Learning a new language: how to go about it?

I was a language teacher for a couple of years and I am thinking of going back to teaching individuals or small groups by Skype for instance or in person.

At school you learn your grammar and your vocabulary and you have to use these textbooks and TBH it is all frightfully boring, unless as a teacher you are allowed to make up your own stuff, but as the curriculum is strictly controlled over here and in the UK for example chances are teachers just have to follow the guidelines which kill all creativity.

My kids learned to speak English by playing games, watching movies and series. They started to understand French and German when they heard other people speak these languages, the way we all learned our native language. I learned to speak German (it was one of my subjects at school, but I couldn't utter one word) when I heard it all day long. It happened quite naturally. The same goes for my French and English. Although I studied these languages at teacher training college I only became more proficient when I went abroad and when I started being immersed in the language.

So, my question is: what did you do in order to learn a new language? What helped, what didn't help? Do people really need schoolbooks or can we just look for alternative teaching materials which could be more tailor-made?
Thanks! :)
I see you’ve gotten many answers already. Still I’ll share what i’ve seen work very well.

I can speak comfortably about 6 languages, have at least basic knowledge in 6 more, and teach languages.

The most basic aspect to master is to just be in contact with the language. It doesn’t matter how - music, cell phone lgg, series, pasting translation of furniture on the furniture, whatever. For most people, pleasure is the name of the game - make it pleasant, and it’s much easier to stick to it.

When you have that down, start actually studying. The best study tool I know is Anki Flashcards. If you’re interested, I can give you more details.

Here's something else I'm testing, that's been very fruitful.
After talking to Chu, who introduced me to phono-semantics, I decided to try it out.

I'm learning Russian, using readymade Anki decks with audio prompts. Random phrases. I'm focusing quite a lot on the phonosematnics of consonants. Here's the procedure I'm using:

1. See what the consonants of a phrases are
2. think of as many words as you can, with same or similar consonants
3. see if you can find a grouping criterion for these words
4. try and guess what the new words in target language means. Accuracy notwithstanding!
5. see the meaning of the target word.
6. try and fit that word into the group you found earlier of similar consonanted words


obezyala sidela na dereve
1. bzyl sd n drv (I'm not counting the 'la' in 'sidela' because it's a past morpheme)
2. bzyl --> buzz, búzios, bizarre, byzantine sd --> siddha, sit, saída, seid, sonda n --> no/na, on, in, nao, new, drv --> dver, derive, à deriva, dever
3. bzyla --> maybe something disruptive? sd --> sitting, established n --> negation and location drv --> maybe ramification, or connections? (dver = door, it connects. derive is a ramification. dever = duty, it's a "ramification" of one's actions?)
4. obezyala --> a buzzing animal? sidela --> sitting, being, stability na --> maybe location, dereve --> a doorway?
5.a monkey sat/ was sitting on a tree
6. well... a money can be rowdy. sidela really was about sitting. na really was about location. dereve really was somehow ramification

this is an example with a lot of 'hits', but that' not so common. Usually my hits are around 50% of the words in terms of guessing the groupings.

I do this for every single new word. I was having a hard time remembering new vocab - I'd see the same phrase many times. Often when I did remember it, it was the general meaning, not what each word meant, and usually I was far from being able to reproduce the phrase.
Now I can remember about 90% of the phrases and meaning of individual words if I review the same new phrase in about 10mins.

I'm discovering it can be even more detail than that. But that's for a bit further, after I've done new tests.

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