How to learn a second language

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CountryBoy
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

I had no idea about any of the comic books:

http://www.coolfrenchcomics.com/top10.htm

I won't even ask the price which is probably astronomical; but they look great.
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JupiterJones
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by JupiterJones »

You can also get books of stories that are specifically written for the language learner. They start with basic vocabulary/syntax, and usually define new words as footnotes, or might even have parallel text in English. For example:

www.amazon.com/dp/1492399493

www.amazon.com/dp/1505940729
Stay on target...
Rayandron
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by Rayandron »

I have previously taught English as a Second Language and lived abroad where I self-taught myself Spanish.

In my opinion, basic grammar is important, but having a good vocabulary is far more important than having perfect grammar. In English, once you know approximately the 2,000 most commonly used words you will be able to understand approximately 90% of commonly spoken English. 90%! For more information on this, Google the "General Service List English". If you want to learn French, get the GSL, and make yourself Flashcards for the 2000 most commonly used English words, or even better, get a French frequency dictionary and make yourself flash cards for the 2000 most commonly used French words. Btw, studies have shown that flash cards are tremendously effective for learning vocabulary.

Please feel free to PM me if you'd like to discuss your learning strategy in greater detail.
letsgobobby
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by letsgobobby »

I have been using anki flashcards for a week and can't believe how much I've learned or relearned in that time.
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CountryBoy
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

Most grateful for people continuing with this thread and getting down to the detail level.

Re vocabulary lists:
I downloaded one list of the 10,000 most frequently used words and found that I knew all but about 75 of them. I believe there are a lot of different lists out there. I believe the French language has about 60,000 words. The basic 10k words sounds like a big deal but when you actually review it, it is not that impressive.

Yes, vocabulary is important but so are the grammar and verb skills. In addition, in French you need to learn what is the
spoken or every day speech
way of talking the language. I can not expect to ever in my life speak
like a native
however I do want to speak with a fluency and speed which makes it possible to discuss topics.

In a sense developing this real facility with French is my "bucket wish" goal; just getting by is not my goal nor is it a judgement of others and their goals.

Thanks again.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by MoonOrb »

It's been mentioned upthread, but "Fluent Forever" might be for you. Check out his website: https://fluent-forever.com/ You seem to be approaching this in a thoughtful and systematic way, and the FF book is exactly about this type of thoughtful and systematic approach to language learning.

For $26, I bought his "Pronunciation trainer," which are flashcards he already designed for use on Anki along with his frequency list of the 625 most frequently used words. His site shows you how to configure Anki for your use and make your own flashcards for it.

I'm like you, I want an actual faculty with the language, but my hypothesis is that learning is a long curve and that once one experiences a sort of working fluency with it, knowledge increases substantially.
Rayandron
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by Rayandron »

letsgobobby wrote:I have been using anki flashcards for a week and can't believe how much I've learned or relearned in that time.
Agreed, Anki flashcards are excellent for adding to your vocabulary.
CountryBoy wrote: Re vocabulary lists:
I downloaded one list of the 10,000 most frequently used words and found that I knew all but about 75 of them. I believe there are a lot of different lists out there. I believe the French language has about 60,000 words. The basic 10k words sounds like a big deal but when you actually review it, it is not that impressive.
Ah. You are already quite advanced in your studies then! Next step is probably increasing your immersion time, whether that's watching French TV/movies (The Intouchables is excellent btw) and/or spending some time abroad.

I agree that any given number, whether it's 2,000 or 10,000, it sounds like a lot, but it really is quite doable. That's why it's such a good goal for a language student! It's Specific, Measurable, and Realistically doable! Add a Time Constraint and whatever the A stands for (can't remember) and you've got a SMART goal.
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Re: How to learn a second language

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Last edited by DrippingSprings on Mon Dec 14, 2015 5:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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wassabi
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by wassabi »

Others have mentioned Duolingo, which is great. I use it in combination with Memrise. If you are using Anki then you may not need Memrise, but I love it. It's essentially a flashcard system, but you can find a deck that was created to match the Duolingo program you are completing. I find myself using Memrise flashcards much more than Duolingo. The repetition and sounds are great.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

No I am not advanced in my language studies; that is what I am trying to communicate. Most of those words are cognates....However, the verb tenses, the colloquial usage, and the pronunciation are areas where I need considerable work.

At the moment, my daily study plan is:

vocabulary-45 min.
reading-10 min.
listening-10 min.
grammar-45 min.

Somebody up-thread talked about having the language playing in the background which is what I do. It is incredibly helpful although you would not believe it. Please note that newscasters are very hardest to understand but politicians are much easier; Francois Holland is excellent. Lots of different places to go to to just plug into some language/wall paper sound. At the moment I use:

http://www.bfmtv.com/mediaplayer/live-video/
http://www.rfi.fr/emission/20151214-jou ... 0-20h10-tu

I am grateful to say that the improvement in comprehension is quantifiable after only a short time. I believe the secret is in not listening to it. Seriously. After a time it will start to seap in of its own. I believe it is a bit like water seeping into a container that once started, the level of comprehension rises.

Grateful for everyone's ongoing advice.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

MoonOrb

What signposts have you set for yourself along the way of this long journey? Have you quantified end results by certain points of time.

For myself, I think it could be totally valid to have it as a life long journey.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

Re: Rayandron and SMART

I think this might be what you were referring to.

I am not sure how to "quantify" when it comes to language learning but I guess there is some way.....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_cri ... MART_goals
Specific

The criterion stresses the need for a specific goal rather than a more general one. This means the goal is clear and unambiguous; without vagaries and platitudes. To make goals specific, they must tell a team exactly what's expected, why it's important, who’s involved, where it's going to happen and which attributes are important.

A specific goal will usually answer the five 'W' questions:

What: What do I want to accomplish?
Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
Who: Who is involved?
Where: Identify a location.
Which: Identify requirements and constraints.

Measurable

The second criterion stresses the need for concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal. The thought behind this is that if a goal is not measurable it is not possible to know whether a team is making progress toward successful completion. Measuring progress is supposed to help a team stay on track, reach its target dates and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs it on to continued effort required to reach the ultimate goal.

A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:

How much?
How many?
How will I know when it is accomplished?
Indicators should be quantifiable

Achievable

The third criterion stresses the importance of goals that are realistic and also attainable. Whilst an attainable goal may stretch a team in order to achieve it, the goal is not extreme. That is, the goals are neither out of reach nor below standard performance, since these may be considered meaningless. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills and financial capacity to reach them. The theory states that an attainable goal may cause goal-setters to identify previously overlooked opportunities to bring themselves closer to the achievement of their goals.

An achievable goal will usually answer the question How?

How can the goal be accomplished?
How realistic is the goal based on other constraints?

Relevant

The fourth criterion stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter. A bank manager's goal to "Make 50 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by 2pm" may be specific, measurable, attainable and time-bound but lacks relevance. Many times you will need support to accomplish a goal: resources, a champion voice, someone to knock down obstacles. Goals that are relevant to your boss, your team, your organization will receive that needed support.

Relevant goals (when met) drive the team, department and organization forward. A goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be considered a relevant goal.

A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:

Does this seem worthwhile?
Is this the right time?
Does this match our other efforts/needs?
Are you the right person?
Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment?

Time-bound

The fifth criterion stresses the importance of grounding goals within a time-frame, giving them a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps a team focus their efforts on completion of the goal on or before the due date. This part of the SMART goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise in an organization. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.

A time-bound goal will usually answer the question

When?
What can I do six months from now?
What can I do six weeks from now?
What can I do today?
MoonOrb
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by MoonOrb »

CountryBoy wrote:MoonOrb

What signposts have you set for yourself along the way of this long journey? Have you quantified end results by certain points of time.

For myself, I think it could be totally valid to have it as a life long journey.
It might be a lifelong journey for me, too. I am tentatively planning a trip to Paris in late 2016 and to Montreal in 2017 so those will end up being some sort of opportunity to measure progress. But I expect it to be a very long process.

My first goals were to make flashcards for, and learn, the top 625 words on the Fluent Forever word frequency list and then to complete the Duolingo French language tree. I also had smaller goals to complete certain Memrise units. I completed all of those, so I'm having to move on to things that are harder to measure now.

The major goals I have set for myself are (1) to be able to read and make some sense out of some books I've already read English versions of, mostly the Harry Potter series (I gradually accumulated the French versions of these from second hand book stores); and (2) to be able to make some sense out of French TV shows, perhaps something like "Spiral."

I figure if I can achieve those things then I can also move on towards things like actually speaking some French. In 2016 I am also thinking I will work methodically through some audio type courses, most likely Michel Thomas and either Assimil or Pimsleur.

My dream is that when I retire or slightly before then I can take a several week long or longer immersion course and then spend 3 months traveling in France.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

Your short term and long term goals sound excellent.

The problem of quantifying goals and time frames is a very challenging problem with language.

As a footnote to language learning, people may be interested in this article:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/ ... lf-italian

I believe that for me two things are necessary:

1-to be patient and forgiving of my mistakes as I persevere and go about my daily exercises
2-to remember to enjoy the journey

Thanks again for sharing your process; process is everything.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by letsgobobby »

I would skim "fluent forever" as suggested upthread. Based on that suggestion, I just did. A little repetitive, but the suggestions at the end are still extremely worthwhile. Plus, the author lists scores of online resources that will aid you in your learning, and suggests steps for improving your fluency. For instance, you need grammar flashcards. Did you know that there is a free online community that will allow you to submit a writing sample, then get corrections? Did you know you can make flashcards with audio samples spoken for free by a native speaker? Did you know you can import pictures of your own (cat, dog, wife, house, etc) to personalize your flashcards and improve their mnemonic power? Did you know there is a free, online flashcard maker? I did not know any of this before reading the book. I got it from the library for free and skimmed it in a day or two. Now I've learned and relearned hundreds of Hebrew letters, Chinese characters and words, Spanish words and phrases, and Vietnamese phrases in just 2 weeks. I can't believe it, my brain literally feels 20 years younger. Anki is amazing.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by GerryL »

Just thought of another technique for mastering French: La dictee.
(Or as this 1987 article calls it "the dreaded dictee." Link: http://articles.latimes.com/1987-12-21/ ... ch-teacher.)

You could probably find some online exercises by Googling dictee french. It works like this: Teacher reads a passage as students listen. Teacher then reads the passage in chunks as students desperately attempt to transcribe in perfectly correct French. Then the teacher reads the passage once more as students review their work.
I used to hate doing dictee, which was used a lot at Alliance Francaise way back, even though I often did pretty well. It's nerve-racking, but it really makes you get a handle on the many spelling and pronunciation idiosyncrasies of the language. Despite assurances that there would be no dictee when I signed up for my AF class this summer, I was subjected to a brief one during a makeup class. It was a confidence booster when I saw how well I did.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

Ah yes, the dictee. I grew up with it in school. I wonder if Alliance Francais will use it when we go in the spring.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by VictoriaF »

Check out a book "Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World" by Benny Lewis.

Victoria
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

OK, I just ordered it from the library.

Have you or someone you know read it?
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by VictoriaF »

CountryBoy wrote:OK, I just ordered it from the library.

Have you or someone you know read it?
I bought it but have not read it {blushing}. I learned about this book from Scott Young's blog. On this page you will find a list of Scott's articles grouped by theme, and one of the themes is "Languages." Scott and his friend Val took up a challenge to learn four languages in a year, three months per language.

Victoria
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

Just curious if anyone thought to use Anki? It seems the rage right now.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by FedGuy »

CountryBoy wrote:Just curious if anyone thought to use Anki? It seems the rage right now.
Anki has been mentioned repeatedly in this very thread.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

Many thanks to the people who suggested Fluent in 3 Months. A fantastic book and so grateful I read it. Thanks.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by cbeck »

It depends on whether you are just looking for a hobby so that learning a few phrases to enhance your next vacation or if you want to become fluent. If fluency is your goal then books and tapes are not going to get you there. Here in Thailand there is endless discussion among various expats about the relative merits of the various books and tapes method, but none of those people ever become fluent as far as I can tell, which for purposes of this discussion I would define as read, write, speak and comprehend at a university level.

Most people who achieve fluency to this level at a second language do it through university study. If such study is not locally available then why not find one-on-one study via skype? For instance, I recently searched for websites that provided Spanish tutoring via skype for a family member. He then studied with a succession of native speakers in Argentina, Guatemala and Mexico at about $10 an hour. All of the teachers followed textbooks, structrued the sessions, and gave and corrected homework and even quizzes. The Francophone world is smaller than the Spanish-speaking one, but I am sure that similar services can be found.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

Sounds like good advice.
Have to go out and get a camera for my PC so I can Skype.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by Achelois »

Have you considered Berlitz?

I do not know the cost, but learning can be done in person or via Skype; in groups or individually.

The Berlitz goal appears to be getting people confortable actually speaking and conversing in the language and getting over self-consciousness
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by VictoriaF »

CountryBoy wrote:Many thanks to the people who suggested Fluent in 3 Months. A fantastic book and so grateful I read it. Thanks.
I recommended it but have not read it myself. Now I will! Thank you for embarrassing, thanking, and encouraging me {laughing}

Victoria
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grog
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by grog »

Another vote for Pimsleur. My library had the CDs and I thought it was a great program. It's pure listening and speaking, but I think that's the best way to start. Then after getting the feel for the language I would move on to a good grammar book and written materials. And to finish it off you need to get some live practice with native speakers. A lot if you want to get any good.

I speak decent Spanish and have studied a bit of French. With Spanish I took it in school (three years) and learned a little, then spent a lot of time in Latin America where the real learning happened. The first couple of weeks are the most important. It's really hard to understand people at first but your brain/ear eventually starts dialing things in. After about a month I spoke bad Spanish, but was conversant. If you don't get that kind of practice you won't really finish off the language in my opinion. Another thing I noticed was that the more I learned the more I realized how much I was missing before. I would learn a new word and then realize that people use that word ALL THE TIME and I was just completely missing it. By about a year I was okay but progress was much slower after that point. Once you can get by you will tend to plateau without deliberate improvement, in my experience at least. And I think there is a lot of individual variation in how easy it comes and how good you sound, a bit like musical ability. Age and language difficulty/similarity to English are other key factors.

With French I wanted to learn it just because. I started with the Pimsleur tapes and made good progress. Knowing Spanish made it easy to get started. I then started going through a book and got about midway through and stalled out (I still don't know all the tenses, etc.). Maybe I'll pick it back up at some point, but it's hard to motivate myself without having a real necessity. And that's usually how it goes. The reality is that learning a language (even badly) requires a lot of time and effort. And usually for little immediate benefit. Sure it broadens your horizons and is intellectually rewarding and can open doors for some interesting cultural experiences, but day to day it's just not that useful here in the US. Spanish is the most useful by far and I can't say I use it that much. I've seen many people fail to learn even their spouse's native language, so that isn't even enough motivation in many cases. Learning from scratch as a hobby requires unusual focus and determination.

This is a forum I went to when I was trying to learn French. I don't know how active it still is but it was specifically for people trying to learn as a hobby.

http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/e/index.html

This discussion brings also to mind a pretty funny blog that hit kind of close to home.

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/11 ... -language/
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

Am very grateful for everyone's feedback.

Herewith a suggestion for people learning a second language and the vocabulary thereof......build a spreadsheet in something like Excel. I know that sounds strange on first hearing but if you think about it the idea is very useful. I simply don't get the s/w Anki although I have downloaded it and played with it.

But a spreadsheet for vocabulary and the ability to store and do many different sorts can be a very useful tool. I never would have thought of it without it being suggested to me.

Enjoy and happy holidays!
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by cbeck »

CountryBoy wrote:Am very grateful for everyone's feedback.

Herewith a suggestion for people learning a second language and the vocabulary thereof......build a spreadsheet in something like Excel. I know that sounds strange on first hearing but if you think about it the idea is very useful. I simply don't get the s/w Anki although I have downloaded it and played with it.

But a spreadsheet for vocabulary and the ability to store and do many different sorts can be a very useful tool. I never would have thought of it without it being suggested to me.

Enjoy and happy holidays!
Anki is far superior to a spreadsheet for many reasons.. Most importantly, Anki implements "timed repetition" which is to say when you respond to a flashcard Anki reschedules that card according to how well you know it. The result is that you don't waste time on reviewing cards that you already know, but concentrate on those you don't remember well. This makes your memorization effort much more efficient. There's no way to do that in a spreadsheet.

Another big advantage to Anki is that, depending on how you set up your deck, you can have Anki prompt you to type the response rather than just calling out the word. This is a big help in learning because you are adding the channel of touch to sight and sound which helps our minds remember. Plus, as long as you use the correct finger for each key the same as touch-typing English, you will learn to touch type your new language without making a special effort to do so.

If your goal is to become fluent then after a while you will not have a few hundred words to remember, but thousands. I've got more than 11,000 in my Thai deck in Anki. Anki makes storing and categorizing those entries much easier to handle, because it's a database.

There is a learning curve to setting Anki up. There are videos on setting up and using Anki over on youtube. Using a spreadsheet for flashcards is like driving a nail with the handle of a screwdriver.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

Has anyone ever taken any CEFR or CEF test? Many language learners do so to test proficiency. They seem to me good signposts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Eu ... _Languages
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by bryantwfox »

Thoughts on Rosetta Stone for espanol?
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by letsgobobby »

there are so many better and cheaper ways to learn Spanish, in particular.

Buying Rosetta stone for a few hundred bucks is an easy way to feel like you've done something.

But to actually learn Spanish, yo nunca haría así.

I would learn a ton of vocabulary from free Anki flashcards, then get a good grammar and phrase book and learn basic verb tenses, then I would spend some time with a Spanish speaking tutor on iTalki for $10 per hour. In between, read Spanish websites, watch Spanish news or telenovelas, etc., all easily accessible in most parts of the country.

Now if you were trying to learn a less commonlly spoken language like, say, quechua, maybe those kinds of resources aren't widely available and you have to pay, a lot, for a good language experience.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by SeeMoe »

If you have the time and money, and a passport, rent an apartment in Montreal or Quebec City and submerge yourselves in the language . Maybe take courses at Duval where only French is spoken,..Then do a brief " graduate" tour of Paris . :idea:
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by 18B4W8 »

I've had to learn two languages for work, too include sitting in a classroom for 4 months 8hrs a day, as well as living in a foreign country for a few years (in a third language). One of the easiest ways outside of a classroom setting is youtube and childrens books. The most fun is an immersion training in your country of choice. The most important thing to remember is that it takes 5 years to reach "fluency". This is also something that you have to keep up on if you expect to retain it. Another thing to remember is that you will speak with whatever accent you learn. Think about where you grew up in the US and how different we speak with in the South compared to the West Coast.

I did immersion training for a month an loved it. There is no better way to learn a language and culture than to immerse yourself in it. Enjoy!
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

most important thing to remember is that it takes 5 years to reach "fluency".
I totally respect your patience, perseverance, and self-discipline. A hard act to follow but I will try.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by Jazztonight »

First, Happy New Year everyone!

I'm pleased to report that my streak on Duolingo (Spanish) is now 418 days. Am I fluent? Nah, but my vocabulary is probably over 4000 words, and I'm becoming much more comfortable with the various grammatical tenses--past, present, and future.

Thirty years ago and prior to a trip to Zihuatanejo, I took a semester of Spanish at a local community college. Since then, DW and I have traveled many times to Mexico and have had many crazy and wonderful adventures in conversation. Too many to describe.

Last year as a retirement project, I decided to study and improve my Spanish, and that I have done.

Learning a foreign language as an adult has its challenges, but it also has many benefits.

I like and recommend Duolingo. It's free. It's gamified. It's available on most platforms. You can proceed at your own pace. And you can augment it with all of the other study and learning methods described here by others--books, movies, Flashcards, Skype lessons, YouTube, immersion, radio and TV.

Anyway, it works for me!
"What does not destroy me, makes me stronger." Nietzsche
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by denismurf »

If you are young enough and in good physical shape and want to do something for both yourself and your country, visit a military recruiter and wangle an assignment to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA.

If there is a better language school anywhere, I'm not aware of it.

I learned Serbian there in1961, when it was known as the Army Language School, and can still hold my own when travelling to present-day Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

1-

In college in the 60s I always thought that
Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA.
would be a fantastic place to go and learn.

2-
For flash cards:

www.cram.com

3-
Many people like

www.memrise.com

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Happy New Year!!!
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M_to_the_G
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by M_to_the_G »

How quickly you can become fluent in a language depends on your own aptitude (which is actually measurable, for example via the MLAT test), your age, and how hard the language is to learn for someone who grew up speaking your mother tongue. All are important. Young children “absorb” languages naturally with no difficulty, regardless of the language. Stick your American 6 year old in a Chinese 1st grade class and he’ll be fluent in Chinese (at least as much as his classmates) by the end of the semester or year, at the latest, including in the written language. The older you get, the harder it gets. For people who grew up with English as their mother tongue, like most Americans, one of the easiest languages to learn is Spanish. One of the most difficult is Mandarin Chinese. On a side note, Spanish is one of the most difficult languages to learn for people who grew up speaking Mandarin Chinese. French is also relatively easy to learn for an American who grew up speaking English, provided they have some degree of aptitude for it.

The U.S. State Department has discovered that, for an American adult with a reasonable aptitude for language-learning -- and who grew up speaking English -- it takes about 6 months of full-time, immersive instruction to become fluent in French (as in, able to get around, talk about most topics, “get” newspaper articles, talk about abstract topics, understand some poetry/wordplay, etc.). Note: 6 months of full-time, immersive instruction. And that’s “basic” fluency -- you can’t credibly write poetry or understand the nuances of intelligent wordplay in six months. That takes many years. Of course, unless you work for the government, you cannot take State Department language courses, but you can get a similar experience with companies like Berlitz, although six months of full-time instruction (especially one-on-one instruction, which is actually possible) is extremely expensive… as well as extremely demanding and involving. Maybe a retiree with a serious goal of learning French could dedicate themselves to doing that. On a side note, the State Department has discovered that, for the same individual described above, it would take about 2 years of full-time, immersive instruction to become fluent in Mandarin Chinese. That means 5 - 6 hours of daily instruction with 2 - 3 hours of daily homework, 5 days a week, for two years. So no, you cannot learn Chinese in three months. In fact, you cannot learn any language in three months.

As many here have intimated, one cannot become fluent in French by taking high school classes for several reasons: the standards are too low, the classes only meet a few hours a week, and there is no immersion or opportunity for real practice. That is the same problem with Alliance Française. I do not recommend that route if your goal is to seriously become fluent in French. But if you just want to pick up a few phrases and learn how to count in French for an upcoming two-week trip to the Loire Valley, AF classes are probably fine. As for achieving fluency by getting a French girlfriend/wife, I'd just say that I’ve never seen it happen (and I went to lycée in France, lived in France for years, and know many, many French/American couples). If your main mode of communication with said significant other started as English… it’s going to stay English unless you and your significant other truly resolve to speak French with each other or if you move to France and live there. I mean resolve, as in resolve to wage revolution. That’s what it would amount to; much easier said than done.

As for Rosetta Stone (or any of the myriad mail-order or online resource), they can be extremely useful and can give you excellent preparation for a trip to France. I have been impressed with some of the new flashcard programs, for example. And the audio files for listening comprehension review are fantastic. So these new resources are great. You can learn excellent vocabulary and phrases, but to be clear, that is not the same thing as being fluent. Those online resources combined with Skype lessons with a native-speaker teacher, combined with truly dedicated practice, writing, and vocabulary drills, etc. could work. But most people don’t have the discipline to do that on their own. Which is why the Defense Department, State Department, and Berlitz insist on intensive study in a classroom setting with professional instruction and real demands/expectations of progress (and lots of homework)… over relatively long periods. Yes, you can become fluent by moving to France, immersing yourself in French culture (and surrounding yourself with French friends), and marrying a local (with whom you started speaking French first). People do that all the time, but it takes a year or longer before they begin to scratch at the surface of fluency.

Finally, I think it's useful to talk about “fluency” and what it means to “learn a language” because it leads to the question at the heart of this discussion: what is your goal? Again, if you plan to spend a few weeks in France and want to competently order a beer and politely ask a few questions about the weather and your interlocutor’s children, maybe the above resources are fine. If you want to live in France, find work there, start a business (without relying on translators), read a newspaper in the morning on your corner café, and have a serious, animated conversation with a Frenchman about economic/political developments, the above resources will not work. One simply cannot attain that level of fluency on one’s own with tapes, online resources, or Rosetta Stone… unless you are one of the few, exceptional people who have the discipline to do it on their own. When I was in China, I met students at Beijing University who could speak fluent English and who were largely self-taught with whatever resources they could scrape together (magazines, tapes, foreign language partners, etc.). Some of them almost had no Chinese accent, either. I was blown away, but these were also some of the smartest and most ambitious young people on planet Earth. Beijing University is the Harvard of China, only 100 times harder to get into. I wouldn’t hold myself to their standards.

Also, let me head off expected reactions to this by saying that if anyone really could become fluent in any language in 3 months (which is impossible for the simple reason that not all languages are equally difficult to learn, and 6 months is considered the bare minimum even for the easiest of languages… and that’s 6 months of full-time instruction), the government would have been all over that method a long, long time ago. It is incredibly expensive for the State Department to send an employee to full-time, immersive Chinese instruction at the Foreign Service Institute for two years. The same goes for DoD at the Defense Language Institute. During those two years, that employee is not working at his nominal job. If it could be done in three months, we’d be doing it already. So rest assured: it can’t be done.
"It’s basically the plot of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.' If you stick around, doing nothing, while everyone around you ****s up, you’re going to win big." - John Oliver
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GerryL
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by GerryL »

denismurf wrote:If you are young enough and in good physical shape and want to do something for both yourself and your country, visit a military recruiter and wangle an assignment to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA.

If there is a better language school anywhere, I'm not aware of it.

I learned Serbian there in1961, when it was known as the Army Language School, and can still hold my own when travelling to present-day Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro.
I am a graduate of a DLI Russian program. Took me years to get in even though I had very high language test scores, because when I first enlisted in the USAF in 1972 DLI would not accept women. It is a wonderful environment for learning a language, surrounded by people who have a passion for languages. Years later I dreamed of working in the library there. Unfortunately, the assignments out of DLI may not live up to your dreams. My job of a "voice processing specialist" only required listening. No practice speaking. It was also very boring. So if you are interested in foreign languages AND are considering a military career, it's good to know about DLI, but you need to go in with your eyes wide open.
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CountryBoy
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

RE: Postby M_to_the_G » Thu Dec 31, 2015 4:36 pm

Thanks for your very comprehensive response; greatly appreciated.

It is especially appreciated since I am retired and at the starting line of learning the French language(after 3 yrs. in high school) and I believe misplaced expectations can be very crippling and a waste of time.

My goal is probably a B2 level of proficiency on the CEFRL rating. I start with Alliance Francaise in March.

It sounds as if hard work and a whole lot of patience and perseverance are needed.
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M_to_the_G
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by M_to_the_G »

CountryBoy wrote:RE: Postby M_to_the_G » Thu Dec 31, 2015 4:36 pm

Thanks for your very comprehensive response; greatly appreciated.

It is especially appreciated since I am retired and at the starting line of learning the French language(after 3 yrs. in high school) and I believe misplaced expectations can be very crippling and a waste of time.

My goal is probably a B2 level of proficiency on the CEFRL rating. I start with Alliance Francaise in March.

It sounds as if hard work and a whole lot of patience and perseverance are needed.
You are very welcome. :) Enjoy the course! :sharebeer
"It’s basically the plot of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.' If you stick around, doing nothing, while everyone around you ****s up, you’re going to win big." - John Oliver
TravelGeek
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by TravelGeek »

KyleAAA wrote:Pimsleur is excellent to a point but it won't get you past intermediate level on its own. Duolingo is really good for vocabulary. Rosetta Stone is mediocre. A combination of Pimsleur, Duolingo for vocab, and foreign language movies will get you pretty far in a year.
Duolingo is on my to-do list starting tomorrow. I am planning to augment it with Pimsleur CDs from the library and some weeks/months down the road Telemundo (fortunately available OTA here). The TV route has worked well for me in the past. Immersion from the comfort of my couch :)
cbeck
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by cbeck »

M_to_the_G wrote:How quickly you can become fluent in a language depends on your own aptitude (which is actually measurable, for example via the MLAT test), your age, and how hard the language is to learn for someone who grew up speaking your mother tongue. All are important. ...
This is the most intelligent post on the subject I have encountered anywhere. Although all of these caveats are all too true, it is nevertheless also true that, if you are motivated enough and willing to do the work, you can probably succeed. But most late language learners vastly underestimate the difficulty involved and then choose a method for its convenience rather than likelihood of success. And shortly after that they give up.
jridger2011
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by jridger2011 »

I think a full immersion is needed to really learn and enjoy the second language. This includes listening to music and watching shows/movies in that language. The hardest part is getting the vocabulary big enough, learning the tenses, plural and singular, and knowing idioms. A Chinese man told me once that learning a few hundred Chinese characters is enough to get by to read almost anything. When he tried to learn a few hundred English words because of tenses and plural, it was not very helpful. Living in the US, I find that Spanish is very useful and will try to learn as much as possible!
FedGuy
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by FedGuy »

M_to_the_G wrote:How quickly you can become fluent in a language depends on your own aptitude (which is actually measurable, for example via the MLAT test)
Is there a way for me to take the MLAT test if I don't work for an employer that uses it? I always did reasonably well in my language classes in school, but attribute that more to perseverance than natural aptitude, and have never been able to develop even basic proficiency at a level that would be even superficially useful in the real world. I'd always assumed that I was just bad with languages, but would be interested in an objective assessment of my aptitude.
cbeck
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by cbeck »

FedGuy wrote:
M_to_the_G wrote:How quickly you can become fluent in a language depends on your own aptitude (which is actually measurable, for example via the MLAT test)
Is there a way for me to take the MLAT test if I don't work for an employer that uses it? I always did reasonably well in my language classes in school, but attribute that more to perseverance than natural aptitude, and have never been able to develop even basic proficiency at a level that would be even superficially useful in the real world. I'd always assumed that I was just bad with languages, but would be interested in an objective assessment of my aptitude.
It's possible that you are especially lacking in the talent for learning languages and that this is what is holding you back, but I very much doubt it. The biggest hindrance for Americans is the American conviction that learning a second language is a) unimportant and b) requires a special talent. This is in fact a debilitating attitude, but getting Americans to notice it is like trying to explain water to a fish. The European attitude, by contrast, is a) anyone can learn another language if he just does the work and b) any educated person speaks at least English in addition to his mother tongue and probably other languages as well.

None of my American friends, all of whom went to good schools and were successful in their careers, is fluent in a second language with one possible exception. And none of them is embarrassed by that fact. One of my most intelligent friends insists that those who do become fluent in a second language have a special talent that others lack. The American attitude on mathematics is similar: it's for those specially gifted in mathematics and hopeless for the rest of us. Differences in individual ability occur in every human endeavor, but we don't accept, for instance, that the ability to read is only for those who are good at reading. Everyone must learn to read. The education system in the the Netherlands evidently requires all students to study English for twelve years. The result is that you can have a conversation in English with a Dutch streetsweeper.

Learning a second language is exactly about perseverance and enduring frustration which even the talented cannot escape. There's no way around that. You can succeed if you decide that you will never quit. But that's a big "if."
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CountryBoy
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by CountryBoy »

Learning a second language is exactly about perseverance and enduring frustration which even the talented cannot escape. There's no way around that. You can succeed if you decide that you will never quit. But that's a big "if."
Thank you.
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Re: How to learn a second language

Post by MoonOrb »

I've been thinking about this thread as I renew my efforts to learn French, and I've decided that my goal for fluency is to be about as fluent as a 6 year old. Not a huge vocabulary, not a sophisticated vocabulary, a very limited ability to talk about specialized or abstract things, but the ability to understand most of what I hear, read simple texts, and be understood when I speak.

My other aspirational goal is to be able to read the entire Harry Potter series, and I'm not really sure what that would mean if I ever am able to do that. But I assume that if I'm actually able to do it then I will have achieved something pretty awesome.

1 hour and 17 minutes devoted to French today toward my goal of 300 hours by November 11, 2016.
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