> Even she was bored with the fabricated dialogues of coursebooks, so her favourite method was to obtain an original novel in a language completely unknown to her, whose topic she personally found interesting (a detective story, a love story, or even a technical description would do), and that was how she deciphered, unravelled the basics of the language: the essence of the grammar and the most important words. She didn't let herself be set back by rare or complicated expressions: she skipped them, saying: what is important will sooner or later emerge again and will explain itself if necessary.
Certainly sounds like my experience reading some code. Moreover, the more familiar you are with the language itself, the more transparent different dialects become. (Makes me wonder if she could understand Scots)
Here's a good introduction to the idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_EQDtpYSNM
Edit: Just realized that the originator of that theory, Stephen Krashen, actually got to meet her. Fascinating!
It sounds like she had a similar attitude with written languages.
I suppose real-time vs. at my own pace is another aspect that comes into play.
The hack is to find video material that has exact or near exact subtitles in your target language. By using a short, repeatable video, you will be able to associate sounds with the words, not the other way around. Since spoken language is sounds, you have to start with the sounds. It can be easy to get frustrated as it is a process of repeated listening. For that reason, choose something you like.
Invested Time x Motivation
-------------------------- = Results
Learning any skill that requires social interaction is much harder for me because then all of my social anxieties and fear of failure kick in. I would love to learn a second language, and this is the main thing holding me back. I think I have the right mental skills to put the time in and wrap my head around it, I just break out in a cold sweat when I imagine horribly mispronouncing something in front of a native speaker.
If you wish to avoid the social aspects completely, how about starting with practising to only read a language? There are plenty of newspapers and other material to study and it helps to be able to figure out what is said from the context. It will involve some guesswork but it keeps your brain thinking. With context I mean that any big piece of news is likely to appear also in the news written in a language you already know, so you can cross-reference and figure out unknown words.
I'd argue on the contrary that it is the most important part when starting learning a new language. People easily skip the pronunciation and phonology part of their target language and then hit a barrier while still being at the beginner level because they cannot go further: nobody understand them. Working seriously on that part at the beginning is fundamental not to lost time and waste effort later on. Heck, I've heard people with 3 years of Chinese that still could not make most consonants correctly...
Of course, to actually communicate with people, writing or speaking is required.
Then only with speaking comes the pronunciation. That can be very cognitively demanding in addition to other cognitive loads, so having a vocabulary and phrases ready can help.
I know two foreign languages. The first foreign one I started to learn by accident by listening (English, through kids' movies/cartoons with subtitles) until English formally started in school. At that point it helped a lot to know some phrases and structure "beforehand".
The second foreign one started in school at 14 years old (Swedish), but I did not have a lot of motivation for it back then. Reading felt easier and that is what helped me pick up the language in more detail over ten years later.
I also studied German for two years but never used it afterwards so I can't really speak it. I can mostly figure out stuff I read if it has words I know or can figure out the meaning from the context.
Now, is my lack of German pronunciation skills stopping me from deepening my skills in German? Nope, I can still study vocabulary and reading in general. Of course I cannot talk with anyone in a proper way.
But, at least to me, knowing a language does not imply being able to speak it. Speaking is just one dimension (of reading, writing, listening, speaking).
Also, from what I've heard, Chinese is rather an extreme outlier among languages in terms of difficulty in westerners being understood, isn't it? Everything about it's different. (It works the other way too: by far the worst, opaque, near-indecipherable English-speaking I've experienced online text-chatting with people was by a couple of Chinese people..who told me they were English teachers! I could hardly believe it..)
What I know logically to be true and what I'm able to convince my insecurities to believe are sadly not always the same. :)
> If you wish to avoid the social aspects completely, how about starting with practising to only read a language?
I have considered that, but I worry somewhat about ending up with deeply ingrained mental mispronunciations if I go too far learning a language without validating pronunciation along the way.
Either way, it's mostly academic at this point since I definitely don't have the time to take on a project like this right now.
YMMV, for sure. Most people I know seem to get chattier (in whatever language) after 1 drink, but responses are variable and I can imagine some folks clamming up.
A couple years ago I got an ADD diagnosis. Should have happened when I was 12, but you work with what you got. I credit the ADD with pushing me to pursue my interests over what was assigned to me. Wasn't really a choice, I would stay up until 3AM+ regularly, trying and failing to do homework. I graduated from high school a semester late, with a 1.2 GPA.
In the meantime I was teaching myself, with basically no guidance, how to build small robots, program bare-metal microcontrollers, generally build things. When I was 18 got me a job at a small tech company (what luck!), which opened up a whole world of opportunity - interesting projects to work on, very talented people to learn from.
My own experience with it is a it more organic and less deliberate, but I find similar things. Once there's a sort of logic to each language that you've acquired it gets easier to learn stuff, the holes kinda fill themselves. I've never reached full confidence -say enough to do a degree in a non-language course- in all my languages but a couple, but there's enough to build on for most of them, and a lot of everyday stuff is okay. I also don't beat myself up over grammatical issues like keeping loads of gender/subject/etc agreements.
On the software side it's maybe similar. You can group languages by various traits like declarative/imperative, GC/manual, static/dynamic types, and a few others. So that allows you to in gross terms translate a program from one language to another, but it's not quite the same as knowing a language inside out so that you fully use all the useful features.
 Well, maybe not - getting on top of one Romance verb system was enough, it seemed soooo weird and complicated in the beginning. Although I'm still a novice at using the subjunctive.
I speak French natively and Spanish fluently. I also listen to a fair amount of Reggeaton, which is quite often in Spanish spoken with a Puerto Rico accent.
I always find it interesting how the Puerto Rican pronunciation of "Yo soy" sounds so very close to the southern French pronunciation of "Je suis".
"Si tu eres un caballo, je suis el dueño del hipódromo"