leosmith's recent topics

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Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
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English
Learning Tagalog
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai

Hi everyone. As you know, the community voted to have German Conversations created. It took me a while to find voice actors, but we finally started it. Here is the first conversation - what do you think?

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Posted
level
36
Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Tagalog
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai

Note: here are all the languages we have in work. These can all be found in the Reading Tool. 


Swahili – 135 conversation (complete)

Cantonese – 100 conversations (complete)

South African English - 10 conversations (complete)

Tagalog – 110 conversations (complete)

Russian - 100 conversations (complete)

Spanish - 100 conversations (complete)

Mandarin - 100 conversations (complete)

French - 13 (in work)

Cebuano - 8 (in work)

Thai - 6 (in work)

German - 1 (in work)


You may have heard me say from time to time that if your highest priority is conversing in your L2, then conversation should be your most valued source for learning. I’m not saying it should be the only source, but pound per pound I believe it’s the best source.


To be fair, I think it does depend on what stage you’re in. Beginners may not have the skills required to do what I’m suggesting. Also, this stage goes by quickly and seems to be handled nicely by the wealth of beginner learning material out there. Advanced learners may already be very good communicators and everyday conversation might not tax them enough. In addition, they are much more likely to use native material to improve. The remainder is the period I’m talking about – the long intermediate slog. That’s when I suggest learners should really focus on conversation.


Here’s an example of what I’m recommending: taking notes during a conversation, writing down items your partner says that you don’t understand, writing down things you didn’t know how to say, and memorizing/reviewing these items before your next conversation. I’ve found this to be my single most effective exercise to improve my vocabulary and grammar in actual conversations. 


But what about reading and listening? It probably doesn’t surprise you that I recommend reading transcripts of and listening to actual conversations. I think it’s more effective for improving your conversation than reading and listening to non-conversation items (news, books, TV scripts, text messages, etc). Don’t get me wrong – there is a time and place for reading and listening to those things and they are very helpful. I’m not going to get into the other items here; read and listen to everything but let the core of your method be conversations if your main goal is to improve your conversation. 


The problem is – where do you get these conversations? You could have your personal conversations transcribed and recorded so that you could read and listen to them. That’s a good start, but it’s a pretty time-consuming task. Also, vocab/grammar would be limited compared to a conversation between two native speakers, so it may be better suited to the beginner period. And as I said above, the beginner period is handled pretty well with existing beginner materials.


That’s why we’ve created LT Conversations. These are conversations between two native speakers. We use a mixture of female-male, female-female and male-male for variety, but each conversation is between two native speakers and about six minutes long. We make 100 of these for each language selected, which gives you about 10 hours of reading and listening to actual conversations. I hope this will be enough to prepare the learner for real native material. To be clear, I’m not saying I expect the learner to understand native material completely after finishing LT conversations; my goal is that they will have the base needed to start to dig into native material designed by natives for natives. In theory, “learning” material should no longer be required.  


While creating these, I had a hard time trying to figure out whether they were intermediate or advanced. I settled on intermediate mainly because it’s pretty much impossible to get people to talk to each other normally while covering the things I want them to cover, not talk on top of each other, not use loanwords and speak clearly without some reduction in difficulty. The voice actors tend to create some sort of script to satisfy all of my requirements, even though I’ve asked them not to. I could probably work with teams more closely and intensively to get a more advance product, but that would be more expensive and time consuming, so they are what they are. Good intermediate conversations.


Now I should mention that one of the sweetest things about these conversations is that they’re located in our reading tool already to go. Put your cursor over a word and a definition will pop up; click it and it will change state and color and you can add new definitions. This makes reading much more accessible. As I hinted above, this reading/listening is meant to be just a component of your learning method. I recommend that if you’re going to be memorizing and reviewing vocabulary and grammar you should get them from your personal conversations. But that’s not to say you can’t do it with these conversations - you can go into your own vocabulary database in the reading tool, manicure it, export it to anki etc, if that’s what you want to do. But I personally prefer to let the mouseover definitions and shading do the work for me, read as seamlessly as possible without too many interruptions, and put my memorizing and reviewing efforts into my personal conversations. 

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Edited
level
36
Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Tagalog
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai

This is for the reading tool. It pulls word definitions from Google Translate, but it will also have the option of giving you definitions from your favorite dictionaries. So if you have suggestions of dictionaries to add, please list them here.


Complied list:


Cantonese

http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/scripts/parse_chinese.php


Cebuano

http://www.bohol.ph/wced.php


English

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary


French

http://www.wordreference.com/fren

https://www.linguee.com/english-french

https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionnaire:Page_d%E2%80%99accueil


German

https://dict.leo.org/german-english

https://en.pons.com/

https://tureng.com/en/german-english/

https://www.linguee.com/english-german


Hebrew

https://www.morfix.co.il/en/


Hungarian

https://topszotar.hu/magyarangol/ 


Indonesian

https://www.kamus.net/


Japanese

https://jisho.org

http://www.edrdg.org/cgi-bin/wwwjdic/wwwjdic


Korean

http://dic.daum.net/index.do?dic=eng

https://ko.dict.naver.com/


Mandarin

https://www.mdbg.net/chinese/dictionary

https://www.yellowbridge.com/chinese/chinese-dictionary.php


Portuguese

https://dicionario.priberam.org/


Spanish

http://www.thai-language.com/dict

http://www.spanishdict.com/dictionary

http://dle.rae.es/

http://www.wordreference.com/

https://es.thefreedictionary.com/

http://context.reverso.net/translation/[/quote]


Russian

http://www.wordreference.com/ruen

https://ru.wiktionary.org/wiki/слово


Swahili

https://africanlanguages.com/swahili/


Scottish Gaelic

https://learngaelic.net/dictionary/index.jsp


Tagalog

https://www.filipinolessons.com/dictionary


Thai

http://www.thai-language.com/dict

https://www.thai2english.com/


Turkish

https://tureng.com/en/turkish-english/



I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Edited
level
36
Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Tagalog
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai

(Originally published in 2014)

There is quite a lot of discussion on the internet about the importance of pronunciation. It’s not necessary to have native-like pronunciation, but your pronunciation should be good enough so that a native speaker will understand you easily. I recommend really trying to sound like a native, within the time allotted for pronunciation in a well balanced language plan, and leaving it at that if you are easily understood. But try to be very honest with yourself regarding how well your pronunciation is understood. Recording yourself and sharing with others is a brutal but very good way to check your understandability. Fossilized pronunciation errors can be very painful to fix, so work hard on it in the beginning.


My experiences with Thai pronunciation. I’m going to talk about Thai now because I made lots of mistakes with it, and learned a lot about pronunciation in general in the process. I started using a textbook. The textbook explained pronunciation thoroughly, which is impressive because Thai is a tonal language with varying vowel lengths. They defined and used their own transliteration system too. The text came with audio, which was also pretty good. The text introduced the writing system gradually. I did the bare minimum regarding reading and writing. I didn’t even do the reading exercises in the back of the book. I had never learned a non-latin script before, and was very intimidated. Fortunately, I found the transliteration easy to understand. But I pretty much ignored tones and vowel length. When I listened to the audio, I didn’t really like the way the natives pronounced, so I just repeated the sentences in my own way. I went to Thailand for a long vacation, and was not understood at all. I was shocked – I’d been learning Thai for 9 months, and it was a total waste of time. This was all due to bad pronunciation.


I came home and decided to hire a Thai tutor. She helped me pronounce one vowel I was having trouble with. She stressed the importance of tones, and I was able to make three distinct tones without much effort. Unfortunately, there are five tones, and I still wasn’t distinguishing between long and short vowels. This was not the teacher’s fault. I still didn’t believe these things were so important, so I didn’t want to make the effort to fix the problem. The next trip to Thailand I was understood to a degree, but still frustrated. I could produce vocabulary and grammar correctly and fluidly most of the time, but I was only understood about half the time.


I returned home again. Over the next few years I got to where I was producing four tones, and doing a little better with my vowel length. I was understood most of the time now, but still had some very frustrating moments where I would say a sentence or even just a word that I knew was right, but got blank stares. This was not because my face is non-Asian. After analyzing things when I cooled off, it was usually a vowel length problem, but sometimes that missing fifth tone.


It wasn’t until the last 2 or 3 years that I decided to make a serious effort to get my tones and vowel length straight. I stopped reading for speed. Now I read as fast as I can with correct pronunciation. I write now, because Thai is sort of phonetic, which means if I can remember how to spell it I can remember how to pronounce it. Why am I struggling so much? Because I’ve been learning Thai for over 10 years now. I’m roughly at the B2 level, and know thousands of words. So I’ve probably been mispronouncing well over 1000 words for many years. That’s called fossilization, and it’s time consuming and tedious to fix. But it’s not impossible. Last time I went to Thailand, I was well understood. I still have problems, but my pronunciation is much better.


So please work on pronunciation from the start. Avoid fossilization. I get this feeling of regret when I realize how good my Thai pronunciation could have been now if I had just cared in the beginning. When you do your pronunciation, follow the steps in Synergy, and make an effort to copy every single aspect of the sound. Of course you won’t have perfect pronunciation after these exercises, but caring about it from the beginning will make a huge difference down the road. 



Chinese & Japanese pronunciation – an exception to Step 1 of Synergy. During your pre-learning research for Chinese or Japanese, you are bound to find out that you will have to learn thousands of characters. This is the type of “unique aspect” I was talking about that requires additional thought, or a different approach. Step 1 of Synergy requires you to learn the orthography while you learn the pronunciation of words. That would be very time consuming for these languages. I don’t recommend putting all other aspects on hold until you learn all the characters and their pronunciations. Instead, use transliteration (pinyin for Mandarin, kana for Japanese, etc). This is one of the few cases where transliteration is ok. Remember that, if the language has them, learning tones and their sandhi are absolutely required at this stage. Other than that, just follow Step 1. How you eventually integrate actual characters into your study plan will be left for another post.



Thai pronunciation – another exception to step 1 or 2? Thai doesn’t have an alphabet; it has an abugida. But that’s just a technicality. It’s fairly phonetic, so based on that it would seem logical that it wouldn’t take much time to learn. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. It’s unlike any other alphabet I’ve worked with. It consistently tops the list of the world’s hardest alphabets in the forum discussions I see. It’s unlikely that you will be able to read correctly pronounced single words with confidence in less than 50 hours of study. And reading sentences often requires that you know the individual words, due to the lack of spaces between words. If you don’t know where the word breaks are, you can’t pronounce correctly. I think a person who has successfully learned a language with a different script before could spend under 100 hours up front with Thai script and avoid using transliteration. But for all others, I recommend using transliteration at first, and weaning themselves off of it as they learn the script, vocabulary and grammar in parallel.



Does delaying speech lead to better pronunciation? As I’ve mentioned in other posts, you absolutely must listen to the correct native pronunciation before repeating it in Steps 1 and 2. Reading before listening is probably the main cause of incorrect pronunciation. So delaying speech until after you hear the pronunciation is critical. But I occasionally hear that you should just listen to the language, for several dozen to several hundred hours depending on the pundit, before doing anything else. And one of the benefits they claim the learner will get is native like pronunciation. I remember when I started learning Mandarin several years ago, several forum members tried to convince me that I needed to listen for at least 700 hours before doing anything else, otherwise my pronunciation would be terrible. Well, I didn’t do it, and my pronunciation is fine. Most of the people I read about who try this live to regret it. The few I have read about who do it and still believe it’s a good idea don’t claim to have significantly better pronunciation. Therefore, due to all its other benefits, I believe starting speech early, as spelled out in Synergy, is a better method.



Don’t model after songs or non-natives. When you are in the early stages of learning a language, you want to use standard native audio to model your pronunciation on. Although I have read lots of people recommend you start learning languages by listening to songs, I think it’s a bad idea. If singing is the main source of your pronunciation, then you can very easily develop the same kind of non-standard speech that you hear in the songs. This is especially true of tonal languages - singers change tones to match the surrounding lyrics and it's understood in the song, but people won't understand in conversation. Of course it’s ok to listen to target language music; just don’t use it to model your pronunciation on. Also, don’t mimic non-native or non-standard speakers in your formative stages if your goal is standard speech.



Learn the linguistics of pronunciation. I admit to knowing almost nothing about linguistics. In the past few years, having studied so many languages, I’ve begun to realize how helpful it would have been to know the linguistics of pronunciation. There are times when I’ve practiced a sound until I’m blue in the face, and still get it wrong. The idea that knowing the linguistic terms for a given sound, along with the audio, will allow the linguist to produce the sound correctly is very appealing. For example, I know what the term “aspirated” means. After producing and aspirated consonant, I can feel a puff of air if I put my hand in front of my mouth. I can’t after an unaspirated consonant. I learned that Thai consonants at the end of a word aren’t aspirated, and knowing that helped my pronunciation. Many Thais have trouble pronouncing English words that end in an aspirated consonant. When I explain aspirated to them, their pronunciation improves. I believe knowing some linguistics would be very useful to the aspiring (no pun intended) polyglot. Although I wish I learned some earlier, I hope to study it in the future.


I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Posted
level
36
Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Tagalog
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai

I have some budget left for Tagalog conversations, so I need about 25 new topics. They should not be about sex, politics, religion or corona (too depressing, lol). Also, no duplicate topics. Here is what we have conversations for so far: 

Tagalog Conversations 001 Trip to Boracay

Tagalog Conversations 002 Holidays

Tagalog Conversations 003 Tribes in the Philippines

Tagalog Conversations 004 Dating

Tagalog Conversations 005 Snakes

Tagalog Conversations 006 Trip to Palawan

Tagalog Conversations 007 Taking the Bus 

Tagalog Conversations 008 Climbing Mt. Apo

Tagalog Conversations 009 The Market

Tagalog Conversations 010 Adobo

Tagalog Conversations 011 Banaue

Tagalog Conversations 012 Your Hometown

Tagalog Conversations 013 Physical Exercise

Tagalog Conversations 014 Animals

Tagalog Conversations 015 Gifts

Tagalog Conversations 016 Friends

Tagalog Conversations 017 Rain

Tagalog Conversations 018 Music

Tagalog Conversations 019 Leisure Time

Tagalog Conversations 020 Sleep

Tagalog Conversations 021 Popular Websites

Tagalog Conversations 022 Weekends

Tagalog Conversations 023 Flowers

Tagalog Conversations 024 City life

Tagalog Conversations 025 Noise

Tagalog Conversations 026 Family life

Tagalog Conversations 027 Photographs

Tagalog Conversations 028 Birds

Tagalog Conversations 029 Cooking

Tagalog Conversations 030 Dance

Tagalog Conversations 031 Shopping

Tagalog Conversations 032 Secondary school

Tagalog Conversations 033 Restaurants

Tagalog Conversations 034 Letters

Tagalog Conversations 035 Television

Tagalog Conversations 036 Radio

Tagalog Conversations 037 Travel

Tagalog Conversations 038 Bicycles

Tagalog Conversations 039 Weather

Tagalog Conversations 040 Movies

Tagalog Conversations 041 Clothes

Tagalog Conversations 042 Languages

Tagalog Conversations 043 Primary School Years

Tagalog Conversations 044 Visitors 

Tagalog Conversations 045 Musical Instruments

Tagalog Conversations 046 National Parks

Tagalog Conversations 047 People's Ages

Tagalog Conversations 048 Computers

Tagalog Conversations 049 Meals

Tagalog Conversations 050 Drawing

Tagalog Conversations 051 reading

Tagalog Conversations 052 games

Tagalog Conversations 053 emails

Tagalog Conversations 054 transportation

Tagalog Conversations 055 telephones

Tagalog Conversations 056 sports

Tagalog Conversations 057 newspapers

Tagalog Conversations 058 housework

Tagalog Conversations 059 local parks

Tagalog Conversations 060 seasons

Tagalog Conversations 061 names

Tagalog Conversations 062 gardens

Tagalog Conversations 063 teachers

Tagalog Conversations 064 art

Tagalog Conversations 065 archeology

Tagalog Conversations 066 internet

Tagalog Conversations 067 food

Tagalog Conversations 068 fruit

Tagalog Conversations 069 evenings

Tagalog Conversations 070 mornings

Tagalog Conversations 071 Parties

Tagalog Conversations 072 Swimming

Tagalog Conversations 073 Writing

Tagalog Conversations 074 Plans and Goals

Tagalog Conversations 075 Going Out

Tagalog Conversations 076 Vegetables

Tagalog Conversations 077 Advertisements

Tagalog Conversations 078 Driving

Tagalog Conversations 079 Time

Tagalog Conversations 080 Neighbors

Tagalog Conversations 081 plays

Tagalog Conversations 082 magazines

Tagalog Conversations 083 collecting

Tagalog Conversations 084 subsistence farming

Tagalog Conversations 085 colors

Tagalog Conversations 086 flying

Tagalog Conversations 087 the ocean

Tagalog Conversations 088 meeting people

Tagalog Conversations 089 painting

Tagalog Conversations 090 concerts

Tagalog Conversations 091 science

Tagalog Conversations 092 outdoors activities

Tagalog Conversations 093 handmade things

Tagalog Conversations 094 numbers

Tagalog Conversations 095 happiness

Tagalog Conversations 096 meat

Tagalog Conversations 097 children

Tagalog Conversations 098 Mosquitos

Tagalog Conversations 099 toys

Tagalog Conversations 100 weddings

Tagalog Conversations 101 Typical Mistakes (mistakes that foreigners make in the language and culture)

Tagalog Conversations 102 Taste in Media (How people's personal taste in media has changed over time and how it compares to broader trends)

Tagalog Conversations 103 Home/Car Disasters (for example, the times a machine ate your money and gave you no coffee, something got stuck despite you pushing the right button, car broke down, door got stuck, heating didn't work, etc)

Tagalog Conversations 104 Clothes and Shoes (for example, what type of shoes do you want, what qualities do you want from the skirt you're looking for, etc)

Tagalog Conversations 105 Food you Like or Dislike (what it is, how it is different from something else, etc)

Tagalog Conversations 106 finding a house (renting vs buying, getting approved, etc)

Tagalog Conversations 107 Funny stories from one's own childhood or a family member's childhood

Tagalog Conversations 108 Philippine Dogs

Tagalog Conversations 109 Market 

Tagalog Conversations 110 Work Experience

Tagalog Conversations 111 Role of woman in society (any changes over time)

Tagalog Conversations 112 National impressions (opinions on neighbouring countries eg Indonesia, Japan and perception of immigrants from these countries living in Pinas)

Tagalog Conversations 113 dating and romance (bad dates, how the met a partner, breaking up etc),

Tagalog Conversations 114 worst job, easiest job

Tagalog Conversations 115 Scandals (well known national stories of business leaders or celebrities that fell from grace)

Tagalog Conversations 116 Big Moments (Famous moments in the country that you remember when they were a kid or an adult and what it was like to live through that at the time for instance some national sporting triumph, flood etc.)

Tagalog Conversations 117 Pm2.5 (What can be done to prevent farmers from burning? They are poor and it is cheaper and easier for them do it so they won't stop unless the punishment is severe or if there are rewards for doing it safely. What should be done?

Tagalog Conversations 118 Relationships with Foreigners (How do most thais view pinoy/foreign relationships?)

Tagalog Conversations 119 Auto Fatalities 

Tagalog Conversations 120 Change 3 things (If you could change any 3 things about modern pinoy culture/society/government what would they be)

Tagalog Conversations 121 Scams in the Philippines (that tourists should be aware of)


I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Posted
level
36
Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Tagalog
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai

Edit: Many people are nominating languages that are already in work. To see which languages are in work, check here.

Also, many people are nominating languages that are already nominated. To see which languages are nominated, look at the list on the bottom of this post. 


Would you like to have 100 natural conversations, text and audio, in the language you are studying? We have created these already for several languages; see if yours is here already. It is a time consuming, costly process to make these, so we are adding them slowly. I selected the last group of languages based on how busy the language is at LT – how many passages have already been created, and how many users are studying it. But this time I’ve decided to let you users vote a language in. First, please nominate one (1) language by posting below. After a week, I will make a poll and ask you all to vote. Good luck in advance!    


Nominated so far:

Arabic

Basque

Bulgarian

German

Hebrew

Hindi

Italian

Japanese 

Latin

Polish

Turkish

Western Armenian

Persian 


Edit: polling has started here. It was pointed out that I forgot Persian, so I added it after the poll was created.

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Edited
level
36
Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Tagalog
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai

Ok, you nominated the languages here. Now it's time to vote. Good luck!

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Posted
level
36
Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Tagalog
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai

Question: Which is more colloquial? I'll keep running total here of the sum from all sources, including this one.

1) magandang bahay ko (1)

2) maganda kong bahay (6) 

3) aking magandang bahay (1)

4) bahay na maganda ko

5) bahay kong maganda (3)

6) aking bahay na maganda


I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Edited
level
36
Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Tagalog
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai

(Note - this is independent of the poll for new languages)

I just wanted to share the good news that I finally got some response to some old ads of mine, and we have located some voice actors for Thai and Cebuano. I will add them to this list as soon as they are officially in work. 

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Posted
level
36
Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Tagalog
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai

(edit: total from all input, including this site)

Question for native Tagalog speakers or advanced learners: Which is more colloquial?

1) Sino ang magagandang babae? 2

2) Sinu-sino ang magagandang babae? 2

3) Sino ang mga magandang babae? 2

4) Sinu-sino ang mga magandang babae? 

5) Sino ang mga magagandang babae? 3

6) Sinu-sino ang mga magagandang babae? 1



I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Edited
level
36
Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Tagalog
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai

Hello everyone, this is an important announcement so please read. People who join Language Tools on or after June 1, 2020 will have to pay $5/month for a premium membership to use the Reading Tool in its fullest capacity. Current members, and those who join before June 1, will be free premium members for life. So please tell your friends, especially those who have been considering joining, that this is the best time.


Free members who join after June 1 and use the Reading Tool will still be able to read the text and listen to the audio, but won’t be able to use the mouse-over dictionary, get definitions by clicking words, import/export vocabulary, etc. 


Not only is the reading tool extremely convenient for reading any article you want to upload, but we also have lots of material in the library, and it grows daily. Non-members can now browse the library without having to join: https://languagetools.io/reading


Thanks for being part of Language Tools!

Leo


I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Edited
level
36
Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Tagalog
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai

I think https://www.tagaloglessons.com/ is the best online Tagalog dictionary by far. It's constantly growing and being improved. Not only can you key in an English or Tagalog word to get definitions, but you can key in a root and get all associated words. Verbs appear in their infinitive form, but include all aspects in the definition. There are thousands of example sentences. 


In addition to the dictionary there are lessons, games, flashcards, and a nice forum. highly recommended!

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Posted
level
36
Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Tagalog
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai

Please refer to this blog post about LT Conversations. 

We are now ready to hire content creators for English (North American) to build these conversations. We will post other languages here in the future. Here are the general requirements:


You should represent a team of 4 native speakers to make recordings of 100 X 6 min natural conversations plus transcripts (in the native language) for language learners. Your team should be 2 men and 2 women with good grammar and good pronunciation. We need 50 conversations between a man and a woman, 25 between 2 men, and 25 between 2 women. Recordings must be reasonably loud, clear and static free. Speak clearly and at normal speeds. Don’t speak too fast or slangy. Don’t speak too slowly or unnaturally. You must have access to editing tools. Have fun and laugh a lot - this is very important. It’s ok to joke around and even loose control a bit as long as you are nice to each other. 


The pay for this job is $10 per complete lesson (mp3 plus transcript), so it’s a $1000 job. Pay is in USD via Paypal. If you are interested, please send a 30 to 60 sec recording between a male and female member of your group, with a transcript. Please don’t go over 60 sec. 


I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Edited
level
36
Posts1147Likes746Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Tagalog
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We need some advanced, non-native, adult learners of Tagalog to get familiar with the grammar course and take a survey. Pay is $20 via Paypal. Message us if interested.

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This was the original request:

beemoviefan wrote:
Can you please fix the text direction? When I read Hebrew texts numbers or random English words like BBC are right to left.

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Dear Tagalog learners, 

I am pleased to announce Tagalog Grammar Lite, a new free Tagalog Grammar course available now at Language Tools. It can be found here: https://languagetools.io/book/1


(If you are a Language Tools member learning Tagalog, the link to the book will show up on your dashboard too)


I have spent close to 1000 hours working on this using many resources and getting corrections from native speakers, and I believe it’s the best Tagalog grammar course available. But if you don’t think it’s the best, or if you can suggest improvements, I’d like your input. At the bottom of each page there is a “offer corrections” button. You will be taken to a plain text version of the lesson, where you can suggest corrections by typing directly over the lesson text, or by leaving a comment.


Because I’m looking for more input and haven’t had an editor go through this yet, the book is in beta. After a year or so I plan on taking the corrections and publishing Edition 1 on Amazon. I will update the online version too, and it will always be free, with the Amazon version available for purchase for those who want a paper or kindle copy, or who merely want to support the course. (Like all Language Tools products, any profits from the book will be used to fund a school we are building for the Maasai in Tanzania, Africa.)


I’d also like to take this opportunity to remind you that we have a very nice collection of dialogs for Jessica Soho in our reading tool. You’ll need to be a member to use these, but membership is free. And finally, we have a friendly group of skilled Tagalog teachers available for one-on-one lessons. Lesson prices vary per teacher.


Thank you for your interest in Language Tools,

Leo Smith

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Continuing to expand on Synergy, this post is about the role that listening plays in the language learning plan.


Listening is perhaps the hardest or most time consuming of all the skills to develop. Therefore you should start listening in the beginning and do a lot of it. I didn’t used to believe this, but over the years I experimented a lot, and came up with some good rules to follow. Let me tell you about my personal experiences with listening, and then make some suggestions.



My experiences with listening. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I started studying Spanish when I was young, and leaned it for many years. Over the years I’ve listened to thousands of hours of media and people talking. Tons of exposure and study leads to good listening skills, which is no surprise.


In Africa, after an intense 3 month study period, I listened to a lot of people talk, and conversed hundreds of hours at a very low level for nearly 3 years, but my listening was only so-so. Maybe B1, just like my conversation. I think this was because I didn’t study, and didn’t use any other skills.


The first language I learned for fun, Thai, I learned at home, and didn’t listen to anything except my textbook recordings. They were good recordings, but it was really meager as far as listening goes. I really had no interest in listening. I wanted to converse, so that’s all I did outside the textbook. With Japanese, I only listened to Pimsleur in the beginning. For both of these languages, when I started conversing several months in, it was really difficult because I hardly understood my partner at all. Even when they went really easy on me, the number one problem was listening at that point.


Still not understanding the problem, I started Mandarin the same way. Fortunately, a few months into it I started listening to podcasts, watching dramas, etc. I did this because I had heard so many good things about listening in the forums, and in some research articles I read online. After I started listening, I actually enjoyed it. For the first time ever I thought it would be possible, and enjoyable, to understand TV shows, movies, other people’s conversations, etc. In addition, I started to notice improvements in my other skills, so I was hooked on listening from that point on. I think my listening really helped when I started to converse in Mandarin, but I wondered what it would be like if I had started listening in the beginning.


Finally, when I started French, I started listening. In conjunction with my normal learning, I used perhaps the best language program ever invented, French In Action (FIA), for listening. FIA is a complete “immersion” language program that is most popular for it’s 52 half hour TV shows. These shows are all French, designed for the complete beginner, and graduated so that the learner is always challenged. So the big test came when I began conversing in French for the fist time. I was overjoyed to find that my number one obstacle was no longer listening, but speaking, as I believe it should be when you start to converse.


For Russian, I had a very solid learning plan, which of course had a component of listening. This time I mostly relied on podcasts and movies with subtitles. And once again, speech was the number one obstacle when I started conversing, not listening. Now for some recommendations.



In steps 1 and 2 of Synergy, it is required to learn correct pronunciation. So right from the very beginning, you are practicing listening. You need to listen very carefully so that you can pronounce correctly. In the beginning, listen to audio before practicing speech. Don’t try to use reading to teach you pronunciation before you have heard the audio. This could result in incorrect pronunciation.


Try to listen carefully enough to notice the special aspects of the sounds of the language. Prosody, intonation, rhythm, stress, etc. Recognizing and repeating these things is the only way to have correct pronunciation at the sentence level. Listening and paying attention are crucial at this point.


Also starting in step 2 of Synergy, you are ready to make listening a solid component of your language learning plan. By this I mean, not only are you listening to audio that might come with your textbook, reading material, etc, but you are going to start extensive listening. As with all your learning, listening needs to be somewhat comprehensible, or i+1. In step 2, you will know very little, so you will need to listen to podcasts that have some L1 explanation, watch videos with some L1 subtitles, etc. You should try to listen to at least 10 minutes of native material a day.


As your understanding improves, wean yourself off of L1 material. Work yourself up to 30 min/day native material. Here are some suggestions.


Movies are particularly good, because you have visual context, making listening more comprehensible. I sometime like to turn on L2 subtitles if available to boost the comprehension even more. If you do this, know that it can be more of a reading exercise than a listening exercise. If you have time, watch it first without subtitles, then watch it again with.


The material should be native material at normal native speed. There is nothing better that understanding normal native material than listening to normal native material. There’s nothing wrong with listening to a little non-native L2 material, or abnormal speeds, but you don’t want to model your speech after it, and you don’t want it to infringe upon this normal listening practice.


Try to listen to material that has a transcript. This is a very good way to make both listening and reading more comprehensible. If you have time, listen to it both before and after reading. I find myself trying harder to understand the audio if I haven’t read the text. And after I’ve read the text, it’s fun to see if I can pick up and remember the stuff I learned while reading.


Listen Actively, not passively. When you listen, pay attention, see if you can recognize your known vocabulary, figure out the gist of what is being said, etc. This is why I recommend listening before reading transcripts or subtitles; it helps you pay more attention. Don’t just turn the audio on and ignore it, or get distracted. There is little if any benefit if you do. Listen without pausing. Try to get into the mindset of the language. Focus for the whole time you have allotted.


Repeat only if applicable. I like to repeat audio once or twice in the early stages. It can be very helpful. But don’t play it so often that you get bored of it, or stop paying attention. It’s better to get some fresh material in that case. After I get comfortable at the 30 min native material level, I only listen to things once.


Listening in your sleep doesn’t help. In fact, it hurts. It will make you sleep less soundly, which will have a negative effect on all your skills.



The future - looking for faster methods from B to C. For some reason, more than any other skill, people prefer to use extensive listening exclusively to get from B to C. They will get massive listening exposure, but not really try anything intensive. I will post about intensive vs. extensive learning later, to make these concepts clearer. But an example of extensive listening is watching TV for 30 min every day, and just hoping continued exposure and all the other aspects of your language learning will make your listening improve. And it will improve. In fact, I will even say that without lots of extensive listening practice you will never reach C1/C2. But I will also say that pure extensive listening isn’t nearly as effective as a mixture of extensive and intensive.


The Corollary to the Synergy Method states you should not merely learn by using all the skills, but you should try to learn new material while using each skill. (I’ll make a post about the Corollary and the importance of new material at another time.) For example, you should sometimes look up a word you hear for the first time. Or you should ask a native speaker about a grammatical structure she used during a conversation. By no means am I suggestion that you do this all the time. You have to practice extensive listening, and just let it flow without worrying about occasional unknown words, especially in the later stages of learning. But I am saying you should do intensive listening some of the time, on a regular basis, regardless of your level, until you reach your goal.


In the past, I was one of those guys who just listened extensively. Even though I was watching TV regularly, I made very slow progress. I knew there were some intensive techniques for rapidly improving listening. And I saw their results – polyglots learning difficult languages to C1/C2 in 2 or 3 years. For me, listening is the bottleneck that keeps me from being able to do this. So it was time to find something that sounds appealing, and experiment.


I read about several intensive listening techniques in language forums, and found one that I think applies well to my level, and that sounds fun. I am currently writing subtitles for a Russian TV comedy that I enjoy. I listen to a sentence, and I try to type it. I often don’t know what they are saying, so I have to play it several times. If I don’t know the words, I spell them out phonetically, and try to make sense out of it by using Google Translate, and if that fails I get help from a native speaker. I will let you know how it goes, but it feels quite effective so far.


In summary, listening is perhaps the most difficult skill to conquer. Practice it early, often, extensively and intensively.

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My level in Swahili used to be about B1 (lower intermediate) 17 years ago, but I've forgotten almost all of it so I'm putting together a list of resources that I plan on using to bring it up to speed before returning to Tanzania. If you have any suggestions, please post them below. If I like them I might add them to my list.


Base program:

Pimsleur Swahili


Audio supplement:

Swahilipod101


Dictionary:

Online Swahili Dictionary


Text Books/Grammars:

Teach Yourself Swahili

Simplified Swahili

Swahili: A Foundation for Speaking, Reading, and Writing


Reading & Listening

Learning by Ear

Storybooks Canada Kiswahili

Habari za UN

LanguageMedia CultureTalk Tanzania



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Stephen Krashen is a very famous linguist who has written theories about second language acquisition. Here is a summary of something he said that is very controversial:


wrote:

The hypotheses put primary importance on the comprehensible input (CI) that language learners are exposed to. Understanding spoken and written language input is seen as the only mechanism that results in the increase of underlying linguistic competence, and language output is not seen as having any effect on learners' ability. Furthermore, Krashen claimed that linguistic competence is only advanced when language is subconsciously acquired, and that conscious learning cannot be used as a source of spontaneous language production. Finally, learning is seen to be heavily dependent on the mood of the learner, with learning being impaired if the learner is under stress or does not want to learn the language.


What he is saying is that doing things like memorizing vocabulary and studying grammar won't improve your language skills. He calls things like these "Learning", and says language is "acquired", not "learned". Do you agree and why?




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Learning a language with a script that's different from your native language can be daunting. But learners are typically taught that they must learn the script in the very beginning to become a reader of the language, which vastly improves their chances of reaching a good level in all other skills. Although there are exceptions, most posts that I see from beginners on the internet are in the actual script of the language. Filipinos seem to be an exception to this, so I'd like to know why. Are they afraid to learn them because it will take a great effort? Are they not taught that it's vital to succeeding with the language? Some other reason? I'm interested in your theories.

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As some of you know, I’ve had my head down working hard writing my Tagalog Textbook since returning from my last trip 5 months ago. I finally finished, and it was a really strange feeling; nothing to do. I felt great, but I could only handle about 2 days of it before I decided to plan my annual escape from the cold weather. 


I’m pleased to announce my Travel Plans for this cycle. 

Nov: Korea

Dec – Feb: Thailand

Mar: Tanzania

Apr: Philippines


I went to Korea, Thailand and the Philippines last year, so the big change this time is Tanzania. I was a Peace Corps volunteer there 1999-2002 and I haven’t been back since. My Swahili is all but forgotten now, so I have made the decision to study it in Thailand in hopes of having my old level back by the time I leave for Tanzania. That might be too much to hope for, but I’m going to try. 

The reason I’m going back is to see the school that Language Tools has donated money to build. It’s under heavy construction now, and it’s supposed to open in January. It’s in the middle of nowhere and I’m very excited to see it. On Google Maps it doesn’t show up yet, of course, but this is where it will be. Those circles are Maasai villages.


But that’s not my only language goal. I wanted to announce and make a big deal out of my plan in Korea so that I’ll actually go through with it. I’m going to try to do a 1 hour skype conversation, and memorize the unknown vocabulary, every day that I’m there. This is because in the past I studied very little while in country. But I noticed that when I did study it really helped with my conversation. The combination of being immersed and studying on the same day seems to be very effective, so I want to see how good I can get.


And in the Philippines I want to study too. I finally have the tool that I need – my own textbook. It was the missing piece of the puzzle that prevented me from quickly mastering the ability to change verb focus easily, which is the most tricky part of Tagalog for me. I have the tool, so I’ll take advantage of immersion to actually put it to use.


Of course I’m going to Speak Thai to the locals when I’m there; I doubt if I’ll run into any Swahili speakers on the street. I actually haven’t done a spurt in Thai for a long time; I think it’s been 4 or 5 years. I study it off and on, but only about once every 2 weeks when it’s “on”. I just don’t need to because of my almost annual 3 month visits to Thailand.

I’m very excited. I’ll keep you appraised of my progress.


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Hi all,

Some of you are aware that I’ve been really busy writing a textbook for over a year now, and haven’t had much time to do anything else. So the website just kind of stayed on a plateau. Membership increased dramatically, but activity was level. Well I finished the final draft, and the book is our development team’s hands. That means I now have time to devote to growing the site!


Library for Reading Tool

When my writing started to taper off a while back, I hired a couple people to hunt down material for our library. They’ve done a great job, but we could really use your help. Do you know of any language learning text with audio or text with video that we could use? We have to be sure that posting it won’t violate copyright. Eventually I envision a large community of people posting enough free use material so that even more learners will be attracted and the library will thrive.

That’s it for now; focusing on the Library. I’ll be posting about other parts of the site in the near future. Toodles!


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I’m a bit disappointed in the large number of language learning materials available that seem to do nothing but suggest ways to manufacture motivation while recycling basic study strategies. Why am I disappointed? Well, of course I’m not interested in recycled learning techniques, although they might be useful to beginners. But my main point of contention is with the motivation stuff. Can motivation really be created like they suggest?


Motivation can definitely be created. For example, lets say a child from an English speaking family in the US spends a summer in Mexico, meets a lot of Spanish speaking friends, and ends up really liking the culture. They might not learn Spanish while in Mexico, but when they return home and need to choose a foreign language to learn in high school, they could be sufficiently motivated to start studying and keep it up until they reach a high level.


Learning a language to a high level takes a long time, and requires strong, long-lasting motivation to accomplish. That kind of motivation most likely takes months or even years to develop. Imo the tips given in these language programs aren’t the type that create motivation sufficient to do the job in the amount of time that they lead you to believe is possible. The advice seems to fall into two categories – 1) ways to develop strong motivation that actually take months or years, and 2) ways to re-awaken pre-existing motivation, or re-frame the learning process. 


Most of the advice falls under 2), and after a possible initial spark just doesn’t work for learners who’ve never had motivation to begin with. For example, advice such as watch movies or go to meetups is often given. If the person doesn’t have strong motivation under the surface, this is sort of like asking them to do something they don’t like so that they’ll like it more. On the other hand, if deep motivation truly exists, these activities could wake up the old interest, or make the learner see the task in a different light. But by my way of thinking this in no way is creating strong motivation of the magnitude needed to learn a language. It’s fluffy advice that can do nothing more than re-awaken existing motivation and outside of that it bothers me. Why? Because it’s just one more tool the language teaching industry deceives beginners into believing that it’s just a walk in the park. Not motivated? No problem – just follow this simple advice and you're good to go!


For the type 1) advice, not only does it take too long, it seems backwards. These are usually the things that people have already done or had to do that resulted in them having motivation in the first place. For example, the advice to go live in the target country. Living in country can be great motivation, but it’s often the reason people begin to learn a language. Good luck in convincing someone who isn’t motivated to move to the target country. Same thing with finding a lover who is a native speaker. Great motivation, but I doubt anyone thinks “I’m not really motivated to learn Japanese. I’ll just hook up with a Japanese girl though and that will motivate me.” Instead, it’s more common for that to be the reason one starts to learn the language. And both of these suggestions are very time consuming; probably not what a casually unmotivated person is seeking.


In conclusion, beware of language teaching websites and companies that are mostly selling motivation. Support programs that mostly offer other products and services. Learn a language because you are highly motivated, not the other way around.   


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As I promised in my post describing my language learning method, Synergy, I’d like to start topics expanding on the way I learn the 7 facets of languages - conversation, grammar, listening, pronunciation, reading, vocabulary and writing. This first expansion is about conversation.


I have seen one poll, and have heard it mentioned often in the forums that conversation is the most coveted goal of language learners. Of course there are some learners who rank it lower, and some who don’t learn it at all, but overall it’s number one. It’s easily number one with me, and over the years I’ve been trying different strategies to improve my conversation techniques. Below I will recommend how speaking and conversation fit into Synergy, but first I will give you my background with them so you can see how I arrived at these conclusions.



My background with speaking and conversation. When I was a child of 11 living in Ecuador, I took Spanish classes at an English medium grade school. We spoke a little bit, but it was mostly grammar. I had some interaction with locals, but I wasn’t anywhere near being immersed in the language. I took Spanish for three years in highschool in the US, but still remained a mediocre speaker. I had a Spanish speaking girlfriend, made several trips to Central America, and finally wound up marrying a Panamanian. My Spanish improved a lot in the short two years we were married. I’m sure we talked hundreds if not thousands of hours. I reached about a C1 level. The lesson I take away from this is that it takes many hours to become a good speaker.


The next language I learned was Swahili. I studied it hard for 3 months, then just relied on conversations with villagers to improve my language. Again, my job was in English, so I wasn’t even close to being immersed. I got some conversation with locals. After my 3 months of training I was probably A2. By the time I left 3 years later, I think I was B1. I’m sure I had several hundred hours of simple conversation. This is where a more systematic approach would have helped me. Relying on passive improvement is very slow.


I learned Thai for 9 months, went to Thailand and failed at conversation. I took some classes while I was there, and tried to talk for several dozen hours, but wasn’t understood because of my poor pronunciation. When I got back, I decided to try a conversation tutor. I put an ad in the newspaper, and wound up meeting with a lady 5 hours a week for about 2 months. We only spoke Thai about 15 minutes out of the hour, but it made a big difference because she understood me and we worked on my pronunciation. That was my first long term experience with a conversation tutor, and it’s something that I decided was a very good.


With Japanese, I decided to hire a conversation tutor after only 4 months. This was a little scary for me, but I plunged ahead. Unfortunately I had a huge problem, and that was almost no listening skills. So the sessions with the tutor were painful for both of us. After about 6 weeks I went from 5 hours a week to 1 or 2 hours a week. I finally started to listen to Japanese on a regular basis, which really helped. I visited Japan for the first time after 18 months of study, with very little conversation practice. I wasn’t great, but much better than my first, and even second visit to Thailand.


When I got to Mandarin, I had already begun reading the forums, and had a solid learning plan. My friend was going to get married in China in 9 months, so I was going to go to the wedding and hopefully speak some Chinese. I started out with pronunciation, and took it very seriously. It was a tonal language like Thai, so I didn’t want the same pronunciation disaster. After completing Pimsleur, I had about 3 months to go, and hired a Skype tutor. We met 5 days a week for 1 hour. She emailed me a short recording of all the new things covered during the lesson. They were sentences containing the new vocabulary. I only listened to them once, because my time was limited. I used a syllabus to cover a wide variety of topics, found in Kick-starting Your Language Learning. When I went to China I could talk, but not very well. Not quite as good as my first trip to Japan. The problem wasn’t the method imo, but the fact I had so few hours of conversation in. I probably had about 50 hours. But I had developed a very systematic way of using a conversation tutor, and I learned how important it was to be organized with them. The recordings were a nice try, but I don’t do this anymore because I’ve found using media and keeping tutors focused on conversation is more efficient.


I did just about everything right with French, including my usage of tutors. Halfway through Pimsleur, 2 or 3 months into my French studies, I started to converse with a conversation tutor. I started out speaking relatively well, since my Spanish helped. In fact, about 50% of my French was Spanish at first. It took me about a month to get the Spanish out of my conversation. When I went to France about a year later, I was conversing at about B1, and understood just about everything important. The biggest mistake I made with French was to stop studying it so early. I haven’t studied it since then; just maintained it. I learned a lot more about how to use tutors effectively though.


With Russian, I had a very good learning plan, including the way I handled conversation. This is essentially the plan that’s detailed out in Synergy. I started to converse about 3 months into Russian. My results weren’t as impressive as with French, but Russian is a much harder language, and should be compared with Japanese and Mandarin. I had a much better beginning in Russian than either of those two.


I converse regularly in 8 foreign languages these days. I used to use language partners rather than tutors, because it’s free and it’s often more fun and less stressful than working with a teacher. But now I’ve switched to using conversation tutors most of the time because they save me time and prices are more reasonable these days. I use Skype, and hire most of my teachers here. I have been working with tutors and language partners for a long time now, and will give you some recommendations about them below.


Now let’s summarize and see how this fits into the big picture.


In steps 1 and 2 of Synergy, it’s required to learn correct pronunciation. So right from the very beginning, you are practicing speech. I’ve found it’s not practical to start with conversation when you know absolutely nothing. When you do this, you are basically forcing your tutor to speak a lot of L1 and teach you grammar, which I think is very inefficient. There are many really good, simple beginner programs that will do this much better than any tutor I’ve ever had, so you should take advantage of them.


Anyway, continuing on with what Synergy describes, first you practice isolated sounds until you can make them correctly. Then you move onto words, and finally sentences. It is crucial that you nail down the pronunciation first for the following reason - when you start to read, whether out loud or not, if you have incorrect pronunciation you will reinforce and fossilize it, making it time consuming and possibly even impossible to completely correct down the road.



In step 3 of Synergy, you are ready to converse. This is when you are roughly halfway through Pimsleur, and have some listening, reading and vocabulary under your belt. Imo, this is the earliest practical level to have a regular conversation component in your learning plan. Step 3 is a very big step, with a lot of things going on, but keep in mind that conversation is your number one goal.


Learning vocabulary and sentences from conversation is the best way to improve your conversational vocabulary and sentences. It probably sounds obvious, but very few methods take advantage of this. More traditional methods are less direct and less effective, imo. For example using textbooks and other sources to learn grammar and vocabulary, hoping that you will think of them when you converse. Since your main goal is conversation, you’re going to use conversation to learn vocabulary and sentences. Conversation isn’t the only way you’ll learn them, but it is the most important and effective way at this point.


Choose a language partner/tutor carefully. You’ll want partners who are native speakers, patient, have a sense of humor and are actually interested in conversing with you, rather than just correcting you. In the beginning, it helps if they have some L1 skills. Find someone who is willing to speak with you for 30 minutes in L2. During this period, don’t switch to L1, or allow your partner to speak L1, other than to give the occasional brief translation. They should try to get you to talk at least 50% of the time, rather than hogging all the time to themselves. You can hire tutors in Find a Teacher and can meet language partners in Chat.


Every time you want to say something but can’t, write it down. If your partner says something you don’t understand, write it down. This is the way your going to improve your vocabulary and sentences through conversation – write things down, memorize them before the next conversation, and try to use them at that time. The things you write down can be sentences, phrases or single words. I like using Google Translate and occasionally my partner to translate when I get stuck, although I try to keep translation to a minimum. I also like to use Skype, and I type the L1 text and the L2 translation in the Skype window. After the session, I load these items into my SRS for memorization.


Converse about a wide range of topics with a variety of partners. Try to talk about all the things that are really important to you; the things that you’ll need vocabulary for the most. If you get stuck and you want a list of topics, you might try Kick-starting Your Language Learning. Another thing I find useful is talking about pictures. If you have time and motivation, you can prepare for conversations by learning some key words ahead of time. I prefer not to do that because I like the native to introduce the vocabulary, but it can be useful if done carefully. Because voices and conversation styles vary greatly, it’s best to speak with several partners to improve your flexibility.


Go with the flow. It’s good to be studious, but you don’t want to get too anal about memorizing every single word and phrase you don’t know. Be aggressive about writing things down, especially in the beginning, but make sure to just let the conversation flow at times. I sometimes limit myself to 20 new entries per session. Other times, I refuse to write anything down for a half session, or even a full session. After a few dozen hours of conversation, the number of new entries per session is greatly reduced. After 100 hours or so I rarely need to memorize a new entry.


Use tips in How to Improve Your Foreign Language Immediately. Most of these are common sense. Especially beneficial is the use of “islands” – short memorized scripts which are very useful in topics you find yourself repeating a lot.


Step 4 of Synergy has you continuing conversing, but now without any memorizing. Really let the conversation flow smoothly and fluidly. Do your best to use all the grammar correctly that you have learned from your other studies. Continue conversing until you can talk about anything you need to with correct grammar, quickly and fluidly. That is your final goal.


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When you try to read Vietnamese with online reading tools like mouse-over dictionaries, it can be difficult because the text is often parsed incorrectly. LT has just added the ability to join and split words in Vietnamese. We can also do this with Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Thai and Korean. This short video demonstrates how to use it with Japanese:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9Iyn3dEX_A&t=31s

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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The best place to get instant language exchange partners is finished after 3 years in business. Sad to see it go. Sounds like it's closing for financial reasons. More here

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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Hi Michelle, Do you still notice this?

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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Eddie Izzard - Learning French




I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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Native speakers use numbers in 3 different languages - english, spanish and tagalog. Which one do you normally use for:

telling time (spanish?)

age (tagalog?)

date of month (tagalog?)

year (english?)

counting (tagalog?)

prices (spanish?)

fractions (english?)

 

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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(continued from here)


Step 2 – Study all Facets of the Language

Finishing Step 1 is a major accomplishment as it prepares me to do what Synergy is all about - working with all facets of the language at the same time to produce a combined learning effect which is greater than the sum of their individual effects. And the 7 facets I’m talking about are conversation, grammar, listening, pronunciation, reading, vocabulary and writing. Fortunately, by the end of Step 1 you have already started working with some of these. So here is a breakdown of what needs to be done in this step. 


(Note – I will go into further detail on all of these topics in future blog posts.)


In informal polls, good conversation is the most common number one goal of language learners. It’s also my biggest goal, and that’s why I’ve made it the center of Synergy. Another advantage of using Pimsleur for Step 1 is that it’s designed to be a conversation primer, and thus prepares me well for this step. Completing a different beginners audio course isn’t a bad way to go, but merely repeating random sentences for step 1 is going to leave a steeper learning curve for you. Nevertheless, you need to start conversing at this stage so just push ahead even if you used a less than optimum course for the first step. 


I recommend 30 minutes of conversation a day in person or online with a native speaker when you start, and as soon as you feel a level of comfort take it up to 1 hr. Teachers are preferable, but free language exchange partners can be a suitable alternative. During your conversation, try to write down all the new words/sentences you hear, and all the words/sentences you couldn’t think of, and memorize them later. Video chat applications like Skype are great tools for beginning conversation. I like to have Google Translate up beside my skype window to look up the occasional word and keep the conversation flowing. Use tips in How to Improve Your Foreign Language Immediately to facilitate your ability to converse. Try to use your new vocabulary and grammar often.


For grammar I recommend you first do Michel Thomas if it’s available. It’s a great grammar primer which teaches a lot of grammar in a short amount of time and will help you a great deal with your beginning conversation. A word of caution though – don’t copy the pronunciation of non-native speakers, and don’t take pronunciation tips from Michel Thomas either. I mention this because I fell into this trap and want to prevent others from doing the same. After Michel Thomas, find a good comprehensive text or grammar and work your way through it, doing all the exercises. Make an effort to use your new grammar as soon as you learn it in your writing and conversation.


Continue listening. In addition to listening to the audio for the things you read every day, I recommend watching video. TV series are preferable to movies because seeing the same characters over an over makes them more comprehensible. Use subtitles to soften it up even more if necessary, preferably in L2. You should be listening at least 30 min/day.


Although you finished the bulk of your organized pronunciation studies in step 1, it’s recommended that you spot-check it now and then, maybe every month or two. A great way to do this is to record your own voice, or make a video and evaluate it. You can also have natives evaluate it. If you think you need sharpening up, go back to the things you did for pronunciation in step 1.


You did a little bit of reading with your flashcards and such in step 1, but now it’s time to level up. I recommend 15 minutes to start with. Read out loud and always maintain that good pronunciation. Read material that’s i+1, which has audio, if possible. Look up unknown words with a mouse-over dictionary if possible. Increase sessions to 30+ minutes, several times a week. 


Continue vocabulary study, with the aid of SRS, as you did in step 1. The problem is, if you put every new word and sentence into your SRS in this step, there will be too much vocabulary for you to stay on top of. You should limit your SRS sessions to a max of 1 hour per day, or 25% or your total study time, whichever is less. You will need to decide which words to put in, so if your main goal is conversation, I strongly suggest that you make that the main source of your new vocabulary. If you have time left over after that and want to top up your SRS, you can choose words from one or more of the other facets. Ime, reading and writing are probably the next best sources. Please don’t learn random vocabulary that you’ve never encountered in the wild. Leave out low usage words and words that seem hard to memorize. Delete old words from your SRS if your sessions are too long; deleting anything over a month old is acceptable. Make an effort to use your new vocabulary in your writing and conversation.


Fortunately you started writing a bit in step 1, when you wrote out new words and sentences in a list for memorization. You should continue this practice, but level up by doing one of the following. 1) If you’re not trying to become a skilled writer, and are just using writing to bolster your other skills, I suggest scriptorium. From a reading source, or your SRS, read a phrase, then write it out by hand, pronouncing each word as you write. Do 5-10 lines per day. 2) If you want to become a skilled writer, write an essay. It’s best to get corrections from native speakers and review any errors, so this process can get very time consuming. I suggest you limit your time to a fixed amount like 30 min/day, and we have an Essay Tool to help you.

In addition to writing by hand, I find it very useful to learn to type. There are programs to help you learn to type in your L2, but many people prefer to learn by practicing. A fun way to do this is by text chatting, which you can do in our Chat Tool if you’d like.  


That’s step 2, but you might be wondering how you can possibly do all of this at the same time. Ideally, you’d spend 30+ minutes on each skill, or 3.5+ hrs per day. And frankly I like to do more than that. For example, I like to do a 1hr conversation, and memorizing the new words/phrases can sometimes take an additional hour. How do I handle this? In my case, I have the time and I’m highly motivated, so it all works out. If you don’t have the time, I recommend trying to spend at least 30 min on each facet at least 3 times per week. If you spread it out evenly that averages out to studying a minimum of 3 facets per day, or 1.5 hrs, 7 days per week. I hope that’s reasonable.


The other thing you are probably wondering about is how long you should do this step. It’s hard to describe, but you should go until you feel you are a comfortable intermediate level. Although not perfect, you shouldn’t be struggling in any aspect. Your conversation should be quite fluid, and you should understand nearly everything your partner says, for example. This step will take hundreds of hours for relatively easy languages, and thousands of hours for difficult ones.


Step 3 – Use the Language

There’s not much to say about this step. You’re already a good intermediate level now so it’s time to maintain and gradually improve your level by practicing conversation, listening, reading and writing. No need to do specific grammar, pronunciation or vocabulary study at this point; you are free.


Summary  

LT is a language learning site without a method, but I have provided my personal method for those who want a guide, and to easily provide answers to people who ask me questions. In a nutshell, my method is called Synergy, and it consists of 3 steps:

1) Learn pronunciation and the alphabet 

2) Study everything

3) Use the language


I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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LT – a Website for All Learning Philosophies

Have you ever been part of a website or app that you found useful, but were put off because they kept trying to push their method on you? I have, and although I may find those sites helpful, sometimes I feel a bit oppressed by their overriding philosophies. 


What many sites fail to acknowledge is that just about all language learning methods work, and it’s virtually impossible to prove that yours is the best, or even that one is better than another. To be clear, I’m talking about entire methods for learning a language – that means everything you do to learn a language. Methods are large, complicated and unique. You may be able to find a study that indicates superiority of a single technique, such as watching TV with vs. without subtitles, but that is quite different from showing a method is superior.  


I don’t want this site to have an overbearing method that makes people feel oppressed. Language Tools is a language learning website with no fixed method to sell. We just want to help you learn languages in any way that you want to. We have a wide variety of tools that I hope will prove useful to many different methods.


That being said, I’m glad to give guidance and I am often asked general questions about learning languages. Those general questions can have many different answers, so I’ve decided to share how I learn languages. This will provide me with something I can link to when asked questions. It will also satisfy those who ask me how I personally learn languages.


I’ve actually described my language learning method hundreds of times, but it changes now and then so it’s a bit of a moving target. I have not used this exact method to learn all my languages, but I have used it for my most recent languages and recommend it for people who want to learn like me. 


Synergy

My method is called Synergy, and it has 3 steps:


1) Research, listening, writing system and pronunciation 

2) Study all facets of the language

3) Use the language 


You might be wondering why it’s called synergy. I am a big believer in balanced language learning, or learning using all the basic language skills. I didn’t used to be. I’ve studied for long periods of time and learned the hard way that balance is more efficient for me. Why? Because working with all basic skills at the same time produces a combined learning effect which is greater than the sum of their individual effects. This is called synergy, so that’s what I’ve named this method.


I originally encountered a similar method in Barry Farber's How to Learn Any Language which he called the Multiple Track Attack. However, I’ve found that there are some problems with starting everything at the beginning. I was learning Japanese at the time, and I wasn’t able to just dive into reading Japanese newspapers, for example. So I abandoned it, experimented with many other methods, and eventually came back full circle with a fix in the form of the first step. Through trial and error I’ve come up with an order designed to avoid duplication of effort and fossilization of errors as well as prepare me for the next step.


Note: This method is designed for adult learners who'd like to reach an upper intermediate level (B2) or above in their target language. For other learners, this information might be helpful, but it's not designed with them in mind. 


Now let’s get into a bit more detail for each step.


Step 1 - Research, listening, writing system and pronunciation

I like to start out by researching my target language. In fact, finding out about a language, or best ways to study it, is often one of the things that motivates me to learn it. My research helps me figure out what resources I’m going to use. It also helps me discover things that require special attention; the things that make a language unique may make me modify my learning method. I recommend reading about the language in language learning forums, and asking lots of questions about resources. Wikipedia is also a great source of information. When you finally have some specific resources in mind, I recommend reading descriptions and reviews on sites like Amazon before buying anything.


It’s best to start listening right away, because listening is the skill that will take you the most time to master. In my learning method I follow a principal called LIE, or listening is everything. If I need to choose between a path that benefits listening and any other path, I choose listening. So you want to be listening daily from day one. It’s nice to start with very simple podcasts in L2. In the very beginning you will know nothing and understand nothing, so podcasts that have some explanations in L1 might be necessary. Another option is to watch video with subtitles in L1, turning them off and on to test your understanding. As you progress, try to move onto simple 100% L2 podcasts and such as soon as you feel you are understanding them fairly well. Try to listen to materials at i+1. 


The first things you need to be able to pronounce are all the distinct little units of sound, called phonemes, made in a language. When you learn these it will be most efficient to link these sounds to something visual, so the most efficient thing to do is learn orthography, the language’s writing system, at the same time. (Note - this normally doesn't take very long, along the order of 10-20 hours. The goal of this little exercise isn’t comprehension or comfortably reading texts; those things come later.) To do this, find some material that teaches pronunciation, for example, the first chapter of a textbook or an online resource. There must be audio. You need to work with audio from the beginning – never read first and utter before listening; check the audio frequently. Practice listening to and repeating the sounds, then listening to the sounds and writing the text. After you get the hang of it, practice reading and pronouncing the text, and comparing your pronunciation to the audio. Memorize the alphabet and the names of the letters. When you are reading and pronouncing words correctly you’ll know you are done.


All previous items can be done at the same time, but you must be finished learning the alphabet and correct pronunciation of words to learn the pronunciation of sentences. To do this, find a beginner program which includes audio for sentences with a transcript. I strongly recommend Pimsleur for this part. Pimsleur doesn’t publish transcripts, but they now offer read along subtitles on their premium subscriptions which makes it pretty easy to create one. You don't need to create an entire transcript, just jot down the unique vocabulary and sentences. Other options for this include Assimil, Glossika, Learn in Your Car, etc, which all have transcripts. After doing an audio lesson, write out a list of all the unique vocabulary and sentences. Memorize them from L1 to L2 and L2 to L1, reading them out loud with correct pronunciation. Do that in the morning. In the evening, memorize them again. After that, put them in an SRS to be reviewed starting the next day. When you are doing the audio lessons, be sure you pronounce every aspect of the sentence prosody (intonation, rhythm, stress, etc) as the native speaker does. Don't just settle for pronouncing the consonant and vowel sounds correctly; prosody is equally important. 


Pimsleur has a way of driving correct pronunciation into your brain. But if you don't use Pimsleur, I recommend you repeat a sentence a few times, then shadow it a few times. Repeating is when you copy a sentence after you hear it. You can hear your own voice very clearly and get really accurate, but it's possible to forget the native audio and stray a bit if the sentence is long. Shadowing is when you talk at the same time as the audio. That way you don't forget the audio, and you can constantly compare your voice with the native speaker. You can't hear your voice very clearly though, so accuracy is best practiced by repeating.


NEXT POST – Steps 2 & 3


I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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I finally took the plunge and subscribed to a VPN. So if I pretend to be in the Philippines will I be able to watch more Tagalog content on netflix?

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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Which, if either is more common in colloquial speech?


a) Kapatid ni Martha ang matangkad na lalaki.


b) Kapatid ni Martha ang lalaking matangkad.




2) a) Kapatid ni Martha ang mga matangkad na lalaki.


b) Kapatid ni Martha ang matatangkad na lalaki.

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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I'm not talking about an entire language necessarily; even just a a single concept will do. I'm actually writing a Tagalog grammar book to learn Tagalog grammar better, which is way over the top I suppose. But how about explaining something to a toddler as suggested by the Feynman Technique


1. Choose a Concept
2. Teach it to a Toddler
3. Identify Gaps and Go Back to The Source Material
4. Review and Simplify (optional)

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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I'm just curious to know if you learned anything about learning languages either here or somewhere else. Personally, I learned that it's quite difficult to write a grammar book; it's taking me much longer than expected. I've also learned that building a site like this needs to be very hands on, but that's another story...

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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This is a paper published by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), which has been teaching candidates languages in a very intensive manner for decades. This work represents a sort of "best of" summary of it's findings regarding language learning over the years. It's possibly the most useful single paper on general language that I've ever read. Highly recommended.

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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Good sleep, good learning, good life is an article written by Dr Piotr Wozniak, the principal author of SuperMemo, which is the first SRS. The article describes the benefits of getting a good night's sleep has on learning. He talks about an interesting concept called free running sleep, napping and argues against sleep learning. It's a long read, but very helpful to serious learners of any kind.


I was wondering if any forum members have tried to learn in their sleep, and if so, was it beneficial? 

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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Although the first few hours of conversation are perhaps the most painful/intense part of learning languages for me, this is over in only a few hours. Listening, on the other hand, takes hundreds if not thousands of hours to reach the point that I'm comfortably able to watch TV, for example. What's the biggest obstacle to you?

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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We recently had this topic, so I wanted to make a twist on it. Even though there are some highly qualified non-native teachers, I personally only use teachers for conversation, so that's all I want. But maybe you feel otherwise. For example, maybe you want a native speaker of your own language to explain complicated grammar points in the L2 (target language). Vote please :)

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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This video is both motivating and useful, but there are some things I disagree with. I will discuss them shortly, but I want to give you guys a chance to have your say without being influenced by me. What do you think of it? Is there anything you disagree with?



I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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Although I really liked the LOR system we had, unfortunately it made someone feel bad, so I think it would be a good idea to design a different system. Here is your big chance - what would you like? In case you're wondering what I'm talking about, here is an example:

0 posts - newbie

1-50 posts - beginner

51-100 posts - regular poster

101-200 posts - active poster

201-500 posts - dedicated learner

501-1000 posts - super learner

1001-2000 posts - world class poster

2000-5000 posts - champion learner

etc

You can suggest something completely different; that was just an example. If we get a few good ones, we may have to decide it with a vote.

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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This topic is for you to record a short (less than 1 minute) recording of yourself speaking in your target language. If you want corrections, please post the text for the recording too, because that will make it easier for your correctors to do their job.

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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I know that many learners don't use things like SRSs, flashcards, wordlists, etc. But if you had time to learn some vocabulary that way, and your primary goal was to be able to converse smoothly in your language, where would you get your vocabulary from?

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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I've considered learning Esperanto a few times, but never committed. This is something beginners should consider, because of the Propaedeutic value of Esperanto:

Wikipedia wrote:
For example, studying Esperanto for one year and then French for three years results in greater proficiency in French than when someone would only study French for four years.

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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It takes a long time to learn a language to a high level; hundreds or even thousands of hours. To accomplish this faster, some people spend many hours per week. Note - I used "per week" here instead of "per day" because our schedules tend to vary a lot on a weekly basis, so I thought this would make it easier to calculate. Anyway, how many hours per week do you spend, and how long do you think it will take for you to reach your goal?

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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How to Improve your Foreign Language Immediately is, imo, one of the most useful resources there is for those who are actually trying to speak. I bought it on amazon a few years ago, so I was surprised to see it was available free. It's full of tried and true conversation techniques, which I'm sure would be called hacks these days. Highly recommended.

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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welcome!

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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(This post was first published here in 2014).

Description of the phenomenon. Have you ever noticed a significant improvement in your language level after a long break in your studies? I have. Why does this happen? Are there ways you can use this to your advantage? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I have some theories and suggestions, but first let me give you an account of my experiences to let you know how I came to these conclusions.


The first time I noticed such a phenomenon was when I was studying Thai. After my third trip to Thailand, I broke up with my Thai girlfriend, started to learn Japanese, and decided never to speak Thai again. About six months into my Japanese studies, I got interested in Thai again. Not really sure why, but there was probably a girl involved. Anyway, when I got to Thailand, I was really rusty, as I expected. But even though I didn’t do anything outside of conversation, about a week into the trip I noticed my Thai was actually better than when I dropped it! I was shocked.


About a year later, I was disgusted with Japanese. I’d been learning it forever, spending all my free time, and I wanted my life back. So I just stopped learning it completely for a few months, then started learning Chinese. One day I decided I missed Japanese, and took a short trip to Japan. Once again – it had actually improved, despite of the time I’d spent away from it.


Then something happened that totally blew me away. First some background. I have been “learning” Spanish since I was 11. I lived in Ecuador for 2 years as a child, and never really caught on because I was in an American school and all my friends were Americans. I took Spanish in high school for the easy grades. Still, my level was quite low. I married a Panamanian when I was 36 years old. I spoke Spanish with her all the time, and watched lots of Mexican TV shows with her. And yet my spoken Spanish was pretty rough, and I only understood about half of what I watched on TV. We were divorced 2 years later, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with Spanish. I took a 3 year break to be a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, learning Swahili, amongst other things. I took a short vacation to Costa Rica shortly after getting back. I felt my level was about the same as before. Then I started learning Thai and all my other languages, not even touching my Spanish.


Now here’s the shocker. One fine day, I can’t remember the exact date but it was a good 5 years after visiting Costa Rica, I was clicking through the TV channels and stopped on some Mexican movie. I watched it for a minute, wasn’t really interested, and kept going. Then it occurred to me that I understood it well enough to know what was going on. I thought “that’s funny”, and I guess it was my new desire to become a polyglot that made me go back to check my level. So I went back, and was amazed to understand everything that was being said. Okay, I missed words here and there, but my comprehension had gone from about 50% to over 90% with what I would call an insignificant amount of study or maintenance.


Those were some examples of big gaps in study that resulted in improvements. There is another phenomenon which I think is related. When I go on all these wonderful trips to target countries, I often study pretty hard, but don’t see huge gains when I’m there. However, on many occasions, a week or more after leaving, my level reaches it’s highest point ever.


So those are some things that have happened to me, but I’d like to point out that I’m not the only one who has experienced this. For example, when Steve Kaufmann was interviewed on Canadian TV, he mentioned that after years of doing nothing with Chinese, he began to converse again, and realized his level was higher than it had ever been.



My big mistake. Originally, I felt like I had discovered something very useful about language learning, and I wanted to capitalize on it. It seemed like I was steadily improving in my languages whether or not I worked on them. Maybe this was the secret that allowed super polyglots to learn so many languages so quickly. Obviously, a big initial effort was needed, to get enough input if for no other reason, but after that it seemed like no further work was required. Or perhaps only very limited work, occasional immersion, etc. So that was my line of reasoning when I stopped learning or maintaining my old languages.


But it didn’t work. Those initial occurrences I wrote about above stopped happening not long after I stopped studying. All my levels dropped, and in some areas, like reading and writing Chinese characters, drastically. That’s when I got more serious about maintaining my languages. And the mistake was made even bigger by the fact that I had added more languages in the meantime, thinking there would be no ill effect. As I’ve said before, now I’m stuck with 5 languages in the B’s, and it’s no picnic to maintain them.


The bow wave. So why did all that improvement take place? And what about the huge improvement in my Spanish? Can it be explained, and more importantly, can we somehow use what appears to be the amazing power of these phenomena to reduce our workload and improve our language learning?


I used to work for a certain large aircraft company that shall remain nameless, and they had thousands of drawings to release in a short period of time. There was always a great rush to meet release dates, so they had to put a huge number of people on the effort, all of which were on overtime, and most of which were working on several drawings at once. Due to all the confusion, and all the demands on peoples’ time, the organization actually became less efficient during this effort. I heard one manager describe the actual release curve lagging the scheduled release curve as a “bow wave”. As a boat sails through the water, it creates a bow wave – a wave that proceeds the front of the boat. As the boat speeds up, the wave gets bigger. I’ve decided to name the phenomenon I’ve been talking about bow wave, because some of the properties are similar.


While we are actively studying a language, we are improving, but this is never a perfect process, and certain issues can delay assimilation. According to Krashen’s affective filter hypothesis, certain emotions such as anxiety, self doubt, boredom, etc. prevent efficient processing of language input. I agree with this, and think that when you learn inefficiently, you’re creating a bow wave, or building up all this potential that isn’t immediately turned into progress. If you remove the sources of the bow wave, it will dissipate and turn into progress.


That was a pretty simple statement of the theory, so let me apply it to some of the phenomena above. I’d studied Thai for a couple years, then quit. Trust me, there was a lot of frustration when I learned Thai, so that contributed to a bow wave. And I believe that learning itself, when I do it for an hour or more a day, even when it’s not particularly stressful, contributes to the bow wave. The longer I study, the bigger the bow wave. So when I quit Thai, the bow wave dissipated, and turned into progress.


Now it should be noted that memory can limit the amount of time you have to notice your improvement. I had a pretty good size bow wave built up from Thai, and waiting 6 months or so worked out pretty well. But I’m guessing the sweet spot would have been a couple months earlier. If I had waited a year, my level probably would have been considerably lower. In fact, this wasn’t the first time I quit Thai. I quit once early on, and my level dropped drastically. That makes sense, because I had a very small bow wave at that time.


What about the huge improvement in my Spanish? This was due to the huge bow wave I built up over many, many years. Lots of frustrated learning. Tons of input. I divorced my Panamanian ex-wife and quit Spanish completely, eliminating the sources and allowing the bow wave to dissipate.


Explaining my short trips to target countries, I build up a nice little bow wave, and the effect peaks out a week or two after I leave, because leaving removes the source and the bow wave dissipates.


Finally, quitting my old languages didn’t result in their improvement because the bow wave effect had worn out. The bow wave effect doesn’t last forever.


To summarize some important points about the bow wave:


1) It’s caused by inefficient study. If you assimilate language quickly and efficiently, you will have little if any bow wave.


2) Some things that cause inefficient study – too many hours per day, anxiety, self doubt, boredom, etc


3) The more months or years you study, the bigger the bow wave.


4) The bow wave effect, or improvement you notice after a break, takes some time to peak; the bigger the bow wave, the more time it takes. But it doesn’t last forever, and the effect will diminish if you don’t start using the language again.


How to use this to our advantage. You can try to eliminate the bow wave. Obviously, it’s better to study efficiently and make progress in a language quickly. You can do this by reducing your affective filter. And a lot of time and energy these days goes into people trying to reduce their affective filters. I have seen so many articles telling me if I don’t have fun I’m doomed, and if I can’t relax and believe in myself I will fail. But these articles, while well meaning, aren’t very helpful to me. I’m sort of set in my ways, and I prefer to go through life without getting all bubbly and bouncing off walls and stuff. There are good days and there are bad days, and accepting that is a more useful goal than trying to drastically change my personality.


I believe most people are going to have at least a little bow wave when they study a language, even if they try to reduce it. So I suggest you release your bow wave and reap the benefits. Yes, the only way to do this is to take breaks. Take a break, and (ideally) resume your studies when the bow wave effect is peaking. Ride the wave! Otherwise, that bow wave is going to keep growing and growing. You might get frustrated by your diminished progress with that big ol’ bow wave holding you back. So if you take a month or two off, you’ll lose all your frustration, and pick up your studies at a higher level than when you quit, maybe even higher than where you would have been if you hadn’t quit, and you will reach your long term goal just as quickly. I call this sort of periodic study learning in spurts and will post about it in the future.

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Just curious.  

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There are 4 pillars of language learning (I got that from Bex, and I'd like to keep it). Conversation, listening, reading and writing. Which one is the most important to you? Which one do you most want to get good at? I want to get good at all 4, but conversation is the most important to me by far.

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I appreciate all the bugs and suggestions you've logged so far, and wanted you to know that everything is being looked at. I'll put the word "Fixed" in the title of a thread when I think the issue has been resolved.


Just a reminder - if you have a new bug or suggestion, please start a new thread. If it's something that's already been reported, you can just add to the existing thread.


Also, for bugs, please tell us which device and OS you are using.


Thanks again

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I just discovered this recently. Great link if you have Netflix and are studying foreign languages.

https://www.netflix.com/browse/audio

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(Warning - I'm pretty busy these days, so I won't be able to post very often, or edit more than once in a while. That being said, welcome, and enjoy!)


I've managed to collect quite a few languages in my life - 10 to be exact. And over the past few years, I've decided I didn't want to be one of those guys who used to know how to speak a language, but can no longer do it. Here is an example of that:


I don't want that to happen, although no TV shows are hunting me down to my knowledge. I want to be able to use a language on demand; I don't want to require days, hours or even more than a few seconds to be able to hold a decent conversation. What is a decent conversation to me? I'm pretty happy with conversation at the B2 level of the CEFR. I've found out that in order to converse comfortably at the B2 level on demand, I need to be right in the middle of the level, and I'll call this B2+.


Now I believe I hear this level mentioned the most when talking about fluency. Others say one needs to be advanced (C1/C2), and that I'm not a polyglot because I only speak 2 languages at advanced levels. To be honest, I don't really care. I consider myself a polyglot, and I'm happy with B2+. But here are my current levels, and you'll see my problem:


English - native

Spanish - C1

Thai - B2+

Mandarin - B2+

Russian - B2+

Japanese - B2

French - B2

Korean - B2

Tagalog - B2

Swahili - B1


I love increasing the number of languages I can speak, and I've added 2 in the past 2 years - Korean and Tagalog. But some of my languages have deteriorated over the years, and I've finally decided it's time to shore them all up and push them to B2+. I expect this to take some time. But when I'm finished, I believe I'll be able to use them instantly when I want, as long as I maintain them once every 3 weeks. That maintenance schedule works out nicely, because that just means I'll need to study one language for a couple hours every other day. The rest of the time I'll be playing with them.  


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Please post examples of funny or bad accents here. For example:



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SRS (Spaced Repetition software) has become very popular in language learning circles these days. Discussions about SRS, and more specifically, Anki (a certain brand of SRS) are seen everywhere language learning is discussed; in fact it’s pretty much impossible to avoid seeing them. In this post I’m going to give a simple explanation of SRS and why it has become so popular. I will warn against overusing it, and finally, suggest ways to safely incorporate it into your language learning plan.


Simple explanation of SRS, and why it’s so popular

SRS is flashcard software that is designed to have you review your vocabulary just when you need to. 

With paper flashcards and word lists, you decide when to review your vocabulary. But some words you know really well, so you don’t need to review them as often. Other words you’ve already forgotten, so it would be better to review them more often. SRS remembers whether you passed or failed a card (you select “pass” or “fail” when you finish a card), and uses an algorithm to predict when you need to review it again. So in theory SRS will save you time, and use your time more effectively.


Now some people don’t like to do this type of additional vocabulary study; they prefer to learn vocabulary through context. For example, they might prefer to read for 1 hour, rather than read 45 min and do flash cards for 15 min. But for everyone else, you can probably see how attractive SRS is. It’s convenient; you can do it on your phone in your free time anywhere. And it’s efficient because of its intelligently spaced reviews. 


And to be fair, SRS is more complicated than I mentioned, and can do much more that users find attractive. For example, you are not just limited to vocabulary. You can create your own cards with whole sentences if you want. You can use it to learn grammar, add audio, add video, automatically create “fill in the blanks” type cards, create cards that have multiple sides, etc. These features make SRS even more attractive to enthusiasts.  


Overusing SRS

So with all the advantages and features mentioned above, how is it possible to overuse SRS? Here are some pitfalls of overuse. 


It can work against our goals in learning a language.

Most people want to be able converse well, and to be able to read at a reasonable speed. Many would like to understand movies and TV, and write well. Goals vary from person to person, but most people agree that at some point they’d like to be able to do these things without needing props like SRS anymore. Yes, there are some who say they plan on using it for the rest of their lives, but those people are rare. So the goal is not SRS; SRS is merely a tool to help you achieve your goal. 


Now let’s imagine a time in the future when you have reached your goal and are using the language well, as intended, without SRS, and work backwards. It should come as no surprise that it takes a lot of practice using the language without props like SRS before you become good at it. So you want to stop using SRS long before you reach your goal, or at least have weaned yourself off it to the point where you have the time you need to practice the real language. 


Conclusion - if your goal is to use the language without SRS, it doesn’t make sense to use it all the time and drop it at the last minute, expecting to miraculously not need it anymore. Using it too much and too long works against our goals.


It can cause dissociation, decrease motivation, make you want to quit and instill depression.

It’s clear to me that spending so much time away from what you really want out of a language leads to dissociation, makes you lose motivation and want to quit. I’ve read dozens of posts from people who have complained about this, met some of these students in person, and have suffered from it myself. Seeing a dream crushed after hundreds of hours of study can cause depression, believe it or not.


There are very few individuals that have what it takes to learn a language while using a method that is chiefly SRS usage. Case in point – the 10,000 sentence method, that is the method formerly pushed heavily by AJATT and thousands of Japanese learners. If I believe what I read on the internet from these learners, it was a massive failure for most people. It killed motivation, made people quit, and caused depression, on a large scale.


Conclusion – don’t use SRS so much that you lose contact with the thing you love and want most; the real language. You need time to converse, read, watch movies, etc. Otherwise you run the real risk of quitting and/or being depressed.


How to use SRS safely

According to what I stated above, we want limit the use of SRS enough to allow us sufficient time to practice and stay in touch with the pure language. There are many ways to do this, and I couldn’t possibly write about all methods here, so I’ll just share some of the principals that I follow.

• Limit your review sessions to 1 hour. This is a max, and it’s perfectly acceptable to do less.

• Limit your total SRS time, including reviews, card creation, etc, to less than 50% of your total study time in the beginning

• Limit your total SRS time, including reviews, card creation, etc, to less than 25% of your total study time after 2 months  

• Do all your repetitions, but delete cards older than one month. This is how you keep your sessions from exceeding 1 hour. 

• Don’t spend too much time making and manicuring your cards. You’ll only use them for a month, after all. 

• Delete problem cards mercilessly


The point about deleting cards older than 1 month is what scares most over-users. Remember this – you don’t want SRS to take over your studies, so you are trying to get as much benefit as possible out of a 1 hr review. You will get more bang for your buck by sacrificing the old cards rather than the new. New cards are fresh and more fun. Wordbrain also recommends reviewing vocabulary for only 1 month. For cards that have been in the SRS for 1 month, if you know them well, they don’t need to be in there; better to replace them with new cards which do need to be there. For cards that have been in the SRS for 1 month, if you don’t know them well, leaving them in there longer won’t help; better to replace them with new cards. It’s very normal and acceptable to put cards in that you’ve already deleted from your SRS previously.


If you follow these principals, your SRS should be of great benefit to you. Limiting it’s usage will leave you time to work with the real language and help you avoid depression.


One final warning.

Even with the massive failure of the 10,000 sentence method mentioned above, SRS has become much more wide spread in the past few years. Although most use it in a reasonable way, there are many quite vocal fans who are what I’d call over-users. Unfortunately I fear we can expect to see another surge and large-scale fallout over the next few years, due to the release of Gabriel Wyner's book Fluent Forever in 2014. This book describes how to learn a language using (over-using by my way of thinking) SRS. The method is very similar to the original 10,000 sentence method in many respects, but has much more detail regarding creation of material for and usage of Anki, the SRS of choice for most language users.


Most readers are probably unaware of the fate of the 10,000 sentence method. The book is well organized, professional, cites several studies in support of SRS, and uses a lot of friendly colloquial language that younger learners can relate to. Basically, the book is very attractive for many reasons, which makes it hard to warn people about. I can only hope that this post will persuade people not to follow his method.


I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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Can you give me a simple sample sentence where I must use magka-/magkaroon (any aspect), and cannot use may/meron?

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I do, most of the time at least. How about you? For example, when you say "Los Angeles", what does the g sound like?

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Jade.Xuereb wrote:
On mobile unless you turturn the phone landscape you can only see some of the chatrooms you are inin

Are you still seeing this?

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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Noman.Gul wrote:
On desktop view, Text is Truncated......

Are you still seeing this?

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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I'm trying to get a better understanding of when to use these. I think the 3 points below are true. It would be nice if you could correct me if I'm wrong, and/or point out anything else you know that's important when trying to choose.


True or False?

1) May/meron – are negated with wala, can’t show aspect

2) Magka-/magkaroon – are negated with hindi, can show aspect

3) All 4 of these sentences mean “The child has a cold.”

May sipon ang bata.

Merong sipon ang bata.

Nagkakasipon ang bata.

Nagkakaroon ng sipon ang bata.

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There is someone I’d like to thank, and curse, for the way she treated me, and for influencing me to become an amateur polyglot (that’s right Clugston, you non-geolocked bastard, I said polyglot). I’d studied Japanese for about 18 months, and decided my first visit to Japan was long overdue. That’s how I found myself in a homestay in Fukuoka, and that’s how I met my housemate and classmates who invited me to a club. The club was famous for catering to both Japanese and westerners, so I thought it would be a good place to meet local girls and practice conversation. 


The club turned out to be not so interesting, quite a few western servicemen with their Japanese girlfriends, but not many other locals. So after a couple hours, I was leaving with my housemate, a Chinese guy from Hong Kong who had lived a great deal of time in California. We walked into the hallway, and came face to face with two very attractive, well dressed blond women in their 20’s, looking eager to get into the club, but not budging. So I asked them if they had been in the club yet. One of the two looked confused, and the other one looked angry at that question. Sure that I must have read that wrong, I told them there was dancing and food inside, and they ought to go in. That’s when the angry one spoke up. 


Angry girl: If you’re in Japan, why can’t you speak Japanese? (in heavily accented English) 

Me: blank stare, thinking of something clever to say in Japanese 

Angry girl, to my friend: Are you from around here? (in very strongly accented Japanese) 

My friend: What? Sorry, I don’t speak much Japanese… I’m Chinese. 

Angry girl: How are you? (in very strongly accented Mandarin) 

My Friend: I’m fine (in Mandarin). But I don’t speak much Mandarin. I speak Cantonese. (in English) 

Angry girl: That’s nice. Where are you from? (in Mandarin) 

My friend: Hong Kong (in Mandarin). But I’ve lived much of my life in America (in English). 

Polite girl: She speaks 7 languages; Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, etc (in heavily accented English)… 

The elevator arrived then, and two Japanese businessmen in their 40’s got out, collected the girls, and went into the club. 

My friend: It sucks not being able to speak Japanese here. 

Me: How was that girl’s Mandarin? 

My friend: So-so. But she had a really funny accent. 


That was a terribly frustrating experience for me. I’d worked for a year and a half at Japanese, my 5th language at the time, and had some ok skills. I was the best speaker in my class, for one. But that Russian girl had crushed me in just a few minutes of conversation. I didn’t even defend myself. And she was so confident, and spoke 7 languages. The polite girl was really impressed by that, and even my friend seemed a little in awe. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this episode had a big influence on me deciding to become a polyglot. I have to admit that it was more the desire for revenge that drove me than the impressive display of language skills. But what revenge? I knew I’d never run into her again. I guess I decided somewhere along the line that I’d rather be Angry Girl than me in the above conversation. 


So I’ve been transforming into Angry Girl for 7 years now. I believe I’ve surpassed her in most ways, at least the level she was at back then. Her fearlessness and ability to change language quickly may still be superior to mine. I’d like to find out. 


I figure this is the best place on the internet to find her. If you are angry girl, please come forth so we can have a language battle, on Skype. Or at least a good debate here in this thread. Even if you aren’t Angry Girl, just pretend to be. C’mon – I need my revenge. 


(originally posted here)


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French in Action (FIA) - this is a somewhat dated but absolutely superb set of 52 graduated videos designed to teach French through immersion. After the first video, they are all French. Highly recommended.



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Please post screen shots of "Oops! Something amiss" in this thread.

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Does anyone still see these screen squeeze problems?

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Please discuss:


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Just a reminder - this forum is for posting things in languages other than English. For example, if some Spanish learners and natives want to have a discussion in Spanish, this is the place to do it. English descriptions of other languages and such should go in General.

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First post!


I've taken well over 1000 language lessons online, so I've had a wide variety of teachers, and experienced a lot of different teaching styles. I study aspect of a language except for conversation by myself, so when I talk to a teacher I just want a casual chat. I state my preferences when I request a lesson, and let the teacher decide if they are comfortable teaching me. I type "I'd like a 100% L2 conversation, no corrections and no fixed topics, if possible."


Stating "no corrections" causes concerns with some teachers. Some even try to draw me into a debate about learning styles before they have even accepted the class. That being said, I haven't had a single person reject my class because I ask for no corrections. Unfortunately, some teachers forget when we finally have our class, and some will even try to debate me again during our class time, Gasp!


It's a very small percentage of teachers who oppose my method like this; maybe 1%. But many others would prefer to correct me. I've explained why I do it this way, but regardless of my reasons most people disagree with me. That's the nice thing about one-on-one classes. I am the boss, and as long as the teacher agrees beforehand, they are required to do things my way.


Rather than explain why I don't get corrected in my lessons, and losing the argument again, I'd like to hear from you. Do you ever take online, one-on-one classes? What kind of corrections, if any, do your prefer?

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(Note - This article was first published on the HTLAL Forum, May 10, 2011. I have fixed some grammar errors and done a little clarification.)


My purpose for writing this post is to convince beginning language learners to start listening from the beginning of their studies. To explain why one should do this, I will tell you about my personal experiences with listening from the beginning vs delaying for a while. I will also suggest how, how long and how often one should listen, in the form of listening tips.


I have read posts on forums and elsewhere about the role of listening. For beginning language learners, the range of importance placed on listening is wide – from people who want to get through a language program or text before starting to listen, to those who think it unwise to do anything but listen for several hundred hours. 


Another thing that solicits a wide variety of opinions is quality of listening. Some prefer to just have something on in the background, while others listen so intensely they go as far as stopping recordings and looking up unknown words, playing material many times, only listening to things they have transcripts for, etc. These are the extremes of the issues I’d like to discuss, and offer my opinions on. 


My experiences with listening as an adult solo-learner.


For the first languages I studied mainly on my own, Thai and Japanese, I didn’t listen in the early stages. I had a recording for my Thai text book, which I listened to, but it was so meager, and so repetitive, unnatural, etc, that it doesn’t really fit my definition of normal listening (which I will give shortly). With Japanese, early on the only thing I listened to was Pimsleur, which also doesn’t fit my definition of normal listening. In both languages, my true introduction to listening was through conversation practice with native speakers. This came 6 months to a year after I started studying, and not having listening skills made the early stages of conversation, which is the most intense part of language learning for me, much more intense. Still not having a clue, I started Mandarin the same way. Fortunately, a few months into Mandarin I finally started to use podcasts, and watch dramas and believe in the importance of listening. 


Part of this enlightenment was due to all the recommendations on the forums, and part of it was due to the research I read regarding the importance of listening from an early stage. After listening regularly, there was no turning back. Never again would I study a language, at any stage, without listening regularly. But I still hadn’t experienced the true advantage of listening from the beginning. My listening practice greatly improved my ability to comprehend. It was much better than just trying to pick up the skill by accident, or as a consequence of other studies and language usage. But I wondered what level my listening would have been at if I had started from the beginning. Enter French. 


French was the mother tongue of my grandmother, and I had always wanted to learn it. I don’t really know why I all of the sudden decided to learn it; I hadn't yet achieved my goals in my last language, Mandarin, at that point. But I was all gung-ho, and decided from day 1 to use the best language program ever invented – French In Action. For those of you who don’t know, FIA is a complete “immersion” language program that is most popular for it’s 52 half hour TV shows. These shows are all French, designed for the complete beginner and expertly graduated so that the learner is always challenged. I vowed to watch one show a day until I was ready to move on to native material. So that’s what I did. I should point out that I was doing other language learning at the same time; it wasn’t purely learning by listening. But listening was a regular component of my language program. 


This time, 5 months in, when I started conversation, I understood almost all of what was being said to me. I was still awkward at first, but it was as if some big hurdle had been taken out of my language learning. I don’t miss that hurdle. I went on to visit France at about 1 year, and I understood pretty much everything that was going on. It was not without challenge, but comparing this with my other 3 languages, it was a huge improvement. 


Now let me release the elephant in the room. Yes, it was French. Yes, I’m fluent in Spanish and English. So it’s not a fair comparison with my previous languages at all. But relying on my extensive experience with language learning, I felt there was a huge advantage to listening from the beginning over not. 


So now I’m learning Russian. For some reason, this language was really hard for me. I couldn’t believe how hard the first few Pimsleur lessons were. But I started listening from the beginning. Beginner podcasts. And I feel it has really helped. About half way though Pimsleur 1, since there is no “Russian in Action”, I decided to try something different, and start watching movies with subtitles. I got a real kick hearing all my new words used right away in native material, so I bought a bunch more movies. Compared to French, I have very little time to devote to study; work is crazy busy, and I put in 60 hrs per week. And Russian is much harder than French. But when I started Russian conversation, at about 8 months in, again I understood the majority of what my teacher was saying. Maybe the most notable difference between listening from the beginning and not – speech production becomes the biggest challenge in beginning conversation, rather than listening. 


Those are my personal experiences, and why I’m so eager to recommend listening from the beginning, and warn against avoiding it. Now I’d like to define Normal listening – listening to native material at normal speeds. This can be a conversation partner, a movie, radio, podcast, etc. This is the type of listening I recommend below.    


9 Tips for getting the maximum advantage out of listening


1) listen for at least 10 min per day 

There is nothing wrong with listening for more than 10 minutes, but if you find your intensity falling off, you are better served doing something else at that point. If you have no problem paying attention, then the time limit should probably be a percentage or your total study time. For example, if you have 3 hours for study, 30 – 60 min of listening is reasonable. 10 min is a little low for that much study time, and 2 hours is high, if you’re goal is a well balanced language plan. 


Less than 10 min is a mistake, imo. And it’s pretty easy to squeeze in that 10 min, with the advent of mp3 players and such, so no excuses please. 


2) material should be at normal native speeds 

There are many advantages to listening to materials at slower than native speeds. And even some for faster than native speeds. There’s nothing wrong with including that in your language plan, but don’t count it as part of your 10 minutes of listening. Nothing beats listening at native speeds to improve your understanding of language spoken at native speeds. 


3) material should be somewhat comprehensible 

I realize that by definition it’s impossible to find comprehensible material for a true beginner. In those early stages, I recommend listening to beginner podcasts. It takes a lot of beginner podcasts to reach 10 min of native material, but do your best. It shouldn’t be too long before intermediate podcasts and movies are comprehensible enough for you to use. 


You are probably wondering why I’m talking about intermediate podcasts and movies already. That’s because my “somewhat comprehensible” threshold is pretty low. What we’re shooting for at this stage is extensive exposure. We want to hear everything we know in use, and we want to be able to guess a low percentage of words by context. Intermediate podcasts are great because they give translations, and make the whole thing comprehensive. Movies are more challenging in one sense, because they are real native material. But they can be made more comprehensible by subtitles, and have the huge advantage of visual context. So “somewhat comprehensible” doesn’t have to be i+1. 


On the other hand, listening to material that is too far over your head is inefficient. You are better off finding stuff that you understand a little bit, pick up on things you already know, and get wide exposure to lots of other stuff. 


4) listen actively 

Although I don’t consider it damaging to listen passively, I do consider it to be very inefficient. So include it in your language plan if you want, but don’t count it towards your 10 minutes. What I mean by active is concentrating and doing nothing but listening. You should clear you schedule of other things, and really get into it. Try to think on the fly – recognize your vocabulary, but don’t mentally shout out the definition or nag yourself about the meanings you can’t remember. No internal or external translation; just let it flow. 


5) do not stop the recording 

There are many language programs that encourage you to stop the recordings and think about things. And those are fine. Include them in your language program if you want, but don’t count them as part of your 10 minutes. A nice 10 minute stream of native language is your goal. As mentioned elsewhere, this is hard to achieve in the first few weeks, but should be your goal shortly after. You will eventually want to be able to listen to hours of native speaking, so you need to build up your endurance by not stopping too often. 


6) repeat the material occasionally, but not too often 

There are many good reasons to repeat material. I recommend repeating your listening at least once, especially if your material isn’t very comprehensive. But the repetition doesn’t count towards your 10 minutes. 10 minutes of new native material is your goal. This maximizes your exposure. And too much repetition can be a bad thing. Besides offering diminishing returns, it can bore you, and fail to grab your attention. When this happens, you get very little out of listening, and it seems to facilitate disregarding your target language, which is a very bad thing. That being said, this doesn’t always happen during repetition. Just pay attention to your own state of mind, and act accordingly. 


7) material should be all native 

It’s hard to avoid non-native speakers, and I agree that fine-tuning your ear to be able to pick up even poorly spoken or accented target language is a desirable, but leave that for later. In the early stages, listen to native speakers only. Listen to how the language is supposed to be spoken. Listening will affect speech also, so it’s good to model yours after a native. 


8) transcripts are a big plus 

Transcripts allow you to read what your are listening to. They make the material much more comprehensible, and thus will allow you to listen to more difficult things. There’s a synergistic relationship between all 4 language skills, but the one between listening and reading seems to be particularly strong. Listening and reading the same material allows you to improve more than different material. 


There has been some recent advice in the forum to only read things for which you have a recording. As long as you have enough material at your level to pull this off, I think it’s a good idea. Conversely, it would be nice if we had transcripts for everything we listened too, but this might be wishful thinking. 


9) don’t listen in your sleep 

Sleep is necessary. All else being equal, sleep well, and you will be at your maximum efficiency. Trying to learn while you sleep is detrimental to your rest, and negatively affects your overall language performance. 


My opinions on extreme listening strategies.


Ok, I admit some of these aren’t very extreme. But I would like to give my opinion on both ends of the listening stick, if you will.    


First, those who don’t want to listen to the language until they have achieved a high level in other skills. This is bad, in the same way that delaying any of the 4 skills too long is bad. Understanding may be the hardest skill to develop, so it’s best to start early. Listening will reinforce your other skills, so if you hold off, you will miss out on the synergy. Synergy – the idea that whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Expressing this idea mathematically, let’s create 3 imaginary people. They each study for 3 months for the same total number of hours. Person A learns without listening, and reaches level 1.0 in all other skills. Person B does nothing but listen, and reaches a level of 1.1 in listening only. Person C studies everything, including listening, and reaches a level of 1.1 in all skills. That’s what I mean by synergy. Don’t miss out on it by leaving out the listening component.


Next, those who do nothing but listen for hundreds of hours before they do anything else in a language. This is bad because they miss out on synergy again. Most people who attempt this fail, sighting reasons like boredom, frustration at not being able to do the things that they want to do with the language, etc. I also recommend against this because I don’t believe in the claimed advantages. I doubt it will produce native-like accents. The few statistics I’ve see on this strategy are unimpressive, and testimonials I’ve read have generally been negative. 


Regarding quality of listening, passive listening seems to be quite a fad these days. I find this less harmful than a time waster. But if it is truly passive, I suppose it doesn’t waste your time. You’ll just keep on doing what your doing without paying any attention. No harm. No advantage, but no harm. The time wasting thing is a potential issue though. If you’ve got on music in L2 while talking to your girlfriend on the phone in L1, in the time that you’ve set aside to study L2, you’re wasting your study time. On the harmful side, some people believe passive listening leads to ignoring L2. I think this unlikely for most, but if you feel this is happening to you, switch to active listening. Problem solved. 


Finally, really intense listening. Actually, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. Stopping recordings, memorizing all unknown vocabulary, listening repeatedly until it becomes recognizable, these are all good things. You will eventually need to listen without stopping, but I think this an excellent way to hone that skill. I liken this to intensive vs extensive reading, which gets so much play on this forum. So I’m for intensive listening. My only suggestion is no matter how much intensive listening you do, always get in that 10 minutes of normal listening, because, after all, that is the skill you are trying to develop.

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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