How do you make learning a language easier?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by benlangdon, May 27, 2009.

  1. benlangdon macrumors 65832


    Jan 13, 2008
    with summer classes just starting for college, im enrolled in french.
    this class is 4 days a week 6 pm to 9pm for six weeks.

    how do you make learning a language easier?

    im a very heavy math and science guy and language besides programming has always been a challenge. i really need to do well in this class and im dying already on the second day.

    and no, im not dropping, switching or anything like that.
  2. jmann macrumors 604


    Dec 8, 2007
    bump on a log in a hole in the bottom of the sea
    Watch a soap opera/tv show in that language. It let's you hear how native people sound, and you can have fun picking out words. :)
  3. MacsomJRR macrumors 6502a


    Jul 8, 2003
    San Diego
    Practice, practice and more practice. Learning a new language as an adult is never easy and requires lots of patience, and yes, more practice. Try to use the different words and phrases you're learning often and in your daily life outside of the classroom and study hall.

    When all that fail just pay $$$ for Rosetta Stone like Michael Phelps.
  4. OutThere macrumors 603


    Dec 19, 2002
    Watch all of the French movies and TV shows that you can get your hands on, if it has it turn on the French audio track in english DVDs (helps since you might already know the story). With DVDs you can watch with and without the subtitles and try to put the pieces together.

    My dad taught himself English like that when he moved from Paris to New York back in the day. Your mind picks up on how things are supposed to sound and you'll automatically try to pronounce it the right way when you hear yourself missing things.

    Hearing a language spoken all of the time is also, I think, one of the only truly effective ways to learn masculine/feminine word genders. Once you've heard 'la maison' spoken 1000 times in movies, 'le maison' will sound wrong to you, for example. You'll also pick up constructions, syntax, that kind of stuff.

    There are also groups all over that meet to speak...various abilities and such. There's a french speaking group that meets once a month at a french restaurant near my college...that'd probably be helpful as well.

    And the tried and true method for mastering a language: find a girl who speaks it. :D
  5. instaxgirl macrumors 65816


    Mar 11, 2009
    Edinburgh, UK
    I'm a language student (which incidentally made me loathe languages and wish I'd kept up my sciences instead). I had to get Spanish, which I'd never learned before, up to the standard of German, which I'd been learning for 5 years+, in under 6 months. It sucked ass.

    Beyond the movies thing I personally found I needed to do grammar. Did grammar literally 'till the cows came home. Without it you might be able to comprehend what others are saying but it'll be unlikely you'll be able to communicate anywhere near correctly with others or write an essay.

    I concentrated on grammar first, when I knew the "rules" of the language I pushed myself for comprehension, which 'cause Spanish is spoken so fast was extremely difficult. I downloaded daily news podcasts and used to listen to them a couple of times. I didn't expect to completely understand them, but I needed to be able to pick words and sentences apart.

    Do they speak only French in your class? Linguistic studies show that the best way for someone to learn a language is for them to be as immersed in it as possible and right now the classroom's the only real conceivable place for you where everyone is going to speak French.
  6. magamo macrumors 6502

    Apr 6, 2009
    It depends on your purpose, how fluent you want to be, what language skills you're focusing on, etc. If you want to speak like a native speaker, then total immersion into the language is the only effective way, if you ask me.

    Also I think SRS (Spaced Repetition Software) is a must-have for everyone learning a language. It's a kind of flashcard software that calculates how long it takes to forget the information you wrote on each card and automatically makes you review each card just when you start failing to recall it. Obviously you can use it to efficiently build vocabulary. But since it's a computer-based program, you can also create mp3 flashcards, short video clips from your favorite movies and whatnot to learn pronunciation and so on.

    Certainly, there is no learning method that works for everyone when it comes to foreign languages, but I believe SRS works wonders for most of learners if used properly.
  7. it5five macrumors 65816


    May 31, 2006
    New York
    Learning a new language isn't easy if you're coming into it later in life. Sorry. You're just going to have to practice and study as much as you can. Start reading things in French (depending on your ability). Go look at French newspaper websites.

    Also, I'll second what OutThere recommended. Pick an English movie you are very familiar with, and turn on the French audio track. Since you already know the story and context, you will pick up some words and do a pretty good job understanding most of the movie.
  8. gmanterry macrumors regular


    May 31, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    Learning French

    I learned French in the Peace Corps, before being sent to West Africa. Just a couple of suggestions.
    We were taught using immersion which no doubt is impractical in your case.
    However, the suggestion about reading books can be a trap. The French have literary tenses of the language. Therefore, what you read probably will not be the same as the spoken language. The solution - same as when you were a kid learning English; comic books. French adults love comics and they are even published in hard cover. There is Luck Luke, a cowboy with a talking horse. Asterix, the French equivalent to our Superman, and Tin Tin. What I did was read and make a list of words I didn't understand. I then looked up the words and wrote the definitions on the list. When I re-read the book, the words were all there and soon I could throw the list away. I was 31 when the Peace Corps taught me French. Luckily, French, unlike English, is a consistent language and it is far easier to sound out words once you learn the alphabet. Good luck and try to find a French speaking friend.

  9. MacBoobsPro macrumors 603


    Jan 10, 2006
    Try to immerse yourself in as much of the language as possible. When working, studying (even for another course) have the TV or Radio set to a French channel. You don't have to listen, just have it as ambience. Have imaginery conversations in your head when there is no one to speak to. When you get stuck go look up that exact bit that you were stuck on. If you don't know what Wednesday in French is look it up. Next time you have your imaginary conversation you will know what wednesday is.

    I'm learning Spanish on and off in my spare time I've gotten to the point where I am starting to dream in Spanish which is a sure sign that things are progressing. I am by no means fluent but I could get my point across on pretty much anything now, its just learning all the nouns which I am doing one at a time in the way mentioned above. If you get stuck, look it up (right away too - don't wait until you need it again). That way you can really improve with each conversation.

    I also highly recommend EarWorms language CDs (available on iTunes too). They are basically music overlaid with (chosen language) and English translation. Because Music is much easier to remember due to its beats, sounds, etc the French words for example stick in your mind like lyrics. It works on both a conscious and sub conscious level as you can 'hear' the music without having to 'listen' to it. So it also works very good as ambient music while you work, study etc.

    Au Revoir.

    EDIT: Also read French stuff. Even if you have no interest or any clue whats its about. Just seeing the words will help you with the pronunciation although French can be a bit strange when it comes to that i.e. Tres is 'twaa' as I'm sure you know, but it helps too see the words as well as hear them.
  10. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Nov 19, 2007
    Portland, OR
    In my time I've learned French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Portuguese. In my oppinion, portuguese has been the best.

    I learned Portuguese in less than two months well enough that I was able to move to Portugal and not have any troubles communicating. My strategy? Get some music that you like that's sung in the language you're trying to learn. Listen to it constantly. Then get reading materials and read them. As you come to a word that you don't know, look it up and cross the French word out and re-write it in English. You won't hit that word more than 2 or 3 times before you have it. Once I did the reading excercise I'd say I doubled my speaking ability each week.

  11. Signal-11 macrumors 65816


    Mar 23, 2008
    2nd Star to the Right
    French is a language I picked up as an adult, also because I was working in French speaking Africa (for MSF), and more so than most other languages, I found listening comprehension to be the most difficult part of getting French up to an acceptable working level of proficiency. I don't think I'm alone in this because my colleagues who also speak French as a 3rd/4th/5th language have enough proficiency to work, but we completely get lost watching French movies. I really have to concentrate to understand RFI.

    My favorite method for working on my listening comprehension was movies with subtitles and switching audio and subtitle tracks.
  12. shivermetimbers macrumors 6502

    Nov 22, 2008
    McChord, Wash
    Immerse yourself into it. I learned Korean in Korea...who woulda thunk it? I learned sign language by crash-course. So basically, I learned Korean from Koreans and how to sign by the hearing impaired.

    To be able to learn it, you have to be around it a lot and try to have conversations. It is prolly the best way. IMHO.....
  13. benlangdon thread starter macrumors 65832


    Jan 13, 2008
    o wow kinda forgot about this thread :p.

    i haven't read all the posts but will later.

    ok so... i had my first test.
    last semester i had calc and physics, and studied knarly amounts and made sure every little thing was right. i did the same for french, i learned all this stuff and only like ten of them were on the test.

    i studied all the little accents and stuff thinking she would ask a tricky question and all she asked was like this picture is sunny and hot (actually told us) how do you say that in french.

    ugh, this is lame, i miss math and physics :rolleyes:

    ugh i made like 93 or something note cards ( i know because i numbered every question and wrote the number in french, and i can only count to thirty so i went through the number 3 times:p)
  14. it5five macrumors 65816


    May 31, 2006
    New York
    Well if you're taking this class to actually learn the language, you're helping yourself out a lot by studying this much, so keep it up. However, if you're just taking this class to meet any general education requirements your university has, then see it as an easy A.

    My introductory French classes were easy too, because most people that take them have no desire to actually learn the language, but two years of a foreign language is required for a B.A. at ASU. As a result, the TAs teaching the class put in less effort. Those of us who wanted to continue on past the four semesters had to just work extra on our own.
  15. Sehnsucht macrumors 65816

    Sep 21, 2008
    Du hast mich gefragt und ich habe nichts gesagt... :)

    The immersion method is always the best way to go. Right now, I'm teaching myself German with a little help from friends...basically I have them ask me lots of questions in German and I try to reply sensibly. If I respond correctly, we keep going, if I **** up (and I do quite often) then I get corrected. I've made lots of progress in just a month or two. Plus as someone else mentioned, it also helps to watch TV shows and listen to radio programs in said language, in my case I'm a huge Rammstein fan so I've got that too. :D

    A few years ago, I tried learning Russian, but it was so ridiculously difficult even with the immersion method that I eventually gave up. :eek:
  16. LizKat macrumors 601


    Aug 5, 2004
    Catskill Mountains
    Say you are American, that your primary language is English and that you are trying to improve your French.

    First read in English the top news of international significance related to the USA, then the top news of international significance related to any French-speaking country of interest to you.

    Then go to LeMonde or another French newspaper online. There first read in French any stories in their international news about the USA. Then read their top news of international significance about France (or the other French-speaking country of interest to you).

    When you do this, you will pick up some new French vocabulary in context without having to look up so many words. You've already bumped into lots of those words in the stories you read earlier in your native language, and in context you can guess what the French words mean.

    I call it the semi-immersion method... for people surrounded by monolingual neighbors and friends. All you need is a net connection, at least until more newspapers start charging for their content (which is bound to happen as print editions die out).
  17. mobilehaathi macrumors G3


    Aug 19, 2008
    The Anthropocene
    Ok, I am a math/physics person as well, and I've successfully learned French, Hindi, Punjabi, and Arabic. As a student in the mathematical sciences, I learn by understanding general principles and learning to make logical connections. The typical approach to teaching French where I live (USA) tends to focus on immediate immersion without much rigor when it comes to grammar and syntax. This honestly did not work well at all for me. I found it arbitrary and very memorization focused. However when learning Hindi, Punjabi, and Arabic, the classes I took had a more grammar centric style of teaching. I learned how the language worked, and picked up the vocabulary on the way. This isn't meant to imply you won't need to study or memorize or immerse yourself, but what worked for me was an additional concentrated effort on learning the explicit grammar of the languages. It also helps to have friends who speak your language of interest, and to live in a country where that is the primary language. Spend some effort on the grammar. Learn the language; vocabulary will come in time.
  18. benlangdon thread starter macrumors 65832


    Jan 13, 2008
    ya that is what is exactly happening. my first college semester of english my teacher was rules, and such and got an A, and i liked it (i hate english, language...). ya i wish it was more rules and grammer then i would understand what everything means.

    this is why in math and physics i love proofs, its not memorization, it knowing how to work through a problem using different ideas and theories.
  19. hefeglass macrumors 6502a

    Apr 21, 2009
  20. thomahawk macrumors 6502a


    Sep 3, 2008
    Osaka, Japan
    well i dont know what really works.

    but i have friends who speak like japanese chinese korean italian german. all that stuff.

    i just get rossetta stone and learn a language then attempt to converse with my friends. i think the best way to learn a language is to communicate with friends and learn from them.

    in my opinion its better learning from a teacher and having to go by their pace. i rather go my pace
  21. kdum8 macrumors 6502a


    Sep 8, 2006
    Tokyo, Japan
    All good advice so far. The best way of course is to date someone whose native language is one you want to learn. :p Worked for me in the past.

    It really gives you motivation... honestly!

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