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Is it actually possible to teach yourself a language - recommendations?

(17 Posts)
NemosKnickers Wed 07-Jun-17 14:04:11

I've been enjoying revisiting my gcse French using Duolingo, but I can see that using the app alone I'm missing the finer points.

I've bought myself a vocab/grammar book, but what else could I do?

I'd also like to start Italian from scratch and Duolingo doesn't seem to be a good way to do that if you don't have basic knowledge in the first place.

1. Is it possible to learn a language without going to classes?

2. Can anyone recommend any books or other resources?

3. Any other tips for language learning?

Thanks 🙏

msrisotto Wed 07-Jun-17 14:09:04

My first recommendation is to get hold of a Michel Thomas CD. He has a really good way of getting you started. I like the GCSE bite size revision guides (for Spanish, don't know if they exist for Italian). Another thing is podcasts. I can't recommend for Italian but Google good podcasts for learning Italian and I'm sure you'll find recommendations there. I think YouTube will also have his beginners stuff.

msrisotto Wed 07-Jun-17 14:10:57

Some people like the Rosetta Stone CDs but I haven't tried them so couldn't say, plus they look very expensive to me.

Eventually you are going to have to get speaking because that's when you really learn. Maybe there are groups near you, try Facebook.

anonymice Wed 07-Jun-17 14:12:41

listen to radio online. Try and watch some TV, even if it is subtitled films and kids tv.

NemosKnickers Wed 07-Jun-17 18:04:39

Ooh great, thank you! What is it you like about the MC CDs?

I can see a lot of language courses are expensive (as they should be as they must cost a lot to produce) but there is a £10 MC beginner Italian.

Good idea about podcasts, that's something that wasn't around when I did my French GCSE 25 years ago!

msrisotto Wed 07-Jun-17 19:12:25

He just simplifies it really well and gets you going. His pronounciation is dire and the format for the Spanish series was him plus two 'students' one normal, the other incredibly stupid. I'm sure that boots some listeners confidence, but it drove me slightly potty. £10 is a hell of a good deal!

BahHumbygge Mon 12-Jun-17 23:54:56

Try these courses on Memrise (it's free to sign up and unlimitedly use the main site, but you can pay for bonus functionality... wait til you get a 50% off offer after a few days) (ties in with Duolingo French) (Level 1 French... you could go in at a higher level if it's too basic) (gcse French)

Also check out the podcasts Coffee Break French and News in Slow French.

For Italian, look out for the equivalent courses on Memrise. Italian's a pezzo di torta after learning French. I taught myself quite a bit in my late teens just from flicking through the BBC Buongiorno Italia book and tape and listening to an Italian radio show on Spectrum (?) FM. I revisited it a few months ago on Memrise, and it was a fresh as last week.

toffee1000 Tue 13-Jun-17 00:05:31

I looked at the transcript of a Michel Thomas CD. I don't get it. You don't seem to actually learn anything useful- it's literally parroting random phrases. I get you're supposed to start speaking immediately but you don't seem to learn anything.

msrisotto Tue 13-Jun-17 06:49:26

In the Spanish course he introduces you to basic grammar skills which are obviously the building blocks of language. He then gives you vocabulary which is similar to English to help get you into constructing your own sentences. He points out patterns in language as well so all of a sudden you have a pretty wide understanding of how the language works.

I guess not everyone is going to get on with it, you can't please all the people all of the time. But it definitely isn't just parroting random phrases.

Shopgirl1 Sat 24-Jun-17 19:04:52

1. Is it possible to learn a language without going to classes?
Yes, especially if you know native speakers you can converse with or spend time in the country it's spoken.
Otherwise you will need to be very dedicated with books, including listening to recordings so you can hear correct pronunciation.
You will only get so far without exposure to the language, but you can make a start.

2. Can anyone recommend any books or other resources?
YouTube is full of videos for every language, well worth checking out.

3. Any other tips for language learning?
Skype conversations or language exchanges
Watching tv or films in the language online, there are loads of ways to access authentic material now.

Best of luck, learning new languages opens up a whole new world of culture and means you get to know a country in a way you never could otherwise.

LaArdilla Wed 19-Jul-17 14:11:26

I reached a conversational level in Spanish alone. My tips would be:

1. Listen. Books and reading are great but you fall completely flat upon being unable to understand it spoken. So prioritise listening, preferably a little everyday. The 'passive listening' theory has been debunked - just popping the radio on in French won't help. You need to be able to listen and understand, so whether that means a very simple teaching video, a children's cartoon in French with the French subtitles on, whatever - find something comfortable for you. Listen listen listen.

2. Singing along to something is not only fun, but it's a handy way of getting your mouth and tongue used to stringing the new sounds and positions together. This will prevent you speaking too slowly and over-methodically. If singing's really not your thing, just finding a phrase, listening and repeating over and over, can be a helpful exercise. Your mouth no longer finds it too unfamiliar leaping from certain syllables to another.

3. Local language exchanges. Google around or check on FB. There are loads near me now, where natives and students get together, get a drink, have a chat and it's all very relaxed.

4. Do what you can for full immersion. Change your phone to the target language, your PC setup if you can, try and think in the language where possible. Chat to yourself in your head. Write down anything you realise you can't say or don't know, look it up later.

Mistigri Mon 24-Jul-17 20:03:30

I recently bought the BBC course (Talk Italian I think) for my DD who speaks Spanish fluently and will pick up Italian easily. It looks very good, as the BBC courses tend to be. It's a lot more thorough than an app like Duolingo and (better) Babbel.

Teaching yourself with a book and CD can get you to a good European A2 standard if you are diligent - after that you need to train your ear with radio and TV, read articles and books in the original language, and if possible talk to native speakers.

IrenetheQuaint Mon 24-Jul-17 20:03:45

There's a geeky forum called Language Learners where the members discuss how best to do this. Some impressive results, though I must admit I've always fallen at the first hurdle and do much better with classes.

cottagecheesequeen Mon 24-Jul-17 20:10:57

I noticed the open learn do free language courses and they are part of the open university. I'm hoping to do a couple of courses myself

cottagecheesequeen Mon 24-Jul-17 20:11:15

I noticed the open learn do free language courses and they are part of the open university. I'm hoping to do a couple of courses myself

Droogan Tue 07-Nov-17 21:22:32

Pimsleur CDs are great - a lot of progress in a short time.
Linguaphone not bad either - story of poor French speaker visiting Paris on a business trip.
I like that you don't need a book - just do them in the car. So no real effort and you make good progress.
I tried Michel Thomas once - really hated it. Seemed v full of himself too.
You can get French lessons over Skype.
Do a homestay holiday to France - staying with a French family with or without French lessons.
Read French toddler books and watch toddler dvds - Leo et Popi is great for basic day to day vocab.

AppleAndElderflower Sat 17-Feb-18 22:57:41

Hi OP,

There are lots of good advice on here already.

I speak 2 languages fluently, 2 intermediate level & 2 beginners level.

I learned Arabic at school for 10 years, then kinda set it aside & only started again about 8 years ago. I find I understand more than what I'm able to speak. It is very hard to be good at it without proper classes.

However, I love Japanese language & I love the anime. I started teaching myself in 2001, did 1 year at university from 2007-2008, then again from 2015-2017. The rest of the time, I've just been studying it myself, by watching shetloads of anime, Japanese dramas & films, listening to Japanese songs, watching YouTube videos & reading blogs. I'm not one to sit down primly with a book me😆 It is possible to teach yourself a foreign language, especially with all the wealth of information we can access with our fingertips nowadays. But, you'll need lots & lots of determination, not to mention, you have to really like the language to go through all the effort. I am now at the stage where I can be doing washing up or cooking whilst listening to an anime in the background & I'll be chuckling because I understand what was being said without looking at the screen or subtitles.

I'm now learning German with Open University. I enjoy attending all the tutorials online, chatting away in as much German as I could formulate & making mistakes & learning lots on the way.

I'll be learning Italian with Open University in September. I'm looking forward to that!

Oh, on a side note, I love playing a game called Township on my phone. You get to form co-ops to do tasks which can be open to public. I've had total strangers requesting to join my co-op and I've been able to practise my language skills in German with a Polish lady, Japanese with another one, and Italian with a young guy from Italy. With the help from Google translate now & then lol.

Now I don't feel so guilty playing on my phone! 🤣🤣🤣🤣

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