Learning a new language: how to go about it?

Mari

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Hi,

I even watch pepa pig in mandarin (I know I know) and it really helps.
I´ve just wanted to suggest watching simple cartoons and to recommend Pepa Pig :)

When I moved to Germany, I knew only basics. And since my kids watched Pepa Pig in Croatian, I played them the same cartoon in German language.
It is a perfect cartoon for learning basic stuff that you need in everyday life.
Also simple children rhyme songs worked for me.

That's something I wanted to mention - if possible, enroll in a class. Understandably some people hate 'school' but for me it really helped. I could only do so much to motivate myself with self study but having a class and the 'responsibility' that came along with it helped push me those times I didn't feel like studying. But it wasn't only that, the organization and structure provided some direction and feedback so I could see my progress - I didn't have to manage that on my own.
I agree.
Since I´ve already knew the basics, it was very helpful to me to do A2 intensive course - instead of going for months on a normal course 1-2 per week, in intensive courses you go every day for 2,5-3 hours and learn.

... I find that writing by hand is way more efficient (even for flashcards). I do most with audio, pen and paper (and colors).
Me too. :) That is why I took a course - so I can see and feel the languague (I don´t know how else to say this).
I was also very lucky to have a great teacher and she explained grammar in different colors so when I wrote it down and marked the sentences, rules became more clear.

As for Duolinguo; I use it every day but for me it is only good for practice and new words - the course was for me more helpful to better understand the language structure and grammar rules.
 

Chu

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Good one, Keit! That reminds me: one way to find out what methods work for you is to check out what polyglots do, and try to do it yourself. Here is a list, for example:

Now, I think some of them are a bit of a "scam", because they can hold a simple conversation, but aren't really fluent even when they claim to be. Others are quite amazing. But in the end, it's like Lydia Machova says in the video you shared, IMO: each person is different, and one has to find what is best.
 

jhonny

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Indeed a good one, Keit! Definitely enjoying the learning process is the most important.
There is another good point she touches in the video, at least to me, and that is, Podcasts. I don't remember in which talk that JB Peterson mentions this as an easy and enjoyable way to follow whatever you are interested in.
Podcasts are also a very good way to learn languages.
 

Mariama

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Also, I think it is important that we are willing to be a "fool" when we learn something new, as Jordan Peterson points out. Especially in the beginning we will make lots of mistakes, but that's okay, just do it badly. It's all part and parcel of the process, OSIT.

Learning French was always a bit hard for me, when I was younger because of my hang-ups, but when I was 'forced' to speak the language on a regular basis I lost my fear of making mistakes and looking like a fool.:-D
 

Mariama

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
The main thing if you want to learn faster is to be constant (at least 1/2 a day, no skipping for more than 48 hours), and alternating skills (reading, listening, writing and speaking).

This article explains why alternating skills is a good idea:
Instead of concentrating on one skill at a time, you have to work on two or more.

But interleaving probably works because it forces the mind to work harder.

Instead of relying on learning a system and sticking with it, the mind has to keep searching and reaching for solutions.
And this one:
If learning can be defined as picking up new knowledge or skills and being able to apply them later, then how quickly you pick something up is only part of the story. Is it still there when you need to use it out in the everyday world? While practicing is vital to learning and memory, studies have shown that practice is far more effective when it's broken into separate periods of training that are spaced out. The rapid gains produced by massed practice are often evident, but the rapid forgetting that follows is not. Practice that's spaced out, interleaved with other learning, and varied produces better mastery, longer retention, and more versatility. But these benefits come at a price: when practice is spaced, interleaved, and varied, it requires more effort. You feel the increased effort, but not the benefits the effort produces. Learning feels slower from this kind of practice, and you don't get the rapid improvements and affirmations you're accustomed to seeing from massed practice. Even in studies where the participants have shown superior results from spaced learning, they don't perceive the improvement; they believe they learned better on the material where practice was massed.
 

Saman

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I came across this channel on YouTube recently, I think it is a good and humorous source for people who are looking for assistance in learning English or even improving their English; however, I just noticed, you may want to skip her "Learn Sex English" course though. That one is too unrefined in my opinion. :rolleyes:

 

Mari

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
For those who want to practice foreign language, there are Duolinguo "Stories" - they are quite fun and educative.

They combine listening, reading and understanding skills.
One hears the story as well as one reads it on the screen and then after every short chapter you have to answer either yes/no questions or fill in the missing word or repeat what was said, and so on.
Stories are about everyday stuff like shopping, public transportation, dating, etc.

Downside is that they are available for only some languages: for English speakers learning Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese, as well as Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese speakers who are learning English.
 

Ageeva

Jedi
I've always enjoyed learning languages and motivation is the key. I've tried everything including courses, self-learning, full immersion in the culture, and they all have something to offer. I've also tried italki and I would recommend it if you can find an effective tutor. I've been fortunate in one aspect of language learning in that I've benefited from having a sharp ear for how a language sounds. Apparently it's one of the positive characteristics of the Hypersensitve Personality, as I learned recently. So my pronunciation of the language is pretty close to native and i've had teachers and native speakers comment on this while learning Russian, German and French. Almost foreign accent free. But I'm no prodigy when it comes to grammar and memorizing what I've learned. That work still has to be done. And getting there has different techniques that appeal to different individuals.
If there's one thing I've learned that I've really benefited from it's copying how a child learns. In other words listening and repeating and not getting hung up on mistakes (which I used to do). They can be rectified later. It may seem odd but talking to yourself by repeating sentences you've heard is excellent preparation for speaking with others, I find. I do it as a useful activity on my daily commute to work and it doesn't distract from keeping your eye on the road. And yes, exaggerate while speaking and connect with the emotions of the words. Put yourself in the shoes of the native speaker and let go. Don't try to shoehorn the sounds of your native language into the sounds of the language you're learning. Nothing gives you more confidence and helps you enjoy the language more than improvement in your speaking skills, and you get much more from this because it is, after all, the hardest of the language skills to master.
Speaking to yourself does really help to send the words and expressions to the hard drive of your long term memory.
Others in this thread have mentioned helpful apps, some of which I've also used such as Duolingo, Memrise and Anki. I'd like to add another one which i find really good, both for learners and those reinforcing their language skills. It's called Busuu. It has become really popular in recent years and it's visually well presented, intuitive and fun. Some of the techniques are similar to Duolingo but I feel the Busuu people have improved on that. There is a free and premium version but the premium version is good value for money if you use it regularly. It's a useful and creative distraction from the Covid madness these days.

Busuu, btw, is a language spoken in Africa with only 8 native speakers left.
 

United Gnosis

Jedi Council Member
I feel like i could easily be a polyglot when I look at how little of my time I spent studying languages, yet by my count I already speak 4+ languages - French, English and Spanish fluently (C2+), German advanced intermediate (B2). I can also read sanskrit and pali at an intermediate academic level, and checked out Hungarian and Russian basics, and have taught both English and French to foreign language speakers.

I suspect I'm not average, but by my estimates one can learn a language's basics in about a month, or get to a fairly comfortable intermediate level in about 3 months of 30-60min/day practice. My secret sauce has few ingredients - first, a combination of two methods, the already highly recommended Assimil method, along with Pimsleur tapes, a listen/repeat method. This ensures you create both the visual/written and oral/verbal foundations. After 2-3 weeks of those, I pick a book with a young target audience, about the level of Harry Potter 1 or 2, something that seems incredibly arcane and inaccessible at the time, but for which you already built most of the grammar and sentence structure basics you'll need. Now all that's left is to practice.

I read the book with Google Translate and a pad of paper. I start at page 1 and whenever I see a word I do not recognize it, without looking at the pad I google it and write it down. I finish the page, read down the vocabulary list 1-2 times, read the page aloud once, and start the next page.

First page will feel like it takes half an hour, the second one takes 15 minutes. After dozen pages or 2, you'll already be down to a couple minutes per page, and by the time you finish the book you'll rarely hit a page where you need to look up more than 1-2 words. You're now well on your way to a comfortable intermediate level and prepared for conversational practice, with a decent vocabulary breadth built-in.

Whatever you do, good luck, practicing languages is such great fun!
 

Il Matto

Padawan Learner
Learning other languages has long been something that lurked in the back of my mind. In my case, it seems that I 'asked the question' and then my life took a direction that gave me the answer: I married an Italian! Although my wife's grasp of English is superb, it was still necessary for me to learn to communicate in Italian; not just because being able to communicate with her family necessitated it, but also because not learning would have amounted to remaining ignorant of an enormous part of who my wife is..
I don't claim to have been a very good learner of Italian, and over the years I've utilised at least a few of the things mentioned on this thread. Apart from having the advantage of a level of immersion through living with a native speaker, using Duolingo, listening to Italian radio whilst doing things like cooking and cleaning, and reading bilingual short stories all helped. However, probably the most significant element for me was what Mariama mentioned:
Also, I think it is important that we are willing to be a "fool" when we learn something new,
I couldn't agree more. Learning another language has helped me to become more comfortable with appearing foolish (my mother-in-law still speaks to me as though I am a small child, and I've made many embarrassing mistakes!). I've learnt a lot of humility along the way, as well as how to actually listen.

I miei due euro..
 

thorbiorn

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
There are different ways of learning languages, and there are various individual preferences. This post is focused on English, but probably some of the tools could be adapted to other languages as well.
Testing a text vocabulary extractor and combining it with machine translators and their text to speech functions

Expanding on the idea of translation and learning the English language, one thought was to take the Prayer of the Soul and enter it into a vocabulary extractor. The webpages I found did not transform the text into all the words, but certainly enough for a start. In this post, I first work with a text, and I chose the Prayer of the Soul, then the vocabulary of the text, the pronunciation of the individual words and finally the reading of the whole text.

The text from the Prayer of the Soul:

"The Prayer of the Soul"​
Oh Divine Cosmic Mind​
Holy Awareness in All Creation​
Carried in the heart​
Ruler of the mind​
Savior of the Soul​
Live in me today​
Be my Daily Bread​
As I give bread to others​
Help me grow in knowledge​
Of All Creation​
Clear my eyes​
That I may See​
Clear my ears​
That I may hear​
Cleanse my heart​
That I may know and love​
The Holiness of True Existence​
Divine Cosmic Mind​
Using a vocabulary extractor
When entered into the Visual Thesaurus VocabGrabber the POTS text becomes a list of words, with a link of the words that allows one to look them up in the dictionary to the right. In the example below, I chose the word "soul".
View attachment 42938
Notice that one can order the words in different ways. As you can see in the image above, I chose to order them alphabetically. If one copies the words into a document, enters commas and clears the hyperlinks one gets:
all, awareness, bread, carry, cleanse, clear, cosmic, Creation, daily, Divine, ear, existence, eye, eyes, give, grow, hear, heart, help, holiness, holy, in all, know, knowledge, live, live in, love, may, mind, other, prayer, ruler, Savior, see, soul, today, true​
Instead of entering commas, one can just press enter for a new line and get a column:
all​
awareness​
bread​
carry​
cleanse​
clear​
cosmic​
Creation​
daily​
Divine​
ear​
existence​
eye​
eyes​
give​
grow​
hear​
heart​
help​
holiness​
holy​
in all​
know​
knowledge​
live​
live in​
love​
may​
mind​
other​
prayer​
ruler​
Savior​
see​
soul​
today​
true​

If one gets in the habit of using an extractor, one could select the new words and add them to a separate list, write them down, etc. There are several options.

Using machine translators to generate word translations and listen to the pronunciation
One can learn the meaning of the words and hear them spoken, even if it may not always fit, if one enters the list of words in a machine translator and use text to speech function. Various machine translators are easily available if one is online. When one enters a list of words in a column, the words in the translation also appear in a column, but only one-word translations for each and of course one can not be sure that a word with many meanings is translated correctly for the context one has in mind. For a better translation of a particular word, one would need to enter it in the translation field alone or look it up in a dedicated dictionary.

Reviews of the text to speech function of various machine translators
Below are short reviews of Baidu, Bing, Yandex, Google and the Microsoft Translator App when tested using the words and the text from the Prayer of the Soul. One main difference between the machines is the pronunciation of the phrasal verb "live in" as it is done in the Prayer of the Soul. The Bing, Microsoft Translator and Google pronounced "live in" in the present list of words, as if "live" was an adjective or an adverb. To compare for yourself, one can take as a benchmark, the pronunciation of "live" as a verb, an adjective and adverb in the online Cambridge English Dictionary.

Fanyi.baidu.com The voice was of a female and the accent was American, even if I wonder whether the speaker has a subtle Chinese vocal substrate? The words are slowly and clearly pronounced. One can read along with the reader. The Baidu page is difficult to navigate if you wish to go beyond the basics of being able to translate the English into Chinese or listen to the English pronunciation. To fix this problem you need to have the page translated using a plugin that in some browsers is embedded as a standard, like in the Yandex browser I used. Here is an image of what it looked like after translation, so that you know the layout.
View attachment 42954

When I entered the whole POTS text, the pace and pronunciation was surprisingly pleasant. In this particular test, the reading ended up as being the overall best. There are by the way very many languages to chooce from, and if you wish a paid and professional service they have a whole townful of 13500 translators ready to go.

Bing Microsoft Translator The voice was of a female American. The words were clearly and fairly slowly spoken. The speaker icon is at the top. One can read along with the reader. When I entered the whole POTS text, the "live in" error persisted, the pace and pronunciation was overall acceptable.

Translate.yandex.com The voice was of a female American and was more distinctly American to a European ear than the voice on the Bing Translator. The words were clearly spoken. One can read along with the reader. When I entered the whole POTS text, the "live in" error appears, even if it was absent when the words were read from a list. The pace and pronunciation was overall acceptable. The reading was a little faster than the Bing translator. Unfortunately, the voice reader only allows for about 305 characters according to the test. There are 110 more in the POTS.

Translate.google.com The voice was that of a British woman when I loaded the page from Europe. The speaker icon is at the bottom of the dialogue box. As a helpful feature, the first reading was fast without stops, while the second reading was slowed down to perhaps 50 %. However, it would take practice to read along with the reader, even when it is slow, but the voice is nice if you wish to practice speaking English with a British accent. When I entered the whole POTS text, the "live in" error persisted, the pace was overall not pleasant.

Microsoft Translator App. The app needs to be downloaded. The voice was of a male American. The words were clearly and fairly slowly spoken. The speaker icon is at the top. One can read along with the reader. It is a little faster than the online version. When I entered the whole POTS text, the "live in" error persisted, the pace and pronunciation was overall not pleasant. Still, if it is a matter of the pronunciation of just a single word, this app and any of the other services will be good enough most of the time.

Conclusion
There is a potential for language learning by using a text vocabulary extractor. It may require a bit of editing, and even supplementary applications like machine translators with text to speech functions. For text reading in English, there is little doubt I would return to Fanyi.baidu.com, which really surprised me. One disclaimer to add is that the text for this test was limited, only 415 characters. One would need to test the machine translators using a wider variety of texts and vocabulary before deciding which is the better among them.
 
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