The Most Thorough Methods and Materials for Learning a Variety of Languages

Ask specific questions about your target languages. Beginner questions welcome!
User avatar
Decidida
Orange Belt
Posts: 160
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:58 pm
Languages: English (N), Spanish (beginner), Haitian Creole (beginner), Latin (forgotten), Ancient Greek (forgotten)
x 177

Re: The Most Thorough Methods and Materials for Learning a Variety of Languages

Postby Decidida » Fri Jan 11, 2019 3:28 am

I know how to self-educate, and I know how to teach myself a language.

But I am finding that trying to study both Spanish and Haitian Creole at the same time if limiting my short term ability to speak. I freeze when I need to speak, and the two language become a jumble that I am unable to untangle. If I were around people that knew both languages and I could speak a combination of both and be understood, I would be fine. That is not the case.

I was going to focus on the Spanish and knock out another Spanish class at school, but at the last minute, I canceled and have been using my break to study Creole and I am not taking any language classes next semester. Creole is the language I love most. I have decided to major in Africana and Caribbean studies alongside my law studies, instead of Latinx studies. A lot of my language studies will be undocumented and not for credit. I don't care.

I hope to come back to the Spanish, if and when the Creole becomes more automatic and is stored in a deeper place than a new language. But right now I have asked people to stop speaking Spanish to me, especially a Haitian friend that is trying to convince me that I can handle both, while speaking to me in Spanish. He thinks I am some sort of machine.

I am only human and I am not as smart as people think. I am just a hard worker and I know how to self-educate. I know when something is working and when something is not. I trust myself and know to ignore advice that is not relevant to ME and the current TIME, and know how to switch up and do something different when things CHANGE. And I can find resources that other people have never heard about.

Right now, I am TIRED. I am juggling a LOT beyond my language studies. Like a bilingual child, I think if I just stuck with both languages, eventually I will be able to speak both, but I am TIRED and I want to speak the one that I love MOST. Did I say I am tried? LOL. These law classes drain me. They really really do. Next to people employed in psychology, people employed in law are some of least mentally healthy people in the USA. I am starting to understand why.

I could have stuck with both languages if some of my surrounding environment were different, but I am bound by the circumstances and resources of the time and place that I currently exist and I must adapt.

I have one more week of break to study what I want. I really should be pre-studying the subjects I will be taking for credit, but ... I am choosing to study Creole and cooking. Maybe I am being lazy. Or maybe I will do better long term if I allow myself this break to do what I WANT.

Good luck h.porter23!
0 x

User avatar
Steve
Yellow Belt
Posts: 59
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:53 am
Location: US (Wisconsin)
Languages: English(N), Spanish(B1), German(A2), Ancient Greek(B1 to B2), ASL(beginner), Hebrew(beginner), Chinese(beginner)
x 271

Re: The Most Thorough Methods and Materials for Learning a Variety of Languages

Postby Steve » Fri Jan 11, 2019 2:03 pm

h.porter23 wrote:Essentially, what I'm looking to gain is fluency based on a deep conceptual understanding, rather than the Duolingo-style memorisation of words and phrases. I hope that makes sense.


There are a few concepts about language learning that are critical to avoiding wasted years (or decades in my case).

You can put your time and effort into learning *about* a language or you can put your time and effort into *practicing using* the language. Language learning is more akin to learning to ride bike, play guitar, or shoot a basketball. It is about practicing the actual skills you want to use (usually some combination of reading, writing, listening, and speaking). If you do not spend time practicing actual skills, you will not acquire much in the way of skills. I spent decades practicing the skills of memorizing tables, reading grammar books, etc. and getting good at those academic skills. However, in hindsight, I was spending most of my study time thinking *in English* about what I was learning. I was never giving my brain much of a chance to get used to the patterns of the new language in actual usage used by native users. Thus, I learned a lot about how a language worked but never acquired much in the way of usable skills. As soon as I started practicing actual skills, my rate of progress skyrocketed and I started acquiring actual skills that I could enjoy practicing and using in daily life. Think of your new skills (listening, reading, writing, and speaking) like learning to ride a bicycle. At first, you do good to wildly veer side to side trying not to fall down. You then reach a point where you can slowly get from one point to another. Then you can ride around the block and enjoy it. Some could choose to spend hours per day reaching professional levels of performance for competitive biking. Don't expect perfect understanding or usage at first. Language skills slowly develop as you consistently practice them.

There is a big difference between rote memorization and internalization. Rote memorization is forcing our brain to learn information outside of natural environmental context. Internalization is letting our brain naturally assimilate patterns which regularly occur around us that we enjoy paying attention to. Rote memorization requires constant refreshing (i.e. review) to retain. In contrast, natural internalization means something becomes familiar and less easily forgotten. By picking some audio book passages, movies, or songs in the new language that we enjoy and want to watch or listen to over and over, our brain will naturally start to pick up those patterns and they become familiar. In contrast, forcing ourselves to repeat something over and over that we really don't want to is just going to raise our stress levels and cause us not to like what we are doing.

The key to acquiring usable language *skills* is that your approach is *enjoyable* and *effective*. If what you are doing is enjoyable to you, you will put in more time and effort and stick with it. You'll want to come back day after day to use your language more and more. If what you are doing is effective, your rate of progress will be higher. If what you are doing is not enjoyable, you'll eventually burn out, get sick of it, and have to start forcing yourself to do things. If what you are doing is not effective, you'll not make much progress. It is about having enjoyable effective methods so that your time and effort can be converted into real skills that you can enjoy using. Ultimately, only you can determine what is enjoyable and effective for you. This is why most experienced language learners will counsel a newbie to start with one language. You are not just learning that first new language, you are trying to figure out what in the world works for you to learn languages. You can then take what you learn about what does and doesn't work to make learning your next language more enjoyable and effective. That is also why there is *not* a single best learning method. There are many methods and courses and materials to choose from. It depends on you as an individual and your stage of progress as to what is enjoyable and effective.

Learning *to use* a language is all about letting your brain internalize the sounds and sights of it and getting used to it. Think about how many songs the typical person knows and (to whatever level of skill) can sing along with. From mere repetition in the natural background of life, your brain has likely internalized both many of the lyrics and melodies of several dozen if not several hundreds of songs. In my opinion, acquiring actual language skills is more akin to this mechanism by which we learn the Happy Birthday song than it is via an academic approach of diligently and systematically rote memorizing and understanding descriptions of a language. My guess is that very few people learned the Happy Birthday song by seeing the written music and memorizing it. You need to find the most enjoyable and effective ways of exposing your brain to the actual native sounds and sights of the patterns of your new language so that it internalizes those patterns.

During this process of exposure to native content, using reference materials and standard courses can be helpful for clarifying meaning and usage. The main thing I do now when language learning is that I try to make sure that the majority of my time is spent exposing my brain to native sounds and sights rather than thinking in English. In a 30 minute session of whatever I'm doing, I try to make sure that at least 20 minutes of it is spent practicing listening, reading, writing, or speaking native type of content and that only a few minutes at a time are spent thinking in English about the language.
9 x

User avatar
IronMike
Brown Belt
Posts: 1072
Joined: Thu May 12, 2016 6:13 am
Location: Boston, USA!
Languages: English (N)
Maintaining: Esperanto (C1 skriba on the KER exam) and Russian (2+/2+/3 on DLPT V)
Lapsed: BCS (2/3/2+ once upon a time...not that now!)
Future: Italian
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=5189
x 2182
Contact:

Re: The Most Thorough Methods and Materials for Learning a Variety of Languages

Postby IronMike » Fri Jan 11, 2019 7:04 pm

Ogrim wrote:
Iguanamon does give very good advice, and I encourage you to read his guest post in the forum blog about the "multi-track" approach.

I reread his guest post every few months. So very valuable.
2 x
I used to be confused, but now I just don't know.

SC Esperanto films : 22 / 100
SC Esperanto books : 17 / 100
2019 365 Day Language Challenge : 15 / 365

Cavesa
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2960
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:46 am
Languages: Czech (N), English (C1), French (C2), Spanish (intermediate), German (somewhere on the path), Italian (passive advanced, active basic)
x 8352

Re: The Most Thorough Methods and Materials for Learning a Variety of Languages

Postby Cavesa » Fri Jan 11, 2019 7:17 pm

I am not going to delve into lots of things others have dived into (one vs more languages, learning about a language or the language, what methods to use to absorb the course material the best,...)

I will just answer the original question for one of the languages:

French. If you learn all the stuff from the Progressif series (the several levels of Grammaire Progressive, Vocabulaire, Phonétique, Communication,...) You will be better equiped for tackling native input (somewhere around the Avancé level of the books) and real life than with most supposedly complete coursebooks.
0 x

User avatar
Decidida
Orange Belt
Posts: 160
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:58 pm
Languages: English (N), Spanish (beginner), Haitian Creole (beginner), Latin (forgotten), Ancient Greek (forgotten)
x 177

Re: The Most Thorough Methods and Materials for Learning a Variety of Languages

Postby Decidida » Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:54 pm

h.porter23 wrote:
In summary, can anybody recommend what they've found or heard to be the best materials and approaches for developing a technical understanding of a language upon which fluent pronunciation, vocabulary, etc. can be built?

at the moment I am most interested in French and Spanish (primarily due to the literature of those languages).



Do resources need to be free? What is your budget?
0 x

Daniel N.
Green Belt
Posts: 255
Joined: Mon Oct 12, 2015 12:44 pm
Languages: Croatian (N), English (C1), German (beginner)
x 483
Contact:

Re: The Most Thorough Methods and Materials for Learning a Variety of Languages

Postby Daniel N. » Mon Jan 14, 2019 9:17 pm

h.porter23 wrote:Advice on all languages is appreciated, though; if any experts on Hungarian, Czech, Serbo-Croatian, Arabic, etc. decide to offer advice, I will receive it enthusiastically.

I'm not sure if I'm an expert on "Serbo-Croatian". I'm a native speaker of one local speech in Croatia, I have written an amateurish online textbook, and have spent last 25 years studying various aspects of it (and linguistics in general) - but I'm not a foreigner who is trying to learn it.

From my perspective, some languages seem to be way easier for me than others. My wife was learning French some years ago and I helped her a bit and picked up a lot. I have been trying to learn German since high school and never progressed past the basics. It's simply not accessible for me, no matter how many textbooks I read and how many songs I listen to.

I think the most important thing is that you like a language and sounds of it. Everything is easier then. You should also read grammar overviews of languages and some basic vocab and then decide if it's worth spending 3-5 years learning it.

Some languages you listed are significantly harder than English, you should be prepared. You should expect all kinds of weird stuff... good luck!
1 x
Check Easy Croatian (very useful for Bosnian, Montenegrin and Serbian as well)

Skynet
Orange Belt
Posts: 224
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2018 6:37 pm
Location: Cyprus
Languages: BILINGUAL: Shona & English
PURSUING: French (B2?), German (A0)
ILLITERATE: Farsi Persian (listening, speaking)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=8686
x 616

Re: The Most Thorough Methods and Materials for Learning a Variety of Languages

Postby Skynet » Mon Jan 14, 2019 10:34 pm

I will provide feedback based on the courses that I have done for French. DISCLAIMER: I have rated FSI (which I am yet to do) on the ILR scale provided by the institute. I have added an asterisk on courses that I think you should absolutely consider if time is not a concern.

French:

Beginner (A0 - A2+):
Assimil French Without Toil*, Assimil New French With Ease, Linguaphone French (2nd Generation) (1950), Linguaphone French (3rd Generation) (1971), Living Language Ultimate French: Beginner - Intermediate; FSI French Basic Vol. 1., and Cortina Conversational French in 20 Lessons.

Lower Intermediate (B1-B1+):
Assimil Using French*, Linguaphone French Expert*, Living Language Ultimate French: Advanced, Cours de Langue et de Civilisation Françaises (Vols. 1 & 2) and DLI French Basic*.

Upper Intermediate (B2 - B2+)
Cours de Langue et de Civilisation Françaises (Vol. 3)*, B2 rated courses by French Publishers (Didier, CLE, Hachette, Larousse, etc) and FSI French Basic Vol. 2.
2 x

StringerBell
Green Belt
Posts: 366
Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2018 3:30 am
Languages: English (n)
Italian: ~ C1 reading/listening and ? speaking
Polish : ~ B1
x 821

Re: The Most Thorough Methods and Materials for Learning a Variety of Languages

Postby StringerBell » Tue Jan 15, 2019 12:01 am

h.porter23 wrote:In summary, can anybody recommend what they've found or heard to be the best materials and approaches for developing a technical understanding of a language upon which fluent pronunciation, vocabulary, etc. can be built? This is just the style of learning that sits best with me. Otherwise, any advice in general is appreciated. Am I just fumbling around, asking stupid questions in a field I know nothing about? I have no way of knowing.


Steve Kaufman's YT channel has a lot of really useful advice on the topic you're asking about, so I highly recommend watching at least a few of his videos:
1 x
Polish goal: 2,000 hours : 1142 / 2000

User avatar
reineke
Black Belt - 3rd Dan
Posts: 3122
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:34 pm
Languages: Fox
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 902#p20145
x 5551

Re: The Most Thorough Methods and Materials for Learning a Variety of Languages

Postby reineke » Tue Jan 15, 2019 5:30 pm

h.porter23 wrote:Can anybody recommend what they've found or heard to be the best materials and approaches for developing a technical understanding of a language upon which fluent pronunciation, vocabulary, etc. can be built?


"Spoken language is sound—and sound gives life to grammar and vocabulary. Without the sound (that is, the phonology, or the
pronunciation), one cannot bring the rest of language to life. To make the language come alive, then, requires behaviors related to listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and these depend on the three domains of knowledge at the heart of language: phonology, vocabulary (lexis), and structure. These components are part of every language, including sign languages. This description correctly implies that phonology cannot be dissociated from the rest of language and that it is as important a contributor to the four skills as vocabulary and structure."

Isabelle Darcy


I don't know how many times I've shared Paul Nation's book about balanced language learning strategies even though I personally dislike vocabulary cramming, flashcards, graded readers and the like. Let me regurgitate "one last time" some key principles:

Apply conditions that help learning

"Learning a language involves both deliberate and incidental learning, and these both involve the conditions of repetition, retrieval (recall), varied meetings and varied use, using visuals, and deliberate attention. Good learning also involves avoiding interference which makes learning more difficult.

Is there a best method for learning a language? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Language learning can occur through all kinds of methods. What is most important is that good principles of learning are applied. You may have heard of methods like grammar-translation, aural-oral, the silent way, Suggestopaedia, the communicative approach, and TPR (Total Physical Response). These all have their supporters and attackers. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses and there is no research that shows the superiority of one method over another. It is fine to follow a particular method although it is not necessary. What is important is that there is a balance of learning opportunities across the four strands of meaning-focused input, meaning-focused output, language-focused learning, and fluency development. It is also important that the learning conditions of repetition, retrieval, varied meetings and varied use, deliberate attention, and deep processing occur. The most useful items to learn should get the most attention and you need access to material which is at the right level for you."

http://www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/about/staff/paul-nation


I don't think that Nation or anyone else has nailed it 100%, but this approach is broad, reasonable and offers plenty of maneuvering room for most language learners. You hopefully won't be a monolingual English speaker when you get to Russian or Croatian and your approach should* change along the way. Also, coming up with a list of recommended materials for a bunch of arbitrarily chosen languages is kinda messy.

The "Master" resource thread contains links to Paul Nation's book, French language resources (including Mauger and "Le Bon Usage") S Kaufmann's blog, Croatian resources etc.

*or it may fossilize and you will be stuck in your favorite language learning gear. As long as you're moving forward...
2 x


Return to “Practical Questions and Advice”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests