Author Topic: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?  (Read 9204 times)

kmb501

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Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« on: January 30, 2016, 11:10:11 AM »
I want to become fluent in French or Spanish so that I can become a French or Spanish instructor. I already teach ESL. I've been advised not to go back to school, though. Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm not a beginner, so I think mastering the languages should be pretty easy for me. I'm already at a lower intermediate level from when I took it at school, and I have plenty of opportunities to practice French and Spanish in this area. I just need a good plan. I feel like I could master the languages via watching videos and listening to audiobooks and reading the accompanying transcripts and text and then just choosing a topic of conversation and practicing what I know with native speakers.

Urchina

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2016, 11:37:11 AM »
You might find the book "Fluent Forever" by Gabriel Wyner to be useful. He lays out methods for language self-study that draw from research on human learning, memory and recall.

EconDiva

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2016, 11:40:11 AM »
Sorry that I can't help but I am subscribing as I would also like to become fluent in Spanish and I know that so far watching soap operas in espanol isn't doing enough for me lol.

tobitonic

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2016, 11:49:10 AM »
I taught myself Spanish in about a year of intense study and became a bilingual preschool teacher. We're also raising our kids bilingually via the OPOL approach. My tactic was that outlined by sites like Antimoon, AJATT, and Stephen Krashen (a linguist): input, and lots of it. I only listened to music and the radio in Spanish, I only read books in Spanish (kids books, adult books, teen books), and I watched lots of telenovelas in Spanish. The logic behind the approach is explained perfectly in the sites I referenced, but in summary, it's the same reasoning behind how we memorize songs or commercials without trying to. With enough input, the brain puts the pieces together and then you can produce output. For the vast majority of my learning time, it was completely solo; I didn't practice with anyone or really practice speaking. I've never been to Mexico, etc. This is pretty common among folks who use the input method.

kmb501

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2016, 04:05:35 PM »
All of ths is very good advice, but I think I want to take the approach used by Nueva Lengua and other immersion language schools. Basically, I want to break down the language into smaller digestible parts and find creative ways to practice these parts until they're drilled into my head. Input from an immersion foreign language teacher would be appreciated.

I think I'm going to break it down like this, though.

Common words and phrases, vocabulary discussing a certain theme, common verb conjugations, proper use of tenses, shortcuts to conjugating verbs, etc.

I don't know if everyone else has this problem, but I sometimes don't recognize a verb when it's conjugated into certain forms. I guess just reading and practicing with a dictionary would help me improve that, but sometimes I'm overconfident and try to learn too much vocabulary at once.

Kris

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2016, 04:21:58 PM »
All of ths is very good advice, but I think I want to take the approach used by Nueva Lengua and other immersion language schools. Basically, I want to break down the language into smaller digestible parts and find creative ways to practice these parts until they're drilled into my head. Input from an immersion foreign language teacher would be appreciated.

I think I'm going to break it down like this, though.

Common words and phrases, vocabulary discussing a certain theme, common verb conjugations, proper use of tenses, shortcuts to conjugating verbs, etc.

I don't know if everyone else has this problem, but I sometimes don't recognize a verb when it's conjugated into certain forms. I guess just reading and practicing with a dictionary would help me improve that, but sometimes I'm overconfident and try to learn too much vocabulary at once.

I am an immersion foreign language teacher.

I second what others like tobitonic say about input.

kmb501

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2016, 04:26:22 PM »
All of ths is very good advice, but I think I want to take the approach used by Nueva Lengua and other immersion language schools. Basically, I want to break down the language into smaller digestible parts and find creative ways to practice these parts until they're drilled into my head. Input from an immersion foreign language teacher would be appreciated.

I think I'm going to break it down like this, though.

Common words and phrases, vocabulary discussing a certain theme, common verb conjugations, proper use of tenses, shortcuts to conjugating verbs, etc.

I don't know if everyone else has this problem, but I sometimes don't recognize a verb when it's conjugated into certain forms. I guess just reading and practicing with a dictionary would help me improve that, but sometimes I'm overconfident and try to learn too much vocabulary at once.

I am an immersion foreign language teacher.

I second what others like tobitonic say about input.

I've been trying that, but I want to learn even faster. Do you have any suggestions for rapidly learning vocabulary and grammar?

Kris

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2016, 04:30:18 PM »
All of ths is very good advice, but I think I want to take the approach used by Nueva Lengua and other immersion language schools. Basically, I want to break down the language into smaller digestible parts and find creative ways to practice these parts until they're drilled into my head. Input from an immersion foreign language teacher would be appreciated.

I think I'm going to break it down like this, though.

Common words and phrases, vocabulary discussing a certain theme, common verb conjugations, proper use of tenses, shortcuts to conjugating verbs, etc.

I don't know if everyone else has this problem, but I sometimes don't recognize a verb when it's conjugated into certain forms. I guess just reading and practicing with a dictionary would help me improve that, but sometimes I'm overconfident and try to learn too much vocabulary at once.

I am an immersion foreign language teacher.

I second what others like tobitonic say about input.

I've been trying that, but I want to learn even faster. Do you have any suggestions for rapidly learning vocabulary and grammar?

Yes. As much input as you can get.

As far as vocabulary is concerned, find videos in the language that are subtitled in the language. That way, you can listen and read at the same time.

For grammar, the internet.

tobitonic

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2016, 07:28:37 PM »
All of ths is very good advice, but I think I want to take the approach used by Nueva Lengua and other immersion language schools. Basically, I want to break down the language into smaller digestible parts and find creative ways to practice these parts until they're drilled into my head. Input from an immersion foreign language teacher would be appreciated.

I think I'm going to break it down like this, though.

Common words and phrases, vocabulary discussing a certain theme, common verb conjugations, proper use of tenses, shortcuts to conjugating verbs, etc.

I don't know if everyone else has this problem, but I sometimes don't recognize a verb when it's conjugated into certain forms. I guess just reading and practicing with a dictionary would help me improve that, but sometimes I'm overconfident and try to learn too much vocabulary at once.

I am an immersion foreign language teacher.

I second what others like tobitonic say about input.

I've been trying that, but I want to learn even faster. Do you have any suggestions for rapidly learning vocabulary and grammar?

I don't think there's a faster way to learn than by massive amounts of input. If you're literally spending every waking moment interacting with a language, it's very hard not to learn it.

It's a holistic, big picture, forest approach. The more you try to break things down into little pieces (e.g., memorizing vocabulary lists, studying tenses), in my opinion, the slower it's going to go. Once you build a massive warehouse of the language in your mind, organically, you can fine tune bits and pieces explicitly. The only dictionary I used while learning was Wordreference. I only looked up words when I specifically wanted to use them, and I never wrote them down. This means that I often forgot what I looked up, but it also meant that if it were something important, I'd eventually remember it.

The only times I looked up grammar was after I realized there were certain nagging errors I *knew* I was making, and where I wasn't sure between one or two options (e.g., whether to use "por" or "para" for a particular phrase). But if you're at the point where you're looking up stuff over and over again, it probably means you don't have a well-built base yet. After you come across something 50 times in 10 different contexts, you're going to "know" it's right the same way you "know" in English to say "a ridiculous idea" and not "an ridiculous idea" or "an idea ridiculous." But if you don't have enough input, you're not going to develop that intuitive sense.

The input develops your instinct for what's right and what's wrong in a foreign language the way it does in your native language. The difference is that we learn that instinct over years and years of childhood input for our L1, and then try to learn a completely different and inauthentic way (piece by piece) when attempting an L2.

snuggler

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2016, 07:37:52 PM »
tobitonic and Kris: thanks for giving kmb501 such detailed answers!

Any advice on good places to find input? I'm sure I can find some stuff on Netflix, Podcasts, and at the library, but I'd appreciate any other good sources you are aware of. I don't have cable, but would love to read news on a good Spanish site as I've been trying to replace crappy CNN coverage and limited NYT freebies anyway. I've also been working with DuoLingo, but it looks like I'm more in the beginning stages than kmb501 is.

tobitonic

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2016, 07:58:55 PM »
tobitonic and Kris: thanks for giving kmb501 such detailed answers!

Any advice on good places to find input? I'm sure I can find some stuff on Netflix, Podcasts, and at the library, but I'd appreciate any other good sources you are aware of. I don't have cable, but would love to read news on a good Spanish site as I've been trying to replace crappy CNN coverage and limited NYT freebies anyway. I've also been working with DuoLingo, but it looks like I'm more in the beginning stages than kmb501 is.

No problem! For input, the Internet and public libraries are a godsend. I got 99% of my books from my local library network...books for preschoolers, teenagers, college-educated adults...every single book will teach you something. I found all the radio stations I could ever hope to find from the Internet. Because I'm close to Chicago, I also got several stations on the actual radio, which was great, since that meant I could listen in the car during my long commutes. There's also YouTube and so on for listening to specific artists and albums. And for the telenovelas, Hulu pretty much always has at least a few series of telenovelas you can watch, and they'll have around 5 free episodes at a time as they move sequentially through a series; all you have to do is watch frequently enough to stay within the free window. Also, through Hulu, you can turn on captioning, which was sooo nice in my early stages, as it would help me catch things I missed aurally. I started using them in English, soon switched to Spanish, and then eventually dropped them entirely.

Everything I said except for the Hulu bit will apply to any language. I'm sure through YouTube you can find shows for any language. The key is to use materials designed for native speakers as much as possible (vs materials designed for English speakers learning the L2). The former will give you authentic input (i.e., the language as it's actually being used), while the latter will either be stilted and overly formal or will give you too much L1 and too little L2.

For newspapers...just go to Google News and switch it to your country of interest, and that'll change it to a stream of news in your L2. Over time, you'll find sites that give you the kind of content you like, and naturally gravitate there if that's your style. When I occasionally read newspaper content, I'd go to sites like Univision or Primera hora, but the site doesn't matter that much; you just need stuff you're interested in reading. I found news articles boring, so I was much more likely to check out books like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries series or The Hunger Games.

Even now, I still read a lot of books in Spanish simply because I enjoy doing so, and because it continually improves my command of the language. I also still exclusively listen to Spanish-language radio when driving alone, both out of habit and out of further learning. In much the same way, whenever you listen to or read content in English, you're improving your comprehension of the language, regardless of whatever your actual goals are at the time.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2016, 08:08:29 PM by tobitonic »

rudged

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2016, 12:17:22 PM »
I've been using the Pimsleur system to learn German for the past three years. I really like it. Each level consists of 30 units, each of which are a half an hour long. The units represent interactive drills, many of which challenge you to come up with new phrases given what you've already learned and also lots of practice.  The Pimsleur program focuses on helping you develop conversation skills, and in particular, an ear for the language before you start reading and writing. The German version has 5 levels, and it wouldn't surprise me if the French and Spanish were available for level six. If you go this route, consider buying it second hand on e-bay or Amazon. The cost to buy each level new is about $300+ dollars, but well worth it when you consider the hours of constructive entertainment you will get out of it. I'm pretty sure you can get the first ten units of Level One for a nominal fee of $15- note that if you go ahead and buy level one, the thirty units will include these first ten.

Kris

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2016, 12:31:19 PM »
tobitonic and Kris: thanks for giving kmb501 such detailed answers!

Any advice on good places to find input? I'm sure I can find some stuff on Netflix, Podcasts, and at the library, but I'd appreciate any other good sources you are aware of. I don't have cable, but would love to read news on a good Spanish site as I've been trying to replace crappy CNN coverage and limited NYT freebies anyway. I've also been working with DuoLingo, but it looks like I'm more in the beginning stages than kmb501 is.

No problem! For input, the Internet and public libraries are a godsend. I got 99% of my books from my local library network...books for preschoolers, teenagers, college-educated adults...every single book will teach you something. I found all the radio stations I could ever hope to find from the Internet. Because I'm close to Chicago, I also got several stations on the actual radio, which was great, since that meant I could listen in the car during my long commutes. There's also YouTube and so on for listening to specific artists and albums. And for the telenovelas, Hulu pretty much always has at least a few series of telenovelas you can watch, and they'll have around 5 free episodes at a time as they move sequentially through a series; all you have to do is watch frequently enough to stay within the free window. Also, through Hulu, you can turn on captioning, which was sooo nice in my early stages, as it would help me catch things I missed aurally. I started using them in English, soon switched to Spanish, and then eventually dropped them entirely.

Everything I said except for the Hulu bit will apply to any language. I'm sure through YouTube you can find shows for any language. The key is to use materials designed for native speakers as much as possible (vs materials designed for English speakers learning the L2). The former will give you authentic input (i.e., the language as it's actually being used), while the latter will either be stilted and overly formal or will give you too much L1 and too little L2.

For newspapers...just go to Google News and switch it to your country of interest, and that'll change it to a stream of news in your L2. Over time, you'll find sites that give you the kind of content you like, and naturally gravitate there if that's your style. When I occasionally read newspaper content, I'd go to sites like Univision or Primera hora, but the site doesn't matter that much; you just need stuff you're interested in reading. I found news articles boring, so I was much more likely to check out books like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries series or The Hunger Games.

Even now, I still read a lot of books in Spanish simply because I enjoy doing so, and because it continually improves my command of the language. I also still exclusively listen to Spanish-language radio when driving alone, both out of habit and out of further learning. In much the same way, whenever you listen to or read content in English, you're improving your comprehension of the language, regardless of whatever your actual goals are at the time.

These are good answers. Following on what tobitonic said about radio stations, you don't need to be close to a city to listen to the radio in another language, since so many stations stream now. And there are also podcasts.

Jon_Snow

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2016, 02:00:42 PM »
I would say that after 16 months, my only significant FIRE-fail would be the absolute lack of any attempt to learn some competent Spanish...

Following...in the hope it gets me off my ass in this regard. Please.

Catbert

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2016, 05:32:24 PM »
Check with your library for free resources.  I was surprised to discover that my library system gives you access to Rosetta Stone for several languages.  I hadn't used yet so I can't attest to anything except that its free.

Cookie78

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2016, 02:07:56 PM »
All of ths is very good advice, but I think I want to take the approach used by Nueva Lengua and other immersion language schools. Basically, I want to break down the language into smaller digestible parts and find creative ways to practice these parts until they're drilled into my head. Input from an immersion foreign language teacher would be appreciated.

I think I'm going to break it down like this, though.

Common words and phrases, vocabulary discussing a certain theme, common verb conjugations, proper use of tenses, shortcuts to conjugating verbs, etc.

I don't know if everyone else has this problem, but I sometimes don't recognize a verb when it's conjugated into certain forms. I guess just reading and practicing with a dictionary would help me improve that, but sometimes I'm overconfident and try to learn too much vocabulary at once.

I am an immersion foreign language teacher.

I second what others like tobitonic say about input.

I've been trying that, but I want to learn even faster. Do you have any suggestions for rapidly learning vocabulary and grammar?

I don't think there's a faster way to learn than by massive amounts of input. If you're literally spending every waking moment interacting with a language, it's very hard not to learn it.

It's a holistic, big picture, forest approach. The more you try to break things down into little pieces (e.g., memorizing vocabulary lists, studying tenses), in my opinion, the slower it's going to go. Once you build a massive warehouse of the language in your mind, organically, you can fine tune bits and pieces explicitly. The only dictionary I used while learning was Wordreference. I only looked up words when I specifically wanted to use them, and I never wrote them down. This means that I often forgot what I looked up, but it also meant that if it were something important, I'd eventually remember it.

The only times I looked up grammar was after I realized there were certain nagging errors I *knew* I was making, and where I wasn't sure between one or two options (e.g., whether to use "por" or "para" for a particular phrase). But if you're at the point where you're looking up stuff over and over again, it probably means you don't have a well-built base yet. After you come across something 50 times in 10 different contexts, you're going to "know" it's right the same way you "know" in English to say "a ridiculous idea" and not "an ridiculous idea" or "an idea ridiculous." But if you don't have enough input, you're not going to develop that intuitive sense.

The input develops your instinct for what's right and what's wrong in a foreign language the way it does in your native language. The difference is that we learn that instinct over years and years of childhood input for our L1, and then try to learn a completely different and inauthentic way (piece by piece) when attempting an L2.

I have a question about this method. Right now I'm learning Spanish. I was placed at 'intermediate basic' for my course in Peru, and I understand plenty of basic grammar, but my vocabulary is quite limited. Right now one of the things I am doing to learn is reading the first Harry Potter book in Spanish AND in English at the same time. With this method is it suggested that I read only the Spanish version, even though I wouldn't understand most of it? And that over time it'll start to make sense? Or do you need to know some basics before the input method becomes helpful?

GreenQueen

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2016, 02:31:17 PM »
Congratulations on learning languages! From my experience, Spanish you can learn quite well on your own, and then progress rapidly in an immersion environment.

French, not so much. I'm currently learning French due to relocation, (I am fluent in an Asian language for my job and learned functional Spanish mostly on the fly) and it would be almost impossible without the classes I'm attending with a lot of help at home. It's just really complex. But you might be quicker than I am!

Also, there are a lot of opportunities for conversational lessons or trade via Skype, etc which could help you progress quickly once you get past the basic. Bonne chance!

Hedge_87

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #17 on: February 09, 2016, 12:05:23 PM »
I have kind of a weird question for those of you that are bilingual. When you become fluent in a second language does your mind translate it back into your "native" language or do you just understand the second language well enough at some point it just clicks?

tobitonic

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2016, 08:06:29 PM »
All of ths is very good advice, but I think I want to take the approach used by Nueva Lengua and other immersion language schools. Basically, I want to break down the language into smaller digestible parts and find creative ways to practice these parts until they're drilled into my head. Input from an immersion foreign language teacher would be appreciated.

I think I'm going to break it down like this, though.

Common words and phrases, vocabulary discussing a certain theme, common verb conjugations, proper use of tenses, shortcuts to conjugating verbs, etc.

I don't know if everyone else has this problem, but I sometimes don't recognize a verb when it's conjugated into certain forms. I guess just reading and practicing with a dictionary would help me improve that, but sometimes I'm overconfident and try to learn too much vocabulary at once.

I am an immersion foreign language teacher.

I second what others like tobitonic say about input.

I've been trying that, but I want to learn even faster. Do you have any suggestions for rapidly learning vocabulary and grammar?

I don't think there's a faster way to learn than by massive amounts of input. If you're literally spending every waking moment interacting with a language, it's very hard not to learn it.

It's a holistic, big picture, forest approach. The more you try to break things down into little pieces (e.g., memorizing vocabulary lists, studying tenses), in my opinion, the slower it's going to go. Once you build a massive warehouse of the language in your mind, organically, you can fine tune bits and pieces explicitly. The only dictionary I used while learning was Wordreference. I only looked up words when I specifically wanted to use them, and I never wrote them down. This means that I often forgot what I looked up, but it also meant that if it were something important, I'd eventually remember it.

The only times I looked up grammar was after I realized there were certain nagging errors I *knew* I was making, and where I wasn't sure between one or two options (e.g., whether to use "por" or "para" for a particular phrase). But if you're at the point where you're looking up stuff over and over again, it probably means you don't have a well-built base yet. After you come across something 50 times in 10 different contexts, you're going to "know" it's right the same way you "know" in English to say "a ridiculous idea" and not "an ridiculous idea" or "an idea ridiculous." But if you don't have enough input, you're not going to develop that intuitive sense.

The input develops your instinct for what's right and what's wrong in a foreign language the way it does in your native language. The difference is that we learn that instinct over years and years of childhood input for our L1, and then try to learn a completely different and inauthentic way (piece by piece) when attempting an L2.

I have a question about this method. Right now I'm learning Spanish. I was placed at 'intermediate basic' for my course in Peru, and I understand plenty of basic grammar, but my vocabulary is quite limited. Right now one of the things I am doing to learn is reading the first Harry Potter book in Spanish AND in English at the same time. With this method is it suggested that I read only the Spanish version, even though I wouldn't understand most of it? And that over time it'll start to make sense? Or do you need to know some basics before the input method becomes helpful?

Lots of schools of thought on this. I actually did the Harry Potter Spanish / English thing once! Personally, I'd recommend sticking to Spanish so you spend as little time in English as possible. That might mean reading books in Spanish you've already read in English, so you're familiar with the plot, or it might mean reading simpler books. Some of my favorite books were bilingual children's books, as that made the English immediately available for looking up particular words, but I could focus on the Spanish otherwise. That said, I think it's fine to read both at the same time if it works for you...I just found it more effective to read lots of different books. You'd definitely pick up more over time if you just stuck with it, though, even if you weren't understanding a lot of it. I remember the first 40-60 pages of La Casa de los Espiritus (the first book I tackled when I "seriously" started learning Spanish) didn't make much sense, but that was probably partly because it took me a while to get used to Allende's way of writing. The rest of the book made much more sense.

But yes, Krashen advocates comprehensible input, and I do agree that you want to know at least some of what's going on, but I don't think you need to know every word at all; you just have to be able to follow the story to a degree that keeps you reading.

tobitonic

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #19 on: February 09, 2016, 08:14:41 PM »
I have kind of a weird question for those of you that are bilingual. When you become fluent in a second language does your mind translate it back into your "native" language or do you just understand the second language well enough at some point it just clicks?

The second one. It's no different from any other skill that you practice enough that it becomes automatic; in a car, you aren't thinking, "start the engine, check the mirror, foot on the brake, switch the gear...", because that all happens automatically. Something funny that happened the other day was that I was counting my kids in class, and there were 20 that day, and I started out in English, because when we're going to the bathroom, I always count in English. Around 10, or so, I got distracted by some students getting into the line and switched into Spanish, but didn't realize it until around 15 or 16 when I heard one of my students at the front of the line still counting in English. That almost never happens, but it made me smile. Typically I aim for 90% Spanish, 10% English in the classroom, and when I switch languages, it's a very deliberate thing (e.g., "este es un circulo. en ingles se llama a...circle!").

So no, when the language is deep enough, there's pretty much no internal interpretation. If anything, you'll find the L2 interfering with your L1 now and then in terms of wanting to say things in Spanish to people who only speak English, etc.

Hedge_87

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2016, 09:01:48 PM »
I have kind of a weird question for those of you that are bilingual. When you become fluent in a second language does your mind translate it back into your "native" language or do you just understand the second language well enough at some point it just clicks?

The second one. It's no different from any other skill that you practice enough that it becomes automatic; in a car, you aren't thinking, "start the engine, check the mirror, foot on the brake, switch the gear...", because that all happens automatically. Something funny that happened the other day was that I was counting my kids in class, and there were 20 that day, and I started out in English, because when we're going to the bathroom, I always count in English. Around 10, or so, I got distracted by some students getting into the line and switched into Spanish, but didn't realize it until around 15 or 16 when I heard one of my students at the front of the line still counting in English. That almost never happens, but it made me smile. Typically I aim for 90% Spanish, 10% English in the classroom, and when I switch languages, it's a very deliberate thing (e.g., "este es un circulo. en ingles se llama a...circle!").

So no, when the language is deep enough, there's pretty much no internal interpretation. If anything, you'll find the L2 interfering with your L1 now and then in terms of wanting to say things in Spanish to people who only speak English, etc.

Ok good lol because I spent about an hour driving around for work today and tried to listen to the spanish radio station. It was exhausting. The little bit I could pick up I had enough of a delay in "recognition" for lack of a better term that by the time I got a few words or most of a sentence they where already talking about something else. Of course I just need to spend more time at it I think.

aspiringnomad

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #21 on: February 09, 2016, 09:11:26 PM »
Any particular recommendations for French input? Primarily looking for engaging TV series and movies with French or English subtitles that can be streamed to a FireStick or AppleTV.

MacGyverIt

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #22 on: February 09, 2016, 10:16:39 PM »
Any advice on good places to find input? I'm sure I can find some stuff on Netflix, Podcasts, and at the library, but I'd appreciate any other good sources you are aware of.

I love Twitter feeds in the language of interest on subjects of personal interest, so they are small chunks of language in a subject of interest (music, current events, etc.) thus I'm more motivated to work through the translation.

Learning via song is the fastest way to go really. Also a ton of sites that provide links to streaming radio stations in various languages but television is really better b/c you have the visual to assist with what you're hearing.

Also if you have friends or a library with the Pimsleur language series, it's a great starter.

MacGyverIt

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #23 on: February 09, 2016, 10:22:57 PM »
I have kind of a weird question for those of you that are bilingual. When you become fluent in a second language does your mind translate it back into your "native" language or do you just understand the second language well enough at some point it just clicks?

It comes to me in the second language. Your primary language is stored in a different area of the brain than your additional languages, so there have been times when I can't think of a word in X language so Y language comes out. I call it "word salad". In Italy i could get around with my Spanish but totally blanked on the word for dog so I slipped in the Russian word instead on accident (not the English, my first language). This has happened to me on more than one occasion but this is the most recent example.

Tom Bri

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #24 on: February 09, 2016, 10:24:13 PM »
I have kind of a weird question for those of you that are bilingual. When you become fluent in a second language does your mind translate it back into your "native" language or do you just understand the second language well enough at some point it just clicks?

The second one. It's no different from any other skill that you practice enough that it becomes automatic; in a car, you aren't thinking, "start the engine, check the mirror, foot on the brake, switch the gear...", because that all happens automatically. Something funny that happened the other day was that I was counting my kids in class, and there were 20 that day, and I started out in English, because when we're going to the bathroom, I always count in English. Around 10, or so, I got distracted by some students getting into the line and switched into Spanish, but didn't realize it until around 15 or 16 when I heard one of my students at the front of the line still counting in English. That almost never happens, but it made me smile. Typically I aim for 90% Spanish, 10% English in the classroom, and when I switch languages, it's a very deliberate thing (e.g., "este es un circulo. en ingles se llama a...circle!").

So no, when the language is deep enough, there's pretty much no internal interpretation. If anything, you'll find the L2 interfering with your L1 now and then in terms of wanting to say things in Spanish to people who only speak English, etc.

Ok good lol because I spent about an hour driving around for work today and tried to listen to the spanish radio station. It was exhausting. The little bit I could pick up I had enough of a delay in "recognition" for lack of a better term that by the time I got a few words or most of a sentence they where already talking about something else. Of course I just need to spend more time at it I think.

Learning a new language can be exhausting. As for switching languages, I have no trouble between English, my native language, and either Japanese or Spanish. However Japanese to Spanish confuses my brain. I learned both by immersion, living there for several years.

A few hints that may help. As fully as possible, immerse yourself in the language and culture of the language you want. Listen to the music, and go to sleep with the music playing. Read, a lot. Pick out a middle-grade novel that you have already read in your native language, and read it again in the target language. Do NOT stop to look up vocabulary! You already know the story, so just read it. I read The Lord Of The Rings in Spanish. I also read the complete Harry Potter series. Avoid newspapers, at least at first. The vocabulary will be too much for a lower level learner.

Practice speaking aloud, and LISTEN TO YOURSELF!. A lot of people don't seem to be able to hear themselves, so they never develop a good accent or pronunciation. Try to mimic the exact pronunciation you hear. Listen especially for sounds that are not present, or are slightly different from your home language. For example, the short 'R' sound in Spanish has no English equivalent, it is half-way between the English 'D' and 'R' sounds, shorter then the English 'R', which has no Spanish equivalent. "V' is tricky for the English speaker as well, short, and harder, almost like the English 'B'. You have to really LISTEN to native speakers, and try to produce what they actually say, not what you expect them to say.

It took me two years of total immersion to become fluent in Spanish, and about 10-15 for Japanese, since I couldn't read much Japanese, and it is a more different language.

NoraLenderbee

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #25 on: February 10, 2016, 10:40:58 AM »
There are news programs and podcasts designed for learners. News in Slow French, News in Slow SPanish, etc. Google "News in slow" to find them. I haven't used them, just heard of them.

claire.harris

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #26 on: February 11, 2016, 05:52:03 AM »
I listen to a French podcast if I walk into work (45 minutes), so I'm combining commuting, learning, and exercise all at once! I found mine in the podcast section on my iPhone. They're ok "Learn French with daily podcasts", but I find the repetitive intro/outro (if that's a word!) a bit annoying. 

LadyStache in Baja

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #27 on: February 11, 2016, 06:45:18 AM »
Totally agree on massive input without necessarily trying to understand!  Somehow your brain will eventually understand, and that's what allows you to have fluent output.  If, however, you treat it like a math problem (ok, noun + verb --ok, conjugate it--, ok direct object mmmm) it will be really hard to be fluent, even if all the words you use are correct.  So don't practice that way either!  Practicing that way means you'll speak that way, and NO ONE will understand you. 

Our brain learns phrases--whole phrases--and that's what allows us to speak.  People who speak to you are not going to say "Vivo......en......Mexico."  They are going to say "vivoenMe xico".  The sounds are going to blur together in places other than the spaces between the words.  So if you're set on learning words, you will not understand what they are saying to you, and if you say words to them (rather than phrases) they are not going to understand you.

I'm saying this as a bilingual person who lives in Mexico and has lots of experience not being understood at first. :)

So for conjugating verbs, you need to learn each conjugation separately in an organic way.
You'll learn "Quieropastel".  And you will learn it totally separately from
"Tegus taria pastel?"  Unless you want to sound like a robot and try to pretend that language is math.

Learning language this way will also prevent you from "language interference" which is when you try to directly translate, word by word, from english to spanish, and end up saying things awkwardly. 

For example, if I were directly translating from Spanish to English, I would say:
"I have 32 years".  Instead of I'm 32 years old.

Will an english-speaker understand?  Maybe.  Probably depending on context.  How much better to just learn it organically though. 

In my own journey, I've found that learning some vocab and grammar was enough to get me speaking (terribly) to people so that the INPUT could start.  I would listen to what people are saying, and catch a turn of phrase, and think, Oh, so that's how you say that!
In English, for example, there's a million ways to use the word get: get laid, get something from the store, get a concept, etc.  Looking that up in the dictionary is going to be hard.  Hearing someone say in conversation, "Do you get it?" and the context is "Do you understand?" is going to make your brain say, Oh!  That's what they mean!  And then next time you're out and about, your brain will say for you "Do you get it?"

tl;dr: Stop thinking, let your brain do it.  :)


JRA64

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #28 on: February 11, 2016, 06:54:59 AM »
I have a subscriptionn to News in Slow Spanish and it has helped me immensely to understand spoken Spanish.The grammar quizzes have helped me to learn some aspects of the language that were completely mystifying. It's helped with vocabulary too, and developing an ear for what sounds "right".

spokey doke

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #29 on: February 11, 2016, 08:17:07 AM »
Great timing...following...this has been on my list for forever, and I pull the plug this summer on my career and start many new chapters....learning Spanish is one of them.

Given all the insights, I'm thinking it would be a huge help if DW was on board and part of the project, and perhaps a friend or two (I have a couple of friends who know quite a bit, but are rusty).  Create your own immersion...

Cookie78

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #30 on: February 11, 2016, 08:30:00 AM »
Totally agree on massive input without necessarily trying to understand!  Somehow your brain will eventually understand, and that's what allows you to have fluent output.  If, however, you treat it like a math problem (ok, noun + verb --ok, conjugate it--, ok direct object mmmm) it will be really hard to be fluent, even if all the words you use are correct.  So don't practice that way either!  Practicing that way means you'll speak that way, and NO ONE will understand you. 

Our brain learns phrases--whole phrases--and that's what allows us to speak.  People who speak to you are not going to say "Vivo......en......Mexico."  They are going to say "vivoenMe xico".  The sounds are going to blur together in places other than the spaces between the words.  So if you're set on learning words, you will not understand what they are saying to you, and if you say words to them (rather than phrases) they are not going to understand you.

I'm saying this as a bilingual person who lives in Mexico and has lots of experience not being understood at first. :)

So for conjugating verbs, you need to learn each conjugation separately in an organic way.
You'll learn "Quieropastel".  And you will learn it totally separately from
"Tegus taria pastel?"  Unless you want to sound like a robot and try to pretend that language is math.

Learning language this way will also prevent you from "language interference" which is when you try to directly translate, word by word, from english to spanish, and end up saying things awkwardly. 

For example, if I were directly translating from Spanish to English, I would say:
"I have 32 years".  Instead of I'm 32 years old.

Will an english-speaker understand?  Maybe.  Probably depending on context.  How much better to just learn it organically though. 

In my own journey, I've found that learning some vocab and grammar was enough to get me speaking (terribly) to people so that the INPUT could start.  I would listen to what people are saying, and catch a turn of phrase, and think, Oh, so that's how you say that!
In English, for example, there's a million ways to use the word get: get laid, get something from the store, get a concept, etc.  Looking that up in the dictionary is going to be hard.  Hearing someone say in conversation, "Do you get it?" and the context is "Do you understand?" is going to make your brain say, Oh!  That's what they mean!  And then next time you're out and about, your brain will say for you "Do you get it?"

tl;dr: Stop thinking, let your brain do it.  :)

Thank you, this is very helpful info. I think I am doing what you describe as pretending language is math. My goal is to learn enough Spanish that when I go spend lots of time in Latin America I can pick it up through immersion much faster than if I started with knowing nothing.

My problem is that I feel I learn and remember much better if I understand the reason behind the things I'm learning (in this case grammar rules, etc), so I tend to focus too much on WHY is this phrase/word/cojugation said the way it's said. The result is that it's very slow going trying to get through a Spanish book.

pbkmaine

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Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #31 on: February 11, 2016, 08:51:00 AM »
I think we all learn differently. My grade school taught "natural language" where we heard French but never saw it. I simply could not get it. Turns out I am a visual learner and also need grammar and rules to understand the framework of a language. In college, I learned German at the Goethe Institut and much of it was visual and rules based. I got to an intermediate level very quickly. To keep it up I listen to podcasts, but I had to have the rules first.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2016, 08:53:03 AM by pbkmaine »

Hedge_87

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #32 on: February 11, 2016, 10:21:42 AM »
So far (this week) I've been trying to do 10-30 minutes of duolingo in the mornings and a little in the evening if i have time/energy to help build somewhat of a vocabulary. Then when I'm driving around for work I listen to the Spanish radio station. I'm starting to be able to at least pick up the general idea of the conversation. For example today there was some sort of commercial asking for donations to help children. I by no means understood everything but they keep repeating por favor and el ninos and then a series of numbers (i assume telephone).

On a side note how does a person type accents a key board?

Cookie78

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #33 on: February 11, 2016, 10:24:40 AM »
So far (this week) I've been trying to do 10-30 minutes of duolingo in the mornings and a little in the evening if i have time/energy to help build somewhat of a vocabulary. Then when I'm driving around for work I listen to the Spanish radio station. I'm starting to be able to at least pick up the general idea of the conversation. For example today there was some sort of commercial asking for donations to help children. I by no means understood everything but they keep repeating por favor and el ninos and then a series of numbers (i assume telephone).

On a side note how does a person type accents a key board?

Character map Alt codes.
Alt-0176 is one I use at work a lot
Alt-0233
Alt-0243

for example

kaetana

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Re: Tips for mastering a foreign language with self study?
« Reply #34 on: February 13, 2016, 07:27:15 PM »
On a side note how does a person type accents a key board?

On a Windows machine, change your keyboard settings to add a Spanish keyboard. You can then switch between the two layouts using ALT + SHIFT in any window. Then when you're on the Spanish layout, ' + e = and ' + a = . On a Mac, there are shortcuts that are fairly easy to remember. For example, OPTION + e + a = and OPTION + e + e = .