Tried Everything, Nothing Works

Ask specific questions about your target languages. Beginner questions welcome!
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Re: Tried Everything, Nothing Works

Postby RMM » Tue May 14, 2019 7:05 pm

I used to be like you with foreign languages. I kept toying around with new programs and then setting them and languages aside periodically over the course of years. Thanks to the old HTLAL board and all the new ideas I saw there that changed for me.

Other people have already brought up this idea, but one of the best pieces of advice I've seen from a polyglot was Prof. Arguelles' advice on habituating yourself to learning languages every day just as part of your daily life, like brushing your teeth. So long as you look on languages as special study or something extra you have to force yourself to do, you will likely keep dropping them, even though consistency is one of the most important things in language learning (along with realistically understanding it takes most people a whole lot of time to learn a language well).

Perhaps the most important thing for me personally was that I also learned how to make language learning easy and fun for myself, which made turning language learning into a habit much easier. I spent enough (too much) time on academic tasks in my life already, so I often found studying languages in a formal manner to be boring. My big breakthrough was when I discovered you can use native materials from very early on if you find ways to make them at least partially comprehensible.

The Listen-Read (L-R) method that was discussed extensively on the HTLAL board and periodically on this board especially jump-started my learning. (With the method, you take texts of the same book in your native and target langauge, perferably but not necessarily laid out side-by-side, and follow along with them while you listen to an audiobook of the text in your target language). This meant that I could listen to interesting audiobooks in my target languages while having the English meaning right in front of me making it comprehensible from the start. I was recently even able to use this method with Russian, a difficult language with a different alphabet, after just 3-4 hours of study.

Also importantly, I joined the Super Challenge (that is still active in this forum now). Extensive reading and listening/watching are wonderful ways to learn in a natural, fun manner. It was a little hard to learn to accept ambiguity and not understanding everything (or even most things) at first, but the more of it I’ve done, the easier it gets to understand it well. I found that earlier on, it was very helpful to read a page, chapter, or book first in English and then in my target languages. Likewise, I would often watch shows and movies first in English or with English subtitles and then watch it over in just my target languages. This made it easier to pick up vocab without having to look up very much (do not get bogged down in looking up words) and to read more rapidly without having to worry that I would miss what was happening in the plot. Dual language texts can also make matching the foreign language with its meaning much easier. Later, you can move on to reading/watching/listening just in the foreign language and picking up more things through context.

Sure, I still have to check grammar books every once in a while, but all the foreign-language novels, non-fiction books, movies, TV shows, audiobooks, articles, news broadcasts, and documentaries I’ve consumed make it a lot easier to recognize and understand foreign grammar points, in addition to being a great way to learn tons of vocab in context. The main thing for me is that probably 95% of my language learning is actually fun. If I had to spend most of my time with flash cards and Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur, though, I think I would have given up (again) a long time ago.

I know you said you tried "everything," but have you tried large amounts of extensive reading and listening (you have to do a lot; a small amount won't do anything)? I would think that learning everything in context would help you retain the information much better. Naturally, this would be easier to do with Spanish than Japanese, since the Japanese writing system is so complex (although it should still work with Japanese with a lot of extra preparation—maybe after learning the kana and the most common particles, going through Heisig volume I for the top 1,000 kanji, and reviewing over some of the most common vocab words?). Have you considered perhaps putting Japanese aside for a time, while you concentrate on properly learning Spanish? Based on the FSI scales Spanish is a tremendously easier language to learn for an English speaker than Japanese. Perhaps if you learn Spanish first you can figure out what works for you in language learning before tackling Japanese. Just a thought. Good luck.
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Re: Tried Everything, Nothing Works

Postby Cavesa » Tue May 14, 2019 7:51 pm

Looking at that list, I think you haven't tried the most obvious option: getting a coursebook and sticking to it. It works. It won't teach you everything, but it can get you un-stuck and several steps forward in the right direction. And yes, while it may not look like the most fun method, the results open the doors to more fun and are rewarding.
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Re: Tried Everything, Nothing Works

Postby seito » Tue May 14, 2019 11:36 pm

Arnaud wrote:Assimil Japanese is not especially user-friendly and amusing like any other Assimil courses, imho.

I've seen a lot of posts that suggested that Assimil Japanese isn't as good as other Assimil courses. I haven't used any others, so I can't comment on that. But I did find the time I spent with Assimil to be my most productive.
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Re: Tried Everything, Nothing Works

Postby StringerBell » Wed May 15, 2019 5:09 pm

As usual on this forum, there are so many really amazing and helpful responses's truly a treasure trove. Sadly, I think Elvis may have left the building.
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Re: Tried Everything, Nothing Works

Postby IronMike » Wed May 15, 2019 5:10 pm

Iguanamon's multi-track approach changed my language learning. Worth a read.
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Re: Tried Everything, Nothing Works

Postby tuyanka » Wed May 15, 2019 6:43 pm

I understand! Honestly, when it comes to learning languages I think that emotional connection is super important. So basically the most useful thing is to have a friend that speaks the language you're trying to learn (it also can be a tutor but then it requires monetary investment, on one side it's a positive one as it'll keep you accountable also you want to make the most of it; just be really careful on finding a person that you get along super well so you're excited about having a class), or find something you enjoy doing and integrate it into the process. Not every learning strategy is going to work for you, nor they work out for everyone so don't get too discouraged... :D If there is any movie or show that you enjoy watching (and have watched before so you have an idea of what's going on there) then it's worth giving it a try to watch it in Spanish/Japanese with original subtitles. I know it's likely not as easy/fun/enjoyable but you're learning and slowly building up your vocabulary. Also, you can throw subtitles in English to the mix to make it even more effective :lol:
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Re: Tried Everything, Nothing Works

Postby Decidida » Sun May 19, 2019 4:25 am

For basic vocabulary, I have made the fastest progress with the kids Dinolingo program. The website breaks the videos up into handier modules, than the full videos available for free through Hoopla and a free subscription through my local library. This might be babyish and something I should be ashamed to admit, but it WORKS. There are limited resources available for Haitian Creole and I used everything and anything available. Sometimes the Hoopla videos are hidden. To get to the Spanish videos right now, I have to find the Creole videos and click on the series name.

For learning the grammar of an inflected language like Spanish, I do better starting out with something that kind of cheats with the verbs, like Michel Thomas and Spanish with Paul.

For goals setting and accountability, I like The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast by A. G. Hawke. The book includes a schedule and fill in worksheets. ... 1581600968

I do not always have control over this, but when someone is texting me in the target language and expecting me to respond in the target language, my brain seems to process language as being of critical importance and seems to file information differently. I progress even faster from texting than speech. The greater the frequency of the texts, even if they are very short, the faster my progress. That constant shock to the brain that this is relevant and critical.

When I am being texted, I am forced to create a cheat sheet. I have made handwritten ones to start, but eventually, I create a chart grid in a word processor and type in a tiny font the words and phrases I need most to respond to texts. I think the creation and use of that cheat sheet is important to my progress.

My library offers a free subscription to Mango languages. Being able to click repeatedly on individual words and chant along to the word being repeated about 20 times, helps my pronunciation. The walls are paper thin where I live, and it drives one of my neighbors batty when I do this.

Popular with homeschoolers is Getting Started with Spanish. The Kindle book is $9.99 and the author supplies the audio for free. This is especially good for language learners with previous experience of Latin. ... 8&me=&qid=
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