Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

General discussion about learning languages
Dtmont
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Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby Dtmont » Sun Jan 20, 2019 3:17 pm

SO there are many people on here who are very knowledgeable about specific languages and I would love to know how they would recommend someone to learn the language they spent time learning. What are the best materials you have ever used, what are some things you would recommend focusing on, what mistakes did you make that you would avoid?
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Aloyse
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby Aloyse » Sun Jan 20, 2019 4:43 pm

Chinese - if you start learning it, you'd better
1) learn it as a lifelong hobby (don't expect to reach a working level anytime soon)
or
2) take a 2 year break to learn it full time in China or Taiwan.
:( ;)
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby eido » Mon Jan 21, 2019 3:47 am

I'm not an expert at Spanish, and everyone learns differently. What I like won't appeal to others, certainly. I'm still learning how to learn.

But, if I had to re-start Spanish, I'd do something like this:

- Take an introductory course (an MOOC, most likely) teaching how to introduce myself, and shop. If the MOOC has multiple levels and you can pay for them for a small fee (like $30), then I'd take them and study along with them, because I like class structure.
- I'd make a special note of all vocabulary learned in those classes.
- I wouldn't skimp on the native interaction. I'd find a language partner to practice my new skills with. Or, if I could, I'd try practicing with the Spanish-speakers that came through the line at my weekend job - or, if I wasn't working there, I'd listen for Spanish in my environment and jump into conversation whenever I could. As a last resort I'd use an italki tutor.
- After completing those courses, I'd start translating my thoughts into Spanish by writing a few diary entries a week on site I could get corrections on, or sending my paragraphs to my chat buddies.
- I'd do the necessary evil of drilling vocabulary, either through translation, or through an SRS app. And I'd put my new knowledge to use through output.
- I'd memorize more Spanish-language songs and switch all my devices' and accounts' language settings to Spanish so I could get recommendations for things in Spanish.
- I'd dedicate myself to transcribing a 2-minute audio at least twice a week and get it checked by a friend.
- I'd watch as many cartoons as time allowed, and write down all new vocabulary. Then I'd use that new vocabulary in practice sentences.
- I don't know how I'd do it, but LISTENING. All the time listening.
- I'd have the patience to sit through an entire YA book and look up all the words I didn't know and synthesize them into new sentences for practice.

Repeat.

And even more rigorous routines with more "routine" to them, not just getting in whatever little I could each day. Set a minimum and stick to it. Organize.
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby Chung » Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:14 pm

I'm somewhat knowledgeable about Finnish, and can already use it spontaneously to a certain extent, but am far from fluent and my recommendations shouldn't be taken as gospel. Serpent certainly has something to say as a foreigner who learned the language to fluency (C1 for her) without moving to Finland while tiia and caam_int can do likewise, albeit with the insight as foreigners who eventually moved there.

If I were to give advice right now to my monoglot Anglophone friends on how to start studying Finnish by themselves, I’d tell them the following:

1) Finnish is not English or some language whose speech community is clearly linked to FIGS as shown by the word stock of Greco-Latin origin (cf. “internationalisms” which in reality are dominated by (Western) Eurocentric vocabulary) and somewhat shared typology. Furthermore, Finnish grammar marks concepts in ways that we Anglos do differently or not at all. Take the experience with an open mind and resist the temptation to whine about how Finnish is so complicated compared to English. If learning it is that much of a pain, then ditch it. I and others (including Finns) don’t really want to hear whining or cheap attempts at fishing for validation/sympathy as you exercise your lungs about your learning experience and the attendent struggle.

2) Use material on the internet as supplements rather than primary sources. Tutors are too expensive for most of us and the time difference when you’re not in the same time zones as Europe can make learning via Skype to be just too much of a pain. When learning anything online by yourself, it’s too easy to get distracted and goof off on forums or YouTube after doing 15 minutes’ worth of reading screenfuls of text or clicking boxes in online exercises. Learn the old-fashioned way with a textbook, course audio (if available) in a MP3/CD player, lined paper, and pen or pencil at hand. A reference manual on grammar and a bidirectional dictionary between English and Finnish are optional at the beginning. I’ve never been that big on flash cards, but if you are, then it’s up to you if index cards, mini-notebooks or Anki/Memrise are the way to go.

Unless you’re disciplined enough to learn Finnish on-line without paying a cent (or OK with going pirate on commercial textbooks), be prepared to set aside anywhere from $50 to $200 to get started learning Finnish on your own.

3a) Recommendation for ideal primary material at the start

- Finnish for Foreigners Vol. 1 (textbook, workbook, drillbook, audio) by Maija-Hellikki Aalto.

It’s available as of January 2019 from Audio Forum for $109.95 US in analog format; $39.95 US in digital format (CD-ROM has the texts in .pdf, and the audio in .mp3).

I've concluded that this is the best course to get grounding in Finnish after having a false start with the first half of “Teach Yourself Finnish” by Terttu Leney, trying out “Tavataan Taas!” which is in Web 1.0 style, and later comparison "Suomen Mestari" (vols. 1-2), "Hyvin menee!", "From Start to Finnish", "Mastering Finnish", "Beginner's Finnish", and "Kieli käyttöön", which are also meant for beginners.

Dialogues are fairly short but get progressively more difficult and the author designed them intelligently enough such that she reuses a bit of vocabulary from previous chapters, and any new vocabulary is found in the adjacent word-list. She doesn’t have the bad habit of introducing structures or vocabulary that aren’t formally introduced or used extensively until several chapters later. Explanations of grammar are concise, in plain English, and done from a Finnish point of view. This is especially apparent when discussing the direct object as she does not present this concept as “accusative” since marking for the direct object in Finnish considers factors that are absent from accusative marking in German, Greek, Hungarian, Latin, relevant Balto-Slavonic languages, and Romanian. The result of this approach is that you’re forced to think about Finnish on its own merits instead of being nudged to use a filter/prism from other languages, all the while getting ample practice in the assigned exercises of what you encounter in every chapter. In the words of phantomkat on Reddit (I'm pretty sure that she’s also on HTLAL) when using this course:

On Jan. 16, ’19 in “What’s the best text book you’ve ever bought for your language?” phantomkat wrote: The dialogues are pretty boring, and there’s outdated words from the 80’s, but those exercises. They have you translating from both languages, answering and writing questions, filling in missing words, and straight conjugating sometimes. After every chapter of exercises I feel like I leveled up or something. They seriously make you practice those grammar points well enough to be comfortable.

The readings after every chapter are also pretty cool. They are more challenging, contain new words not in your textbook, but still use the grammar structures you have studied. They are great for reviews.

If you pair this up with another course (like Assimil) you really feel like everything’s clicking into place.


I wholeheartedly agree with the above. The readings after every chapter that she's referring to (and are a little more challenging than what you get in the textbook) are found in the workbook.

If you’re really keen after finishing volume 1, then you can move on to volume 2 (textbook, workbook, audio) of the series which is also available through Audio Forum as of January 2019 for $79.95 US in analog format, and $39.95 US in digital format.

3b) Recommendations for reference material at the start

- Suomi-englanti-suomi sanakirja (published by WSOY) or Suomi-englanti-suomi-perussanakirja (published by Gummerus)

These are solid two-way dictionaries in hardcopy that are suitable for beginners. Go with whichever is cheapest or easiest to obtain for yourself. If you’re lucky you can find second-hand copies of them on Amazon Marketplace or similar for less than their suggested prices which hover around 30 Euros (especially if you stumble on older editions). Run searches using their respective ISBN if you’d like.

- Finnish: An Essential Grammar by Karlsson or A Grammar Book of Finnish by White.

These are handy reference manuals on Finnish grammar in hardcopy and suitable for beginners in case the explanation in “Finnish for Foreigners” isn’t enough. As with the dictionaries above, get whichever manual is cheapest or easiest to obtain for yourself. The usual advice for spending a little less by getting older editions or second-hand copies also applies. Run searches using their respective ISBN.

As a free but sparser alternative for notes on basic grammar, print out the sections in Uusi kielemme.

4) Recommendations or ideas after finishing “Finnish for Foreigners” vol. 1.

- Complete “Finnish for Foreigners” vol. 2

- Continue your studies using the series “Suomen Mestari” starting at volume 2 if not volume 3 (the 1st volume could be far too easy or boring for someone who’s cleared volume 1 of “Finnish for Foreigners”), “Kuulostaa hyvältä” (get both volumes, and watch the accompanying episode of every chapter on YouTube, stilted as they can be at times.) or “FSI Conversational Finnish” (it’s much easier to use this after gaining a background in basic Finnish when not used as originally designed to supplement in-class work at FSI)

- Improve your reading/listening comprehension with Ymmärrä suomea!, Korvat auki!, or if you’re up for it, Reagoi suomeksi! which will test your abilities to react orally in Finnish after listening to cues or clues in basic Finnish.

- Get acquainted with colloquial Finnish with any of the following: Colloquial Finnish by Abondolo, Kato Hei! by Berg and Silfverberg or Suomen Mestari (vols. 3 and 4) by Gehring et al.

- Take in simplified audio or video (including material meant for (im)migrants) such as Taste of Finnish (short dialogues in basic Finnish) or Suomi Taskussa (videos of everyday life in Finland including demonstrations on how to interact with native speakers using simple language).

- Read short comic strips (with the help of a dictionary as needed) by Finnish artists or Finnish translations of syndicated strips. My recommendations to learners are Musta hevonen by Samuli Lintula, Oswald (discontinued, but the archive holding 7 years’ worth of weekly strips is still active) by Janne Toriseva, Harald Hirmuinen (Finnish translation of Chris & Dik Browne's “Hägar the Horrible” published in the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat), and Lassi ja Leevi (Finnish translation of Bill Watterson's “Calvin and Hobbes” also published in Helsingin Sanomat). There are several other comic strips that are free to read on the internet through newspapers or blogs, but I’ve found that the appeal of these four strips is generally greater to native Anglophones (especially the latter two since the authors are Americans). Native strips such as “Fok_It”, “Fingerpori”, “Kamala luonto” and “Viivi ja Wagner” might be more work for learners to grasp because the punchlines are more attuned to Finnish sensibilities especially by exploiting Finnish cultural references or puns in Finnish.

- If comic strips are too short, then try books for Finnish children younger than 12 especially Nikke which is the Finnish translation of the collection of French short stories “Le petit Nicolas” or anything by Mauri Kunnas (his “Koirien Kalevala” is a simplified and cartoony version of the national epic, Kalevala with cats, dogs and other animals standing in for the original heroes).

- Travel to Finland, and if possible befriend Finns so that the language comes alive. It can get quite lonely and discouraging studying a language for which there’s no interaction with native speakers in the flesh or even hope of such interaction in the near future.

===

After building a certain and solid background in Finnish, you’d likely consider moving away from textbooks and drills, and digging into more advanced material such as Selkouutiset (news in slow/simplified Finnish) if not regular authentic material for natives. If you’re a fan of the NHL, then why not read articles and game reports on nhl.com in Finnish? If you like to cook, then why not watch short videos for recipes (not only of Finnish dishes) in Finnish?
Last edited by Chung on Thu Jan 24, 2019 2:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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lavengro
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby lavengro » Wed Jan 23, 2019 9:05 pm

Some comments about an underserved area: Piggish. Learning materials are comparatively scarce, so one's options (at least until Duolingo incubates the appropriate course) are either:

(a) immersion (ie. go live on a hog farm, which are easy to find in the countryside, just as the Toucan says, "follow your nose" or

(b) utilizing any of the bilingual Peppa Pig videos which may be found on YouTube (bilingual Piggish/English, Piggish/Italian and Piggish/Spanish materials are apparently quite popular).

I am currently working, against my better judgment, through the Piggish/Italian version. The Piggish language component is relatively small compared to its paired other language (Italian in my case), and mostly only shows up when main characters are either happy, eating or falling over.

While I am not really yet at an A1 level, I am pleased to advise I have acquired at least the following through, I guess, the CI method:

uhhnt, snort, snert, snernnnt, and snhooort! (the latter I believe only used for the imperative)

If you happen to choose Piggish as a TL and are interested in setting up an LE, LMK (let me know), as it has been challenging for me to otherwise line up competent speakers for practice purposes.
Last edited by lavengro on Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby David1917 » Wed Jan 23, 2019 9:23 pm

Russian

1) The alphabet is not that crazy, seriously, don't worry about it.

2) There are some grammatical concepts that do not have a 1:1 with English, but nothing overly obtuse or in any way insurmountable. Either way, be prepared to go back to doing some pen & paper work.

3) Acquire these materials to begin with: Assimil Russian Without Toil, Hugo's Russian in 3 Months, Cortina Russian.

4) Work through the Assimil daily with shadowing waves for about a month before then practicing the Cortina dialogues/drills. Introduce real Russian wherever you can - e.g. TV/movies/radio/podcasts.

5) At the time that you being the Assimil Active Wave, begin the Hugo course.

6) When Hugo, Assimil Passive Wave, and a couple passes of Cortina are complete (this roughly 4-6 months in) you should have identified some weak points - aspects of Russian that aren't really sticking. For me, it was verb aspects and certain prepositions that govern multiple cases.

7) Get Colloquial Russian 2. The first chapter is a review of the grammar, and this should further highlight the problem areas. Complete this book, but also find some other reference grammar that has ample exercises (Modern Russian by Derek Offord is a certified beast in this regard) and strategically complete the exercises in problem areas. You should probably review the entire book, but it can be taxing and you don't have to do every exercise on the aspects you're more familiar with. Depending on how comfortable you feel, you could also introduce another generation of Assimil or the Linguaphone course. This will not be done in the typical way, but rather in a way to add more varied input. There are other good second-stage courses like Grammar In Context (Grammatika v Kontekste) which give you real excerpts from literature. If you're more literary-minded, this might be a better thing to add than one of the others. It's important to not get utterly bogged down in courses, though.

8) Go to Russia, it's fantastic.
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby aravinda » Thu Jan 24, 2019 1:33 am

David1917 wrote:...but also find some other reference grammar that has ample exercises (Modern Russian by Derek Offord is a certified beast in this regard) and strategically complete the exercises in problem areas. You should probably review the entire book, but it can be taxing and you don't have to do every exercise on the aspects you're more familiar with...

David1917, Modern Russian by Derek Offord doesn't have an answer key, so how do you check your answers? I know you gave this as one example among many other possibilities, but wouldn't it be better to go with a book that comes with an answer key like Terence Wade's A Comprehensive Russian Grammar and the accompanying workbook or Routledge's A Russian Grammar & Workbook (Basic/Intermediate)? Just asking.
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David1917
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby David1917 » Thu Jan 24, 2019 3:18 am

aravinda wrote:
David1917 wrote:...but also find some other reference grammar that has ample exercises (Modern Russian by Derek Offord is a certified beast in this regard) and strategically complete the exercises in problem areas. You should probably review the entire book, but it can be taxing and you don't have to do every exercise on the aspects you're more familiar with...

David1917, Modern Russian by Derek Offord doesn't have an answer key, so how do you check your answers? I know you gave this as one example among many other possibilities, but wouldn't it be better to go with a book that comes with an answer key like Terence Wade's A Comprehensive Russian Grammar and the accompanying workbook or Routledge's A Russian Grammar & Workbook (Basic/Intermediate)? Just asking.


I guess you're right it doesn't - I usually just flip back and forth consulting the chapter. I had also been to Russia a couple times and done other textbook work before discovering this book. I haven't looked at Wade or Routledge, but sure - any comprehensive reference grammar with a key would be a better bed. Alternately - one could hire a tutor or have a friend look over the answers as well.
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby DaraghM » Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:45 am

For beginning, and progressing, Russian I'd recommend the books published by the Russian company Zlatoust.

http://www.zlat.spb.ru

Russian in an Easy Way (http://www.zlat.spb.ru/catalog5_1_14.html) is a very gentle introduction to the language. Click on the section, Фрагмент из книги, to see a sample.

In general, I prefer to use publications by publishers who specialise in a single language, and are aligned to the CEFR or similar exams standards. There's a big difference between the common language publishers and their claims, and the actual courses that are used by the various language institutions.
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Re: Which language are you most knowledgeable about and how do you recommend a beginner to learn it?

Postby IronMike » Thu Jan 24, 2019 6:32 pm

Once you're at intermediate Russian, I can highly recommend Making Progress in Russian, by Davis et al.

At the advanced level I'd recommend Political Russian by Simes & Robin...that is, if you can find it without costing you безумных денег!
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