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Thread: What language-learning tools/strategies helped you the most?

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    No Thank You Blorg's Avatar
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    What language-learning tools/strategies helped you the most?

    As someone who lives in a country where English isn't the main language, whenever I run into someone who speaks English flawlessly, they either:
    -spent time (even half a year) in another country
    -played video games in English

    But I don't know if there are underlying variables that are the real reasons for why they picked up on it so well. English learners who are willing to play video games in English might be better at figuring out what words mean from context, whereas someone else might get frustrated and uninstall the game because they can't figure anything out - in that case the underlying reason might actually be innate connection-making skills. For the ones who studied abroad, they probably have money, and therefore had the ability to invest in other language-learning tools too.

    So what helped you? Even if you're not completely fluent in a 2nd (3rd...) language, what's been the best tool/strategy so far?
    Last edited by Blorg; 01-10-2019 at 03:58 PM. Reason: mild derambling

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    None. I just can't seem to catch on. Maybe nootropics (SEMAX + selank + alpha-GPC, pramiracetam, etc) and brainwave entrainment audio would help you.

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    Hasta Siempre Madrigal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blorg View Post
    So what helped you? Even if you're not completely fluent in a 2nd (3rd...) language, what's been the best tool/strategy so far?
    Transcription. The main obstacle is that this is hard, and boring.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    Heh. We've been here years now.

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    Senior Member Senseye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blorg View Post
    But I don't know if there are underlying variables that are the real reasons for why they picked up on it so well.
    I've from the school of thought that some people have an innate talent for language. Just like music.

    This is not to say that one cannot learn a new language through hard work (and exposure). Most people who immigrate eventually do. But some people just seem to have a knack. I am not one of them.

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    Utisz's Avatar
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    The main thing is to make it an essential part of your life (as a job, as part of where you live, as part of a hobby you enjoy) so that you have to think in the language rather than about it. It's really a brute force exercise of stuffing your head with the language; unless you are super disciplined or passionate, the only way it seems to succeed with that is to find a way to make it so that the stuffing of your head with the language is a byproduct of something else (playing video games seems pretty sound to me in that respect).

    I also think that the idea of "learning a language" is perhaps an oversimplification, or maybe better to say that it's a compound of many things. For example, you can pick up a lot of vocabulary and grammar by reading, but it won't help your pronunciation or aural understanding. Maybe then the secret to learning a language is having different tools/strategies/modes of learning that flex different language muscles.

    I've noticed that different people also have different "styles" of getting by in a foreign language. There was a talk at work today by a gringo and he presented in Spanish. I don't know how he learnt, but in general, his accent was quite thick, he mangled the pronunciation of particular syllables, he made quite a few mistakes, but it didn't really matter at all: I was really impressed by his "fluency", meaning that he never once umm'ed or ahh'ed, he never paused or struggled for a word (except maybe once when he said protestants instead of protesters and had to quick change to talking about protests instead), and in general he expressed himself very naturally and fluidly and held the audience very well. This is something I struggle with and I think it's personality based. I hear myself misspeaking and stop to correct myself or try pronounce better or at least get distracted by it; a phrase pops into my head but I don't trust it so I'll simplify; I can see what I want to say but I'll get stuck thinking of the right phrasing. It depends on the context of course, but I can get lost in my own head sometimes when I speak in Spanish.

    I guess there's a trade-off here somewhere, like the more conscious form of speaking lends itself to improving over time in formal aspects of the language, but the unconscious form lends itself to a more informal fluency, and really I think that natives appreciate more the latter than the former. (I'm probably more sensitive to small errors in the language than your average native speaker would be since the language is more subconscious for them.)

    Anyways, after 5+ years living and working in a country that speaks Spanish and not so much English ... after 200+ hours of teaching in the language, and god knows how many conversing in it ... yeah I get by, but I'm still not fluent ... maybe sometimes I feel fluent, but that can be undone by me stumbling and hearing myself talk like a unripened gringo in the very next sentence.

    It can feel pretty luxurious to have a face-to-face conversation with a native English speaker sometimes, like slipping into a warm bath in the middle of a cold winter.

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    Utisz's Avatar
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    (Also I'm curious about whether hearing native English speakers speak in other languages with a thick accent is universally cringe, or if it's just because I'm one of them? Like to me someone speaking English with a thick Spanish accent is kind of charming, but the other way around is instinctively a bit cringe, even if I am/was like that. I wonder if, for example, a native Spanish speaker would find the situation reversed.)

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    Hasta Siempre Madrigal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Utisz View Post
    (Also I'm curious about whether hearing native English speakers speak in other languages with a thick accent is universally cringe, or if it's just because I'm one of them? Like to me someone speaking English with a thick Spanish accent is kind of charming, but the other way around is instinctively a bit cringe, even if I am/was like that. I wonder if, for example, a native Spanish speaker would find the situation reversed.)
    You don't have a thick accent. There's a stereotype of the American who speaks Spanish as if he were reading the language in his own phonetics (which sounds awful), but I find that hardly anyone actually speaks that way, unless they're saying a few words (like they got them right out of a travel guide) and don't actually speak Spanish. I mean, the stereotype exists, but it's rare, I think.

    I have heard Spaniards doing this with English, and it sounds just as awful. Spaniards apparently give fewer shits about pronunciation than Latin Americans.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    Heh. We've been here years now.

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    No Thank You Blorg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Senseye View Post
    I've from the school of thought that some people have an innate talent for language. Just like music.

    This is not to say that one cannot learn a new language through hard work (and exposure). Most people who immigrate eventually do. But some people just seem to have a knack. I am not one of them.
    I think so too. So far, I have observed two types of language knacks. For example, one of my students is opposed to being taught. He's offended when I correct him (which I still do, often, because otherwise I don't see why I should be paid). But somehow, he's fluent, in the sense that he speaks without effort or pauses. I think it has to do with his extraversion. The other type of knack is what my 12 year old student has. In his case, I think it's because he focuses so hard during the lessons. He doesn't like the games that I play with my other young students; he really wants to learn, and it's not fun for him, but he's determined to do it. I don't exactly know why. But focus and dedication is one way to get there...and the type of focus he has, I'd consider a talent, a knack, and it's definitely something I don't have when it comes to language.

    Quote Originally Posted by Utisz View Post
    The main thing is to make it an essential part of your life (as a job, as part of where you live, as part of a hobby you enjoy) so that you have to think in the language rather than about it. It's really a brute force exercise of stuffing your head with the language; unless you are super disciplined or passionate, the only way it seems to succeed with that is to find a way to make it so that the stuffing of your head with the language is a byproduct of something else (playing video games seems pretty sound to me in that respect).

    I also think that the idea of "learning a language" is perhaps an oversimplification, or maybe better to say that it's a compound of many things. For example, you can pick up a lot of vocabulary and grammar by reading, but it won't help your pronunciation or aural understanding. Maybe then the secret to learning a language is having different tools/strategies/modes of learning that flex different language muscles.
    This is a good point...and I hear it's especially true for adults, who learn languages differently from children who are learning additional languages. For adults, the rote memorization tends to come more easily at first, but pronunciation is much more difficult, and as their studying progresses, children tend to eventually surpass adults in terms of the rote memorization too. (at least if I remember correctly)

    I've noticed that different people also have different "styles" of getting by in a foreign language. There was a talk at work today by a gringo and he presented in Spanish. I don't know how he learnt, but in general, his accent was quite thick, he mangled the pronunciation of particular syllables, he made quite a few mistakes, but it didn't really matter at all: I was really impressed by his "fluency", meaning that he never once umm'ed or ahh'ed, he never paused or struggled for a word (except maybe once when he said protestants instead of protesters and had to quick change to talking about protests instead), and in general he expressed himself very naturally and fluidly and held the audience very well. This is something I struggle with and I think it's personality based. I hear myself misspeaking and stop to correct myself or try pronounce better or at least get distracted by it; a phrase pops into my head but I don't trust it so I'll simplify; I can see what I want to say but I'll get stuck thinking of the right phrasing. It depends on the context of course, but I can get lost in my own head sometimes when I speak in Spanish.

    I guess there's a trade-off here somewhere, like the more conscious form of speaking lends itself to improving over time in formal aspects of the language, but the unconscious form lends itself to a more informal fluency, and really I think that natives appreciate more the latter than the former. (I'm probably more sensitive to small errors in the language than your average native speaker would be since the language is more subconscious for them.)

    Anyways, after 5+ years living and working in a country that speaks Spanish and not so much English ... after 200+ hours of teaching in the language, and god knows how many conversing in it ... yeah I get by, but I'm still not fluent ... maybe sometimes I feel fluent, but that can be undone by me stumbling and hearing myself talk like a unripened gringo in the very next sentence.

    It can feel pretty luxurious to have a face-to-face conversation with a native English speaker sometimes, like slipping into a warm bath in the middle of a cold winter.
    Yeah, I agree with this, the people I meet almost always have far worse opinions of their English abilities than I do. In casual conversation, the small errors stick out to them way more than they do to me. I've often had long conversations in English with people whose first words to me were, "I don't speak English, but..."

    Quote Originally Posted by Utisz View Post
    (Also I'm curious about whether hearing native English speakers speak in other languages with a thick accent is universally cringe, or if it's just because I'm one of them? Like to me someone speaking English with a thick Spanish accent is kind of charming, but the other way around is instinctively a bit cringe, even if I am/was like that. I wonder if, for example, a native Spanish speaker would find the situation reversed.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Madrigal View Post
    You don't have a thick accent. There's a stereotype of the American who speaks Spanish as if he were reading the language in his own phonetics (which sounds awful), but I find that hardly anyone actually speaks that way, unless they're saying a few words (like they got them right out of a travel guide) and don't actually speak Spanish. I mean, the stereotype exists, but it's rare, I think.

    I have heard Spaniards doing this with English, and it sounds just as awful. Spaniards apparently give fewer shits about pronunciation than Latin Americans.
    When people here are confronted with a tourist/foreigner trying to speak their new duolingo phrases, mostly they just immediately start talking in English because they can't begin to understand what the English speaker was trying to communicate. I think it's more of a practical thing than an aesthetic judgment, and many people are also pleased when foreigners make the effort. But it's a whispery language, so American English accents in particular sound wrong and jarring to me and I always hope that's not what I sound like.

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    IMO, languages tend to be best learned passively/peripherally. Immersion in a culture that speaks the language, for example. Nootropics aid with memory, mental clarity, and fluidity. It also seems better to catch on to the patterns of a language than to blindly memorize words.

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    Senior Member Guess Who's Avatar
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    I heard about a study that was done (by the US military I think) to find out why some people learnt a foreign language quickly while others struggled. The key factor identified was the fear of making mistakes. People who are afraid of making mistakes use the language less so progress more slowly and their slow progress may result in them giving up.

    My advice for learning a foreign language would be to be bold and jump in enthusiastically and stop worrying about not being able to fully understand or be understood.

    If I was teaching children, I'd give them lots of writing exercises that I'd correct. It could be as simple as writing sentences incorporating a particular word or grammar pattern. The more talented /motivated students might choose to write journal entries.

    Motivating children is really about building a relationship with them. Take an interest in them as individuals and take their needs into consideration. This will build their confidence and make them more willing to do the things you ask of them. If something makes them anxious, encourage them to do only what they can but don't force them.
    Love displaces fear

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