Advice on learning a language for someone who only speaks one.

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ben199131837575
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Advice on learning a language for someone who only speaks one.

Postby ben199131837575 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:04 am

Hello

[TL,DR]
What is path to learning and becoming proficient in another language for someone who only speaks their native language?
Any recommendation will be appreciated.
[TL,DR]

I have been looking into learning a new language for some time now. I currently only speak one (this one XD). I have been researching how to do this online and I have found a 101 one ways to learn new languages (plenty of "learn a language in a day/week" which I am assuming is rubbish) and I pretty overwhelmed by the options. I would have liked to have gone to classes have the option of speaking it and have my pronunciations corrected first hand, however, I live relatively rural in the UK and my options of classes is restricted to a handful of Spanish and French lessons which I am not interested in. Also, nobody I know speaks any other languages. I am considering several languages to learn:
(most interested in)
1. Chinese (mandarin/cantonese)
2. Norwegian (or another Scandinavian language)
3. Russian
4. German

I do not need to learn a new language, I just want to do this for fun. I would love to be able to travel to one of these countries and speak the language( I want to visit them all). I hope I do not sound like some cliche, because this is something I am really interested in and willing to dedicate time to i.e. I would like to reasonably proficient to the point that I can an average conversation.

(maybe relevant)
I would also like to point out my understanding of the English language is awful, so don't know if this going to hurt my ability to learn.

I would really appreciate some advice on what is a good place to start. Can I learn a language from listening and repeating? Reading and Writing? without speaking directly to someone? Or is it a combination of all 3? Are languages with different alphabets and difficult pronunciations (from my perspectives) I bad idea for a beginner like myself? Normally when I lean something new (usually something technical) I can just get a text book and read and test read and test, so this is a new way of learning for me.

P.S. sorry for the waffle
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Re: Advice on learning a language for someone who only speaks one.

Postby eido » Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:35 am

It depends on the language you settle on and how you like to learn.

Pick a resource and stick with it. Pick a language and stick with it. Bang your head against the wall. Repeat.
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Re: Advice on learning a language for someone who only speaks one.

Postby Morgana » Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:53 am

eido wrote:Pick a resource and stick with it. Pick a language and stick with it. Bang your head against the wall. Repeat.

This is good advice.

Of the four languages you listed as interests, Norwegian will probably be the easiest to approach from only knowing English. However, though German is slightly more difficult it also has a vastly larger amount of books, tv, etc. to enjoy, as well as far more materials and resources to assist your learning. Really you could start with any language you want, but if you’re a bit unsure of yourself, and your interest is more or less equal across these four languages, do yourself a favour and start with one of the easier ones (Norwegian, German).

The other thing at the start: don’t overwhelm yourself with details. Don’t worry about being perfect. Don’t worry about doing all things at once. Learning a language is a multi-year investment, you will get to all the things eventually. No need to get it perfect from the start.

If you want a gentle introduction to a language, Assimil courses are rather nice with short audio dialogues with the target language text and English translation. They don’t overwhelm you with grammar from the start. They have a really good German course for English speakers. I’m working through it right now and it’s the best course I’ve used for the few languages I’ve learned or tried learning. If you go with German first, you can’t go wrong with Assimil’s course.

Good luck! Once you decide on a course of action, maybe consider starting a language log both for your own motivation and so others can follow your journey :) As eido already said, it’s a matter of deciding on a course of action and then sticking with it. Do a little bit every day. You will have hard days, days where you don’t feel like it, days where you don’t seem to understand anything and it seems futile. Do it anyway. You learn over weeks and months and years of regular contact. You can’t fail if you put in a little bit of effort regularly.
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Re: Advice on learning a language for someone who only speaks one.

Postby ben199131837575 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:16 am

Thank you for your advice, I knew of "Assimil" as in the process that they teach, but I thought it wouldn't be good as you always see it done that way on TV and film, but it seems a lot of people give it praise. I suppose you are right in that I might be looking to far ahead with where I want to be. I need to just practice phrases and words first a get to grips with the sounds.

My plan is that once I can somewhat string a basic sentence together I am going to hunt down some speakers of the language and make them talk to me XD. I was hoping to find some sort of discord server (or any other platform) that is a community of people talking to each other in different languages with the intention of learning (or teaching) on VoIP or something.
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Re: Advice on learning a language for someone who only speaks one.

Postby rdearman » Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:29 am

ben199131837575 wrote:Thank you for your advice, I knew of "Assimil" as in the process that they teach, but I thought it wouldn't be good as you always see it done that way on TV and film, but it seems a lot of people give it praise. I suppose you are right in that I might be looking to far ahead with where I want to be. I need to just practice phrases and words first a get to grips with the sounds.

My plan is that once I can somewhat string a basic sentence together I am going to hunt down some speakers of the language and make them talk to me XD. I was hoping to find some sort of discord server (or any other platform) that is a community of people talking to each other in different languages with the intention of learning (or teaching) on VoIP or something.

My advice is to pick one language to start. Rarely do people manage multiple languages without getting burned out. I would also pick 3 resources to focus on first and complete each one to the best of your ability then move on. If the resource is too difficult or too boring switch it out and return to it later. I would suggest the following.

  1. One course book. Assimil is normally recommended but Teach Yourself or others are also fine.
  2. One TV series which you like in the audio in the target language, with sub-titles. (Watch it religiously until you can almost repeat it verbatim.)
  3. One Book to read, either fiction or non-fiction. Read this book. Underline words you don't know, look them up, create flashcards, repeat.

There are a lot of things which will assist you. ANKI electronic flashcards, MP3 files, blah, blah, blah. But pick 3 resources, use them to exhaustion and move on. Remember that it isn't possible to fit everything you'd need to know to speak English at a Native like level in one book or resource, so don't expect one book or resource to teach you the entirety of another language.

After you've done the above for a couple of months, then you can look for some language exchanges (rather than a discord server). The reason I recommend a language exchange with a native speaker rather than a discord server, because it is very hard to understand a conversation in another language, and when many people are speaking at the same time it is almost impossible. There are a lot of sites and apps which will help with language exchanges. Come back and ask again later and I'll give you a ton of recommendations for finding people. :)
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Re: Advice on learning a language for someone who only speaks one.

Postby David1917 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:18 pm

There truly are an endless array of options when it comes to learning a new language. Your journey is going to require lots of experimentation with different resources and methods to see what suits you best. Nobody here can tell you which of those that will be - but on the forums you will find several discussions regarding different approaches and how to tailor them to your own needs. I personally really like the Assimil and Linguaphone methods.

The first suggestion that I think will be pretty unanimously agreed upon is that you begin with just ONE of your languages. As a beginner, you first need to convince yourself that you *can* do it. Which one to start with is wholly up to you and your immediate goals, though I would suggest either Norwegian (for its relative simplicity for an English speaker) or Chinese (for the time investment is likely to be the greatest here, might as well get started ASAP.)
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Re: Advice on learning a language for someone who only speaks one.

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:21 pm

Recipe for Success
My recipe for success in foreign language learning …

Stage 1: Need to Learn the Languages
Identify four or more languages that you absolutely “need” to learn. From the outset, develop an enduring passion for these languages, for the peoples who speak them, and for the culture from which they arose. Adopt the point of view that native speakers of these languages are the most honourable people who have ever lived. They are truly “genuine” and “authentic” peoples whose values are timeless. Tell all of your friends about your new passion, try to engage them in your language-learning activities, castigate them should they be slow to respond with enthusiasm.

Stage 2: Acquire a Massive Library of Materials
Eschew resources for language-learning that are freely available on the internet or through your local library. Haunt your local bookstores and the internet, leave no stone unturned. Buy several bookcases, you’re going to need them! Acquire as many language courses, grammars, dictionaries, books on verbs, et cetera as you can possibly find. Track down vintage materials, they’re sure to be better. Hoard them.

Stage 3: Start Learning a Language
Pimsleur
Having purchased all of the Pimsleur courses (Levels 1 to 5), jump right in! Do not follow the suggestion of simply letting the language flow over you. Rather, dictionary, book of verbs, and grammar in hand, work obsessively backwards from the audio lessons and create your own transcript. Type your notes into Word, review them, refine them. Beware of developing a sense of complacency, your notes are a testimony of your respect for the purity of your target languages. Somewhere around the middle of Level 3, become impatient with the pace of learning via Pimsleur, stop and switch to Assimil.
Assimil
Acquire not only the latest generation of this publisher’s 1st stage and 2nd stage courses, but all of the previous generations, as well (you’ll need to develop an appreciation for the differences between generations and editions). The fact that you do not yet speak, and cannot read, any of the languages in which the 2nd stage courses are available is immaterial. Accumulate the materials, then get to work! Repeat the Assimil dialogues about 20 times each before moving on to the next lesson. View the accompanying notes as a personal challenge to your skills at code-breaking. Grammar in hand, crack the code! About half-way through the Assimil 1st stage course, become dissatisfied with your progress. Convince yourself that you need drills (no pain, no gain). Put Assimil aside for the moment while you switch to the DLI/FSI courses.
DLI/FSI
Ignore the opening dialogues, you need some exercise! Concentrate on the sentence-pattern drills only. Practice them until you can repeat both the English prompt and the target language phrase in the short pause provided. Develop a deep appreciation and enduring respect for the authors who composed these little gems of prose. Tell your friends that you have discovered the “only” way of learning a foreign language. Get them involved, they’ll appreciate it! About half-way through the programme, put it aside for something else from your vast library…
Something Else, Anything Else
Select something from your vast and ever-expanding library of introductory language-learning materials. Anything will do, phrase books, course books, readers, magazines, anything at all. Work your way to about the middle of five of these resources and, the moment that you find yourself experiencing the slightest difficulty in making further progress, put these materials aside in favour of some other elementary materials. Repeat the process … incessantly.

Stage 4: Switch Languages
Having bumped up against the imposing obstacle represented by the midway-point of a substantial set of elementary materials and, being discouraged and lacking the motivation to continue the struggle, switch to another language. You can always come back. In fact, coming back is part of the programme! Switch to another language and begin the process all over again. DO NOT neglect Stage 1, it serves to rationalize your behaviour.

Stage 5: Baby, I’m Back!
Having reached Stage 4 in ALL of your chosen languages, and hopefully having added a few new languages along the way, return to the first one that you attempted to learn. Although you will forgotten much of it, you will be able to put to use all of the valuable experience you have gained in language-learning. You know what works!

Stage 6: The Wheel of Life
Okay, not really the wheel of life, just the wheel of language-learning. Continue recycling your languages as explained above. DO NOT, under any circumstances, progress into the lower-intermediate level, just keep plugging away at the beginners' level. Tell your friends that you have "mastered" six or more languages. Blog. Blog some more. And, for Pete’s sake, DO NOT neglect your library!

And, oh yes, welcome to the forum!

EDITED:
Typos.
Last edited by Speakeasy on Wed Aug 07, 2019 3:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Advice on learning a language for someone who only speaks one.

Postby dicentra8 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:22 pm

Welcome to the forum! :)
Can I learn a language from listening and repeating? Reading and Writing? without speaking directly to someone?
Yes, it can be possible (even for the first target language you're learning). Of course, speaking with native speakers will also help. It also depends on your personal motivations for learning a certain language. Try to not get too overwhelmed with the feeling of "must learn and know everything at once at the beginning"!
Are languages with different alphabets and difficult pronunciations a bad idea for a beginner like myself?
Personally I don't think they're a bad idea. They just have some extra things (different alphabet and/or pronunciations, different grammar, etc) to be learned that might require some more time to get used to. But I wouldn't say it's a bad thing for a beginner. I consider Japanese to be the first choice I really did for a foreign language, so I studied the "alphabets" they use. I just went along with it and took the time I needed to get used to it.

Other advices:
• Try not to rush through the "beginner level" because it's boring/frustrating/basic, etc. :P A good understanding of the basics in a language will help you a lot while you're learning the language.
• Think about your personal motivations to learn a language and adapt your learning to it. Everyone has some different reasons to why they want to learn a language.
• Allow to feel some frustration (specially at the beginning), because things in that language might be slightly and/or very different from the one you speak. But! Do not let that frustration get the best of you to the point you're dealing with things like "this doesn't make sense. this is stupid. i'm done with it".
• If you're ok with it, you might want to add a small amount of native material as you go along. But not too much that you'll feel burn out because you can't understand most of it. Just a tiny enough amount you feel ok with.

Some favourite approaches from people in this forum that I, in a certain way, followed and tried to apply in my learning:
- The "multi-track" approach to language learning by iguanamon;
- The Cheating & Consolidating Method by emk

I think that's pretty much all I can think of at the moment. Good luck with it!
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Re: Advice on learning a language for someone who only speaks one.

Postby IronMike » Wed Aug 07, 2019 3:46 pm

Welcome to the addiction.

What everyone above said, plus read Iguanamon's Multi-track approach.
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Re: Advice on learning a language for someone who only speaks one.

Postby iguanamon » Wed Aug 07, 2019 4:32 pm

There's good advice here. I'll add in some of my own.

Edit: I had my usual rant here about adult monolingual beginners trying to learn multiple languages simultaneously being unlikely to lead to success at reaching a high level in any of them. I am trying to not do that so much now as people do not like to have their parade rained on. So, do what you want to do in this regard. There are exceptions to every general observation.

Do be consistent. You won't learn a language studying two or three times a week. Try to develop a routine and spend a consistent amount of time with it every day.

Do be persistent. There will be rough patches ahead in your learning. Life will get in the way at times. Being consistent will win the game for you. Being persistent will keep you in the game until you can be consistent again. E.g.: imagine you can't study for a few days- you can at least listen to a song in the target language (TL) and follow along with the lyrics. Maybe you can look up some words and learn a few new ones, or a phrase or two. Sure, you'd be better off making methodical progress with your preferred course and approach, but that's not always possible. So this is what I mean about being persistent.

Don't overwhelm yourself with resources. You don't need to do a bunch of beginner courses to gain a good foundation in a language.

Don't think of a language as a "plug and chug" cipher code. It isn't. Accept that a language may express things in a way that doesn't make sense to you. It's just the way it is.

Lastly, don't give up! Yeah, this seems blatantly obvious, but giving up is the one sure way not to learn a language. We all go through rough patches in learning and life. They can be and are overcome... all the time. I, too, was a monolingual at one time, long ago. Most of us here were too. We've all had our share of frustrations, failures and setbacks. It is indeed possible to learn a second language. It can be done.
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