I would play the hell out of that game and I'd be fluent in like 8 languages after a few months. Please, somebody with access to like $10 million of funny money, build this.
Seems to me like you don't need to invent something new.
So each of the quests would need to be tuned to this kind of immersive trial/error learning (which is how we acquire new languages). Right now, if my memory serves me, most Warcraft quests don't even require you to read the text or listen to anyone speaking. You just follow a nav arrow or go towards a dot on the mini map. Simply switching languages would not get the job done.
For example, you'd have 3 lines: the original line, a translated line, and a "learning" line in between that would have the verbs in their non conjugated form, etc.
Example with your sentence:
Mata 8 dragónes verdes
Matar 8 dragón verde
Kill 8 dragons green
This probably isn't the ideal configuration, but I think the general idea has a lot of potential and would greatly help with language learning. It would also really shine for languages with different alphabets - eg for japanese the top line could use kanji/hiragana/katakana, and the middle line romaji.
I thought of this recently while watching a Japanese movie- my Japanese is very rudimentary, and having romaji+English subtitles while listening to the movie in Japanese would make me learn super fast.
So I don't think trying to have two languages active concurrently and constantly translating forth and back works well. However, having audio and text in the same language active concurrently helps with instilling an audio representation of the language in your head, which is crucial in e.g. improving reading speed, because you really need to be able to actually speak in your head instead of working with abstract symbols.
I guess the upside to TV is that it's not a chore and people would be less likely to quit.
The trick is "comprehensible input." If you can provide a learner with input that is just a little beyond their level of comprehension, they will learn much, much faster. Dump someone into an ocean of complex grammar and vocabulary? It's a nightmare. I can see definite value in a game that starts very basic, and increases complexity as you acquire a language.
A game would also be good for reinforcing word-image links without translation. Sites like DuoLingo do a very good job at training people to be translators, but a poorer job of training people to become adequate speakers, writers, and listeners.
Imagine a game where you "purchase" tickets, get on a plane, fly to France and have to navigate around Paris while learning bits of French along the way (reading signs, having interactions like asking for directions, ordering coffee, etc). You would have objectives to complete and little mini-levels like typing exercises. There could be speaking tests via siri/gnow-like AI or even a "pro" version where you interact with real native speakers (pay as you play).
The closest I can think of is Influent on Steam, but it's pretty limited at the moment (you can only navigate around an apartment). It's a pretty good start.
French, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese: http://appstore.com/h4labs
I agree that some sort of interactive game would be great but it would be so much harder. I was thinking either comics or some sort of illustrated story might work too. First, I'm going to spruce up my current app then try to design some "story" that covers the basic nouns and verbs.
Learning through subtitles for tv shows proved to be the best way for me. Each time you translate a dialog you get a reward in a form of a story. And story is what you are watching tv shows for in the first place.
This is just fluff. Sure, the guy probably learned some French, but it's anecdotal. To assess proficiency he needs to be tested by native experts in all the modalities of language: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Not by the opinion of some girl who probably liked him at a coffee shop.
Where I am we take 6 months to get a student from 0 to basic proficiency in french: i.e. able to read/listen to news and discuss advanced topics, like economics. That's with 6 hours of class a day, M-F all with native speakers.
If you really want to learn a language efficiently, I'd recommend this ted talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0yGdNEWdn0
BTW, I doubt his 6 month mark applies to harder languages like chinese.
I'm currently 2 years into my attempt to learn Chinese and I can say that many of these tips don't apply to all languages:
1. Listening to music won't help with comprehension of tonal languages like Chinese because songs will usually ignore the tones so that they sound better set to music.
2. Reading children's books in character-based languages like Chinese will only be helpful if you're already proficient in a few hundred basic characters. Since there's no alphabet, there's no way to sound out words the way we can in English.
Otherwise, there are some great tips here. I agree that listening to classroom discussion and hearing others' mistakes is a great way to learn. It's also important to do daily, focused practice in the mornings when your mind is fresh and not muddled by other things.
Overall I think it's a good Quora answer but not necessarily a "secret" to learning a language.
Knowing another latin - based language should help. I know things got much easier for me in France when I realized its similarities to spanish.
Similar to fitness, those 2 barriers have spawned an industry of 'learn in your car', 'French in 30 days' and videos by polyglots who sell the idea that language acquisition is easy.
Now I'm going to tell you the hardest part of learning a foreign language.
There are no shortcuts. It takes time, it takes dedication and it will most probably cost money.
You should be able to do the basics in a few weeks or months, mastery will take (much) longer. If your goal is to blend in with the natives without getting any questions about your origins after the first three sentences prepare for a decade or more. That's a grade or two above fluency.
Seems like just about anyone can learn to speak French when given the opportunity to immerse themselves in a bucolic French village with nothing to do!
What I have started doing recently is listen to a Japanese podcast on SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/senakunes/easy-japanese-lesson-12-in-...) while doing my morning workout.
Moreover, since my commute to work is short, I have also started watching a short 5min anime to pick up basic everyday Japanese conversational skills.
Additionally, I plan to spend at least 10 minutes chatting in Japanese everyday to one of my colleagues who understands the language.
I'll do this for a month or two and check where I am after this period. I do believe the key to learning any language (especially if you are not in the country) is to practise every day and use the expressions learned on the day in different contexts to cement them in your memory. This also means you most likely have to find someone who speaks the language fluently or at least understands it to an acceptable level.
Obviously, I'll have to come up with another technique if I see no progress.
Consuming media in general and enjoying it is a great way to learn a language (Bollywood movies, k-dramas, animé, j-pop, French movies are well known language learning sources) for conversational experience - just keep consuming till you reach that point where the subtitles are less and less relevant
For romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian), the Michel Thomas CDs are the best that I have seen. For other languages, Pimsleur tapes are usually the best option.
I'm 30 and I started learning Korean in 2014, partly as an experiment to see whether my brain is still up to learning something completely new that's non-trivial (I had my insecure doubts). It turns out that it's really not that hard.
It's a lot like taking on a large programming problem outside your immediate experience base, actually: At first it can seem like an impenetrable mountain of work, but you dive in anyway, portion it up into smaller problems (in this case, various individual grammar forms), slowly work your way through the list until you have a big picture overview of the problem space as a framework to hang things on, and then you fill in the details through exposure and practice and things slowly weave together into a confident understanding of what you're doing - with a language, that's expressing yourself.
I feel like it's very doable now, and it's tremendous fun and immensely stimulating along the way. Learning a new language feels like gaining access to a new angle from which to look at the world - subtly different ways to categorize space, new spectra of adjectives to work with (or, since Korean uses descriptive verbs instead, new ways of working with adjectives), new forms of absurdity (and thus humor). A better idea of where languages differ, but also, crucially, where they are the same. It feels like getting a bit closer to an idea of what core-humanity may be.
It will take a lot more time to become fluent, not to mention eloquent, but I haven't had this much fun with a hobby since programming used to be one.
1. TTMIK's Hangeul Master. It's really easy to pick up hangul basics so spending $20 on a book that's superficially just about the alphabet might seem silly. But the harder part to learn isn't really the symbols, it's the pronunciation. You need to get to grips with the various sound change rules that apply when various characters are adjacent to each other, and with the pronunciation differences between the normal and tense consonants, and so on. If you can't look at a word and confidently form its sound in your head you can't read or write efficiently, so this is crucial. TTMIK's book is really a solid package: You get the basics (the symbols, the stroke order, etc.) but also a good introduction to the sound change rules, not just on paper but also in really well-done supplementary audio resources and quizzes (where many books fail). Finally there's a second section on various Korean handwriting styles that I found surprisingly useful (Korean TV shows and other materials often use pen scripts that can be hard to read without spending some time with this).
2. To complement the above, the Korean Wiki Project has a lot of good sound files for various character combinations.
3. Billy Go's two Korean Made Simple books are just great. They're highly accessible introductions to core grammar and core vocab, with short, digestible chapters that gently build on each other (and some useful appendices, like another very complete overview over sound change rules). This is the sort of hand-holding you need to start to be able to find your way around in sentences, form your own, and develop a solid basis from which to attack more advanced areas.
4. Korean Grammar in Use is another excellent book series. It doesn't do hangul or vocab, instead focussing on numerous grammar forms. It's well-structured and benefits from great page layout, and is exactly what you need after Go's books to progress further. It's in English, but written by native authors and originates in the Korean university world. It's a bit harder to get ahold off; I got mine from Korean sellers on Amazon without problems though.
5. The Integrated Korean series has a deservedly good reputation as being suitable for self-study and being well-rounded and comprehensive. I agree it's good material that you want to look at, especially for practice (it has work books), but I don't think they're as accessible as Go's books, and not as well-structured as Korean Grammar in Use. I think it's best to start this series as supplementary fodder after the above.
6. I've used Anki flashcards for vocab training, but I don't feel like flashcards work well for me. I find it hard to retain words without sufficient context. The vocab I pick up while reading about grammar sticks much better. To really bulk up on vocab I recommend studying enough grammar so you can dissect even more complicated sentences, and then start reading prose with the aid of a dictionary. Get some children's book or YA fiction and work your way up.
7. Make sure you listen to some audio-only resources, not just TV shows. Some of the Korean phonemes are superficially similar to Western ones, but formed with slightly different tongue positions, and because of the McGurk effect (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-lN8vWm3m0#t=86) you can actively hear them wrong when you look at speakers' faces. Once you know enough hangul and grammar and vocab to have a hope of keeping up with spoken Korean, bulk up on audio. TTMIK has a lot of conversational resources. That said, watching TV shows and stuff is of course good fun anyway, and especially variety shows often have on-screen subtitles featuring the key terms of what's being said, which makes for great learning material ...
8. Subscribe to the /r/korean sub-reddit and read the questions and answers/discussion. You'll learn a lot from that and make lots of interesting connections.
9. For practice, use Hello Talk (chatting with natives) and Lang 8 (write longer texts and get corrections by natives). There's of course also "go to Korea and immerse yourself", but not everyone has that luxury.
Yes, some people can work hard and retain things throughout. Beethoven could remember an entire symphony from listening to it once, but that hardly translate to anything useful for normal music students.
I certainly couldn't have done the same thing with Mandarin.
I'm at the advanced intermediate level in French and have only lightly studied Spanish. I can follow many conversations in Spanish that happen around me.
Total immersion, at least in the beginning, is only useful when your language of choice has linguistic similarities to what you already know. Otherwise, to get to a level where immersion even makes sense comes only after hard studying. Without this base knowledge, everything you hear will sound like complete gibberish...not really an efficient way to learn.
As someone who is fluent in Korean, I'd presumably have an easier time picking up Japanese here in the US than a foreign exchange student in Japan who only knows English (given similar levels of dedication/work ethic). That's because Korean has many similarities to Japanese.
My personal trick is comics. Asterix and Tin Tin were great for me.
It's spoken language written down with drawings to help along the way.
All you find there will be needed on a daily basis so it's very efficient.
As a Canadian French is not foreign as in not a language of this nation even though I don't speak it. Maybe foreign to the person not to your nation is what's meant.
Even in the US Spanish wouldn't be even though English is the only unofficial official language. Even French is part of US languages from parts of Maine to my Acadian neighbours who went to Louisiana.
I hope the FAQ information below helps hackers achieve their dreams. For ANY pair of languages, even closely cognate pairs of West Germanic languages like English and Dutch, or Wu Chinese dialects like those of Shanghai and Suzhou, the two languages differ in sound system, so that what is a phoneme in one language is not a phoneme in the other language.
But a speaker of one language who is past the age of puberty will simply not perceive many of the phonemic distinctions in sounds in the target language (the language to be learned) without very careful training, as disregard of those distinctions below the level of conscious attention is part of having the sound system of the speaker's native language fully in mind. Attention to target language phonemes has to be developed through pains-taking practice.
It is brutally hard for most people (after the age of puberty, and perhaps especially for males) to learn to attend to sound distinctions that don't exist in the learner's native language. That is especially hard when the sound distinction signifies a grammatical distinction that also doesn't exist in the learner's native language. For example, the distinction between "I speak" and "he speaks" in English involves a consonant cluster at the end of a syllable, and no such consonant clusters exist in the Mandarin sound system at all. Worse than that, no such grammatical distinction as "first person singular" and "third person singular" for inflecting verbs exists in Mandarin, so it is remarkably difficult for Mandarin-speaking learners of English to learn to distinguish "speaks" from "speak" and to say "he speaks Chinese" rather than * "he speak Chinese" (not a grammatical phrase in spoken English).
Most software materials for learning foreign languages could be much improved simply by including a complete chart of the sound system of the target language (in the dialect form being taught in the software materials) with explicit description of sounds in the terminology of articulatory phonetics
with full use of notation from the International Phonetic Alphabet.
(By the way, the International Phonetic Alphabet was invented by language teachers in Europe to help native speakers of English learn French and native speakers of French learn English, so it could help the author of the article submitted to open this thread. The International Phonetic Alphabet was eventually extended to be useful for writing down any human language.) Good language-learning materials always include a lot of focused drills on sound distinctions (contrasting minimal pairs in the language) in the target language, and no software program for language learning should be without those. It is still an art of software writing to try to automate listening to a learner's pronunciation for appropriate feedback on accuracy of pronunciation. That is not an easy problem.
After phonology, another huge task for any language learner is acquiring vocabulary, and this is the task on which most language-learning materials are most focused. But often the focus on vocabulary is not very thoughtful.
The classic software approach to helping vocabulary acquisition is essentially to automate flipping flash cards. But flash cards have ALWAYS been overrated for vocabulary acquisition. Words don't match one-to-one between languages, not even between closely cognate languages. The map is not the territory, and every language on earth divides the world of lived experience into a different set of words, with different boundaries between words of similar meaning.
The royal road to learning vocabulary in a target language is massive exposure to actual texts (dialogs, stories, songs, personal letters, articles, etc.) written or spoken by native speakers of the language. I'll quote a master language teacher here, the late John DeFrancis. A few years ago, I reread the section "Suggestions for Study" in the front matter of John DeFrancis's book Beginning Chinese Reader, Part I, which I first used to learn Chinese back in 1975. In that section of that book, I found this passage, "Fluency in reading can only be achieved by extensive practice on all the interrelated aspects of the reading process. To accomplish this we must READ, READ, READ" (capitalization as in original). In other words, vocabulary can only be well acquired in context (an argument he develops in detail with regard to Chinese in the writing I have just cited) and the context must be a genuine context produced by native speakers of the language.
I have been giving free advice on language learning since the 1990s on my personal website,
and the one advice I can give every language learner reading this thread is to take advantage of radio broadcasting in your target language. Spoken-word broadcasting (here I'm especially focusing on radio rather than on TV) gives you an opportunity to listen and to hear words used in context. In the 1970s, I used to have to use an expensive short-wave radio to pick up Chinese-language radio programs in North America. Now we who have Internet access can gain endless listening opportunities from Internet radio stations in dozens of unlikely languages. Listen early and listen often while learning a language. That will help with phonology (as above) and it will help crucially with vocabulary.
The third big task of a language learner is learning grammar and syntax, which is often woefully neglected in software language-learning materials. Every language has hundreds of tacit grammar rules, many of which are not known explicitly even to native speakers, but which reveal a language-learner as a foreigner when the rules are broken. The foreign language-learner needs to understand grammar not just to produce speech or writing that is less jarring and foreign to native speakers, but also to better understand what native speakers are speaking or writing. Any widely spoken modern language has thick books reporting the grammatical rules of the language,
and it is well worth your while to study books like that both about your native language(s) and about any language you are studying.
A special bonus for learners of French (which I have used) is that many classic French literature books (novels, collections of short stories, collections of essays, etc.) are now in the public domain, and are available as free-of-charge ebooks. You can practice a lot of reading French with resources like that, and relearn classic tales you knew in youth. Similarly, today there is boundless free audio, for example in the form of online movies and streaming news broadcasts, in all of the major world languages. Take advantage of that as you learn.
Bonne chance. 祝
(I'm currently learning Korean, where e.g. properly conjugated verbs are immensely powerful information encoders, and also serve as adjectives. Grammar is indispensable there.)
I spent three years in Central America, mostly hanging out around gringos, and six months immersed in the language. The difference was incomparable. I don't consider myself fluent, but I think I can say with some authority that the more exposure to native speakers that you have, and the more that you force yourself to express yourself in that language, the easier it will be to learn. There aren't many people for whom learning languages is actually easy, but there are easier and harder ways to go about it. The important point is that it is something that is possible for anyone, with sufficient effort: It's wired into our brains.
As an aside, I would like to recommend the app Duolingo. I haven't used it much; it was a little embarrassing to be using it around a bunch of native speakers, but I do think it helps to gamify the experience.
I had lunch with my friend and her French friends everyday. As they refused to slow down when speaking to me in French, it was learn or starve!