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Thread: Tips on learning another language

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    Senior Member clavichorder's Avatar
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    Default Tips on learning another language

    My resources and life situation is such now that I can't go to some immersion school in Costa Rica or Mexico to learn Spanish. I haven't studied in a while and consequently am really rusty. I run into similar blocks every time I try to study Spanish without any tutoring. Vocab doesn't often correspond literally as things would in a perfect and boring world so I find rummaging through a dictionary fairly useless at this point. It's possible that I just need a tutor and to do some conversational groups. But I don't think my level is even high enough for conversation groups. I wish I had the ability to guide my own studies, but I think I'm stuck. Any tips based on your experience?

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    By far the most challenging/time-consuming thing about learning a language is vocabulary aquisition, and the most efficient way for expanding vocabulary is reading, more or less. Don't worry too much about using the language actively (speaking, writing) unless you are at an advanced level.

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    Quote Originally Posted by clavichorder View Post
    But I don't think my level is even high enough for conversation groups.
    There is no such thing as level too low for conversational groups. I delayed my first attempt to participate in one for same reason as you and when I finally went there, it turned out there are total beginners, even people who don't speak the language at all and just came for company. You have big chance to meet some nice people who will guide you to say basic things that normally you try to get from tutorial book, just with real people it will be a thousand times more fun and memorable. Living experience with the language is the best and there is no reason why it shouldn't be your method from the very beginning.

    Also, sing this every morning under the shower:

    Last edited by Aramis; Nov-07-2015 at 20:34.

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Aren't conversation groups often "leveled"? So it depends. Definitely if conversation groups motivate you and they are not explicitly "super-advanced" ones, they would be a good way to learn. If you can't think of anything very motivating or interesting to read and you like the idea, it would be probably even better than reading, but I think reading is otherwise more efficient way for aquiring ridiculous amounts of words.

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    Senior Member Blancrocher's Avatar
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    Some tips:

    Use post-it notes (if your living situation permits it): put labels on everything around you in the foreign language, and/or stick English words on a wall with the foreign-language equivalent on the back. Replace them with other words as you master them.

    Find language exchange partners online: use email and video chat as much as you can.

    Download apps: there are lots of good free programs for acquiring vocab.

    Listen to foreign-language audiobooks/news etc.

    Find a good audio course (like Pimsleur, if you're a beginner).

    Read constantly--you might start out with simplified texts (children's books, simplified news sites, etc.)

    Translate from English into the foreign language.

    Set a minimum amount of time you'll study daily, and keep to the routine.

    If you ever do get the chance to travel, look for an intensive course--casual "immersion" seldom does much.
    Last edited by Blancrocher; Nov-07-2015 at 21:04.

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    Senior Member Dim7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blancrocher View Post
    Download apps: there are lots of good free programs for acquiring vocab.
    I have used a pop-up dictionary for Mozilla Firefox for learning Japanese. Very handy. Similar should exist for Spanish, you'd think...

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    Senior Member Richannes Wrahms's Avatar
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    Youtube is your friend

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    Senior Member GreenMamba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blancrocher View Post
    Download apps: there are lots of good free programs for acquiring vocab.
    I've been using (free) Duolingo to learn German (picking up where I dropped off in school many years ago).

    It's a nice tool, but has its limitations. It works better for vocab than for grammar. You're pretty much on your own to piece together the rules of pronouns endings, for example. I think it helps to write the language as well, rather than just type on screen.

    It tests your speech, although it isn't great.

    So I'd recommend it or another app, but not as the only tool.

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    Read, read, read!!!

    Borrow a course from the library, or try Duolingo.

    If you're near a university, the language departments often have a social room where current and ex students and an occasional prof drop in for a coffee and some chitchat.
    Last edited by brotagonist; Nov-08-2015 at 06:56.

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    Quote Originally Posted by clavichorder View Post
    My resources and life situation is such now that I can't go to some immersion school in Costa Rica or Mexico to learn Spanish. I haven't studied in a while and consequently am really rusty. I run into similar blocks every time I try to study Spanish without any tutoring. Vocab doesn't often correspond literally as things would in a perfect and boring world so I find rummaging through a dictionary fairly useless at this point. It's possible that I just need a tutor and to do some conversational groups. But I don't think my level is even high enough for conversation groups. I wish I had the ability to guide my own studies, but I think I'm stuck. Any tips based on your experience?
    Go hang out at the local Home Depot's parking lot. There are usually quite a few Hispanic gentlemen sitting around, seemingly having a fantastic time!

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    Senior Member helenora's Avatar
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    agree with many tips here especially about "read, read, read"!
    one more tip: get a good textbook for your level . if you are a beginner go through it from cover to cover and.....the most important ever ! as soon as you are able to read and comprehend start reading from original sources - newspapers, magazines, literature, poetry of course is the most difficult for every language learner , so sometimes I wonder why so many "teachers" recommend language learning through poems ??? well, I understand musicality and flexibility, etc of poetical language, but not for a beginner....it becomes just a waste of time.

    There is a technique called "shadowing" ( I think you can find a detailed description of it on the net), but in short it's about reading out loud any texts without worrying if you understand the meaning or not ( at least at the first stages you shouldn't worry about it), and texts should be original. well, all that about "originality" is a rule of thumb which is ignored by majority. But why is it important? Coz you get immersed into a language, you start feeling it which is the most important thing, you understand real structure , real grammar, etc not the rigid one derived from textbooks ( I don't try to discard textbooks completely) using original sources is even more important for someone who can't for some reasons study abroad, but it's equally important even for those studying abroad as sometimes you see people spent time in language schools abroad and they have troubles reading real texts. For sure it depends on a level of a student, but here we talk about intermediate level so far. the problem is many of students of intermediate level are able to communicate decently but when it comes to reading comprehension of original piece of writing they fail or have problems.....hm....it's a long topic.

    Vocabulary acquisition ? it's not a big deal if you can concentrate well and if you are good at associations , find common roots of different words and so on. It's of great help if you ever learned some Latin, because all Roman languages are derived from Latin. And one more thing which can save lots of time ( and again very common mistake in so called "modern" approach to learning foreign languages ) : making lists of words and cards are not of great help. What happens is that such an approach is unrelated to reality: if one doesn't use this word from a list in life, one will sooner or later forget them and I think one will forget them soon

    Despite of all I've written above about original texts still you should do all exercises from your grammar textbooks or on the internet because it'll help you to imprint grammar patterns in your memory. As soon as you've done your grammar exercises start practicing them in real life - the same grammar pattern that you've learned ( with an online or real friends, composing your own sentences, etc).

    you say you are stuck....I think you are lacking motivation. It's very important to have it and it's only you who should find it


    I forgot about movies. Especially if you usually like watching them grab a copy of ones that you like and already watched in a language you wish to master and watch it over and over, it's preferable to have subtitles so that you could pick come new words and phrases, etc and write them down. It's time consuming process, but it works nicely.
    Man muss das Leben tanzen

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    For pronunciation, a French professor said to exaggerate the movements of the mouth. She was expert at it saying each word with grotesque and large movements of her lips and tongue.

    This could be combined with helenora's "shadowing" suggestion.

    I endorse reading out loud! If you are home alone or have a place for yourself, pick a good book or story or any interesting text and read it aloud.

    I would also recommend getting reference books on subjects that interest you in the language you are learning. Eg., if you are interested in gardening, then having some high quality reference works that you will be referring back to again and again is a great way to require use of the language in your day-to-day life.

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    Thanks for the tips. I'd never heard of Duolingo, but I'm finding it addictive! It says my French is 50% fluent (I don't think it can be yet) which suggests that it doesn't take you to a very advanced level.

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    Senior Member TxllxT's Avatar
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    Apart from all the read-read-read aloud suggestions that I wholeheartedly support I can advise to marry a woman who speaks that other language you want to learn, even better: a woman with children. The children only know that other language and they will laugh at all your slips of the tongue (which is a great correction method). Even nicer: the children will learn you to speak slang, not the official bookish language that nobody really speaks.
    All we like sheep

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    Quote Originally Posted by TxllxT View Post
    Apart from all the read-read-read aloud suggestions that I wholeheartedly support I can advise to marry a woman who speaks that other language you want to learn, even better: a woman with children. The children only know that other language and they will laugh at all your slips of the tongue (which is a great correction method). Even nicer: the children will learn you to speak slang, not the official bookish language that nobody really speaks.
    Brilliant! Why didn't I think of that?

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