T Nation

Self-Teaching a Language

Hey guys I’m a senior in high school and school ends in 3 days. For some unknown reason, I’ve gotten the urge to teach myself Italian. I do have Italian heritage, but none of my immediate family speaks it, so I’d basically be 100% on my own.

Has anyone ever tried teaching him/herself a language? If so, what do you think the best way to learn it is (other than actually going to the country and being around it 24/7)? I was planning on just buying a book like “Italian for dummies” or something like that just to get my feet wet.

rosetta stone ? looks good one commercials but ive never used it before

Rosetta Stone is a good introduction, as is the Pimsleur series.

I self-taught myself Japanese to the point of fluency, and although learners are different the following worked for me…

1.) Study every day. Set aside a reasonable amount of time based on your schedule. It doesn’t matter if its 30 minutes or 2 hours, but you’ve got to make it a routine or you won’t remember anything.

2.) Speak. This is the most important thing, by far. Sitting down with your face in a book won’t amount to much if you don’t apply it. This is why the Pimsleur audio series is so good…it’ll teach you the vocabulary, then give you an English sentence to translate into Italian. You say the sentence out loud. Speaking a language is very much a motor skill rather than a scholastic pursuit…you physically have to speak the words. Of course its best to converse with a native speaker but I found that doing a “running dialogue” as you go about your daily activities is very effective. For example, as you walk down the street describe what you’re seeing (in Italian)…“a cat is walking in front of the store”, or “the road is congested with cars”. People look at you like you’re a psycho, but it works

3.) If you’re serious about fluency, you can’t get discouraged. Learning a language in the beginner or intermediate stages displays a really steep learning curve. Its great…you can feel yourself progressing every day. Then when you get to a high intermediate stage, the rate of progress slows down greatly as you realize that there are so many structures and phrases you need to master. Keep at it.

Another option is to look into taking a summer class at a local community college or adult education facility.

I’d never heard of the Pimsleur. I’m checking that out now, as I want to relearn Spanish.

You’ll get lots of different answers depending on who you ask. I tried Rosetta Stone and I thought it was crap. I found classes to suck also. Too slow and boring. Pimsleur is good but still a little slow. I really like Michel Thomas for Spanish, Italian, German, and French. I found both at my library. These are good if you have little to no knowledge of the language and you need somewhere to start.

I’m a strong believer in input (reading and listening) over output (speaking and writing). Here’s some anecdotal evidence of this http://www.antimoon.com/how/reading-cases.htm

http://tinyurl.com/4rh7kh is a blog about how the author learned Japanese to native level fluency in about 18 months. You might not want to go as extreme as the author did but it gives you the basic idea. Immersion–constantly hearing and seeing your target language–plus using an SRS like Mnemosyne for learning and remembering sentences/vocabulary. Don’t underestimate reading. Italian will be easier since reading Italian is much more straightforward than Japanese. I always have a tendency to try and translate everything back to English. Resist this urge. At first you’ll need to use some English but you will surprised how quickly you can operate completely in your target language. It’s actually a lot of fun. I just watch movies, TV shows, listen to music, read books/magazines all in my target language. Mine sentences from those sources and put them in my SRS. Keep it fun and consistency shouldn’t be so difficult to achieve.

I learned Korean this way without ever living in Korea. On the phone, Koreans think I am Korean, but not so much when they actually see me. This is just one way. It’s not THE way, so take it with a grain of salt.

Do the same thing I did to learn Greek and English. On top of your reading, supplement watching cartoons in Italian. That’s what helped me the most.

im pretty much fluent in Italian ive taken the bulk of my language education at my university and it helps the most to be talking to other students obviously in a classroom but if thats not an option do what i do too. Find something you love in english whether it be music, movies, sports, or anything with quite a bit of talking and just watch them in Italian.

Your comprehension will skyrocket and you will pick up some really awesome vocab. Reading childrens books helps too. Right now im reading Dante’s inferno in Italian and also Io non ho paura by Nicolo ammaniti and both are amazing. Don’t start on books especially not Dante but once you get into it a little they are great for vocab.

This is a pretty famous Italian song. Easy to understand and the singer has a great voice

the funny version

pm if you want other songs or anything in Italian i have a bunch of them, or movie ideas

Find someone on the internet who speaks Italian and befriend them. Seriously, with the technology avaialable today, you can make a friend in Italy and help him (or her) with his english while he (or she) helps you with your Italian. Take advantage of that.

Also, I think buying a book (to start with) is a terrible idea, unless you just want to be able to read the language. You need to know how the words sound, and actually hear someone else saying them. You don’t want to get in the habit of pronouncing words wrong and sound like a jackass, it’s hard to unlearn bad habits.

Whoever said watching movies, cartoons, etc. that’s a good idea. Practice it every day. Once you start to pick it up, seek out others who speak it, people love helping you learn their language and are usually very friendly. When you start to get it, then try reading books in it, eventually you’ll be able to think in the other language, and as long as you keep it up, you’ll be fluent.

Pimsleur is a good program.
I am teaching myself Cantonese with this program.
my girlfriend who speaks Cantonese nativity actually went through it for me first,she said its great,its phonetically correct which alot of programs are not.

she is also a newly graduated teacher and her and her co-workers do approve of it and how its laid out. she said “this is how I learned how to talk when I was a child”
this is great.

[quote]theuofh wrote:
Another option is to look into taking a summer class at a local community college or adult education facility.

I’d never heard of the Pimsleur. I’m checking that out now, as I want to relearn Spanish. [/quote]

sent you a PM.
we have the spanish series sitting on my book shelf, along with egyption arabic cantonese and french.
also I havbe usedt his site alot its great I have made some good friends here…

its where basically native speakers go to find other native speakers to speak their language to
I have a few friends now that call me and talk to me on the phone in cantonese.
its great if you do not know anyone that speaks that language around you

If anyone is looking for Pimsleur I hear that its widely available for “preview” at sites like demonoid and the pirate bay.

I taught myself hindi (I had some help with speaking from family) essentially from a book. I also took the hindi 101 class at university. I have also had some experience teaching myself spanish, and I own the rosetta stone program.

In my opinion, I think that the rosetta stone is crap. I think that it teaches too slowly. On top of this, it doesn’t teach as much proper grammar as I would like. I have had some success with a book, and taking a class is great because it forces you to set aside an hour a day to speak in another language.

In conclusion, I would say figure out what works for you. You don’t want to waste time, so figure out how you learn best. If you learn best from talking and listening, then rosetta stone or a class might be for you. If you are a book worm like I am and learn best from learning the concepts before diving right in, then maybe a self help book is right up your alley.

go to college. they’ll teach you there.

Since I was little I watched Italian tv channels. Now i can speak and write Italian fluently.
AS for English I went to a course for a couple of years and then when I was 13 I took TOEFL,I did pretty well, 105 points.I think you can do it if you try…

[quote]PimpBot5000 wrote:
If anyone is looking for Pimsleur I hear that its widely available for “preview” at sites like demonoid and the pirate bay.[/quote]

i’m very interested in this

[quote]PimpBot5000 wrote:
If anyone is looking for Pimsleur I hear that its widely available for “preview” at sites like demonoid and the pirate bay.[/quote]

The whole programs including workbooks are available for download at isohunt.com


Here’s a nice resource: http://italianpod.com/ It’s free, has worksheets, native speakers, etc.

Rosetta Stone is crappy in my opinion.

I love learning languages, and after trying different things, I’ve developed this method which seems to work the fastest for me.

Learn perfect pronunciation first so that you can say the words as you see them. Following that, memorize a few hundred words so that you can say them instantly for anything you point at: TV, car, etc.

After that, get a book on basic grammar and learn conjunctions, etc. Because you’re already familiar with most of the words you see, your brain won’t have to constantly flit between pronunciation and meaning and rules–you’ll just look at it, and you’ll be able to pick your way through it. You’ll be able to pick up patterns quickly and will learn fast, so grammar won’t be a big deal.

That worked for me, anyways, and I taught myself Japanese and French.

The absolute best starting point for foreign languages that I’ve used is Michel Thomas’ audio series. Check out the torrent sites. It’s fantastic!

Im sorry to bring this thread back up, but i just wanted to bring something up for advice.

I went to the library and bought a book called “conversational italian in 7 days”- its not too bad. I am beginning to read the language all right, and i can often make out a rough translation of what is going on.

To be honest, if i was asked off hand to say a sentence in italian, id give a blank stare and probably make something up. Basically, I know i cant speak the language at all.

I am not expecting by any means to be speaking the language in 2 weeks. I just wanted to propose a “layout” on how i plan to learn the language. Here are the steps i will break the process down into:

-keep doing what im doing- familiarize myself with language; get used to seeing words and reading it

  • after some time, i should be able to read words, and then i will be able to put them together in my head as to what they mean in english
    -after being able to piece words together with their english meaning, i will begin to start the “speaking” part of the language.

So basically, im planning on learning to read the language, then write the language, then speak the language. Am i going along this the wrong way? Should i be trying a more “integrated” type of process? I’m in no rush to learn this language- i’m doing it for my own pleasure/bettering. It’s not like im going to Italy any time soon either (at least not that i know of).

Thanks in Advance