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Anyone have advice on how to learn languages?

  1. Apr 19, 2015 #1
    I guess it is ok to post this here, in any case if it's not I guess the moderators will edit it.

    I am trying to teach myself german, grammar and pronounciation stick to me very easily, however I am having trouble building vocabulary and getting fast at sentence building.

    My native language is spanish as might be easily be infered from my name here. I am able to speak and to write in english pretty well, but I learnt it without ever trying to, through many years of watching american television lol.

    I canĀ“t repeat this process with german because it would take too long. If anyone knows of strategies to build a big vocabulary on a consistent basis and to get better at fast sentence building I would be very thankful to hear them!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 19, 2015 #2
    Hi Cruz.
    First of all to learn language is knowing everything around you by the new language you want to learn, in this case germany.
    my japanese friend have a mini dictionary he made it by him self. it contained:
    - every part of you body.. from hair to foot
    - everthing around your bedroom, your kitchen, your livingroom, your guessroom
    - everything around your neighbourhood, your office, etc
    once you have reach at least 600 words which you already can speel it well, you are already can speak new language.
    try that, and have a good time.!
  4. Apr 19, 2015 #3


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    I have heard a lot of good things about the Rosetta Stone tapes. And I agree with armand, immersion is the best, if not only way to learn a language in a reasonable amount of time. Alles Gute.
  5. Apr 19, 2015 #4
    Watch movies you are familiar with dubbed in the language you want to learn. Practice speaking along with or reply to the characters.
  6. Apr 20, 2015 #5
    I hadnt thought of that, will try it.
    Thanks everyone!
  7. Apr 21, 2015 #6


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    I find the best way to learn vocabulary is through games of any form. The act of figuring out the answer helps immensely with retention.
    This can range from using flash cards (use e.g. Anki) to playing computer games in the target language, to solving online quizzes, to writing poetry.

    Quizzes are often to be found in the vicinity of online language dictionaries. Google is your friend.

    Poetry writing should be taken without reverence and enjoyed. Pick a simple form at first, like the alliterative verse or simplified haiku, a random theme, and try telling a story in a few lines (e.g.: black bear bought a basketball; he plays poorly but patiently persists). Make use of a dictionary (again, online ones are the easiest to use). The more rigid the form (e.g. how many syllables in a line, what kind of rhymes), the more you end up struggling to fit something in there, scouring your memory and looking up new words, and the better handle you get on your vocabulary.

    One might use an online language-learning site such as Duolingo. This particular site uses the 'Skinner box' approach, that is, it gamifies the learning process. You earn 'experience points', 'levels' and 'currency'. Gives you a sense of progress and provides motivation. You can use Anki in connection with Duolingo via specially-prepared cards available for download.

    Slow-going computer games are not a bad way to do it. You want games like strategy or role-playing, where, essentially, you need to learn what each button and item means to know how to do what you're supposed to do. The issue is limited, and somewhat esoteric scope of vocabulary available in such games (exactly how useful is knowing the difference between various parts of a knight's wardrobe, when you can't even order a meal in a restaurant, etc.).

    Whenever you encounter a new word that you are going to look up in a dictionary, try looking up its etymology as well. You may find surprising connections with words you already know, including in your own language, which in turn helps with retention.
  8. Apr 21, 2015 #7


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    Together will the idea of , e.g., watching movies, why not try reading general material you are familiar with, written in German,
    e.g., if you are familiar with Shakespeare, read it in German, and you can have a good idea, from the general context, of what the words mean. I passed my German exams thanks in part to Wikipediacht (free!) : look up something you are familiar with in Wikipediacht and follow the links.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2015
  9. Apr 21, 2015 #8


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    Deutschewelle has some great learning stuff at this site. I found the "langsam gesprochene nachrichten" (slowly spoken news) very useful. You listen to it every day, and since they are talking about things you are familiar with (because presumably you have some idea what is going on in the world) you can pick up vocabulary from the context without having to look up everything. I kept a log and wrote down any words I didn't know, then looked them up. I found the combination of hearing the words, writing them down and looking them up helped my retention a lot.

    Another thing I found really useful was to read simple books that you are already familiar with. Since you know the plot, you can pick up a lot of words from context. I read the whole Harry Potter series in German.
  10. Apr 23, 2015 #9
    Thanks everyone for the replies, I will definitely try these 3 suggestions at least. Writing some poetry for active use of the language, reading familiar books in german to improve my reading understanding and build vocabulary along the way, and listening to slowly spoken news to improve my listening skills. :)
    If I ever get as good in german as I am in english I will think of you guys :p
  11. Apr 24, 2015 #10
    The best program I've found to learn a language is Pimsleur. I've tried a bunch of language learning programs, and that one works best for me. You learn a lot just in a few lessons. You should try out a demo. It's good to listen to on a commute to work or something.
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