Internet - massive game changer for language learning!

We all know about LingQ and the advantages that it can offer (especially for people at intermediate and advanced level, IMO)

And there are other sites too. I’ve never (yet) used the one reviewed here… - YouTube …but it looks pretty interesting.

Not to mention Youtube, podcasts, online TV, downloadable, pop music, films, e-books, audio books, and so on.

I was musing about this the other day, and I couldn’t help wondering whether younger dudes in the ‘linguaphile community’ even realise what a HUGE difference all of this this makes?

When I was preparing for the A Level exam in Italian (which was my first foreign language, way back in the mists of time!) I used to take conversational lessons with a young Italian student. She could only spare 1 hour a week, and it meant I had to get in a car and drive a 15 mile+ round trip to where she lived. I can remember wishing that there were loads of other Italian people I could meet - maybe a different person almost every evening. Today I could very easily do that over Skype, and without even having to leave the house and buy gas for the car!

And do any of you younger guys have an idea how hard it used to be to get hold of foreign books music and films here in the UK? Unless you lived in London, there was basically no way of just walking into a store and buying this stuff! Today we go onto Amazon, or whatever - and click!

The other day I was just on iTunes buying Iranian pop songs - of which there is a massive selection. There still aren’t so many Farsi films on there, alas, but I did notice that there are scores and scores (maybe literally 1000s) of Hindi films! There’s just no freaking way one could have accessed this stuff so easily before!

Maybe, we are getting to a stage where one can actually attain a kind of conversational proficiency without living in a country where the language is spoken? I still don’t think one can quite replicate the complete 24/7 immersion of being ‘in-country’, but maybe it’s possible to get close to the level of exposure of someone who, let’s say, is born and lives in the UK or US, but who hears language X spoken some of the time at home by parents or grandparents?

I think that is already happening. I personally know a few teenagers from Skype that like to spend their free time playing computer games where you simultaneously communicate with others or watching Youtube videos a lot. Their English skills are AMAZING, especially impeccable pronuncation and fluency. For my generation it was impossible to attain that level unless you left your own country. We learned English from books and our Polish teachers. Now, those who are twelve and exposed to hundreds of English content on the internet, will make it to C2. Also, currently I speak with a Czech boy who is fifteen and his Polish is strong B2. His only contact with Polish has been by maniacally playing a computer game with Polish virtual friends. If he continues, he may even pretend he is Polish soon, since the languages are similar and he started so early.

And one of them is Add1challenge . This community gets together and try to learn and speak any foreign language in 90 days. They speak their target languages with a native speaker, capture a video and put it on the youtube . It’s very interesting and just like a challenge in Lingq. But i think it is more effective and motivated for a learner.

Maybe we can do the same thing in Lingq. It would be very beneficial . What do you think ? We could set some tasks for learners and anyone can make a commitment to speak in 90 days. (of course task can be different :slight_smile: ) Although we want to learn a language from scratch alone, with a community everything would be easier.

As good as we have it right now, I still often daydream about a time in which we have artificial intelligence language tutors available to us 24/7

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We certainly live in an amazing time to learn languages! I was reading an autobiography of an author from the late 19th century, George Gissing who spoke Italian, Greek and I think French and possibly German. A lot of his practice involved reading books in these languages. He probably also had some education in them from his schooling. He was amazed that he could understand Italian and communicate when he visited Italy in his late 20s. What a time to wait, before hearing some actual Italian though! He only had his books to practice with as far as I understand poor old Mr. Gissing! This morning I’ve been listening to the news in German from a radio station in Germany. I am about to read some news from Radio Okapi, a news and radio service based somewhere in Africa (I forget where). Then later when I have to go to the post office I am going to download some Swedish podcasts and walk to the post office listening to it. Not only is there so much access to everything there is so much availability. I can also be doing other things and be learning a language at the same time! Also, the other day I even managed to buy and instantly download a textbook on Irish grammar and it can be difficult to find such resources.

I would like to have a go with Italki in the future especially for German. I am still pushing through that intermediate wall. When I first visited Germany, and later Austria, I soon became aware that actually visiting a country doesn’t really help you to learn a great deal. Travelling is no doubt an incredible experience and I have some fantastic memories (if you have never been to Salzburg you are missing something incredible) but as for language learning, I didn’t really feel like I learned a great deal. Sure it was good practice but as an intermediate learner, I feel like I understand about 40-70% of what is being said (depending on the topic). As soon as most people in those German-speaking countries realised I was a foreigner struggling to understand completely I’d often get the English version. This didn’t always happen but it made learning difficult. Also, I found I didn’t end up in that many conversations with German speakers. And when I did I struggled. This memory makes me smile, a Jehovah’s witness standing on a bridge in Salzburg told me Muslims were taking over Austria, I had no idea how to articulate my opinion about his stupid statement in German. I just said ‘Nein, nein, ich glaube das nicht’ (no, no I do not believe that). He kept haranguing me about why he thought what he did. I couldn’t understand his reasoning completely at all. In the end I picked up my linguistic crutch and said ‘Entschuldigung, ich komme aus England’ (sorry, I come from England). Which is quite funny really because it sounds like I can’t believe him because I am English.

What I am trying to say though is that traveling to your native speaker countries is wonderful but interaction with the locals feels a bit shot gun. Learning is a very repetitive process. You have to be able to make mistakes, and you have to repeat the things you got right. As an adult, this is harder to do and I do wonder how people like Benny Lewis manage to go to a country and get in with locals straight away. Then again I’m not a very peopley person. I like my own company and like to keep myself to myself most of the time.

The internet can make it worse for learning a language.

In my experience, the people who i know with the best commands of foreign languages are those who lived in the target country and couldn’t care less about ‘language learning’.

‘language learning’ language learners spend too much time reading about doing things instead of actually doing them. They spend hours worrying about ‘efficiency’ while someone else is out there actually interacting with the language, which i find pretty funny.

But the internet is not in contradiction with going abroad. You can live in the target country and still use it, thus even doubling your progress.
Also, I believe your statement about language learning is too general. On the contrary, the internet allows you to interact with native speakers on a daily basis, no less than being abroad. It’s only the matter of one’s determination. Nowadays living abroad is not a precondition to have a spoken proficiency.

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What? I never said any of what you’ve replied to. The internet is a huge source of information which leads lots of people to spend time researching Language Learning instead of merely using it as a resource to learn a language. Do you see what i’m saying? People, in my opinion, who learn languages and don’t care about Language Learning as a thing in and of itself are usually the better speakers of the bunch.

My uncle speaks fluent German, his German daughter fluent English (despite never knowing him or any other other speakers of English growing up), my other friend and her brother speak 100% fluent Spanish and they all couldn’t give a damn about ‘language learning’. If you try and talk to them about it they don’t have a clue and don’t care. It’s just ‘yeah, i learned Spanish’ and then they change the subject. They didn’t read studies, or methods, or blogs, or any of that stuff. They just went and learned it while the rest of you were.

So you claim that language teachers who inherently spend a lot of time researching language learning methods are worse speakers than those who don’t care about it at all? Of course you can master a language either way, but I don’t see any direct correlation. Why would it be a waste of time to investigate various methods of studying? If eventually you find the most efficent method that works for you, it is not a waste of time. Anyway, I prefer to be a conscious learner.

Consider trying to learn Russian in the US in the 70s and 80s. Books were hard to find, and I was aware of a single company in New York that acted as an agent from whom you could order Soviet magazines. Soviet newspapers were dreadful. There were far fewer Russian-speaking immigrants than now. I occasionally picked up some Russian language on a shortwave radio (that was an analog thing, kids) but never made a habit of it. So my exposure was mostly just in class with my American teacher, textbooks and later a dense novel or two, and in high school the weekly trip down the hall to the language lab to listen to and drill with native speakers on tape.

@FattyLumpkin

“…When I first visited Germany, and later Austria, I soon became aware that actually visiting a country doesn’t really help you to learn a great deal. Travelling is no doubt an incredible experience and I have some fantastic memories (if you have never been to Salzburg you are missing something incredible) but as for language learning, I didn’t really feel like I learned a great deal…”

I totally agree that one doesn’t learn much at intermediate (or even advanced) level just by visiting the country as a tourist for a couple of weeks. It would be better to do some kind of language exchange - living with a host family perhaps? Or to enrol at a language school for a couple of weeks of immersion classes. But even then, there are limits how much one can learn in a short time.

In fact, the more I think about this, I really can’t help wondering whether it wouldn’t be more beneficial to do one-on-one Skype conversations with good tutors several times a week over a whole year, rather than to super-focus for two weeks?


“…This memory makes me smile, a Jehovah’s witness standing on a bridge in Salzburg told me Muslims were taking over Austria, I had no idea how to articulate my opinion about his stupid statement in German. I just said ‘Nein, nein, ich glaube das nicht’ (no, no I do not believe that). He kept haranguing me about why he thought what he did. I couldn’t understand his reasoning completely at all…”

It’s actually pretty unusual for JWs to get embroiled in political arguments, so maybe there was some misunderstanding? (I may be wrong, but I think I once heard that they’re not even supposed to vote at elections, or to have any involvement with political matters?)

For my part, I usually politely truncate the conversation when JWs call at my door. Having said that, the time before last, it was (I kid you not!) a young Polish couple that called. I was so impressed that they would have the linguistic cojones to do door-to-door evangelism in a - for them - foreign language that I spent about an hour talking to them. We kind of agreed to disagree at the end :slight_smile:

I have been thinking of trying a work away voluntary place. http://www.workaway.info/ There are some farms in Austria wanting someone to help them out. I think it could potentially boost my language skill and break down that intermediate wall. I might do it. I also keep debating about Italki too.

You are right though there is every chance I could have misunderstood what the JW on the bridge said. It might have been more something like Muslims are everywhere in Austria and not that they are taking over Austria. It might have been more to do with the refugee influx or something. Alas… I will never be any the wiser. I knew he was JW though as he had a German version of the watch tower.

One thing I often feel quite frustrated about with being an adult learner is that I just wish I could have a safe place to go to where I can just play and experiment with my language. I want to be able to make a complete twit of myself and have someone to tell me how to do it properly (and likely as not repeatedly tell me how to do it properly). When we all learned our first language such an environment was a given, as an adult it is much harder to find or at the least replicate.

I have a bit of a wild dream of some kind of linguistic daycare, where learners could go and complete simple tasks in the language. There would be no rules, textbooks, or writing. It would just involve playing games, singing songs, doing things similar to a child would. The only rule would be to speak exclusively in the target language the whole time you are there. Beginner wise it might be a disaster but for people with an intermediate ability, it could be pure magic… perhaps…

“…There are some farms in Austria wanting someone to help them out. I think it could potentially boost my language skill…”

It wouldn’t be bad. And folks on a farm might be (slightly) less keen to speak English with you than the people in more white-collar type occupations?! :slight_smile:

I’m not sure, if this works. I know that they often search harvest helpers here too. They stay for some weeks helping with the harvest, but most of the time they are working on the fields, and they are amongst other harvest helpers.

That has been my worry with it. Plus on a farm where things need to get done if they can explain something to you several times in German or one time in English they are probably going to use the English. On the plus side, it would be a great way to travel around and see more of rural parts of the country. Workaway placements usually offer board and sometimes food in return for your work. It might make a nice few weeks in Austria or some other country. They seem to have people looking for volunteers the world over. Also outside of Europe for places that are a bit less easy to access it could offer a starting board into that culture. There is a school looking for help in Pakistan for example, that could be quite brilliant for me and my love of Urdu. The idea of just dropping into Pakistan like I have done with European countries seems far more difficult, it would be nice to have some people and a place to go to.

After years of playing multiplayer games popular in both Europe and US, all I’ve learned in French are “fdp, mdr, ta mere, nique ta mere, and people asking in the lobbies, “qui est francais”??”

I daydream of inserting or downloading all languages exist to our memories, but I think then it will not be as interesting! hehe

I used to dream about that too…but only before I started learning a language and not since. For me the true magic is found in the process and not the end result. What I’ve come to realize is that I enjoy slowly unraveling and discovering all of the nuanced intricacies of the language as I progress. If I were able to simply upload a language I would be missing out on the journey. That would be like taking an underground short cut through an enchanted forest. I think the saddest day will be the day that I suddenly realize that I’m low C2/high C1 and no longer struggle with anything. But then the next day after that I’ll start at A1 on my next language (German).

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