What the approach do linguists use?

Hello hi! I’d like to ask linguists (people who study linguistics not polyglots, though I’m not sure that we have a lot of linguists here) what an approach do you use when it comes to language learning? Even though if you’re not a linguist I’d like to know your way of learning languages. I know, I know that’s a question that a lot of guys have already asked but I think some people would like to share their views on this subject (even if they did it a plenty of times).

And yes, some language learners can say that I use the term linguist in the wrong way - sorry.

There are a lot of tips written by Steve here.
You can find a lot of methods for language study in YouTube.
If it is interesting for you, you can use my course “How we learn languages”.
Here is the link to the English version of my course:

Many of these articles you can find also in Russian and in German.
In the Russian library here this course has the title “Советы учителя”
In the German library - “Wie wir Sprachen lernen”.

Good luck!
Language teacher from Sankt Petersburg Evgueny Bokhanovsky

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I do appreciate your help, Evgueny. But I’ve been watching Steve’s videos for a long time, I dare to assume that I’ve accumulated a lot of what he said. When I was writing this post I thought that some guys would be happy to share their own experience with others.

И я бы хотел отметить то, что я очень ценю Вашу помощь и заботу. Спасибо за множество интересных уроков! Хорошего дня, Евгений!

Hello Rob, do you think that linguists would have a different method?

As far as I know, linguistics is the study of the structure of language, and communication. It’s concerned with syntax, lexis, phonology, morphology etc. There are many fields of linguistics e.g. sociolinguistics, computational linguistics, stylistics etc. These days the emphasis is on descriptive linguistics i.e. where they describe exactly what people are doing, and study it in detail.

I’m not aware that linguists have any special talents at language learning. I’ve met linguistic tutors during my studies, and they were almost all very smart people. Many of them were not native English speakers. However, they were quite ambitious in terms of learning! Some of them came from countries which DO teach English at school. They all had accents from their native languages, they all had the occasional difficulty with certain words/meanings. On the other hand, they all knew heaps of stuff about linguistics. :smiley:

My linguistics tutors were not really clued up about language-learning and language-teaching. Teaching and learning are different skills to studying linguistics. Linguistics is a subject, a world of information, but learning a language is about learning how to communicate. Linguistics is about understanding how people communicate the way they do, and why etc. It’s nothing to do with knowing how to learn a language the best way. However, I am a native English speaker, and I attended a UK university, so maybe in other countries linguistics tutors guide students with regard to language learning. I’ve never heard of this…but that’s not to say that it’s not the case.

Personally, the people I want to talk to about language learning are people who teach ELT, and researchers who investigate how we learn language. Linguistics is like stripping a car to its individual parts, but language learning and teaching is like driving a car. Linguistics can help you to achieve a different perspective of language in general, because you start to see the bare bones of how language is strung together. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we can then improve our actual language learning and usage. Hope this is helpful. :slight_smile:


From a linguistics perspective, and some of the classes I took in college, for the most part, most of the instructors I had were fans of comparative translation (similar to what Luca Lampariello uses). Basically comparing two texts, one in your native and one in your target, analyzing the structures when translating to assimilate grammar, patterns, and structures/vocabulary.

Now at this point in the world, I believe language learning and linguistics have very little in common with how one learns a language, but more so how a language has evolved, came to be, grammatical structures, syntax, and is used.

I know a few linguists who did a grammatical comparison of languages to get the grammar and then try and plug in words to form sentences, which, may work for 50% of a language, but a lot of the times the spoken language, or normal use of the language is very different than this.

Now there are also different types of Linguists. It also depends on the language they are studying, whether it is a common language, spoken, written, non verbal, non written, etc. There are too many factors that can determine how a linguist might go about studying a certain language and for a certain reason.


I have the very small goal of understanding as much as I can the spoken languages. I am confident that anything I do or learn now will ease getting better in the future and anything I get and lose will be more easy to get back. I don’t target a big number of words. I prefer to increase the number of situations where I catch the words I am supposed to know.
A lot vocabulary, perfect grammar, better speaking and writing all those skills are very admirable but they are not for me, for now.

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Thanks for the interesting comment. I didn’t expect the users to give answers on this silly question, to be honest, I was going to delete the topic. Anyway, thank you again for that time you spent on writing the reply. Have a nice day!

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If I could go back to being a beginner in German again, I would like to be taught by Dr Steven Krashen :slight_smile:

Other capital-L Linguists? Well, there’s Christophe Clugston…I suppose… He has something called (I think) the “East German Volume Method”. I couldn’t comment on it myself, but I believe some serious folks here like Julz from New Zealand have said complimentary things about it?

Or you could read the big daddy of all Linguists, Noam Chomsky, and learn about how America is the greatest evil in the entire galaxy, and about the superiority of Socialism, Islamism, and unlimited mass-scale Immigration - things which are strangely invisible to all but the smartest people at MIT…apparently…

(Of course, I’m half kidding about Chomsky. He is undoubtedly a very great language scientist. As a political thinker he is a schmuck.)

I’ve never tried the comparative translation method, though I think it would be interesting to try it, just for fun. Have you ever tried that method?

Hmm… That’s a good idea. I’ll definitely watch some videous about them. Prinz_Skogsvin, may I ask you a question? What do you think about the linguistic theory of universal grammar by Chomsky.

I’m not a (scientific) linguist myself, so I couldn’t really comment. I believe the theory has become controversial among the younger wave of Linguists, hasn’t it?

I’ve no idea. If I’m not mistaken, the founder of LingQ don’t really like the theory.

I’ll take a stab at this- although there are certainly people out there who can explain Chomsky’s linguistics far better than I can (it’s also been a while since I’ve looked at any of his work, both political or linguistic.)

Chomsky’s UG theory relates the innate human ability to learn languages and especially the ability to rapidly learn multiple languages at the same time during early childhood- it essentially says that humans are “hard-wired” to learn languages.

A way of thinking about this is that when humans are born, they are equipped with some sort of brain module (Chomsky calls it the ‘language acquisition device’) that allows them to automatically learn a language’s grammar from unstructured input. This brain module gets weaker and essentially “switches off” at puberty- This is known as the “critical period” for language learning.

Two pieces of evidence for his theory include include the “poverty of the stimulus” argument, in that children seem to learn far more from the small amounts of input that they are exposed to than would otherwise be expected if they didn’t have an in-built capacity to learn languages. The theory also implies that all natural human languages will have some core similarities or rules (parameters) that arise from this universal grammar.

Is he right or wrong? Who can say. There have been more words written criticizing/praising his work than you could read in a lifetime, but his theories do seem to make “sense” at some level- they’ve stood the test of time reasonably well IMO.

Consider that before the introduction of Chomskys theories sometime in the 70’s, the “behaviourist theory” of language learning seemed to be in fashion- that learning languages was essentially a process of practice and habit formation. This is where those old school FSI language pattern drill programs you can find on the internet come from- they were based on this theory.

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I believe that it must be a good balance between the theory and practice - you will be able to speak without grammar but with a lot of mistakes; you can know grammar well but you can’t speak without any practice.
And my answer for @EnglishFishWish (a strange name, but it is so) - the native speakers if they are not professional language teachers speak too quickly and with a wide range of vocabulary, with a lot of slang - and it makes adiitional difficulties for the language learners.
Besides, they don’t pay sufficient attention to some points which are not difficult fot them but which can be very difficult for the learners of a certain country, for example, if we say about English, the use of the articles and the Verb Tenses for Russians, the use of some prepositions and gerunds for Germans etc.
That’s why I think that the non-native teachers are preferable for the foreign students for the Beginner and Low Intermediate levels, and some conversations with native speakers are more useful for the Intermediate-2 and Advanced levels.


This is an interesting point. I think it depends on the student. In my experience, many students want to learn from a native speaker, rather than a non-native English speaker. I’ve met students who far prefer to see English from a native-speaker perspective.

English can be very challenging: quite a large vocabulary compared to other languages, it’s not always phonetic, we have grammatical irregularities. But, it’s also the 3rd most spoken language in the entire world.

It also depends on WHY someone wants to learn English, what topics and to what depth, they may need to be involved in. How ‘precise’ a learner wants to be, also plays a role. Not all English speakers use slang. We have a wide range of accents and dialects. I struggle to understand some of our regional dialects and accents. There is no ONE special ‘English’. We have different dialects both nationally in the UK, and globally, which exist. Sadly, it’s usually Standard British English, General American English and maybe one or two other dialects that are most-taught and talked about. It’s a political, social and maybe economical consequence…perhaps.

English is a beautiful language, all its dialects are brilliant. BSL is brilliant. All languages are beautiful and brilliant, all have dialects, and many quirks. All have irregularities. I studied a bit of latin many years ago. There were irregularities there too. I tried learning French, but rapidly became annoyed at the lack of phoneticism. I could not match the shape of the word to the unpredictable sounds. :smiley: My teacher was awful too. Not because she was native speaking, but because she wasn’t great at communicating with us.

Language is very personal to each person. One learner may want to be taught by a native speaker, and another may prefer a non-native speaker. We are trained to avoid speaking like robots, or using unnaturally ‘clean’ speech, because that is completely unnatural in the English speaking world. We are trained to speak clearly, and to avoid slang. I can only speak for the establishment I trained at, I have no idea what other schools teach their teachers. :smiley: On the other hand, many of my students loved knowing slang words. All words were interesting to them. I was trained to teach English as it is used, not as a sort of static entity, if that makes sense. Just to add, on the issue of speed of speech, I think that this is, like you say, a subjective one. In the beginning, any language we want to learn, sounds horribly fast. My Spanish teacher sounds like a sports commentator to MY ears, because it’s new to me. However, once a learner begins to make progress, and has much more practice, the sounds start to make sense, even when fast. We have many, many people who come here for work, and they use English for work and leisure. It may not be easy in the beginning, but there’s a certain point we reach, and then things begin to make a lot more sense.

I think it’s horses for courses. Every student has different preferences. We have a lot of Chinese students in England who are here to learn English, from native English speakers. They are paying quite high fees in order to learn from qualified native speakers. Same for students from Japan, and the Middle East. It all depends on each person’s understanding of what’s best for them.

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Evgueny, I found this and thought you might find it interesting. :slight_smile: It’s about the idea that foreign languages sound fast to learners, or those who don’t speak them. It’s true, foreign languages sound very fast to me too. Apparently, it’s known as the Gabbling Foreigner Illusion. :smiley:

Foreign Languages Sound Fast: Evidence from Implicit Rate Normalization

This isn’t the abstract below, but the opening paragraph from the introduction:

“It is a common impression that foreign languages (FLs) seem to be spoken faster than one’s own native language. This subjective impression manifests itself, for instance, in remarks of many language learners, frequently asking their interlocutors if they can please slow down. The effect has been termed the ‘Gabbling Foreigner Illusion’ by Cutler (2012, p. 338) and has attracted the attention of speech scientists for many decades (cf. Osser and Peng, 1964)…”

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Anytime! I have time on my hands and enjoy talking about language. How to learn a language the best way…that’s the eternal question! There have been different approaches to teaching languages, and each one has its good and bad points. What I learned from my time training to teach, is that most of us need to use many different methods. It’s rare to find a learner who only uses one method. I think it’s because there are too many variables when teaching and learning a language. Everyone has different abilities with their memories, time, practice, reasons for learning, choice of teacher, the approach their teachers use, the environment etc.

I wasn’t going to find a new learning approach for myself. It’s just interesting to see what approaches other learners use you know. And, of course, it’s really hard to find it, maybe it’s even impossible! That’s why people come up with their own ways of studying languages in most of the cases.

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while that is true they they are some languages that are truly spoken faster than others like spanish and japanese

They would have to be spoken faster relative to someone or something else? Do you know what that is? Are there any research papers about this?

If body language and energy are languages, then animals are probably the fastest communicators! :smiley: