Using the Internet to study languages (other than English)
Tom, one of the founders of this site, wrote an interesting article about using the Internet to study English:
Of course this is true for English, but even before the Internet, there were a lot of resources and exposure for English in most places in the world.
What is interesting now, is that one can have input for almost any language almost anywhere in the world. (e.g., a farmer in central Idaho can read online newspapers in Indonesian.)
So I'm curious how anyone else out there has used the Internet for studying other languages, and if there any sites or suggestions you have for specific languages, or for language in general.
Wikipedia is a good source, because you can find articles on almost anything even though half the time they are not reliable.
I wrote a very long reply here, but it was lost because the developers of Firefox haven't been able to fix a simple bug for 7 years. When you write something in a Web form and then accidentally navigate away from the page, you lose everything you've written without warning. The bug has been repeatedly submitted by users, but the macho developers of Mozilla are too busy quibbling about how best to solve the problem to do anything about it.
The gist of my reply:
1. The problem is that the best content in any field is in English, whether it's entertainment or information. The content in other languages sucks compared with content in English. I've run against this problem many times.
2. Therefore, there is no real reason to learn languages other than English, unless you have special reasons (Spanish wife, working in a field where it's absolutely crucial to know Portuguese, living in Hungary, etc.). If you're interested in learning about stuff and getting entertained, English is all you need. Don't waste your time on other languages.
<<If you're interested in learning about stuff>>
It depends on how general what you like to learn about is. For example, you can't become a true expert in Russian history without knowing Russian.
I'd second that. I think I still know my own culture best in my native language. The widespread of English just means it is more used in communication, not culture. I don't deny it could kill cultures as well...but there's a lot of originality in other languages that won't be replaced by English in the near future. At least, geopolitics won't let this happen; even a small European country (in the north) won't give up its national language that soon and use English instead forever.
I'm much younger than our admin, well, what did I do? I didn't have internet connections until 2000. The only foreign language I ever knew at that time was, understandably, English - I was a kid and never traveled anywhere beyond the same province. Input at that time was very little - I didn't have "motivation" (even just to speak of) as a kid. But English channels were already there, for many years. So, even before I could know English in great detail - and to write something, and to speak, I knew Hollywood stuff.
Perhaps learning other languages now is getting easier. Yeah, more people use English online, but it's also true for the Chinese cyberspace, at least. I got to know a lot of good learning materials from China. That's still far from being comparable to those in English, but they do help.
Before the days of internet, my dad and aunt tried to learn foreign languages in the then British colony. What did they get? Practically nothing, I'm afraid. My dad went no further than a few phrases... and until now, "Good-dan-tak" for Guten Tag. My aunt moved to Australia, so she received native input every day until now.
Now with ample learning materials, in whatever format, the grand task of learning is now far reduced to just one click on the ipod. The choice of language, I'd say, is just like whether books would be abolished with internet - internet didn't replace books. There were even more books published now than ever. I can even compare my situation in 2004 and now. I didn't discover antimoon in 2004; I found HTLAL instead, and wikipedia. I had to rely on these English sites ... and some sloppily written Taiwanese books... for languages. Now it's different. China has opened up its book market so much that... at least, the amount materials for English and other top languages have increased multiple times than it was before... 2000, for example. And there were also podcast sites appearing since 2004.
So, even with internet, 2004 and 2008 are so vastly different for me. In 2004, it was very difficult to buy books from China easily (without going over to Shenzhen), not even many English sites offered ample (free) learning resources, no podcast sites existed, no BT, no large-scale FTP...whatever
(for a person like me).
And that's the same for physical libraries. In 2004 things were similar to those now... but in 2001 I was still supposed to use some window9x-ish system to search for books.
I'd say 2000 was ...at a time when a lot had to be black and white on paper; 2004 was... a lot was available online; 2008... almost everything is doable online. That's also the true for .... that perplexing idea of flashcards. (Well, improving technology still won't improve the human intelligence; I still learn languages by actually reading it, not reading very fancy but hardly practical stuff, and podcasts and online pdfs won't do the trick all the time; an old grammar book whose pages are all getting very yellowish and breaking up.... could still be more useful than some newer ones)
With all due respect to Tom, I would like some practical answers to my question, not pontifications on the importance of English or other languages. (There are enough threads on that already.) I find it interesting that successful English learners are often much more arrogant about English than monolingual native speakers!
But to address Tom's point anyway: There are as many reasons to learn a language as there are people. Every native English speaker I know (or have read about) who has learned another language has felt incredibly enriched by his or her feat. Not to mention non-Anglo polyglots, who could have easily stopped after English. And that could be for reasons of communication, culture, travel, business, etc. And as Barry Farber, noted American polyglot, has written, English speakers get even more credit for learning another language, as they don't really have to. (And in certain parts of the U.S., Spanish is becoming a "have-to.")
Again, I'd appreciate some practical advice (thank you, User of lives) on how to use the Internet to learn other languages, not just for "the best content."
If this thread turns into a flame war, I'll just go over to Alexander Arguelles site. No one there seems to have to justify why they want to study something else besides English.
Not everyone has the time to enrich themselves with studying minor languages. For most purposes English is all you need.
This question is not for "everyone." Only for those who feel like being helpful instead of wasting time with a thread they're not interested in. (And is every single language in the world besides English "minor"?)
If you're not interested in other languages, fine. Then stick to the English forum.
And for that matter, why does antimoon have a Languages forum if the antimoon guys don't even like other languages?
Again, I'm still hopeful that someone out there has something useful to answer regarding the original question.
>>And is every single language in the world besides English "minor"?
That's already an emerging question in China, even tho China writes books for hundreds of languages...
>>Every native English speaker I know (or have read about) who has learned another language has felt incredibly enriched by his or her feat.
I'm not an Anglophone, either, and I do see your point and the point of learning beyond English. In fact, language students do think "learning X (the lingo)" makes them feel good, even tho their level is...
at least within the chinesepod community, I witnessed loads of discussions where both Chinese natives and learners were happy with cultural exchange. I think people don't speak of fun by "planning to", but simply by doing things that make fun. If you aren't unsociable or a sociopath or a xenophobe or something, you won't be so worried about how difficult X (let me say, Chinese, a well-known stereotyped example) could be. You can read those discussions there. People keep on saying, without any intent of writing ads, that the Chinese they meet praise them a lot for paying "great" effort to learn Chinese.
I don't have to be "perfect" to speak to a native for the first time in my life - let's say, learning Polish to talk to our admin. It's counter-intuitive that, instead, we gain proficiency through making mistakes. Personally, I do value speaking to real people, even if I'm learning Latin - at least I can hear how people speak Latin with their... European accent, I suppose, or any others.
In my real life, I rarely heard of anyone who is into Greek, Egyptian archeology, cracking software, playing a harp, .... and very few who like rock music. There could be norms among some of you guys, but that's that, people aren't used to do this here. Even a less obscure example like "learning German" is also extremely rare here. But no matter what, it's always a lot of fun to at least try something new. If you can't travel now, fine; wait for another month or another year. Home immersion is OK, but depending on your own aim in life, foreign immersion should also be a good option, theoretically.
I don't really buy the idea of "permanent/long-term home immersion" or something very much. Yes, foreign immersion, like acc. to Kato Lomb, simply means you ARE in the physical environment where everybody speaks that target language natively. But at least for laymen, it sounds no less eccentric (since they don't understand), either, to immerse at home in that language all the time... and yet you never talk to natives. I know, people are just arguing about how home immersion _could be_ even more effective than "mere", non-intuitive foreign immersion, and little is conflicting with my own analysis; yet, I find it in-human to learn a living language by separating it from the living contexts, and its people. I do feel it's always ... not that good not to be able to talk to natives very frequently (wait, just how many Anglophones have I talked to? almost never, in social contexts; I talked to non-natives and... very few Anglophones far more in formal occasions... only).
For many people, English and their native language may be enough. On the other hand, these speakers still have the key to a bigger world because they are bilingual.
What should monolingual English speakers do? Can they learn a foreign language from the internet? Yes, maybe. Some people are sharp enough learn learn many things with just a book or a computer, but others learn differently and they'll soon become frustrated or bored.
For those who speak English (native or not), there are plenty of resources for the major European languages. I have NOT seen enough resources for the learner of Asian languages or languages of the Americas to learn thoroughly from the beginning to an advanced stage solely by using the internet.
There are some excellent language sites that I won't recommend here because I am unsure as to whether the site owners are members of a particular cult.
For those who are tortoises and not hares, students could try this:
BBC languages in French/Spanish/German/Italian (steps), then move to
the upper-beginning programs.
Along with that, the old, but "sometimes" very good FSI (Foreign Service Institute) programs are on line and they will take one to an advanced level.
This could be augmented with intermediate programs from BBC.
Caveat: Listen to the NATIVE speakers on the BBC programs for pronunciation.
Ebay, Alibris and other sites may sometimes offer deeply discounted older programs in some languages and FSI has other languages like Hungarian that may interest some people.
Going beyond that, I would recommend looking up "Language X on Internet TV." and see what comes up.
For French practice: TELEMATIN
For Spanish: Many sites. Cervantes TV, Mexico has educational television programs that can be viewed on life. They may be simple science programs for teens, but the learner can pick up easy vocabulary,
For Italian: There are supposedly classes from one of the RAI stations, but my computer would not allow me to access them.
For German: Plenty of material on DW, to learn German, this may be an
alternate choice to the light courses of BBC.
There are Japanese videos, but I recommend that a student buy a textbook with recording if s/he is going it alone in Japanese and use the internet to supplement.
Warning: Do not worship polyglots. I've been disappointed in some lately.
And yes, I know that I have at least one typo in my post.
The reason I mention inexpensive supplemental materials is because FSI materials are probably from the 1960s. (I'm not sure of the dates, and there are many courses.)
>>I have NOT seen enough resources for the learner of Asian languages or languages of the Americas to learn thoroughly from the beginning to an advanced stage solely by using the internet.
Really? I heard that some places in California are becoming so cosmopolitan that you can survive with Chinese only..
>>Warning: Do not worship polyglots. I've been disappointed in some lately.
Well, I think I may understand. It's impossible to buy books from every corner of the developed world to learn a second language, whether they are textbooks or novels or translated novels or something. I have a very limited budget and I can't order that often from China, either (I have to wait for trips, not thru amazon.cn, let's say). I should confess that I'd be nowhere else without p2p - not even FSI can save much as free courses. I think I have much less to come by on the other side of the globe. I don't have the kind of TV channels you have, except CCTV's French channel and DW-TV thanks to my subscription to a paid service, which is not very common (coz you have to pay).
And unlike you in America, I can hardly meet any foreigners/ppl of another native language/ethnicity, either. Can't I say my situation is even more difficult? I don't know why you are disappointed by some people these days.... but frankly, I often harbor the feeling that, oh, I should be as libertarian as the average young Americans, right? But it still perplexes me very much why some guys out there have such a passion (I can have, perfectly)..... and they have the money to travel anywhere else. But I know from my experience with lots of meddling, fussy, vain discussions among guys sharing my background that <<some people often like to brag>>.
yep, IMNVHO. There are Europeans who can travel easily to another neighboring country to practice. Yep, Germany is ideal for having 9 neighbors, Nachbarstaaten. But how come there are so many epiphany moments, as they say? I just see that as purely forumish talks, i.e. I don't trust that at all. As I learn more, I find that "speaking a language" is much easier to learn than to be said to convince people. I don't think at all that I can speak English very fluently without being with Anglophones, let's say, ALL the time. I don't wish to name people I suspect to be bragging by my standard, but you know, you should know quite a few such people that I may term "celebrities".
Proficiency, I think, is based on rather empirical and long-term training. You don't just have to have massive input but, also, massive monitoring of output. FSI does say you need that number of hours to reach professional fluency before getting dispatched, you as an American diplomat, to somewhere else. Yet, "real" proficiency is so hard to be true without staying in that foreign country for considerable time.
I can hardly travel (tho I expect a trip soon, that's sponsored). So, as I see it fluency in a foreign language ....to generalize it rather grossly, depends on how much money you have, somehow. Then I understand why very few Hong Kong kids (literally; they're still learning at school) really get to my present stage of dealing with lingoes. From an American perspective, it's alright if you use p2p simply becoz you can't buy the book, for whatever reason, and it's none of my business about whether you can or not. Beyond the beginner's stages, so to speak, even if you aim at fluency in English only (I'm still an ESL learner, that should be right), you have to have the social status, or money, to move further. That is, we can expect that most students get stuck at B1, or B2, or C1 (like most Hong Kong university students...with a horrible accent), depending on their social situations.
I don't wish to turn it into sociolinguistics or something. Rather, let me generalize again: I think you guys know how to study at university in your country, or in general. What do American aspiring students do? I heard that, from Hong Kong guys, you Americans often have to get two degrees before doing masters or something, since education is so widespread, but often they can't tell how strong you are as students, so to speak. What do you do if you don't have the money? Fight for scholarships, fight for loans, any means possible. America isn't like Norway or Sweden or some "unchanged" German universities where you can study for free. Tuition fees are a bucket of money.
When I was actually taking classes in sociolinguistics, I also learned that, to be do this subject, I may (have to) consider studying in America. In the American way of thinking, that's quite simple: <you got no money? Sorry, nothing can help you. You got to take up jobs and, I dunno about you, wait until you can.> Somehow, I might lose all interest in sociolinguistics or anything related to university studies. Fine. And just like sociolinguistics, "fluency" in languages is... as expected, often used to be bragged about for being so vague in its meaning.
At least in my mind (I feel myself living in a developing country), L'art pour l'art is rather bourgeois. Let's say, if I learn languages for academic purposes, and let's say I need a few European languages, as an Asian, speaking an Asian one, and still being in Asia. Everyone has to face difficulties, somehow. When I just can't focus on that much, or to learn that many languages (if I got to learn 5), all the best I can do is to focus on fewer. The good thing about self-learning is you don't... unless you're so nervous, have to say when I should learn which. It's easier to move without thinking too much.
Sorry if that sounds very confusing. That's my own thoughts about the topic and university studies combined. For me, things are now working very well.
>>There are some excellent language sites that I won't recommend here because I am unsure as to whether the site owners are members of a particular cult.
My recent "resolution" before the new year is to keep myself from cults (about languages, exactly), addictions, and all that. I think that's what de-familiarization means. When you learn a subject, you dabble, and then you study more, and eventually you get so much immersed that... you might lose you way and either you become frustrated or you get so terribly addicted that, maybe, people say you are getting too crazy. At that point of your life in that subject, I think it's almost time, too, to finish it. Then, after you leave it for some time, you'll find you really have learned quite a lot.
"Really? I heard that some places in California are becoming so cosmopolitan that you can survive with Chinese only.."
I haven't heard that yet, but I'd love to learn Chinese on-line IF there was a way to do it for free and not just beginning/introductory stuff.
I heard an intermediate Chinese podcast that was very cool, but...
I don't want to direct people to language sites that have cult-related material in addition to language materials.
I think I can understand how difficult it would be to go from a Chinese language to an IE language. It's probably as difficult as it is for native of English to tackle Mandarin (I know that Cantonese is your Chinese language.)...
Do you have to learn five? Is this because Professor Arguelles wrote that
piece somewhere about the educated person and six languages? That's a tall order. That depends on whether you think learning languages (at least two beyond your own) is necessarily prima facie evidence of a superior intelligence (ala Berlitz)...
I hope that we will not expect every good surgeon to know six languages, but I sure hope that s/he can make good incisions and has the dexerity of boys whose mothers taught them to sew...
' "fluency" in languages is... as expected, often used to be bragged about for being so vague in its meaning.'
I don't pay for DW. I can find it on the internet. There is plenty of content for free. Heck, you can listen in English and then Deutsch for the same broadcast.