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Language plan - it’s not just about Pimsleur

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leosmith
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4660 days ago

2365 posts - 3803 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Tagalog

 
 Message 1 of 44
27 February 2011 at 1:48am | IP Logged 
This is not a memo - it's a mission statement. Please post your language plan in this thread, beginning with a
simple list, then adding a detailed explanation below if you want.

1)     Learn the script and pronunciation
2)     Pimsleur
3)     Russianpod101
4)     Michel Thomas
5)     Learn in you car
6)     Work with a skype tutor
7)     New Penguin Russian
8)     Movies subtitles
9)     Travel/Classes in Russia

Background - I was just reading an attack on Pimsleur in another thread, and thought "here we go again". I love
Pimsleur. Even though I agree with most of the negative things written about it, I still love the course. How is this
possible? Simply put, Pimsleur fits beautifully into my language program. I use it as one of the many tools to
achieve my language goals. Not all, but most criticism I read is written by someone who is treating the course as
a stand-alone method to achieve fluency. Or at least as a method to do much more than what I believe it should
be used for. So when someone writes a wall of text about a language program, with the conclusion being "it
sucks" or "I don't recommend it", I generally consider this to be invalid. That's because I don't believe someone
can make this conclusion without knowing what the learner's language plan is.

So, this thread is not just about Pimsleur. It's about developing a language plan. Not everyone sits down and
develops a language plan before or in the early stages of learning. And it will almost certainly need to be
adjusted from time to time. Furthermore, it will differ from language to language. But I think many would find it a
useful exercise to write out the steps to learn a language to the point where only native materials are required.

Some other comments about language plans. The path of least resistance is to use programs that fit your
learning style, techniques that you've had the most success with, things that you like, etc. A more challenging
path might be to try to do things that sort of go against your grain in the belief that it will be good for you in the
long run. For example, learn kanji before learning Japanese even though you hate taking things out of context,
do a lot of conversation even though you're an introvert, avoid looking up words even though you have trouble
remembering new vocabulary without, etc. This is completely up to you, and depends greatly on your own
situation. Take with a grain of salt comment like "you will fail unless it's fun" and "there is best way, and yours is
not it".

My definition of a language plan - the steps taken to learn a language until you have reached a level at which it
is most efficient for you to learn by using native material only. So the language plan I speak of is designed for
beginning and intermediate learning. I use it to organize what material I need, when I need it, and how to spend
my study time.

As I mentioned before, some people like to plan in great detail, and some not at all. I'm more of a planner than
not. But regardless of the differences, I suspect making a simple list will benefit most. One thing they are really
good for is to see the big picture, and answer the question - what should I do next? For example, several years
ago it seemed everyone was confused about what to do after using RTK1 to learn the Kanji. I was one of those. If
I had taken the time to do the little bit of research required to write out a simple language plan, I probably never
would have taken a major wrong turn that cost me over 100 hours. In fact, I may have never even used RTK1 as
intended, and instead used the mnemonic technique to learn characters as I encountered them.

So back to Pimsleur. With all it's shortcomings, why would a serious polyglot ever include it in a language
program? Isn't there always a more efficient way to do things? To answer these questions, I will need to explain
in detail how I learn languages. Please refer to the above list for Russian.

That's the short list I speak of, which I think most people would find useful. More importantly, one should
understand how it all fits together, and how daily study time is going to be spent. But having this list is probably
enough of a reminder for those of us who wish to avoid writing out pages of details. If you need to or want to
write out the details, or you want others to know what you are doing, you can write more detailed explanations
after the list. So let me do that, since I promised to explain the role of Pimsleur.

When I learn a language, I prefer to learn basic conversation first, and use it as a tool to help me with all other
skills. I prefer take the path of conversation for two reasons. First, for most of the languages I learn it's the skill I
can get to the point of being useful the fastest. This isn't true for languages that are very similar to English, but
it's true for most languages on my list. Second, conversation is my most desired goal for a language, and I want
to start early and practice often. Conversation has always been my most important goal, but acquiring it early
and aggressively has been a hard earned skill. To this day, the most intensely difficult part of learning a language
for me is the first 50 or so hours of conversation. But I have chosen to attack it early, rather than to build up my
other skills first. This is one of those choices I mentioned. It's not for everyone, and it's not the most comfortable
path for me. But I choose it because I believe it yields the best and quickest results.

Knowing that I want conversation first, I start out with pronunciation. I prefer to learn isolated words or even
syllables, then build up to sentences. That being said, I spend very little time on isolated pronunciation practice
compared with other aspects of the language. But it's very important to make sure I can reproduce all isolated
sounds correctly, and I never skip this step. Of course, in order to do this I need to use the language's script.
Although I believe all pronunciation could alternatively be learned by Romanization, I've learned that for me it is
usually worth it to learn the script in the beginning. Again, not the most comfortable way, but in the long run,
the best choice for me. So I normally learn basic pronunciation at the same time I learn the script.

But I'm not through with pronunciation. It takes more than parroting words and chorusing sentences to get good
at it. This is where Pimsleur fits in. (And I admit to having designed part of my language program around Pimsleur
rather than just stumbling upon it and finding it to be the best fit. That is a moot point in my mind, because in
my mind I have taken the best features of the best course and made them work their hardest for me, and made
the bad features irrelevant.) Pimsleur with it's beautiful, clear pronunciation of the most basic vocabulary and
sentence structures. After the first lesson, it only adds 5 or 6 words and a little bit of new grammar, which allows
me to really focus on pronunciation while still progressing in the language a little in other ways. And the
pressure of answering in the time allotted is a superb preparation for conversation. I'm not saying that the time
limit is enough to simulate reality, but it's a start. It's extremely important to answer in a timely manner, and I
will never ignore this fact in my training. Of course, it's a rare person who can listen to any program and repeat
every sentence perfectly without ever having seen the spelling. That is why I always use a transcript. Even if I
have to create it along the way, I use a transcript. This is getting off the pronunciation wagon a little, but since
it's such low hanging fruit, I take the opportunity to put those sentences and words into anki, as 2 way
flashcards. This gives me a primer for reading, as well as review and a visual memory hook for all material I've
learned.

Let me just stop here and make a comment. There are a lot of bad things said about Pimsleur, most of them true.
For my purposes, I don't care about those things. But one thing that I really disagree with is the comment that
Pimsleur users should use the pause button when they can't answer in time. In my mind, that's the second
biggest mistake a user can make. There are 4 things I get out of Pimsleur, and I list them in order of importance
to me : 1) Pronunciation 2) Speed 3) vocabulary 4) grammar. Using the pause button eliminates the second most
important thing in the program. I criticize people for encouraging others to use the pause button not because I
think there is something wrong with pausing language courses in general, but because I can't imagine a
complete language plan where a paused Pimsleur is better than non-paused. The program is made simple for
this reason. This is not Michel Thomas, where there is too much new material to repeat in the time allotted.

Now I said my plan hinges on conversing at a "useful" level asap, but I'm not ready to converse yet. There are a
few other things I like to do that I have found makes me more well-rounded and ready for working with a tutor.
Somewhere in the middle of Pimsleur, I complete the Michel Thomas Foundation and Advanced courses. This
gives me a quick infusion of grammar, which clears up a lot of questions in my mind when I take Pimsleur.
Michel Thomas is almost a pure grammar course, and I know of no better way to learn a lot of grammar fast. And
it's a huge bonus that it’s pure audio.

Also, from the very beginning of Pimsleur, I start listening to a podcasts per day. These are designed for learners,
and start out with a lot of English explanation. By the time I finish Pimsleur, I've graduated to intermediate
podcasts, and eventually switch to non-english audio blogs.

During Pimsleur, in my car, I listen to Learn in Your Car. This is another timed course, which helps my speed,
adds vocabulary, and gives me some practice with stuff I already know.

Also during Pimsleur, in the evenings, I watch about 30 min of a Russian movies per night. I mostly just watch,
with an eye on the Russian subtitles. The more I progress, the more I read, until I can understand without
subtitles (this is way after Pimsleur).

By the time I finish with Pimsleur, I start conversing with a tutor. These are 100% Russian conversation; no
English allowed except for quick vocabulary definitions. They are awkward at first, but after about 50 hours I feel
quite stable. Typically I add about 1000-1500 words to my vocabulary from these sessions alone, along with
another 1000-1500 words from other parallel sources. So in 3 or 4 months I am really using conversation as
leverage in learning the other skills.

Because of the way it fits into the early part of my program, complimenting script and pronunciation, transcript
and anki, Michel Thomas and podcasts, and Learn in your car and movies, Pimsleur is an integral part of the best,
most efficient base for jumping into beginning conversation I can imagine. This is why I love Pimsleur.

Although there is a ways to go from here to the point where I'm using only native material, the rest of my plan
will go unmentioned, because I have already explained the roll of Pimsleur. But I encourage everyone to write out
their language plan, all the way up to the point where your no longer need non-native material. In depth
explanations welcomed but optional.

31 persons have voted this message useful



polyglHot
Pentaglot
Senior Member
Norway
Joined 3176 days ago

173 posts - 229 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, English, German, Spanish, Indonesian
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 2 of 44
27 February 2011 at 2:28am | IP Logged 
"When I learn a language, I prefer to learn basic conversation first, and use it as a
tool to help me with all other
skills."

Agreed, but Pimsleur is hardly the best method for learning basic conversation. I tried
it during my first month of studies, which was spent in Norway, and the way they talk in
Russia is nothing like that audio... It's far too formal, too slow, too clear etc.
However I guess since you are working with a Russian native tutor you must be quite
advanced by now. How about those rolled R's?
2 persons have voted this message useful



leosmith
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4660 days ago

2365 posts - 3803 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Tagalog

 
 Message 3 of 44
27 February 2011 at 4:07am | IP Logged 
I haven't started with the tutor yet. I'm just about finished with Pimsleur, and will start right after. As for it being
too formal, clear, slow, I don't care much because that's not what I use it for (that didn't really make sense, but I
explained it pretty well in the first post). Rolled R's are a piece of cake for me, my friend. I like them, having a
background in Spanish.

I've been understanding more than expected of the movies, which is a good indication. Have you watched "Irony of
Fate" polyglHot? Nice show.
2 persons have voted this message useful



anothername
Triglot
Groupie
Brazil
Joined 3171 days ago

96 posts - 195 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Spanish, English

 
 Message 4 of 44
27 February 2011 at 4:12am | IP Logged 
It's funny that, except for items 1, 6 (perhaps) and 9, I would not care to spend my time with any other item of that list.

But there are learning methods for everyone. To each, its own.

About skype instructors, beware: the truth is that you can get very bad advice even from native speakers. And there are plenty of very well-intentioned people giving skype classes that unfortunately don't have a clue about their own mother language's rules, let alone teaching.
3 persons have voted this message useful



leosmith
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4660 days ago

2365 posts - 3803 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Tagalog

 
 Message 5 of 44
27 February 2011 at 4:30am | IP Logged 
anothername wrote:
It's funny that, except for items 1, 6 (perhaps) and 9, I would not care to spend my time
with any other item of that list.

How about posting your plan?

anothername wrote:
About skype instructors, beware: the truth is that you can get very bad advice even from
native speakers. And there are plenty of very well-intentioned people giving skype classes that unfortunately don't
have a clue about their own mother language's rules, let alone teaching.

This doesn't concern me at all, since that's not how I use tutors.
2 persons have voted this message useful



anothername
Triglot
Groupie
Brazil
Joined 3171 days ago

96 posts - 195 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Spanish, English

 
 Message 7 of 44
27 February 2011 at 5:07am | IP Logged 
leosmith wrote:
[QUOTE=anothername] It's funny that, except for items 1, 6 (perhaps) and 9, I would not care to spend my time
with any other item of that list.

How about posting your plan?

I'm a (serious) beginner russian student, but I already know the script quite well, to the point I can write it fluently, read anything phonetically at first sight, and even typing it at a good pace (without a cyrillic keyboard).

The materials I find most rewarding are:

Princeton course
Survival Russian
Modern Russian
Russian without toil (assimil, 50's version)

I would also recommend take a look at:

Russian for everyone (Русский язык для всех)
Spoken Russian (40's course)
De Agostini (I haven't worked with these two, but both have great reputations)

But I think it's completely unnecessary to keep lurking on several methods. If I could suggest you a plan, it could be:

Princeton course (alone)

or

some "oldie but goodie" like Modern Russian or Russian Without Toil, to learn the language, PLUS Survival Russian to update vocabulary.

or

Survival Russian (alone, just to see how far you can get, and then try to walk on your own feet and decide what to get next)


So, have you considered any of these materials?
5 persons have voted this message useful



atboom
Newbie
United States
Joined 3165 days ago

20 posts - 30 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: German, Dutch

 
 Message 8 of 44
27 February 2011 at 5:34am | IP Logged 
anothername wrote:
If I could suggest you a plan, it could be:

The post seemed less 'suggest a plan for me' and more 'post what you are doing that works for you'. At least that's how I read the first post. Although, yes, everyone learns differently, seeing what and how others are learning gives a model and alternatives to anything he may be doing, as you did by listing the books you utilize.

As for myself, I find that picking a primary book, a primary audio course and a method for vocabulary at the outset is how I seem to work best. I pick books and audio based on how I feel they are set up and deliver the goods. Books: Assimil Italian with Ease as primary, Teach Yourself Italian as secondary; Assimil Dutch with Ease primary, Dutch in 3 Months secondary; Modern Greek by Papaloizos primary, Greek in 3 Months secondary. Audio: Michel Thomas for Dutch and Greek, Pimsleur for Italian. Anything after that (podcasts, movies, books, websites) is kind of just grab them when I find them.

Edited by atboom on 27 February 2011 at 5:36am



3 persons have voted this message useful



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