Learning a new language

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Feb 06, 2010 11:10 PM GMT
    For those of you who've learned to speak multiple languages, how did you learn a new one - classes (private or group), software (which ones), books, other?

    I want to learn Spanish and am indecisive about the best way to go about it. I'm not very good with languages - I get a bit self conscious in group settings which is one of the reasons I've avoided group classes. Suggestions?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Feb 07, 2010 1:06 AM GMT
    Visit the country.

    Don't take a tour. Don't take a translator-book thingy. Avoid touristy places.

    There's no better way to learn a language than to be forced to USE the language. CDs and classes etc can only take you so far.
  • Space_Cowboy_...

    Posts: 3738

    Feb 07, 2010 1:19 AM GMT
    Cobalt saidVisit the country.

    Don't take a tour. Don't take a translator-book thingy. Avoid touristy places.

    There's no better way to learn a language than to be forced to USE the language. CDs and classes etc can only take you so far.

    so true it's how I learned French
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    Feb 07, 2010 1:24 AM GMT
    Am learning French through CD and Interactive software course. So far its good, but there is no way you can make your accent really good, until you get to practice it with someone.
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    Feb 07, 2010 1:28 AM GMT
    I agree and disagree. I feel it's important to take a class, use a book, get a tutor, etc..just to get a basis of the language. Then, go enroll in a language program in a native country. I'm have my degree in foreign language education. I was a French and German major in college. But...I learned to speak Chinese by having a tutor for 1 yr. And then went to Beijing for 3 months. After that, I was able to place in the advanced classes at UCLA. Also...BE FEARLESS!! The goal is communication. Go ahead..make a mistake or two. You'll have fun!
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    Feb 07, 2010 1:31 AM GMT
    They are absolutely right. Being forced to communicate in the language you are trying to learn is really the only way to make meaningful cognitive connections in your brain for future use. It WILL be difficult and painful at the beginning, but becomes so much easier as you spend more time with it (...sounds oddly familiar...).

    Getting a basic knowledge of the grammar beforehand certainly will help and to that end, there are some websites you can use to build that up:

    Also reading articles in the language will help you to comprehend and make you use the language:

    My experience with the Rosetta Stone software, while not having used it to learn a language solely, seems to be a positive one, I like how it approaches teaching the languages. The downside is it's so damn expensive!

    Those will only get you so far. It depends on the kinds of proficiency you want to achieve. Do you want to read Spanish? Do you want to be able to comprehend what people say to you? Do you want to communicate in Spanish?

    Answering each of those questions will determine how best you should proceed. If you want to read Spanish, learn your grammar and build your reading vocabulary. If you want to understand spoken Spanish, do the above stuff and watch Spanish TV. If you want to speak it, do all of that and join a conversational Spanish group.

    Group settings for language learners can be uncomfortable at the beginning because of perceived embarrassment resulting from misuse of the language (groups or classes *usually* don't have those problems). If it still gives you some qualms, have a drink or two before hand. It will loosen you up AND lessens your linguist inhibitions which will allow you to converse more easily.

    Hope that helps.
  • Space_Cowboy_...

    Posts: 3738

    Feb 07, 2010 1:38 AM GMT
    Oooh try Rosetta Stone my friend is using it now for Italian and I am so next in line to use it
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    Feb 07, 2010 1:52 AM GMT
    From an SLA perspective, Rosetta is the best independent way of learning a language.

    Other options are to take continuing education classes at a local university (although as a FL teacher I don't think those are helpful).

    For French, in major cities we have L'Alliance Fran├žaise which is a trustworthy way to learn French. I believe there is a Spanish equivalent.
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    Feb 07, 2010 2:21 AM GMT
    yes l'Alliance Francaise " is good, sort of french cultural centers , so they also have various activities, shows, concerts etc.

    then there's the 'Goethe Institute' for German. same as the above but 'auf Deutsch.'

    But those centers are usually present in major cities only .

    i'm learning Spanish right now from a small private local academy. It's not expensive, close and they show movies, organize discussions, social events ...

    i cannot study well unless i commit to actually "pay" for it and i need a frame in which to function.
    I did German that way , now Spanish, next will be Italian.

    I downloaded ALL those language cd's and gave up on them after 15 minutes. I couldn't bear it. ( Rosetta Stone, Pimsler , Berlitz and what's not ).

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    Feb 07, 2010 2:44 AM GMT
    I speak three languages but french was the only one I had to actually learn.
    I think it is essential to get the basics in a formal environment. So a class is a good idea. How successful you are depends on how much you enjoy it...if you really love learning it, you can always learn stuff outside of class. I used to always read my lessons before classes and get information from other sources too..that really helped me stay on top in class and encouraged me to keep learning.
    I didn't try any software or special books. After I got my basics from classes, I started to read newspapers, listen to music, watch movies etc in the new language. I still have more to learn but have come a long way.

    To reach a more advanced level, you have to immerse yourself in the language. I want to start learning spanish asap but I dont have time for classes. Have several spanish speaking friends though.
    Good luck
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    Feb 07, 2010 4:40 AM GMT
    It really depends on your learning capability. I've learnt Japanese fluently but struggled with Chinese. I'm currently learning Arabic and have books, software and feel it is incredibly important to have class time - so saying, my first teacher I couldn't work with. So am currently scouting for a new teacher. Spend a year learning and take a hol in the country of choice to put it all into practice. Is an incredible reward!
  • ohioguy12

    Posts: 2024

    Feb 07, 2010 4:47 AM GMT
    you can always use Rosetta Stone...It worked for Michael Phelps!
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    Feb 07, 2010 4:54 AM GMT
    as others here have noted--the best way to learn a new language is by living in a place where the language is spoken, being required to use the language everyday--in daily settings on the street, in the store, to get through the business of daily life.

    joining a small group of people who are all learning the same language and when you get together, all speak only in the new language; the group will need to have at least two native language speakers (experts) who can help.

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    Feb 07, 2010 5:03 AM GMT
    the best way is to live there. don't visit, you might as well be a tourist.

    First is vocabulary. Just learning basic words are important. I got books from the bookstore for this. There is software too, Rosetta stone is good, but expensive. There are hundreds of cheap programs at electric stores, book stores, and even online websites.

    I learned Spanish in School. I learned German when I lived in Austria. Could read Italian and some Romanian and Portuguese.

    The hardest part is not learning, it is staying with the program. you have to keep learning and practicing everyday. I bought Angles and Demons in Spanish to practice my vocabulary.

    oh and I am an engineer so I use the other side of my brain all day. I work to apply languages in a form to better understand for an engineering mind.

    it is possible just takes time and practice, sort of like working out.
  • oursirpeace

    Posts: 199

    Feb 07, 2010 5:21 AM GMT
    Practice practice practice with native speakers. I can't stress that enough.
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    Feb 07, 2010 5:28 AM GMT
    I actually learned a lot through class. I'm taking Arabic and already after one semester, I can read, write, anything in arabic, doesn't mean I understand it all ha ha, and can speak the basics.

    It also has something to do with the incredible workbooks we get for the class. I took Spanish and Japanese as well in class and picked up a decent amount, but not nearly as much as I did in my Arabic class.

    Maybe it has something to do with me absolutely loving Arabic, the language, determination, and pressure from class to do good. I don't know if you need pressure or if being around teachers and students will encourage you to work hard and learn, but it does with me... that's why it's a lot easier for me to pick up things like languages in a class room setting.

    Also, I completely agree with what others here have said. Go to the country, where you will be forced to speak their language. It's funny, I live in California and that's how the native spanish speakers here, learned as much english as they did, just by living here. There is many occasions where I do have to speak spanish to them too, even though I'm in America, haha, but it's funny and helps me keep maintenance on my spanish skills.
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    Feb 07, 2010 5:34 AM GMT
    I am adoring the random preaching people are doing about "OMG GO TO THE COUNTRY DUH!?!?!"

    When learning a language, especially for leisure purposes, the country is a bad decision.

    To answer your question, just look at my previous post. Either try Rosetta or find the local Spanish house who will teach you very well.

    Immersing ones self into the culture to learn a language is perfectly fine for someone who needs a native capacity. Otherwise you are just spouting useless advice.
  • Iluros

    Posts: 559

    Feb 07, 2010 5:35 AM GMT
    Formal elements such as a class can establish some grammar for you, which paves the road for the rest of what you learn. But they wont be able to provide you with very advanced proficiency by themselves.

    Immersion, as many have said, is best. Try to work with the resources that you have. For example, actually moving to a Spanish-speaking country might not be an option for you, but you might have some friends that speak it; spend time with them. Get involved with the community of Spanish-speaking people where you live; it's a great way to learn, make friends, and do something positive for their community.
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    Feb 07, 2010 6:19 AM GMT
    Spanish is easy to learn. It's a Category 1 language. If you know English, then you already know some Spanish, since most English words are based on Latin root words.

    I would highly recommend taking a class at a local community college. You get to hear the correct pronunciation of words. And you have people around you to practice speaking/listening. I'd say the only "hard" part is pronunciation and vocabulary. Sentence structure and all the technical grammar stuff isn't difficult. Also, taking a class might help you overcome your self-consciousness.

    Although I agree that immersion is a good way to learn/retain a new language, you don't have to live in a foreign land to do so. Assuming that your location is correct, I'm almost definite there is a large Spanish speaking population in NYC. Therefore, you have at your disposal.. television, print, and neighborhoods.

    Turn on your TV and watch Spanish language programming. I'd recommend the local news and soap operas (novelas). That might seem like a joke, but it's not. Just like English, Spanish has both a proper and colloquial way of speaking. If you go around speaking proper (textbook) Spanish, people are gonna look at you funny. icon_lol.gif Also, many English language TV shows have Spanish subtitles. Just press the SAP button on your remote.

    Pick up a Spanish language magazine or newspaper. It will help you improve your vocabulary.

    And when you feel confident enough with some of the basic language skills, you can check out some of the stores and street vendors in Spanish speaking neighborhoods.
  • SFGeoNinja

    Posts: 510

    Feb 07, 2010 6:42 AM GMT
    Immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. I agree with pretty much all of the advice so far.

    1. Take a class, borrow textbooks, or use software to get a basis of the Spanish structure and grammar. It's functionally a lot simpler (lower vocabulary required for everyday conversation) than English to learn, so you have that working in your favor!

    Of the three, I've found software to be the most effective in learning to actually speak the language, while classes and textbooks are more effective for learning the grammar and acquiring written fluency, which helps a great deal.

    2. Immerse yourself in Spanish-speaking culture - movies, music, and newsmedia should be in Spanish. I would say at least 2 hours a day for several weeks to really get used to hearing spoken Spanish.

    3. Find a conversation partner in your area. Often times you can find one through the Spanish Department of your local community college or university. Sometimes they will be tutors, but often you'll find ordinary people who are nearly fluent speakers who are just looking to keep up their skills by practicing on a beginner. Even a weekly coffee with someone (held entirely in Spanish, of course) does wonders for your comprehension because you're forced to think and react in Spanish as opposed to just reciting a classroom exercise.

    4. Travel to a Spanish-speaking country once you have the basics down and enroll for a few weeks in an intensive language series. Go out to local-oriented places - bars, gyms, clubs, shops, restaurants, schools, and try to integrate yourself into the community as much as you can. You'll soon find yourself learning literally dozens of new words every day and many colloquial expressions you could never learn in a classroom or from a CD rom.

    Best of luck!

  • drypin

    Posts: 1798

    Feb 07, 2010 8:36 AM GMT
    I'm a language teacher myself and I'd tell you people learn differently. Some can advance quite far with a book and a cassette or a computer program, others (myself included) must have the interaction of a class or course, and at some point you will max out and have to immerse yourself in a region where it's spoken to progress any further.
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    Feb 07, 2010 8:36 AM GMT
    I say learn the "buenos dias" stuff and then - like some guys have said before - visit the country. It's good to know the basics when you are all by yourself in the country and you need to put it in praxis. good luck!
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    Feb 07, 2010 9:43 AM GMT
    Personally, coming from someone that studies Linguistics, languages are incredibly hard to learn on your own, and I'm not very supportive of language learning programs such as Rosetta because of some limitations on your ability to listen to fluent speakers talking directly to you and being able to hear every single word in response. Not to mention, there are just some areas of grammar in Romance Languages that don't translate over to English at all.

    In my opinion, after learning French and now working on Chinese, I would suggest learning the basics first, by either taking a class to learn lots of vocabulary and grammar, and then spending some time in that country or another country that features the language. It's the best fusion of the two. There really isn't much of a substitute for the real immersion experience, and (having talked to professors on this topic) many professors would agree that learning a language immersed in the culture not only makes it easier, but also gives you a chance to learn the language as it's currently being spoken, not how some prescriptive grammar is telling you to speak it.
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    Feb 07, 2010 10:34 AM GMT
    I learned Japanese in high school, but forgot it later when I found out that the Japanese program at my school only had two accredited teachers, one of whom was a notorious asshole, and the other was a notorious moron. I really regret letting my skills die; it's not like it ever came in handy, but I loved showing off and pointing out subbing errors in Japanese movies.

    I learned some conversational French through a Nintendo DS game. But that's my only experience learning a language in a non-academic setting.
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    Feb 07, 2010 10:49 AM GMT