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How to learn a language?

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How to learn a language? #1 (permalink) Tue Feb 14, 2006 15:17 pm   How to learn a language?

I have been thinking about how to learn English for a couple of years now. My conclusion? There is no single best way to learn English. You have to accept that you must do a variety of activities as often as possible and there is another important thing I have observed: When you want to learn English, quantity matters at least as much as quality. What does that mean? It simply means you shouldn't waste your time looking for 'the best' grammar book or any other text book - use your time learning English instead. Now I'd like to share some ideas of what you can do to learn English and it would be fantastic if you could add your suggestions and ideas too. Here is what has worked for me, maybe it will work for you too:
- listening to English audio tapes (all kinds of tapes or CD's - short stories for children, Harry Potter, ferry tales, interviews, novels, music, etc.)

- listen to English radio stations (it doesn't matter if you don't 'understand' every single word - the sound and intonation of the language goes into your head anyway and every time you pick up a new word or two)

- watching movies in English (at the cinema, at home on DVD, together with friends or alone, in an English language course, in an English speaking country, with or without subtitles)

- writing short emails or SMS in English (even if it is short sentences like 'hello, how are you today?' or 'See you soon' it will help you get used to using English)

- taking part in forum discussions (you can write at least short responses like 'I agree with you' or 'That's right but how about this...' etc.) Make sure that you know the sentence you write is correct. If you are not sure, ask somebody to amend your sentence.

- reading the news or any other text in English
- reading any types of books, magazines, newspaper articles etc. in English with or without using a dictionary

- using bilingual and English-English dictionaries
- reading texts aloud
- reading texts aloud and recording yourself
- listening to your own recordings
- speaking English with any person who is interested in and capable of communicating in English

So, what do you think, what are your learning techniques?
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How to learn a language? #2 (permalink) Wed Feb 15, 2006 5:26 am   How to learn a language?

:lol: ..I will try what you suggested... nice explanation from you...

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I listen to songs #3 (permalink) Sat Mar 11, 2006 8:59 am   I listen to songs

hi savvy!

My name is Nylamp and I'm from Peru. I came to New York to learn English and I realize that I was learning faster with songs and lyrics. Then, I gathered my knowledge and built a free website for us to learn English vocabulary, listening and pronunciation with songs.

The website is

I read comics too and books for children. Another way that worked for me was poetry, interesting short stories and novels.

Lots of positive energy for you!

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Learning english with songs #4 (permalink) Sat Mar 11, 2006 9:13 am   Learning english with songs

Hi Nylamp,

Thank you for your suggestions. Of course learning English by listening to pop songs can be a good idea. As far as I can see you have posted the same message three times on this forum. Any particular reason for doing this?
I'm new here and I like it ;-)

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Talk to yourself! #5 (permalink) Sat Mar 18, 2006 1:27 am   Talk to yourself!

Savvythought wrote:

So, what do you think, what are your learning techniques?

In your interesting post, you have pretty much covered all the usual learning procedures, Savvythought. Yet perhaps I could suggest another language practise activity (which I try to do most of the time). It consists of talking to yourself, either mentally or (preferably) out loud in the language in question, as much as you can. Be it to say trivial things like what you are doing now or going to do next or elaborating on deeper thoughts and feelings Ė anything that crosses your mind, really.

When total language immersion is not possible, this way of practicing, combined with the usual learning activities, is quite effective, I find. These conversations with yourself can be carried out anywhere, anytime and are especially useful before an oncoming class, interview or difficult test, for example, as it prepares your mind for it.

Another thing I try to do as often as I can is to mentally translate or interpret what I hear: this can be anything from the news on TV to the sermon at Mass. When I do it with dubbed films (which I try to avoid, unless they are in a totally unfamiliar language), I also make a little game of reading the charactersí lips, but this requires lots of practice and...close shots, too!

There is one thing, though, that I canít do well in another language and that is counting: it has to be in French, since I learned to do it in this language.
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How to learn a language? #6 (permalink) Thu Mar 30, 2006 9:09 am   How to learn a language?

don't you think, it is just a little obsessive.
This is a great idea but it has something (just to compare)
from the most simple military tactical

Be ten times stronger in heavy armor , air force ,
infantery etc...
Bribe their commands etc
Cut suppling lines etc...
Surround them and don't forget they shouldn't have any food.

I really like people be passioned,
but this is possible if you are living in english spoken country
right now , and every day english is just on hand reach.
Otherwise you may get bored and slow down with time
Second thing is if I really want to think in english all the time
or to be so much busy with a language from diffrent country
best regards


Do it your way #7 (permalink) Thu Mar 30, 2006 22:49 pm   Do it your way

Interesting comments, Jan. Iím glad you are participating in the forums. Now, I never thought this little game of mine could be viewed as obsessive or as a martial discipline (I am the least military person on earth!!). In fact, the whole point is to have fun while learning or at least try to make learning as enjoyable as possible.

My suggestion of talking to yourself in the language you are learning and/or doing mental translations was just meant as a tip on improving your second/foreign language/s, as one little thing to do on the side. If it feels more like a chore, then forget about it. Luckily there are enough other learning tactics to choose from. Besides, as you have said on another forum, everyone should try to find the most effective method for them, according to their needs/tastes/objectives, etc.

English has been a passion for me all my life and I thoroughly enjoy anything that has to do with this language, especially the sound of it and the many different ways of speaking and pronouncing it (and you must all be fed up to the back teeth with me banging on about this!). You know, it makes me so happy when a reluctant student catches a bit of my enthusiasm. My first goal in teaching is to make students like what they are learning Ė itís half the battle won, in my opinion. So I try to share what has worked well for me, which is not always what suits others best (you are a living proof of this).

Finally, like so many things in life, if not everything, teaching/learning is a joint venture. Both sides give each other so much (or they should!), but they get so much more in return.

If itís not too indiscreet, where are you from, Jan?
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How to learn a language? #8 (permalink) Sat Apr 01, 2006 21:44 pm   How to learn a language?

i was a little worry about how much we students , pupils
have to sacrifise from our life due to master one lousy laungauge , originally my objection was pure in the provocative meaning but of course with time of writing
emotions maybe even positive take the matter over and
I am where I am facing now Seniorita and ashamed
trying to find some logic excuse.
Can you please imagine really what task needs to be done what we actually have to expect from ourselfs in the matter
of studing language like English or French?
The state of war is declared when is no other option , no
other way , to master to learn language may be pure pleasure but so many times has more from martyrer then
from victory.
They are some tricks, why not when I was bitterly complaining about Studing French to my friend he said politly your French will be so good as much your French mistress attractive my dear fellow,,

How to learn a language? #9 (permalink) Mon May 01, 2006 15:23 pm   How to learn a language?

I think a good grammar book has to go with all the exercises you do. Like if you are learning english by watching movies, some languages in movies don't follow proper grammar. In poetry and songs, grammar is not followed strictly also. Thinking in english is also a good exercise. If you do this, speaking english will come naturally to you.
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How to learn a language? #10 (permalink) Mon May 01, 2006 18:13 pm   How to learn a language?

Hi !

Yes, grammar books have their place in language learning, but let's think about how children learn their mother tongues. Not by using grammar books! They learn first by listening. They learn the sound and 'melody' of the language. And they experience words and sentences in context. They also see, smell, taste and touch words.

Young children then learn to speak, corrected by Mommy or Daddy. First single words, then broken sentences, and finally full sentences. Reading, writing and grammar don't come until much later.

Of course, the situation is different for adults learning a second language. But I firmly believe that listening (and reading) as well as context are extremely important. Grammar books often provide little or no context. Instead the ESL student often only practices, for example, "constructing" verb forms. The meaning often gets lost completely.

Here is an example:
Use the verb 'work' in the correct tense in the following sentence:

Judy _____________ (work) in London for two years.

It is impossible to know what form of the verb 'work' you need here. Several different tenses are possible and they would all be "grammatically" correct! Past tense, present tense, and future. Without more context or further details, we can't possibly say what verb tense is correct. The meaning of the sentence changes with the verb tense.

As to vocabulary, you can read about the difference in meaning between "shout" and "scream" in a dictionary, for example. But hearing or experiencing the difference in context is even better. In addition, you also learn "partner" words in context. For example, you cannot say "a bloodcurdling shout", but you can say "a bloodcurdling scream". That would be a typical combination (especially in a horror film. ;) ).

My advice is: try to do as much as you can to learn a language in context. That means don't forget to do lots of listening and reading. Don't focus mainly on grammar. And try to learn pairs and groups of words together.

As to speaking, I think Conchita's tip about talking to yourself is very good. :D Especially for people who are shy or afraid of making mistakes when speaking. The more practice you have, the more confidence you will have and the easier speaking will become.

Of course grammar is important. But it's only a part of language learning. Vocabulary is much more important. Without words, you can't say anything at all.

And finally, don't take things too seriously. Don't be afraid to have some fun with your language learning. :D

That's my two cents worth.

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." ~ Abraham Lincoln
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How to learn a language? #11 (permalink) Thu Oct 12, 2006 3:57 am   How to learn a language?

Hi Savvy;

I'm sorry for replying your message after long time. In fact, I forgot to check the box to notify me when a reply is posted. The reason why I posted my message 3 times was because I built and very few people was using it. It took a lot of effort to build it and without visitors a web site doesn't have a reason to exist.

Fortunately, at this time more people are visiting and I have got valuable advice from friends and users to improve it.

I am working now on the improvements and englishbeats will have dramatic changes for the enjoyment of the users.
Currently I have added around 100 music videos and there will be more interesting features.

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Posts: 4

dear yankee #12 (permalink) Wed Apr 08, 2009 10:10 am   dear yankee

dear yankee
as I understood your sentences (my english is not good sorry),to be able to speak english very vell , grammer is not important as much as words..for learning verbs you advice us reading books,watching movies,reading it true? anything else that you advice us...? thank you...
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dear yankee #13 (permalink) Wed Apr 08, 2009 12:24 pm   dear yankee

Okank, I would definitely agree that grammar is secondary to vocabulary.

Past, Present and Future tenses are really all that is required for everyday conversations, and all the rest is gibberish, ( IMO ) and can be safely flushed down the toilet.

The importance of " all of the rest " evades me, and I allow it to do so, because other than acquiring certification that you are smarter than the rest, it serves no useful purpose.
I will probably get slaughtered for having said that, but I stick by it.

I've gotten through 70 years with only those three tenses to guide me on my way, and I've yet to meet a single circumstance which I couldn't confront, armed only with such basic " ammunition ".

I find myself constantly amazed by folk asking sophisticated grammatical questions here, whist seemingly being unable to string a sentence together that/which is not
filled with errors.

Keep it simple ... Keep it interesting.
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How to learn a language? #14 (permalink) Sun Apr 12, 2009 6:59 am   How to learn a language?

Dear Savvythought
The first thing you suggested is listening , I completely agree with you .
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dear yankee #15 (permalink) Mon Apr 13, 2009 2:49 am   dear yankee

Dear Kitosdad,
Can you explain a little for your new phrase as below:

Kitosdad wrote:
.. can be safely flushed down the toilet........

Thanks again..

Better tomorrow with better English
I'm here quite often ;-)

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