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Ways to learn a language as an adult? (quora.com)
35 points by kintamanimatt on Dec 28, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 61 comments

I've said this before on HN, but it's worth repeating. I want a Warcraft-style MMO that immerses me in a foreign language. Instead of "Go kill 8 dragons" the questgiver tells me to "Mata a 8 dragones verdes" and it's up to me to figure out he said green dragons, not just any dragons.

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.

I'm not familiar with Warcraft or other MMOs and therefore I don't know if there is a penalty for enacting an instruction incorrectly...but could you not just play WOW or another game in the foreign language? i.e. go to settings and change the language or purchase a non-English version of the game?

Seems to me like you don't need to invent something new.

Unfortunately, the game would need to be new, at least in terms of the story/quest content. Think about how Rosetta Stone works. The clue is "gato" and you click the picture of a dog from 4 choices. The program gives you a big fat red X, and from now on you, you know that "gato" does not mean "dog". It's a very deliberate, clever learning process that really works. The problem with Rosetta Stone is that it's not fun, there's no end motivation and people always quit. That's where the addictive motivational aspects of an MMO would come in.

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.

On my never-gonna-get-to-it todo list, I have a myst like game where you are stranded on a deserted island with a local guide to help you learn the language while interacting w/ people and solving puzzles.

Similarly, movie subtitles specifically for language learning could be devised.

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.

From what I recall, subtitles were indeed tremendously helpful when I was learning English - English subtitles only, though. Being able to read along took the stress out of having to cope with enunciation and understanding meaning at the same time. Translated subtitles on the other hand were just a distraction. My brain would end up reading them and start ignoring the English, rather than make any connections.

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.

Yes, you need an effort-reward loop to learn something.

I knew a German exchange student in HS that said he learned a lot of his English from watching US TV and having the German subs until he could understand spoken English well enough then he switched to the English subs to get better at reading it as well. I've l've always considered trying to grab some TV shows with foreign audio tracks and English subs and giving it a go. The problem is a lot of the TV I "watch" is in the background while doing something else.

I've tried the TV method but never really felt like it worked. In contrast, after a session or two with Rosetta Stone, I'd walk away with some basic Spanish or Arabic kicking around in my head. It's really pretty amazing, but as I said before the issue is that people (including myself) always quit RS because it's still a chore.

I guess the upside to TV is that it's not a chore and people would be less likely to quit.

Have you tried apps like Duolingo? I personally have not tried them (past 1-2 days of playing around) but I have friends that speak highly of it.

It might be interesting to try changing the language setting on your favorite existing game

That works once you've reached a certain level of understanding. Most AAA games have really good translations.

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.

I've thought about this a lot as well. A lot of Russians that I've meet learned English (at least improved it) did so via video games in English.

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.

I learnt a lot of English playing Runescape. You pass the mouse over any object and it shows the object name, all kinds of animals, trees, tools, furniture,food, etc.. in the game. It is possible to switch languages any time. The server in English is more crowded, but there is always a lot of people in the other servers. Last time I checked they had French, German, English and Portuguese. You can also see the dialogues of other players and talk to people. The bad side is that it can be addictive. If I had 10 million funny money i would do a "Myth The Fallen Lords" MMO, it's a great old game, and still get some support from volunteer developers, even being still a proprietary game (the guys have been trying to get it open for the community)

How about the classic games of Hangman, Word Search, Concentration, Match, 4 Pictures 1 Word, and Word Scramble? I put all these in one iOS app.

Spanish: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/h4-spanish-lite/id388918463?...

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.

I don't think it could work. You need a substantial reward after each translation effort to keep on translating instead of guessing. At the same time giving such rewards takes some away from the game itself, and the game becomes boring.

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.

Learn programming in 24 hours!

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.

He was specifically talking about his experience with Mandarin.

Yeah, that's where I disagree with him.

I wouldn't call this the "secret" to learning a foreign language as an adult. Obviously immersion in a language is ideal, and the fact that he had already learned Spanish is even more ideal.

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.

Thai is tonal and they mostly keep the tones when singing. Music is a recommended way of learning Thai.

Ah good point. I'm not very familiar with Thai. I'll also say that many Chinese songs try to retain the tones as much as possible, but they're generally a lot harder to make out in music, so it's usually not the most useful learning tool. I do think listening to music is important for cultural immersion in any language, though.

> and the fact that he had already learned Spanish is even more ideal.

Knowing another latin - based language should help. I know things got much easier for me in France when I realized its similarities to spanish.

Let's face it learning a foreign language is one of those things that everyone would like to do but are either too busy, or not committed enough to do it.

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.

I never spent a cent to learn new languages. Friendly strangers are really all you need. Time and dedication are required for mastery, but if you want to communicate with any stranger you usually can and learning is what we're built for. It's harder to not pick up a language if you live in a place where they speak one that you do not have under your belt yet than to pick it up.

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.

Can we now see a similar article for how to learn a foreign language in 17 days while commuting 30 minutes each way to a 8 hour job 5 days a week and while raising a child or two?

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!

I am currently learning Japanese. My level would be "lower intermediate": I can write hiragana/katakana and know about 100+ kanjis. But I am not satisfied with my oral fluency.

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.

I watched 1000+ hours of animé (which is an amazing pastime btw) and I am now effectively conversationally fluent in Japanese (I had a 6 hour date with a native Japanese girl almost entirely in Japanese, and it was the first time I spoke to a Japanese person). However, having no formal education in Japanese whatsoever, I can only dare to talk in casual contexts as I may make cultural errors (wrong level of respect or mixing dialect) and also cannot read or write.

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

i am also studying japanese - i'm on a similar level i would say. i know around 150 kanji and forgotten about the same amount. my problem is finding someone on a similar level to learn alongside - i've heard it's wise to have not only someone above your skill level, but also someone at your equal, to compete and learn with. if you're interested, i'd like to study together - send me an email.

Hey - I'd be keen yes. What's your email? (I could not find it in your profile).

We may have to just concede that there's no good way to learn a language without immersing oneself in it. There's no reason it should be otherwise - we're not talking about memorizing facts. Language learning is retraining inner parts of our brains to automatically translate thoughts to vocalizations. There are biological limits to what can be accomplished.

If there is any takeaway from the article, this is true. However you don't need to actually go to France. What you do need is a good native french speaker to speak with and tutor you intensively, at the least.

I don't think that's true. You need immersion for different reasons as well: it exposes you to all the variations that people use rather than just one speaker and a range of voices and vocabularies, it also makes it harder for you to switch back to your native tongue temporarily. All of these will help you tremendously.

It is very feasible to learn enough of a foreign language from CDs to interact with people that don't speak any English.

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.

The article was pointless. The majority of us cannot abandon our responsibilities for weeks to immerse ourselves 24 hours a day in nothing else but learning a language.

Here's the secret: It's not actually that hard, you just need to work at it consistently (some exposure every day) and be willing to put in the time (years). Treat it as a long-term hobby.

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.

Do you have any specific techniques or resources that you have used while learning Korean? I have tried learning the language a few times (Rosetta Stone, Memrise, traditional book/audio) and have also thought it should be like learning a new programming language but I have never been able to get through the initial confusing period.

I originally started with web resources, but here's the stuff I credit with really advancing me properly, roughly in the order I read or used it:

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.

This is in no way a secret to learning anything. Almost nobody will be able to learn anything from such an intense workload of new things.

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.

Learning French while being fluent in Spanish, not very impressive.

This is an important point. I recently learned portuguese with a 45 hour course and five weeks in Brazil. But I'm fluent in Spanish, so it was not hard.

I certainly couldn't have done the same thing with Mandarin.

Agreed. When I did my semester abroad in France, the French kids regarded the ones who took Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese and coping out and taking "easy" languages.

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.

Much of how quickly you learn a language depends on what languages you've had prior exposure to. So, depending on the language you choose to learn, YMMV.

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.

Different techniques work well depending on your current level. Immersion always helps, and for me recently that meant diving into reading online news articles in French, which really helped with expressions, idioms, and jokes. I tried a few "Google Translate" chrome extensions but none were good for looking up just a phrase effectively, so I wrote my own, BabelFrog. It has almost no options (just From and To languages) and instantly displays of the translate of the word or phrase you selected. Give it a try maybe. http://babelfrog.com/

After learning 6 languages and teaching some, I came to the conclusion that what works for me doesn't work for everyone. It's very subjective. There is no secret way. There's your own secret way. It's up to you to find it out.

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.

Calling it a 'foreign' language sounds odd to me.

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.

Yet another "article" that is just a copy/paste of a Quora post. Seems to be happening with more frequency.

Is this how Quora is trying to create revenue? Doesn't seem like it's going to get them very far.

Interesting point! I hadn't thought of that, I simply put it down to lazy journalism.

I've been developing a FAQ on language learning as this interest is mentioned on Hacker News from time to time. The article kindly submitted here mentions learning French in France by a (native?) speaker of English who had previously learned Spanish. All of those are Indo-European languages, more or less cognate with one another. I've taken on some tougher language-learning challenges over the years. As I learned Mandarin Chinese up to the level that I was able to support my family for several years as a Chinese-English translator and interpreter, I had to tackle several problems for which there is not yet a one-stop-shopping software solution.

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


Personally I prioritize learning grammar over vocab. I feel it's a lot easier to acquire vocab once you have a decent grammar framework to slot words into, because it means you can practice and retain words much more effectively. For example, you can then start reading prose much earlier, because all you need to do is look up words in a dictionary - since the grammar training has equipped you to glean tense, relations, and so on the two combine to give you the meaning, so once you have grammar down you can read almost anything with the aid of a dictionary. And when you learn new words you will know immediately how to use them (e.g. conjugate them) correctly, and the immediate application will make them stick better.

(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.)

Cool, so I'll just find a French friend in a tiny village in the Beaujolais region of France where I can just go stay for two weeks doing nothing but learning French. SO easy to learn French!

It was described as the best way to learn, not the easy way. There are probably more accessible French speaking regions, if that's an issue. It is possible to learn languages without being immersed in them, but immersion is better for a number of different reasons. You learn how people actually speak, rather than what gets committed to a textbook. You may or may not memorize words any faster, but you will be continually absorbing speech patterns. You also are forced to speak and to try to communicate. That is both one of the most critical factors in learning, and the easiest to avoid, and the psychological pressure to do so can be intense. It is so much easier to fall back to a language of which you are master. The easiest way to learn a language, in point of fact, is to not learn it at all.

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.

The only way to learn a language not by memorizing it is listening, reading and talking. There are no shortcuts.

Really, this web page is not even scrollable without JavaScript enabled...

Really, this page is not even scrollable without JavaScript enabled...

Step 1: Get a girl/boyfriend who is a native speaker.

This can lead to amusing results in languages where enunciation, word choice or even choice in grammar forms are more strongly biased by a speaker's gender. Not that breaking down those barriers a little isn't interesting in its own right, of course, but depending on the language you should expose yourself to speakers from either gender to get the full range.

Especially true in Japanese, where the difference between male and female speech is distinct.

The author got bullied in France, but he have not realized yet.

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!

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