How do I look for patterns when learning a new language?
Don’t look for them. You will get a feeling for them and get to know them with time.
Pay attention ?
No, no, it’s a bad piece of advice!
Every language has its own patterns, and it’s better to have a look of them. You can do it in every trextbook for beginners than to wait a long time before you start ‘to get a feeling of them’!
With this you save a lot of time in your language study.
I try always giving the most popular patterns in my lessons in Russian, German and English for beginners here in the libraries of lingq.com.
I wholeheartedly agree with Evgueny. It is absolutely essential that a language learner notice and learn patterns. In no language are words randomly uttered in a string. Instead, there are grammatical, spelling and pronunciation patterns which are critical to what a given phrase or sentence means and whether other native speakers understand it correctly. Patterns indicate such things as how a verb is typically conjugated, plurals are formed, word order for declarative sentences and questions, pronunciation, etc. For example, in English, “young the gives girl book man to a the” is meaningless because it does not follow any of the patterns, grammatical rules. One common English pattern is that the subject ( who or what is doing an action) precedes the action (verb) itself. (This is not true in German, Japanese or even Russian.) However, “girl gives a to book man the young” still doesn’t make any sense. There are more patterns (rules) to learn – e.g., regarding the placement of an adjective, the position of direct and indirect objects, etc.
One need not be taught “grammar rules” as such to learn the patterns. A famous linguist, Noam Chomsky (a professor of linguistics), has theorized that all humans are hard-wired to learn a grammar from birth. Native speakers discern patterns through lots of exposure and then use the patterns correctly by what “sounds right.” Yet adults do have superior analytic skills than children so why not take advantage of that and learn a “pattern” when learning a foreign language as an adult? I am not advocating a rule-based, grammar approach (which is a traditional teaching method) because in my experience, too many “rules” become overwhelming and inhibit speaking. Yet, I myself found it highly effective to learn basic patterns in meaningful contexts. I then USE the the patterns to write and talk about things that are meaningful to me. Sometimes I seek clarification of a grammar or usage question from my Skype partner or on the internet when I haven’t been able to figure something out on my own. For me, noticing a pattern and understanding it is essential before I myself can use it correctly. One way to facilitate that is by clicking an expression on LingQ, not just individual words.
First, note that recognizing patterns is not solely about grammar. There are all sorts of common phrases and idiomatic expressions and the “normal ways” of saying things that are beyond the grammar itself. Those you will collect through listening and reading.
But I agree with TracyG & Evgueny. Yes, it is possible to learn solely through exposure, as you did with your native language – in an immersive environment at the best age for absorption. However it only makes sense to jump-start your ability to notice the salient patterns in a language with some sort of material that highlights and explains them.
This does not contradict Steve’s advice and example of “massive input” without formalized grammar drills and rote memorization. Even Steve admits to reading explanations of grammar. Dr. Stephen Krashen, whose research largely aligns with Steve’s approach, emphasizes comprehensible input. Priming the pump, so to speak, with a grammar preview or review from time to time, will make your input much more comprehensible. How much of this is needed or advised probably largely depends on to what degree the forms and patterns of your target language vary from your own. Don’t make it tedious, though! That’s a motivation killer.
Dmitriy Petrov is a teacher of many languages who has a YouTube channel (Полиглот 16 с Петровым. Английский, немецкий с нуля за 16 часов для начинающих - YouTube) with several series that promise to teach you a language in 16 hours (if you already know Russian). That’s nonsense, of course. No one is going to learn tens of thousands of words in 16 hours. What he does do, however, is very cleverly organize and present the basics of a language’s grammar and usage along with some basic vocabulary to hang on that scaffolding. I’ve watched his introductory videos for a few languages. I think that having watched or read an introduction to the structure of a new language like that, even without study or memorization, you would start picking up the patterns in your beginning material much more quickly
Some of the beginner material here introduces and explain grammar with the target language. That way you can get your grammar instruction and reading input in one swallow, I guess. However, I can’t comment from personal experience on the beginner material here, though I’m sure Evgueny’s material is good. I got my grammar lessons the old-fashioned way from textbook tables and drills in high school. With Lingq I have finally started acquiring some of the vocabulary needed to make that useful.