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Which languages need formal instruction

 Language Learning Forum : Advice Center Post Reply
12 messages over 2 pages: 1 2  Next >>
narigold
Newbie
United States
Joined 2158 days ago

8 posts - 8 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 1 of 12
18 September 2015 at 2:41am | IP Logged 
I read that my local state college offers the opportunity for non-students to audit
classes for a low fee. I would like to take advantage of this by enrolling in first
year courses for one or more "difficult" languages (languages that might be too hard
for me to learn on my own; languages which I would benefit from having instructor-lead
classes). I am a native English speaker who is currently an intermediate in Spanish.
The college offers classes in just about any language you can think of. I was
thinking of setting Spanish aside, and enrolling in one or more courses for some more
difficult languages at the college. So far learning Spanish has been tough for me.

Question #1: how many languages can you learn simultaneously? Should I just focus on
one at a time, or can you learn several in parallel.

Question #2: Which language(s) would you enroll in if you could have instructor-lead
courses in them? This college offers Arabic, Chinese, Latin and Hindi, among others.


1 person has voted this message useful



shk00design
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 2486 days ago

747 posts - 1121 votes 
Speaks: Cantonese*, English, Mandarin
Studies: French

 
 Message 2 of 12
18 September 2015 at 3:50am | IP Logged 
There are languages similar to Spanish you can learn at the same time such as Italian, Portuguese and possibly French which are also Romance languages. Some like Italian, Spanish & Portuguese have ending sounds pronounced such as "e" but in French like English the ending "e" is silent.

When it comes to Asian languages, there are some like Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese that are tonal. Basically there are many words that sound alike except for the tone so precise pronunciation becomes crucial. Chinese have the added challenge of memorizing characters. Japanese has an alphabet but uses a number of Chinese characters as well.

A language like Latin can be picked up for general interest like a native American language since there are very few speakers to be useful. The last thing you'd need to think about when learning languages is to become fluent enough to engage in basic conversations. Otherwise, it'd be a waste of time.

Edited by shk00design on 18 September 2015 at 3:51am

1 person has voted this message useful





Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4745 days ago

9084 posts - 16476 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 3 of 12
18 September 2015 at 10:43am | IP Logged 
Children learn languages without formal instruction, but they have malleable brains, lots of time and people say the same easy sentences to them again and again.

For grown-up language learners there are two main ideas about the way you pick up a language. Some want to make it with as little formal training as possible, others believe that the use of formal training allows you to grasp things you see and hear faster - and I belong firmly in the second category. Nobody expects you to become fluent in a language just by learning 10.000 words from a dictionary and a grammar by heart, but if you DON'T use such sources then you need an insane amount of input, lots of vain guesswork and a memory more sticky than superglue.

That being said there are some differences in the way you study. If you are a newbee then you understand very little so you have to deal with very simple texts (written or spoken), and you need tools to make them comprehensible - like dictionaries, (simple) grammars and translations, for instance in the form of bilingual texts. And you can't deal with very long texts yet (unless you use the Listening-Reading method, which is explained elsewhere in this forum). On the other hand you will at some point be able to read and listen to genuine texts without looking things up all the time, and then you can pick up things like expressions andd style and maybe even technical terms, provided that the explanation is given in the text itself. In other words the bulk of your activities is supposed to move from intensive study to extensive activities.

With languages which are closely related to something you already know you should in principle follow the same steps, but just in a more compresed timeframe. It is tempting to skip the formal learning when you already to some extent can get the gist of writings and speech produced by native speakers - but that's a dangerous strategy. You risk ending up with some kind of homemade mix, if you just rely on being able to get the gist and then try to produce utterances based on that. So take the time to study some texts intensively, find lists of false friends and jot down things which puzzles you.

With very exotic languages, like those offered by your college, you don't have that temptation. You HAVE to study intensively in the beginning, and my main advice would be to be an independent mind: use your tutor, but don't follow his/her advice blindly - and don't think that being active during classes and doing the things proposed by your tutor suffice to learn those languages. But one day the fog lifts and you can begin to read freely and watch films for fun.

Personally I wouldn't recommend you to have more than one target language at the level where most of the activity is intensive study and hard work. But it's fine to have one such language plus one or more target languages at the 'leisure' level.



Edited by Iversen on 18 September 2015 at 2:21pm

5 persons have voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4639 days ago

9757 posts - 15778 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 4 of 12
18 September 2015 at 11:30am | IP Logged 
About learning a few languages.

I don't think any language inherently requires instruction, I've learned Finnish with no classes. Several languages you mention have a difficult pronunciation, but classes aren't exactly known for teaching it well.

If I may be blunt, it doesn't appear like you have enough interest in any of Arabic/Mandarin/Hindi to succeed in them. You can of course still take a course to give them a try and to broaden your horizons. You may well develop a much stronger interest.

I would recommend finding out more about the specific courses and teachers. Both of my Latin teachers were polyglots, for example, and I'm grateful to them for the foundation I got for learning multiple Romance languages :) Of course here most Latin teachers speak French and at least some English, I guess in the USA it may be different.
6 persons have voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4639 days ago

9757 posts - 15778 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 5 of 12
18 September 2015 at 11:36am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
With languages which are closely related to something you already know you should in principle follow the same steps, but just in a more compresed timeframe. It is tempting to skip the formal learning when you already to some extent can get the gist of writings and speech produced by native speakers - but that's a dangerous strategy. You risk ending up with some kind of homemade mix, if you just rely on being able to get the gist and then try to produce utterances based on that.

In my experience, reading takes care of that (if you reach the level where you get more than just the gist). The biggest danger is if you don't read and learn through informal communication, and people understand you because they've had exposure to the language, not because your, for example, Portuguese is so great and free of Spanish elements.

And of course this does take a lot of honesty to yourself.

Edited by Serpent on 18 September 2015 at 11:38am

2 persons have voted this message useful





Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4745 days ago

9084 posts - 16476 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 6 of 12
18 September 2015 at 2:12pm | IP Logged 
That's precisely the point. Once you are past the 'getting the gist' stage you can begin to learn from texts. Until then you will learning from vague and often mistaken assumptions - if you learn anything at all. In order to learn from texts and speech you have to take heed of words, expressions and stylistic tricks and not let the meaning carry you away. It is not truly intensive study, but...   

It is also clear that you can learn languages without following a course - but this is probably easier for those who already know a couple of foreign languages. And therefore I assume that narigold will be following a course, and then the main warning must be not let any random teacher dictate what and how you study. Serpent wisely suggests that you search information about both the teacher(s) and the course before joining, and I can only support that. A bad teacher could actually make you hate the target language.

Finally: it is impossible to let others choose one among the languages named by narigold - that's narigold's own decision. But they are all further away from English than Spanish was, and consequently there will be more work to do. Do you like that kind of challenges, or is it just the lure of the exotic that attracts you?

Edited by Iversen on 19 September 2015 at 11:41am

4 persons have voted this message useful



Cavesa
Triglot
Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3051 days ago

3277 posts - 6777 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 
 Message 7 of 12
18 September 2015 at 2:57pm | IP Logged 
I think you might not be taking it from the best end. If I were you'd first select languages I'want to learn. Than I'd worry for which would the class be a benefit and find out info about that particular teacher and curriculum. Even if the tracher were good, classmates motivating and curriculum good (which is already a rare combination), you won't succeed without being well motivated yourself.

to your Q1: there are various answers,
I recommend reading the article on wikia serpent gave you a link to. But if you have a hard time learning Spanish, adding or switching to a more difficult language (and classroom seting) won't help, in my honest opinion.

Q2: None. All the options you mention have tons of aternative options, tons of resources,there is no need to depend on a teacher. Sure, a 1 on 1 tutoring has some benefitsut a classroom usually doesn't.


4 persons have voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4639 days ago

9757 posts - 15778 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 8 of 12
19 September 2015 at 1:54pm | IP Logged 
I agree with Cavesa about the worth of classes (or lack thereof). The way I see it, the main use of them would be to dabble in the language and maybe prepare for learning it more seriously later, or if you go for Latin, to understand the origins of Spanish and other modern Romance languages.

Also, after a difficult language it's so enjoyable to go back to something easier! It feels more familiar and home-y due to the contrast. So if you want to have fun, and you like classes, go for it! Just have realistic expectations.

Edited by Serpent on 19 September 2015 at 1:59pm



3 persons have voted this message useful



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