Teach Yourself - Superior to Assimil?

The reason I ask this is because TY (I believe) is all you need to get started in language
learning today. It is more “Phrase-bookish” than Assimil, but at least you can learn basic things
you might need to say and you can get a basic footing in the language. Also,
it is shorter with, I believe, better grammar explanations.

Assimil for me is more comprehensive in terms of vocabulary and I think
their audio recordings are excellent, buy I find it extremely boring (to be fair,
TY is too,which is why I choose TY, less boring material to plow though).

Nowadays with today’s technology, we can now jump into real, interesting to the individual content
much earlier than the old days. Steve has been saying this for a long time now, but I have
never applied this way of learning because I have not started a new language after becoming aware
of Steve and his views on language learning.

This approach has saved me with my German studies. I now read news articles of subjects
of interest to me and now my motivation has skyrocketed and when that happens, your language
skills tend to increase.

I guess I am writing this to say thank you to Steve for all the time you have taken to help people
you have met, and many more you haven’t.


Hey Carlos

I bought both Assimil and Teach yourself. To be honest, i did not really like teach yourself. I liked more the structure of Assimil, with the bilingual texts and foot notes that accompanied each lesson. I did not really like the format of teach yourself as it had more exercises etc to do which i don’t really like. Also there is a lot more text on the Assimil course book. I have come a long way in spanish since i began using Assimil, I have finished the course now but will probably go back over it as revision.

However, i think that it would be beneficial for anyone studying a language to study both courses

I think that the best way to start a language may be to use one of these courses. I myself have tried both of them. For German, I found the grammar explanations of TY rather tedious and unnecessary at the beginner stage. I could handle Assimil, but found LingQ’s German lessons by Vera and some other contributers much more interesting, varied and useful. Gradually, by using these lessons, I got to the stage where I could read web pages, and now full novels, biographies and so forth in German. I can also listen to native speaker podcasts and understand most of what I am hearing, at least if the material is in a field I am familiar with in English - science, for example. Now I also go back to earlier lessons on Lingq to study them in greater depth, looking for the use of particular structures and idiomatic forms.

For Chinese, I have Assimil. The speaking speed of the early Assimil lessons is too slow for me but the later ones are OK. I am using mainly Glossika’s basic fluency series now. At first the sentences sounded much too fast for me to say after or with the speaker. Now I can cope with the first 200 or so quite easily, and am building on that ability as I gradually work my way through all the material. Tthere are 3000 sentences spoken at a moderate natural speed, with translation and transcription into Pinyin and IPA as a PDF. The same is repeated, with sentences in English first, in a cyclical fashion for spaced repetion of the sentences. I am finding this method really great. I am learning how the language is structured from repeating the sentences and am learning lots of vocab. I also use Chinese Pod, and a wonderful dictionary program call ArchChinese. I have found some beginner sentences on LingQ, but don’t find these as useful as Glossika and Chinese Pod at the beginner level. I will use LingQ much more when I can recognise more characters and their sound in sentences, without having to look up about 3 words in 4.

For Spanish, I am finding more and more useful LingQ lessons and other material as I go, and also listening to podcasts and reading books. My Spanish was already at quite an advanced level when I joined LingQ.

So, what I would say is, try LingQ first because it is accessible and can work very well for some languages. Use TY as a reference, and maybe purchase or borrow Assimil if it is available in your language. These are my suggestions for the languages I have had success with on LingQ.

I also send a big ‘Thank you’ to Steve, and to Vera for her German lessons.

Happy language learning!


A friend of mine very much wants to learn Mandarin. Your paragraph above about how you are learning Mandarin provides the clearest concise plan for learning a language that I have ever seen. I will pass it on to my friend. Thank you.

Thanks for your reply.

My first start with Glossika was quite slow.

Now I am following a bit of advice from Mike Campbell at Glossika, to work with Pinyin at first. Pinyin gives one a pretty clear guide for speaking, once one understands the system.

I find that assimilation of all the sounds and rhythms is a cyclical process. What I have done is to use both the GSR and the GMS material. (See the Glossika website for an explanation of what these are.)

Stage 1: I listen to the GSR files and try to repeat after the speaker. This gives me the rhythm and tone changes at first.

Stage 2: I go to the GMS files and use Audacity to repeat the sentences as many times as I need to be able to say them reasonably accurately with the speaker.

Stage 3: I go back to the beginning again and write the Pinyin of each sentence. I try to do this without looking at the PDF. I then look at the PDF to check my writing. Then, after doing 150 sentences I listen to them all again.

This process has made the sounds much clearer to my ears. If I have had a real problem in Stages 1 and 2, by using Audacity’s slow down the tempo function to slow the speed by 10 or 12%. I have not needed to do this at all in Stage 3.

So, what I am doing at the present time is writing my way through all the files from the beginning, and also going 13 lessons ahead of this using the GSR cyclical listening files.

I have practised writing only a few of the most common characters using Arch Chinese. In a couple of weeks I aim to finish the three-step process for the first 1000 sentences. Then I will start stage 4 when I will begin writing those sentences, using Chinese characters. At that time I will have already be well into taking the second 1000 sentences to Stage 1. I am finding I am getting much quicker with the listening and writing as I go along, because the same Pinyin patterns and sentence rhythms keep on recurring.

I hope that my suggestions help your friend, and maybe other LingQ members, to break into Mandarin Chinese. Best wishes.

I learned Mandarin with this set of books. I have not seen a better collection than these
5 books. All audio is just in the target language and has vocabulary lists and example
sentences that go with each lesson’s vocabulary. The audio cd has the dialogue, reads the vocab list, as well as the corresponding example sentence. It also has examples of different grammar patterns.
I bought these in Taiwan, but it seems you can order them online as well. All the international
students that go on to study in Taiwan’s universities after attending their language center courses,
used these books. They did wonders for me. Just write out the dialogues or the characters
you don’t know and read and listen to the dialogues until you are familiar with at least ~85%
and move on to the next chapter. You can put the audio on your mp3 player.

There are many books out there in Asia that have 10,000, 8,000 sentences, but I think they
are best used towards the end of your study, rather than the beginning. When I read
the sentences in these books, or Glossika’s for that matter, there are not many words I don’t know,
or phrases I can’t say correctly. By reading things that interest me, and some
things that don’t, has given me the vocabulary and grammatical accuracy without much conscious effort.
I find it more interesting and motivating to read dialogues or varied topics than individual sentences.
I would find it to tedious in the beginning to look up vocabulary in individual sentences where the sentences are not
even related with no story line or entertaining topic.

That being said, GMS and other sentence books are a great way to polish up your studies. I can now go through
this boring, yet necessary material quicker due to already having a substantial vocab to begin with. I like to go through
uninteresting material quicker, and take my time at the beginning with somewhat entertaining content.

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That’s why I also use Chinese Pod.