an easier time if I studied the northern dialect asimultaneously...I feel like I'd come to understand the characteristics of both much better than if I only focused on one.

I'm probably aiming higher than I can hit, but at the very least language learning is the closest you can get to world travel without leaving your house.
 

HoboinaTux

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The absolute best, most efficient, and lasting way to understand and speak a language is "total immersion."

This is the idea of not being able to use anything other than the language you are trying to learns. Basically, go live in France if you are trying to learn French. You are able to accomplish, if you study, to be at a conversational level at six months.

My experience in learning Chinese is a living example of this. When I began my year in China, I stepped off of the airplane knowing absolutely nothing about the language. I did not know a single word. Without ever opening a book, taking a lesson, or even applying my lazy ass to learning the language, I am still years later able to navigate daily life without issue and exchanging pleasantries. I am nowhere near what you would call a conversational level. However, my friend actually applied himself to learning the language. After around nine months, he is what I would consider fluent.


There is absolutely no replacement for the constant exposure to a language one gets from living where it is spoken primarily. That is essentially how we have learned to speak with each other since we were able to speak with each other.
 
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As HoibanaTux was saying, that's probably the most productive way og learning a language. Even though you'll need to do as his friend, apply yourself to learning.

Since I lived in France a year and some months I can have a conversation, but still very superficial. There's really something to aplying yourself. Which I didn't so I'm not as good as I'd like to be.

On the other hand I had two years of german in school, not that I thought I was learning anything at the time. But, as I was immersed into german language for more than a year I've become far better than in french, which I never studied.

So from my personal experience I'll say that the best way to learn a new language is learning the basics in school or at courses and then finalising your course with an immersion.

You won't be able to really be fluent without speaking with natives - which is why I suggest immersion.

An old french saying is that if you want to learn french, you'll need to get a french girlfriend.
 

Tony Pro

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i highly recommend the rosetta stone software, it's expensive, but easy to find on torrent sites.
Good to hear; I know a few people who have tried with RS and gotten basically nowhere, so I never bothered with the fuss of torrenting it. I read an independent review that found that RS ranked worse than Duolingo at teaching reading comprehension but better at teaching you to speak and understand...would you say you were able to speak fairly well after RS?
I found after finishing Duolingo French I couldn't speak or understand well at all, though I could read and write just fine. It took a few months of travel for me to wrap my tongue around everything I'd learned.

As to what you guys are saying about immersion, of course you're right. Language learning has to be multifaceted project and immersion is the most important part, but it's still best if you start learning before you go to the place. I think it would've taken me years of immersion to figure out some of the weirder aspects of French which they cover in the first few pages of a textbook.
 

Matt Derrick

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Good to hear; I know a few people who have tried with RS and gotten basically nowhere, so I never bothered with the fuss of torrenting it. I read an independent review that found that RS ranked worse than Duolingo at teaching reading comprehension but better at teaching you to speak and understand...would you say you were able to speak fairly well after RS?
I found after finishing Duolingo French I couldn't speak or understand well at all, though I could read and write just fine. It took a few months of travel for me to wrap my tongue around everything I'd learned.

so my experience is quite old. i also did not study diligently, nor did i study for more than a month or so. i believe this was back in 2006 or so? i wanted to learn german before going out to europe. i can say though that a decade later, with just a few weeks of study i still retained quite a lot, a smattering of random german words (colors, numbers, airplanes, cars, etc) and a few short phrases.

i was really surprised when i first started how quickly i picked it up, since it basically works with word/picture association similar to how a baby would learn (i think) and then slowly taking away the words and pictures and leaving you with just a word or a picture (and you have to choose the right german word). so i feel like if i stuck with it, i could have benefited quite a bit more than i did.

there was also lessons on pronunciation that showed you how to pronounce using the mic in your laptop, which i also thought was pretty cool.

i haven't tried any other language software or website so i don't have anything to compare it to. if you can torrent it though i'd totally do it.
 

void gaze

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I’m late to duolingo just got into it and really enjoying. Here’s my caveat, I’m mainly using it to work on languages I already have a pretty solid start on. Since it’s free and there’s so many it’s really tempting to just jump into something new but it doesn’t seem like a great way to get into a radically unfamiliar language like I’m picking up some French but I think it’s only working because I have a decent amount of Spanish and a tiny bit of French already. I actually would love to just grind away at Navajo but it’s beta without audio so far and it’s so different in so many ways...I’ll settle for High Valyrian for now!
 

Older Than Dirt

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An old french saying is that if you want to learn french, you'll need to get a french girlfriend.

This has nailed it dead right there, adjusted as necessary of course for various folks' genderway preferences and orientations.

The easiest way to learn a new language (i have learned lots, and forgotten several, but still can have a conversation in French or Portuguese, and get by in Spanish, and can do caveman Italian, Farsi, Urdu, and Hindi, and maybe other ones i forget) is:

0) You have to go to a place where they speak that language, and not a part familiar with foreigners (where they will reply to your inept efforts at [Language X] in English), but a small city or country place, where they will just stare at you like you are insane when you try to say "Where is the toilet?", and instead say "My hovercraft is full of eels";

1) Before you go/on your way to that place, try to learn as much grammar/vocab as you can from web, books, etc;

2) When you get there, be horny and lonely [you can probably manage this, right?];

3) Find native you are sexually attracted who wants you too;

4) Hang out, do that thang, eat dinner together, go to the supermarket, the bar, the whatever, with your new sweetheart/fuck/whatever you kids call them these days;

5) PROFIT! No, but you'll get at least functional, and maybe fluent, in that language, fast. and who knows what else?

I am married to a Brazilian woman, but i did not language-stalk her- she language-stalked me in a bar in Williamsburg NYC (Iona on Grand St., for those keeping score at home).

In the 20 years we have been together, i have (involuntarily) learned Portuguese due to her habit of shouting on the phone when talking to her mom and sisters and our many visits to Brazil, and her English has gotten very good, although her accent remains as thick as a very thick thing indeed.

Her younger friend who came to the US 3 years later age 19, on the other hand, speaks absolutely flawless native US English that would convince anyone she was a Valley gal from Calif. who had moved there from like Minnesota, despite having been in NYC her whole 17 years in the US.
 
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