What YOU learn first

Zinken/ Zonk/Gezonken   Tue Jan 13, 2009 2:17 am GMT
I was looking at some videos of Moses, a Chinese major who likes to learn languages that are not studied as often. One of the first things he likes to learn is how to introduce himself in the language.

The Teach Yourself Series does this in the first lesson or so (in the languages I've seen), but some books for people teaching themselves languages don't do this.

What do you like to learn first?

a. How to introduce yourself, your hobbies, etc.
b. How to order in a restaurant, buy tickets
c. Get an overview of the grammar
d. Get a look at the writing system, the sound system of the language
e. Other (please explain)
J.C.   Tue Jan 13, 2009 8:20 am GMT
I guess I'd pick d. since I can't learn anything in the language I'm studying
if I can't make sure people will understand me. I paid special attention to this when I started learning Chinese since one mistake can be lethal!! :D

Can you share some links with this guy Moses?

Sarmackie   Tue Jan 13, 2009 3:02 pm GMT
I like to know the grammar. I have a hard time approaching the language the way that some people do, where they learn it like 'If I want to say this, I need to say it like this'. Instead, I need to learn it as 'If I want to say this, I need to put it into this case/declension/gender/mood/etc. and that looks like this'. I guess that for me, rather than knowing how to do something with a language, I like to know why I'm doing it.
the old way   Tue Jan 13, 2009 3:09 pm GMT
Grammar, grammar and more grammar.
Xie   Tue Jan 13, 2009 4:08 pm GMT
I think it's d for me.

What Moses says makes sense. Unless you'll stop at a learning stage permanently for limited purposes of the language, whenever you aim at some normal oral fluency with living people (that means it must be a modern language with native speakers, normally also with the media that attract you), it seems it makes sense that you'll have to aim at... learning everything.

That is answered in what kind of questions that appear in books like those of TYS.

-How do you introduce yourself? (name, nationality, gender, clothing, habits, hobbies, culture, language.....)
-How do you live with this language? (cooking, eating, sports, any sort of daily matters including buying vegetables, or buying something like nails, hammers...)
-How do you say everything in this language to your foreign lover?

Even before I go into the details (information), I wonder: oh no, I know so few verbs (for a European language)! How do you use "to take", "to put", etc? When this language X has to be functional, it also means we need to focus on oral language... it alone is a big challenge that takes years.
Q.E.D.   Mon Jan 19, 2009 5:27 pm GMT
I also found the cheesy novels from airports are extremely useful as a learning tool for the everyday life. There are multiple advantages: a popular culture heads up, the reading level is somewhere arround 8th grade and this built confidence, etc.
This epiphany came to me while reading a Stephen King book to ease the frustration of not being understood by the clerk from hardware store (I was looking for screwdrivers, whasers, bolts to set up my so called office). I realized that a screwdriver is still a screwdriver either if it is used in an eyesocket to probe the brain or to make some quick repairs for a getaway situation.
It was an easy way to connect to a culture known from movies only, with the known side effect that nothing is useful to you if it is learnt from motion pictures.
gajo   Mon Jan 19, 2009 7:24 pm GMT
I have bought a novel titled "Istanbul, memories and the city" by Orhan Pamuk, a Turkish author, winner of the nobel prize in Literature in 2006. It's in English and I can understand it perfectly. Perpahs my English is not that bad :-)
Skippy   Wed Jan 21, 2009 4:01 pm GMT
I typically try to learn the pronunciation first, then move on to grammar. As long as you know how to pronounce the examples you're given, you'll come out of learning the grammar with at least SOME vocabulary.

There's no quick way to learn a language, so once you come to terms with that (that you're not going to learn Czech in a day or two), it becomes easier to learn a language bits at a time. Personally, I love the "teach yourself" series. What I'm going to do with Italian (which I've started) and Croatian is read through the books once to get as much grammar down as possible (and naturally picking up some vocabulary on the way), I'm then going to go back and try to learn common phrases, which I will inevitably end up picking up a little more vocabulary, and by the time I go back and try learning the vocabulary, I've got a pretty good passive knowledge of the language, just from reading through a pretty short book two times.

This is all in theory, I'll let ya know how it goes :-)
Q.E.D.   Wed Jan 21, 2009 10:32 pm GMT
Our then employer advised us to read the newspaper loudly one to each other. His line of reasoning was as follows
(1) you hear yourself
(2) the other is hearing you
(3) due to (1) and (2) both of us would be able to fix the pronunciation mistakes, the emphasis, lookup in dictionaries, etc
(4) there are few newspapers in the US that have the journalistic style over the 8th grade basic understanding, so it is a great tool for beginners
(5) you become more accustomized with the local culture and eventually immersed in the community problems. Your adaptation is easier while you can make intelligent conversation while waiting in line for this or that.

It worked pretty well to the extent that the local daily newspaper will be never read in our household - we had way too much of "issue of the day" newspaper section. The points (1) to (4) were proven true. As for the intelligent conversation, well, that was a long shot, we still wait to happen.
However, the thick accent is there, hard to get rid of it while you are not actively involved in dealing business in the language on an everyday basis.
olasz   Thu Jan 22, 2009 11:36 am GMT
Simple phrases and short texts, pronunciation and basic grammar
AL   Fri Jan 23, 2009 2:29 pm GMT
What you learn last here is that discredited Tom and the discredited moderators enjoy picking on certain posters here and deleting their work. They obviously can't do it to everyone. I was one of their victims and their actions hurt me very badly. You should realize that these discredited people have blood on their hands.