What's your process?

For those of you who have learned a foreign language to a B2 level or above, what is your process for acquiring a language?

I haven’t seen any videos or articles detailing EXACTLY what people do to learn a language. Just saying “listen and read” is far too vague and can end up with people doing things that waste a lot of time.

Even the “reverse translation” method that Luca Lampariello teaches failed when he himself tried it for Japanese.

“Start with the mini stories” and then what? And EXACTLY how does one go through the mini stories? The steps should be far, far more specific and detailed.

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No, they should not.
Read the ministories, looking up the words that you don’t know and translating the sentences that are unclear. Pay attention to the way the sentenes are put together, using what you know about grammar and googling/asking about what is unclear. Once you understand the story, listen to it, trying to pick up words/phrases.
Do that every day, the more you do it the faster you’ll learn. The particulars: how many times you repeat the same lesson, how you learn grammar (through a reference book, through Lingq lessons, just by reading, …), whether you add some flash carding, and so on are not that important and every learner has their own preferences…
Do that every day, the more you do it the faster you’ll learn. The particulars: how many times you repeat the same lesson, how you learn grammar (through a reference book, through Lingq lessons, just by reading, …), whether you add some flash carding, and so on are not that important and every learner has their own preferences.
Once you feel like it, move on to new content. As you feel more confident, find more challenging texts. Eventually you’ll want to tackle content made for natives. Make sure it’s content you enjoy.
That’s it. It works but it takes time. Don’t overthink the process. Reading/listening to comprehensible content is never a waste of time, that’s what will make acquire the language.

Hmm. What do you think about alternating between two languages, because you get bored with one of them? Kind of like playing music from two different styles (Debussy vs Beethoven, for example) on the piano? Play one composer from 1895 for a few days, then the next couple days, switch to a composer from 1802?

I wonder how similar learning to speak a language is to learning to improvise/compose on a musical instrument. Starting a language by working through a piece of native content, like a 5 minute interview, and getting up to full speed with that after 2 weeks = starting music by working through a 5-minute piano piece and getting up to full speed with that after 2 weeks. Eventually, you will have a bank of patterns and phrases you can pull out, which then comprise your speaking (improvisation on the piano).

As you get more advanced in your language acquisition, you can work through a 10 minute interview in 1 week; as you get more advanced in your music studies, you can work through a 10 minute piano piece in 1 week.

This is very interesting because I’ve been experimenting with learning musical improvisation (plus ear training) through a method similar to what I do when I learn languages.
Probably, the main difference is that you need more output (singing and playing) than in language learning.
The “Improvise for real” method seems to me to be very close to a “comprehensible input” approach:

I totally agree with your comparison between progress in music and progress in languages.

On the other hand, I’m not so sure about the analogy between learning two languages and playing two musical styles. At the end of the day, both composers still “speak” the same language, even if their “dialects” differ.
I think that learning two languages at the same time produces much more interference, particularly if your level is relatively low in both of them.

Thank you for those links.

The way I am thinking of it is, playing Debussy and Beethoven, they are both played on the same instrument in the way Russian and French are spoken from the same instrument, but they require a different touch, a different “soul”, a different way of using the pedal, a different rhythm, different chord progressions, and actually, they were played on instruments quite different from each other! And Russian and French require a different use of the tongue, different “soul”, different way of arranging words.

So I was thinking, in the same way that people say that multiple languages confuse each other, maybe I should stick to one composer at a time when learning music.

But the interference is really just when it comes to output, right?

Maybe I have burned myself out with Russian and maybe language learning as a whole, and have lost enthusiasm and patience for it.

I often hear of people getting bored with their target language, but I’ve never understood it. As long as you’re doing something that you like (watching movies, reading stories) how can you get bored? I think the problem has to be mostly that what you are doing is just not interesting enough in itself to keep you engaged or you become frustrated that you don’t understand 100%.

It’s key to keep doing activities that you enjoy (switch it up between movies, reading , music, etc) and accepting that you cannot understand them completely at the moment.

I’ve had times when I was sick of doing what I was doing and slacked in my studies, but I’ve never attributed it to the “language itself”. For me it’s just a language and with every language I know, (and know better than I did previously) there is more that I can do.
Maybe the exception would be the very beginning when you really don’t understand anything.

I definitely agree that doing one language at a time is better/easier if you want to make progress as quickly as possible.

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depends on the language a bit but generally work through a course book like one from the colloquial series from routledge, or a book from teach yourself, steve does say to start on lingQ but even in his older videos he suggested to work through a course book which is a much better idea. if its a language like spanish you could get away with just going through one book but if its something more foreign like (in my case) swahili you may want to pretty much use all you can get.

I have 3 languages at C2 level (which doesn’t mean being native!) but I never studied them in the classic way so I’m not sure about the process. Not sure if I’m at C2 level in all 3 now in all areas of each language because I don’t use them so often but I feel very good with what I have.

Now I’m studying German at home and I struggle a lot but I’m asking a lot of questions here until I’ll find a solution to overcome my difficulties or I’ll give up and do something else.

For the others my process has been simple, sort of. Going directly to the country and learn them there. This doesn’t mean it’s been easy, not at all.

Usually I’ve done a few one-to-one lessons before going to the country just to have an idea of the language. Around 10 lessons more or less. A part from English that we generally study at school so I had a basic school level.

Once in the country, the process has been to find an apartment first, for example in France (or shared with other local people, in England). Then buying a bunch of grammar books and get out searching for any possible place where they could give free lessons. Create exchange lessons with local people that wanted to learn Italian and doing 1 hour each. Going to free places created for students that learn languages and so on.

At the beginning working a bit with my own language, for example in call centers and then working in hotels once I could have the possibility or a good level of the language. Depending on the moment, country, etc. I mean, I can’t explain everything but the method was this one.

To be honest, I did all of this without even being so determined and organized compared to today. Now I would do things a LOT better and I would use the time in a more intelligent way. I have wasted a lot of time when I was living in the countries instead of learning the language very well. And I did few “technical” mistakes, I wasn’t focused only in the language.

For example, when I was in France I was studying in Spanish language and when I was in England I had a French girlfriend living with me for a good part of the time. So, I could have done better. :smiley:

The bottom line should be that you need to know yourself very well. Then you need to know how you react with the language you’re learning. From there you do what you are doing, asking questions, trying to understand and then build your own method. That’s adult learning.

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I think part of the process is finding the process.

If you’re setting out to learn a language, you have three options: an academic setting, such as school course, or language school (usually not ideal for fast progress), a structured, published self study course where the process is laid out by the authors, such as Assimil, Teach Yourself, etc. (usually a very good option for beginners), or a complete auto-deductive approach, using LingQ or other similar tools out there.

If you opt for the third option, you’ll likely have to find your own process via some trial and error.

Know that when you ask for advice like this, you’ll get a hodgepodge of responses. Some of it will be solid, but even then, you may get some good advice from seasoned language learners that you may not be able to follow because you’re not seasoned yet.

And you’ll inevitable get a lot of BS, which you won’t be able to distinguish from solid advice, which will lead you down on paths that waste your time.

I think most people who have succeeded with fully auto-deductive learning have done so because they were able to find the process on their own that worked for them.

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I totally get it, you want a road map. The bad news is that the only way to learn languages well is to “listen and read.” The good news is you can almost make it what you want. As t_harangi pointed out, part of the process is coming up with a process by which you go about that listening and reading. In my case, I stumbled around in the wilderness, in the Dark Ages before I found LingQ, then settled into a process, which dragged on and on as new things came up: better ideas on how to use LingQ, new material I found, the ability to import Netflix content–all of these were game changers for me.

When I approach my next langauge project, it will be a bit different because I know so much more now, new things will have been developed (like the mini stories), and I will have little to no experience with the new langauge, but quite a bit of language learning experience and if it is French, knowledge of another Romance langauge…

That being said, I expect it to look to start with the Teach Yourself book, then maybe some Asimil, and then something like this, as Francisco put it:

“Read the ministories [I expect to use a lot of news articles like I did for Spanish], looking up the words that you don’t know and translating the sentences that are unclear. Pay attention to the way the sentenes are put together, using what you know about grammar and googling/asking about what is unclear. Once you understand the story, listen to it, trying to pick up words/phrases.”

I also plan to watch a good amount of Netflix and import those TL subtitles as well.

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To be honest, a lot of people here look for success stories and how to use lingq. It’s true that you have to find your own process, but it’s also true that it will always be some kind of variation of what someone else is doing (since at its core, it’s just “reading and listening”).

Personally, I think it would be a good idea for Lingq to have a separate space somewhere on lingq where these success stories are posted with some more details on how the user accomplished this. People want assurances that when they invest a large amount of time in reading on lingq, without a concrete roadmap, that it will pay off.

Getting an idea of what worked for someone else would already give a good idea to newcomers on what general direction they could go in to get results.

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Azarya, I completely understand your point, and there are some good posts on the Open Forum here about people’s success stories, some of them posted just recently. And it could be good for LingQ to have some kind of detailed guidance up somewhere.

BUT, what complicates all this is a threefold problem:

  1. There is a lot of blowhard BS out there being posted by people who think they have this figured out, but are giving out incorrect info, and reach incorrect conclusions (and I may be one of them, I wouldn’t know)
  2. A lot of newbie questions are based on piles of misconceptions and logical fallacies picked up by reading the above mentioned BS
  3. “Just read and listen” works wonderfully for people who like to read and listen to begin with. But a lot of people jump into language learning who do not read books regularly in their native language, so they don’t know what to do with “just read and listen” and they’re at an inherent disadvantage compared to the “success stories” people, a lot of whom were regular readers to begin with.

Take for example two sentences in the OP here, that I had very specific reactions to when I first read them:

I’d venture to say that a person who likes to read books would not ask this question, because the answer would be obvious to them.

This sentence feels so riddled with logical fallacies that you could teach a class on the subject just breaking down its elements.

– What’s “reverse translation”? Is it good? Is it bad? Has it worked for others?
– Who is Luca? Is he good? Is he bad? Does he have authority? And how much? (For the record, I love the guy, but that’s not the question here.)
– Could Japanese be different from other languages he tried this with?
– Could Japanese need a different approach?
– Could the same approach work for other people with Japanese?
– Could the same approach work for other languages but not Japanese?

I feel that the OP hasn’t really tried answering any of these questions themselves before writing that sentence.

And for all of the above reasons I say that if you’re really gonna go auto-deductive from the start and skip any structured instruction and skip any “proper” self study courses, the burden is gonna be on you to come up with a process through trial and error, because even when people shower you with advice and success stories, a lot of that is gonna be BS and misconceptions.

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I basically watch a bunch of youtube videos in order of categories of comprehension difficulty at the same time as brute force memorizing vocabulary from the first 3-5000 frequency words. Once I have 1,000 words I start doing lingQ mini-stories to start learning grammar by osmosis.
This method works to radically improve my listening comprehension but nothing else. I can’t speak, read or write using this method.

I came to this site to Learn german and Spanish Because one day I was researching how to be fluent in a language and Steve popped up on YouTube. I never heard of him before and had no idea on how to learn a language after taking Spanish in high school and not learning anything. I watched many of his videos, he has a lot. I could see right away he knew what he was talking about. I would recommend you go to his YouTube channel and do the same thing. You’ll find all the answers you are looking for on how to learn a language.

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Lots of useful points in here but the standout to me is this: do it every day

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Agreed. I don’t really understand it either. Getting bored is probably not having a comprehension level capable of engaging with interesting content.

@azarya @xxdb: I can easily explain that to you. All people don’t have to be the same, in fact, we are all different and have different stories. You don’t have to compare what you do against what other people do (it’s normal, it’s just a mental trick). You can just enjoying what you are and enjoying the difference in other people as well.

I get bored because I don’t like and I don’t care about studying the language. I like using the language not studying it. I like to interact with people on many languages but not dedicating hundreds of hours on the language itself.
I don’t care about the language like I don’t care about the mechanic of a car. I might like to drive a car or if I had more money I would pay someone to drive the car because I would use that time for doing something else.
For me, the language is a tool not the goal.

In my life, I’ve already read hundreds and hundreds of books. Only last year I was over 100. I’ve read thousand of articles and watch hundreds of movies. Yes, too much.
Do you know what’s inside my Music app? Nothing! Do you know how many games app I have? Zero.

So, I don’t really care to watch videos or read articles or books at my basic level buy it’s necessary. It’s training and every training involve a lot of boredom. Unless you are a person that enjoying the training which is a different type of person.

Maybe at your first language or when you’re young it’s different. I don’t know, I don’t remember. There is a lot more enthusiasm, more energy, more curiosity. But then the second, the third, the forth. It becomes a routine, a method.

Everyone has different motivations and different projects. It’s not only studying a language for fun is also sometimes learning it for necessity or for work or other situations. So, that’s why there are people bored about the process. No matter what you do.

In fact, they say that success involves overcome boredom and if it involves overcome boredom is because boredom is part of the game.

EDIT:
btw: I like to type fast but I have to train for that. Is it boring? Not really but I do it only sometimes and when I’m tired. Now I’ve found a trick. I copy the same easy stories I read in German language and I type them. I also type list of verbs. So, I’ve found a way to overcome the boredom to read again a simple story and the boredom to type useless text. Now, with that said, maybe there is a way to overcome boredom if there are the right strategies. That’s why I had opened another post about it. To see if there were other interesting strategies.

@david
Sorry I can’t seem to reply directly to you.

Yeah no worries it’s not a dig it’s just a conversation.

It’s possible that you mean lack of motivation rather than actual boredom? Maybe maybe not, doesn’t matter, it’s just a conversation where we’re sharing experiences trying to help each other out.

Makes me wonder though: I notice that there are subtle differences in meaning between languages. Like (at least in French and Spanish) the word “sensible” means roughly equivalent to “sensitive” whereas in English it’s closer to “prudent” and “serious minded”.

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I was going to recommend this as well. It’s a lot of content to go through, but there’s something interesting in every video imo.

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I think the main problem is there isn’t necessarily a “best way” or most efficient way. I think a lot of it depends on the individual. So you’re not really going to see a cookie cutter approach. You can certainly follow a cookie cutter approach, but maybe that approach that someone used will not work out best for you.

Therefore the generic “listen and read”. The mini stories are great to use and a good starting point for someone who doesn’t have any ideas to begin with. They cover a lot of ground and with a lot of good vocabulary. You could also look at Assimil or Teach Yourself or something else for the basic vocabulary and a small amount of grammar rules. The newer Assimil’s you can actually grab the mp3 subtitles and import them into LingQ along with the audio. Then also read the Assimil book to get some of the grammar notes.

What next? What do you like??? The magic of LingQ is that you can import things that are of interest to you. The best approach, I think, is one that is going to keep you interested and wanting to invest time in the language. This may or may not be the most efficient way all things considered, but if you quit, that’s certainly not efficient either.

I personally think you should find content that is of interest to you, try to find the audio for it, if possible and import it into Lingq…or some other means…google translate popup browser extension for example to read web content and get popup translations quickly. Listen to the audio. Keep doing this. Your vocabulary will increase.

At some point you may want to try and speak when you have enough vocabulary. Maybe that is when you want to have some sort of tutor session or some other exchange. Or maybe start writing.

Hopefully that helps…I think there are a lot of good replies on this thread.

I’m not sure Luca’s “reverse translation” method failed…or whether it was because Japanese is just simply a lot more difficult and he needed to spend a lot more time with it. I suspect when and if he tries Japanese again he would still use his method as a tactic to help learn the language but maybe he might try some other techniques to refine his approach to this specific language. Again, there is no perfect cookie cutter answer.

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