Courses for those who need to speak and understand a new language FAST, (like immigrants for example.)

General discussion about learning languages
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drp9341
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Courses for those who need to speak and understand a new language FAST, (like immigrants for example.)

Postby drp9341 » Wed May 15, 2019 7:41 pm

Hello everyone!

Here is the Question: (I'll add details below)
Q: What self study courses are best for someone who needs to USE a language quickly to communicate with native speakers? If this person didn't care about pronunciation, grammar etc. which doesn't directly help them communicate.

I have a cousin here from Italy who wants to learn English simply to be able to talk to everyone.
He doesn't care if he has a super heavy accent, or if he makes a million mistakes. I recommended Assimil to him, but then I realized that Assimil aims a little higher. Although I think it's his best bet.

I was thinking, "Does there exist a course to get people to learn enough of a language to handle everyday routine tasks, and engage in basic social activities?" I guess this would require speaking and listening skills at around B1, in terms of fluency and vocabulary, as well as grammar skills at maybe a A1/A2 level, (if the speakers native tongue is somewhat related to the target language.)

We spend a lot of time on this forum discussing perfecting one's language skills. Some people I've met are quite pretentious in this regard, especially English learners who look upon other English learners with disdain for making minor mistakes; mistakes that do not hinder communication whatsoever.

I have an aunt who moved to America about 20 years ago, when she was around 30. Everyone my age from Italy always asks me, "do people understand her when she speaks English?" She speaks with a 100% Italian accent, as if she was an an Italian word that sounds like an english word. She, however, has many American friends and doesn't live in an immigrant bubble. She can also ramble on, coherently, about a variety of topics. She doesn't seem any less "fluent" in English than she does in Italian, even though she will say things like, /aɪ gɔ tu si da 'daktɛ u'jeɪsadaɪ/ (I go to see the doctor yesterday = I wen't to see the doctor yesterday.)

She runs a large household successfully, and has no problems doing anything in English. In fact, one of her best friends is the Irish woman next door with a heavy accent. She makes funny jokes, and no one thinks anything of her accent, in fact a few people have said they really like her accent and listen to her closely and understand when she goes on her hilarious rants about anything from Trump to the quality of pasta sauce.

This is not a goal to strive for, but she is definitely more capable of handling herself in English than many of my students who have B2 level knowledge, but can't hold a real conversation with one native; many of these students had great pronunciation and grammar, as well as a large vocabulary.

She says she learned by asking her husband (he's bilingual) how to say things, and she said after /tri 'jiɛs/ (three years) she could "talk to everybody."

Is there a course out there for something like this? To give someone just enough of a base so then to be able to jump into their target language? Especially if they don't have time, or don't care about speaking correctly.
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Re: Courses for those who need to speak and understand a new language FAST, (like immigrants for example.)

Postby nooj » Wed May 15, 2019 7:44 pm

In what way is that different from someone who is trying for an intermediate level and failing to reach it? If there is no difference, it should not matter what resources you use. It sounds like it is entirely dependent on the attitude of the person, not on the language material they are using.
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Re: Courses for those who need to speak and understand a new language FAST, (like immigrants for example.)

Postby Stefan » Wed May 15, 2019 9:11 pm

drp9341 wrote:This is not a goal to strive for, but she is definitely more capable of handling herself in English than many of my students who have B2 level knowledge, but can't hold a real conversation with one native; many of these students had great pronunciation and grammar, as well as a large vocabulary.

Wouldn't this be natural considering that she's spent 20 years speaking the language? Practice makes perfect and I'm taking this out of the air but I reckon the average language learning student spend a fraction of their time actually speaking. Force a B2 student to speak for an hour a day and you'll see tremendous progress. This would be in line with ‎what Benny Lewis advise with speaking from day one.

There are tips and tricks a student can use to be able to use the language from day one but when we're talking about weeks and months, I doubt there is much difference to other language learning methods. It's mostly about prioritizing, both in terms of vocabulary (Bahnhof vs Achterbahn) and use (speaking vs reading). For example, I like the idea of writing a bio and practice saying it because it's what a lot of conversations will be about.

I might completely misunderstand the question though.
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Re: Courses for those who need to speak and understand a new language FAST, (like immigrants for example.)

Postby Brun Ugle » Thu May 16, 2019 6:04 am

My normal method of learning a language is pretty slow and I usually start with a few weeks of nothing but pronunciation and phonology before moving on to actually learning the language, but if I wanted learn a language really fast for a trip or something and didn’t care about perfecting it too much, I suppose I would rely heavily on phrasebooks and similar materials. I have a friend who takes a similar approach (Dave Prine from the Lollygagging podcast and YouTube channel, if you’ve ever listened/watched) and he uses old-fashioned flash cards with words and phrases from phrasebooks. He does pretty well with basic stuff in dozens of languages, but says his weakness is listening. That might be in part do to his paper-based method. So I’ll suggest a few possible improvements. 1. I would put the phrases in Anki with audio. Since you are a native English speaker, you could help with this by recording the phrases. Otherwise, I would use Forvo to get recordings or if the phrasebook had audio, I could use that. 2. I would try to do some listening. I’m a bit of a fan of Peppa Pig for language learning at the very basic level, but that’s British English, so maybe you could find something similar in the right dialect. It’s amazing how fast one can learn to understand Peppa because it uses simple sentences, a lot of repetition, visuals, and basic, everyday vocabulary. After a few dozen episodes, various phrases start resonating in one’s head. As you get used to Peppa, you can move on to other stuff. That probably won’t take long in languages as similar as Italian and English 3. I would get a very simple grammar book and go through it quickly to see how the language works without trying to learn any of the details or memorize anything. 4. If I had more time or was willing to put in several hours a day, I would use Teach Yourself or something similar and go through it as quickly as I could. First, I’d skim through to see how the language works and what is covered in the book. Then I’d study each lesson in the normal fashion.
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Re: Courses for those who need to speak and understand a new language FAST, (like immigrants for example.)

Postby David1917 » Fri May 17, 2019 4:34 pm

I take your point on "not caring about grammar" to mean, not being interested in knowing all of the (sometimes obtuse or mundane) terminology found in many textbooks, or sitting at a desk and writing exercises. Your cousin wants to learn how to manipulate English in a comprehensible way in everyday conversation, which is knowing grammar, just not knowing about grammar. In that case, some sort of audio-lingual method might be helpful - which relies not on belaboring grammar points theoretically, but rather by creating automaticity in the learner's responses. I do not know what audio-lingual courses exist for Italian > English, but that is the best bet if he wants to put in the work.

The method is also what the FSI uses, which was designed precisely "for those who need to speak and understand a new language FAST." Of course, that was a period of months with several hours a day of work every single day, so definitions of fast may vary.
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Re: Courses for those who need to speak and understand a new language FAST, (like immigrants for example.)

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Fri May 17, 2019 5:12 pm

What's FAST?
A few months/up to half a year? FSI/DLI.
Weeks/a few months? 50languages.
Long weekend? - L-R.
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