Author Topic: Suggestions for Cheap Ways to Start Learning the Basics of Another Language  (Read 5305 times)

Libertea

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I know you can't really learn to speak another language until you go to a country where you'll be immersed, and I'm planning to do that.  But if I want to get started with learning some basic vocabulary/grammar before I go, and assuming formal live classes aren't an option, any ideas for good (and cheap!) asynchronous language learning methods?

csprof

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By far and away, the free DLI (defense language insitute) tapes + workbooks.  They're a bit dated, which shows up a bit in some of the examples, but the core language instruction is better than almost anything I've found, up through & including paid materials.

https://www.livelingua.com/dli-language-courses.php

(The audio on livelingua is slightly worse than some other copies of the tapes I've found, but it's really easy to use there.  YMMV and it might be worth a bit of googling to find the best place for the specific language you're interested in.)

DLI focuses heavily on spoken language.

Past that, if your language is supported, Duolingo is a bit more written-language focused, free, and fun:  https://www.duolingo.com/

If it were me, I'd do both.  When I studied Mandarin, I did a combination of DLI + Pimsleur tapes, and then took an in-person intensive class, and  found it fantastic.  The prior study with the tapes helped me keep up with a class that otherwise would have been at an absolutely brutal pace for someone who was working at the same time.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2016, 07:39:33 PM by csprof »

tobitonic

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I know you can't really learn to speak another language until you go to a country where you'll be immersed...

With all due respect, this isn't actually true. You can get to a very high level (e.g., C1 on the CEFR scale) by creating your own immersion environment. However, it requires a lot more discipline and self-management than when you can simply step out of your house and hear the target language all around you.

Freedomin5

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Language exchange meet ups. DH did this in Canada when he was trying to learn Chinese. Basically, you meet up once a week with a native speaker of the language you're trying to learn (for DH, it was usually a recent immigrant trying to work on their oral English skills). You spend an hour conversing in English, and another hour conversing in Chinese (or whatever language you want to learn). I think he used meetup.com to find people. We ended up becoming friends with is language partner and wife, and we took several short vacations together where we had a lot more opportunity to practice our language skills.

thedayisbrave

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Language exchange meet ups. DH did this in Canada when he was trying to learn Chinese. Basically, you meet up once a week with a native speaker of the language you're trying to learn (for DH, it was usually a recent immigrant trying to work on their oral English skills). You spend an hour conversing in English, and another hour conversing in Chinese (or whatever language you want to learn). I think he used meetup.com to find people. We ended up becoming friends with is language partner and wife, and we took several short vacations together where we had a lot more opportunity to practice our language skills.

This.

Adge

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Libertea, what language are you trying to learn? If it's something that is spoken by a sizeable immigrant community near you then you're golden, and creating an immersion environment will be a piece of cake. If you live near a city, you can probably find other speakers of any major language to practice with. Don't rule out other learners- chances are there are plenty of learners with a higher level than you who can be just as helpful as native speakers, possibly more so since they can explain the grammar better after having learned it from a book.

But! Even if that doesn't work, if you live in the middle of nowhere or are learning a very uncommon language (e.g. me at the moment), we have this glorious invention called the internet! :) You can create a pretty decent semi-immersion experience through streaming radio/tv, youtube videos, music, webpages and blogs, etc. There are lots of sites online where you can find conversation partners, some are specific to one language, others have options for all major languages, depending on what you're looking for.

I would say your first step should be to check your local library for any books they have on your language, and find some music you enjoy listening to. Also, if you're looking for general inspiration I would highly recommend you check out Benny Lewis's Fluent in 3 Months (either the blog or the book).

SimplyMarvie

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Duolingo and Skype lessons. They're my gold standard when I need to learn/brush up on a language before I'm dumped into it. Duolingo helps learn basics, and Skype gives you a place to use what you've learned. YouTube and the rest of the internet are wonderful options to hear music, movies, commercials, newspapers, etc. in your target language. Finding something you're interested in and following it is a great way to build comprehension -- especially if you can work with your teacher and both watch a specific episode/movie/etc. and then discuss it and watch it again.

I don't know about the DLI language classes, but you can ignore (with prejudice) the ones that purport to be from the Foreign Service Institute. They are NOT current FSI class materials, and are actually the texts from the 'FAST' classes, which are 6-8 week intensives that are given to people who don't have a work-related need to know the language but might have to buy groceries, go to restaurants, etc. What they're lacking is the intense small-group interaction of both FSI and DLI classes -- FSI caps it's classes at 5, 4 students + one instructor, 5 hours per day, every day for 6-12 months for full language proficiency, and only uses textbooks as an ancillary resource, which means the books are fairly lousy.

StarBright

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Chiming in to second DuoLingo - DH and I love it.

His German has gotten solid enough to hold slow conversations and my travel French is passable.

Additionally - foreign language comic books. My host from a couple of summers I spent in Italy was a language teacher and she said that they used comic books as a teaching tool constantly.

aprilm

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I also used Duolingo to get started with Spanish. I enter new vocabulary into flash cards (use Anki for spaced repetition). After I finished the Duolingo tree, I signed up for italki lessons to practice speaking/hearing. My instructor is around $8/hr, and it's been very helpful. You can also sign up for language exchange partners on italki, where there's a huge community of people wanting to learn other languages.

Libertea

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Thanks for the awesome suggestions, everyone.  Will definitely check those sites out.  I am not learning another language for work, just for fun and because I want to travel.  This will actually be my third language; I've heard learning the second one is the hardest, so here's hoping that's true.  However, I've never tried learning another language as an adult; I started learning my second language around age 9-10.  I'm not at native proficiency, but I'm conversationally fluent and can also use it at work.  I'm now 40, so certainly not expecting native proficiency in my third language, but I'd like to at least be able to converse on a basic level.  And I am also considering living abroad for a while, which I would not want to do without at least being able to get by in the local language.

Has anyone here tried learning a new language in middle age or beyond?  How did that go for you?  Suggestions/tips/tricks appreciated.

SwordGuy

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I suggest the Sir Richard Burton method of learning a language fluently.  (Knew 25+ languages, first European Christian into Mecca, translator of the Arabian Nights, explorer for the source of the Nile, etc.)

He shacked up with a woman who spoke the language.   He hired a professional one in country.  :)




dougules

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You might want to watch this TED talk about language learning strategy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0yGdNEWdn0

You can look up videos in your target language on the internet about topics you're interested in.  Songs are even better because you can listen over and over again and learn lyrics.  You should study grammar and vocabulary, but focus on listening and speaking. 

tobitonic

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Has anyone here tried learning a new language in middle age or beyond?  How did that go for you?  Suggestions/tips/tricks appreciated.

A lot of folks do, and do so very well, but, again, it requires a lot of work (much like learning a language in your 20s or 30s). The state department regularly sends folks off to their language school (ditto with the military's version) to learn languages when necessary, and the age doesn't matter nearly as much as the effort. You'll also see lots of older successful language learners online, as well as in the real world if you're in the right places.

Choices

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Your library might also have free links/subscriptions to online classes--ours has tons including several different language programs.

Tom Bri

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Once you have gotten past the first, very basic step of understanding how the sounds and letters work, pick out a book you really enjoyed reading in your native language, and re-read it in the target language. I read the Spanish harry Potter series from the library. Also the Bible. Whatever, as long as you have already read it at least once in your native language, so you don't get bogged down trying to figure out what is going on. This is great for learning structure and vocab.
Also, have target language songs playing in the background constantly when you are not actually studying. Try to learn to sing them.

Villanelle

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What language?

One you have a least some basics, you might consider finding children's videos or programming (think Sesame Street or similar shows for little kids).  If you can find them with English subtitles, even better.  These are designed to teach children grammar and vocabulary, so words and sentence structure is very basic, which is what you need.  You can also check out children's books from your library if they have a selection in your desired language or if they can get them via interlibrary loan.  Aim for books you are somewhat familiar with (or can get in English as well) for starters. 

Beriberi

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Many countries (at least in Europe) produce a version of radio news daily for their immigrant communities in an easy version of the official language. You can get these free on ITunes. I listen to broadcasts of the new in "light Swedish" sometimes.  It is a 7 minute committment. While the words and structure aren't complicated, the pronunciation is especially articulate. It helps me maintain an ability to converse about current events.

I'm a red panda

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DH has become conversationally fluent in Spanish and French (as in- when we go to places that speak this language, locals who are also English speakers don't switch to English when he speaks to them.)  He also is fairly fluent in ASL, which he started in high school and kept up through various work practice (lifeguarding and working at home depot, apparently both had a lot of Deaf customers.)

He started with Duolingo and supplemented it with a lot of various websites (I know he used about.com); we also switched all our TV watching to Spanish, all of our music in the car, he started reading children's books and worked his way up to classic novels. 

He is very good at spanish now (been doing it 3 years) and okay at french (1 year).  The biggest issue with french is his small vocabulary- so he can get his point across, but has trouble listening with what others say. Spanish he can read, write, speak, and listen at a pretty decent level.


Me- I tried duolingo and a community college class, and I just am not good at languages. With Duolingo, you really have to supplement. There is only so far "The penguin eats the apple" will get you.

SimplyMarvie

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Once you have gotten past the first, very basic step of understanding how the sounds and letters work, pick out a book you really enjoyed reading in your native language, and re-read it in the target language. I read the Spanish harry Potter series from the library. Also the Bible. Whatever, as long as you have already read it at least once in your native language, so you don't get bogged down trying to figure out what is going on. This is great for learning structure and vocab.
Also, have target language songs playing in the background constantly when you are not actually studying. Try to learn to sing them.

This is actually a bad idea for most people (if it works for you, great!) as is the advice to get a children's book of stories and learn from that. The language used in fiction is way more varied and allegorical and tends to be very colloquial, which makes it hard to understand for basic language learners. Plus, people tend to whip out the wacky verb tenses in fiction.

For an example, I did 6 month full-time courses in the language I currently speak. I've lived in-country for nine months, and I work in the target language, read the news and watch TV in the target language, go to parties in the target language, write business letters in the target language, etc. I also get 2 hours per week of language classes to help increase my fluency. A couple of weeks ago I bought a translated copy of an American kid's story (Neil Gaiman's "The Sleeper and the Spindle") at the bookstore and took it home to read. Couldn't do it -- I could get a basic gist, but all the details were beyond me. Brought it to my language teacher, and we've been working through it slowly, a couple of pages a session. It's been awesome, and I'm finally at a place where I can appreciate it and enjoy working through it. But it would have been utterly impossible as an early-level language learner.

Villanelle

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Once you have gotten past the first, very basic step of understanding how the sounds and letters work, pick out a book you really enjoyed reading in your native language, and re-read it in the target language. I read the Spanish harry Potter series from the library. Also the Bible. Whatever, as long as you have already read it at least once in your native language, so you don't get bogged down trying to figure out what is going on. This is great for learning structure and vocab.
Also, have target language songs playing in the background constantly when you are not actually studying. Try to learn to sing them.

This is actually a bad idea for most people (if it works for you, great!) as is the advice to get a children's book of stories and learn from that. The language used in fiction is way more varied and allegorical and tends to be very colloquial, which makes it hard to understand for basic language learners. Plus, people tend to whip out the wacky verb tenses in fiction.

For an example, I did 6 month full-time courses in the language I currently speak. I've lived in-country for nine months, and I work in the target language, read the news and watch TV in the target language, go to parties in the target language, write business letters in the target language, etc. I also get 2 hours per week of language classes to help increase my fluency. A couple of weeks ago I bought a translated copy of an American kid's story (Neil Gaiman's "The Sleeper and the Spindle") at the bookstore and took it home to read. Couldn't do it -- I could get a basic gist, but all the details were beyond me. Brought it to my language teacher, and we've been working through it slowly, a couple of pages a session. It's been awesome, and I'm finally at a place where I can appreciate it and enjoy working through it. But it would have been utterly impossible as an early-level language learner.
YMMV, but I learned a decent amount of Japanese that way.  it sounds like you are looking at way, way more advanced children's book than those to which I refer.  I'm talking more "one fish two fish," or "good night moon", not "The Sleeper and the Spindle", which is for older elementary and teens and is going to have the strange nuances of fiction you mentioned that will make understanding difficult.  One does need to be careful to avoid the books that have tons of nonsense words in them, but books targeted for 4-6 year olds, not 14-16 year olds, can help learn basic vocal and sentence structure.  At the very beginning of the learning, this is appropriate and, IME, helpful. 

AMandM

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Depending on the language, you can borrow or stream movies that are dubbed/subtitled in English and your target language.  Watch it first in English, so you know what's being said, then in the target language, both with and without subtitles. 

My kids learned a fair amount of German that way before we moved to Germany--I'll never forget my frustrated 4yo quoting Mr. Incredible's boss, "Ich bin NICHT ZUFRIEDEN!"

Tom Bri

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Once you have gotten past the first, very basic step of understanding how the sounds and letters work, pick out a book you really enjoyed reading in your native language, and re-read it in the target language. I read the Spanish harry Potter series from the library. Also the Bible. Whatever, as long as you have already read it at least once in your native language, so you don't get bogged down trying to figure out what is going on. This is great for learning structure and vocab.
Also, have target language songs playing in the background constantly when you are not actually studying. Try to learn to sing them.

This is actually a bad idea for most people (if it works for you, great!) as is the advice to get a children's book of stories and learn from that. The language used in fiction is way more varied and allegorical and tends to be very colloquial, which makes it hard to understand for basic language learners. Plus, people tend to whip out the wacky verb tenses in fiction.

For an example, I did 6 month full-time courses in the language I currently speak. I've lived in-country for nine months, and I work in the target language, read the news and watch TV in the target language, go to parties in the target language, write business letters in the target language, etc. I also get 2 hours per week of language classes to help increase my fluency. A couple of weeks ago I bought a translated copy of an American kid's story (Neil Gaiman's "The Sleeper and the Spindle") at the bookstore and took it home to read. Couldn't do it -- I could get a basic gist, but all the details were beyond me. Brought it to my language teacher, and we've been working through it slowly, a couple of pages a session. It's been awesome, and I'm finally at a place where I can appreciate it and enjoy working through it. But it would have been utterly impossible as an early-level language learner.

My first Spanish novel was 100 Years of Solitude, a fairly weighty text that I started reading after a couple months of total immersion. My second was The Lord of the Rings, which went a lot easier since I already knew the story very well. Did learn a lot of odd vocabulary, don't often need words like sword, shield etc in conversational Spanish, but it actually was very helpful in broadening my basic vocabulary too. The Bible was pretty easy, and Harry Potter a breeze after those.

I didn't find it helped much for Japanese, since the writing system is so difficult. I never did get much good at written Japanese, though speak it fairly well.

Hula Hoop

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My husband speaks multiple languages.  What he normally does is studies the grammar using one of those books like "German in 3 months".  Once he has the basics down he just starts reading in that language.  He also is often able to speak to people in the target language through his work. 

When I was learning Italian, I watched lots of game shows on TV which was very helpful.  I also read simple texts (Readers Digest type of stuff) until I graduated to reading a regular newspaper.

MrThatsDifferent

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There is so much free stuff! Lots of apps, YouTube videos, books, PDFs, meet ups or even language exchanges, radio broadcasts. All you have to do is google learning your language.

dougules

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Wow, this is an old thread.

Eu também quero aprender idiomas. Sou redatora e os alunos me contatam através do site [MOD EDIT: Redacted Quoted Spam Link]. Agora, eu quero aprender inglês porque meu chefe me disse que se eu aprender inglês e depois eu vou conseguir mais dinheiro para escrever um ensaio em inglês para os alunos. Esta é a razão, eu quero aprender inglês e procurar por ajuda online que possa me ensinar inglês.

Você entende bastante inglês para ler as sugestões velhas?
« Last Edit: July 18, 2019, 09:31:35 PM by arebelspy »