Calling All Language-Learners!

#1

I’ve been noticing that we’ve got several people either currently learning a language or thinking about starting to learn a language, both formally and informally. Learning a language without formal classes can be tricky, and keeping it fun and staying motivated can be hard. So as someone who’s been on the language journey for 15ish years now, I figured it might be nice to have a place to share resources and encourage each other!

So to kick it off: My native language is English (American), and I also speak Chinese (Mandarin). I’m tryin’ my best to learn French, and I’ll do an occasional lesson of Gaelic too. For each of these languages, I have differing levels of resource suggestions…so:

Starting with Gaelic: Duolingo (I know…groundbreaking)! This one is tricky because I don’t know anyone personally that speaks it and I don’t think there are any resources in the language department here. I did a project on Gaelic way way waaaaay back in middle school, where I looked at textbooks and dictionaries for words, grammar, and basic pronounciation. It’s a little better now with Duolingo, but I find the lessons on the app a bit sparse in the features that would be most helpful. There isn’t audio for all of the words in the lessons, and I find that I don’t predict the pronounciations very well yet. Also, I’m pretty sure there’s no speaking questions yet, so I’m sure my accent is trash. I keep hoping they bulk this out a little more on the app, but for now that’s the situation.

French: I started self-studying French to prepare for a trip in 2016. Initially, I started with a textbook, but at the time I really needed to be able to build my listening comprehension quickly so…surprise, more Duolingo! This course is pretty built up, with a more complete audio library and speaking questions. I’ve used Duolingo on and off since then, but I’ve also branched out to other media. I listen to music in French occasionally, and it’s pretty easy to find YouTube videos in French. In particular, I love Shut Up and Go - they primarily do content in English, but will do videos in any language they’re learning (so far I think that covers Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, and maybe German?). I also have a friend who speaks French who will overwhelm me with write to me in French every once and a while. I’ve also picked up a couple books/magazines at different difficulty levels to start reading.

Chinese: The big one! And also the only one that I’ve had formal language classes for! I’ve had textbooks from probably 5 different publishers and I’ve figured some things out about what to look for in a textbook if you’re self-studying.

  1. Something that comes with a separate workbook! This was standard with every textbook that I was assigned, so maybe that’s just A Thing, but it really helped to have as much practice material as possible
  2. Textbooks designed to “build fluency” or that have a focus on conversation. I’ve had textbooks that were structured really well for a class but the lessons were on topics that weren’t practical for outside-the-classroom. I’ve also had really fantastic books, where the goal is preparing you to speak with real live native speakers. The topics were more practical and there was more vocabulary included, but we still got to the complex grammar patterns too.
  3. Something with additional media - audio, documentary/drama clips, etc. I had one textbook where the publisher produced essentially a TV series that followed along with the book. The characters encountered situations that would introduce the new vocabulary naturally, and the grammar patterns would subtly show up as the show progressed. It was really well done and was probably the most helpful tool to build natural language skills.

Other than that, it’s mostly finding ways to get authentic examples of the language. Sometimes I’ll look for news and articles in my target languages, or watch TV shows (with subtitles, but the goal of looking at them as little as possible). I am also a huge advocate for getting real life conversation experience. Look for community centers or university departments that host casual language practice hours and try to make it a part of your schedule. If not, there are language buddy apps where you can send audio messages - I’ve used HelloTalk in the past. It’s a little more hit-or-miss, but it’s better than nothing.

So language learners…what’s worked for you? Do you have tips or books or resources that you swear by?

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#2

I speak Classic English and a small bit of French (Not fluently though). But I’m currently trying to learn Romance Latin!

I’m currently using a YouTube channel call Latin tutorial to do it but I’d definitely appreciate any more learning sources!

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#3

Hey, right up my current alley!

I’m French (Québécois french) and fluent in English. Willing to write in French to anyone who’d like to practice btw.

I did some Spanish in high school and now I’m trying to improve it. I’m using an exercice book (from the For dummies series) and I bought a spanish novel (The Alchemist) that I’m trying to read slowly, translating some words as I go and comparing with the French version after a chapter to make sure I got the right meaning.

Duolingo is so great and fun to build vocabulary in many languages but I find it lacking when it comes to actual reading and writing.

Also the other day I dreamt I was in Italy and woke up wanting to learn Italian. :sweat_smile: I would also love to learn a language from Quebec’s indigenous people.

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#4

Native language is Dutch! (Or well, Flemish.)
I heard it’s a tricky language to learn though, but I’ll gladly help anyone out to the best of my abilities if they want to/ are learning it!

Other than that I’m fluent in English (wow, groundbreaking) and know quite some French. I learned both in school, 9 years of French and 6 of English, though with the internet and reading books, my English improved heaps and is far more fluent.

I also know Swedish, but I’m not too great at it yet. Started with a college class for half a semester, and I have continued to learn using my textbooks from that class, the ‘higher level’ text books that come after it and duolingo. Practice would be great, though I’d also love to help people out who are just getting started!

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#5

Great topic!

I’m a native speaker of American English. I formally studied Spanish for six years in middle/high school, then tested out of a bunch of language credits for college, so I technically have a Spanish minor. But my fluency is way down from when I was 18 because I’m not speaking it every day any more. I can understand far more than I can speak. I work in property management for the complex I live in, and I can usually communicate with our Spanish speaking residents pretty well, especially if I use Google Translate to help me out.

As for what I would like to learn, I’ve played a bit with Duolingo for German, Polish, and Gaelic. Of those I want to focus on Polish, since I’m only two generations removed from it and I’m deeply sad that my family didn’t pass it down.

I know a couple of Irish Gaelic folk songs from my childhood obsession with The Secret of Roan Inish, but I have no idea if I’m saying the right things. It’s another one I’d love to learn.

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#6

Native: English
Additional: Polish and German
Learning: Welsh and Hebrew currently

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#7

I’m working on Japanese right now, but I’m much better at understanding spoken words than reading. I only know kanji up to grade 2 and can’t remember katakana for the life of me.

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#8

Do any of y’all watch or read The Magicians? I wonder how language interacts in the magiqal universe.

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#9

I watched it. It seems like the language that a spell was written in is really important to the function because they have to learn a bunch of different languages.

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#10

I studied Spanish for four years in high school, so I’m in a similar boat as @Sorrel, where I understand most of it but a combination of disuse/fear of failure/general shyness prevents me from speaking it. Some of the people I work with have a game where every day, they come up with as many vocab words in Spanish for one letter that they can. It’s interesting, because while I took Spanish for four years, I did Rosetta Stone Italian for like a minute once, and Italian vocab words are all I can come up with for the game! Admittedly, there are A LOT of cognates. I would like to eventually learn Italian and Icelandic; we have some close friends there and I think their language is gorgeous.

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#11

I’m a native English speaker, but I’m on and off studying Korean, Japanese, and Spanish.

Same as @Augustus_Octavian and @Sorrel, I also studied Spanish for a while. From grade school through high school, even though most of it was just the basics, I felt pretty confident in very basic conversation and pronunciation. Even later on in college, I had a high enough grade in my Spanish course that I didn’t need to take the final. However, there’s no better way to put your skills to the test than to go to the country itself. Two years ago, I went to Spain for an international internship and struggled for two months. I survived on basic daily sentences and questions, but I also felt the fear of failure and miscommunication.

I think one of the best apps to use for any language is HelloTalk. It’s a bit difficult to get used to texting and talking with international strangers, but for the most part everybody using the app specifically wants to learn or help teach a language. I think it’s better at teaching grammar than Duolingo because it’s being taught by someone (or multiple people) rather than a computer. I still love Duolingo for some languages, though.

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#12

My second language is Morse Code. Does that count?
I was a “morse translator” (basically) back in my Marine Corps days. I was in the SIGINT/EW field so I did work with a lot of linguists.
During boot camp, I was pulled for an assessment in which they determine if your better at a language or code. I obviously did better at code, despite what I thought.

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#13

I wanted to take at least one of the ASL for non-majors classes in college (they had a good deaf ed program), but they always conflicted with things I had to take. :eavessweat:

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#14

I would definitely benefit from that as I have a deaf sister-in-law. Although I did know the alphabet at one point as a kid, which I learned from a book my dad had.

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#15

We went over the alphabet in I think 5th grade? Of course, about all that’s stuck is enough letters/one sign to say “URA toilet” (or RUA toilet). :deirdrexd:

I know the question motion and a couple other loose signs from dining hall friends.

Oh, and “you’re welcome,” because I asked that for FSDB trick-or-treating that happened in my dorm building.

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#16

:joy:. The more I interact with my sis-in-law the more Im starting to catch on to simple common words & phrases like “thank you” and “you’re welcome”.

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#17

I’ve learned a little Korean through studying Taekwondo😎

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#18

Oh I forgot because its been so long😆. I took 3 yrs of Latin in high school!

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#19

Oh, I almost forgot…if we count conlangs, I know a smattering of Tolkien’s Sindarin Elvish. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’d love to learn some more sign language, though!

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#20

Conlangs totally count :deirdreexcited:

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