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Re: Learning languages

From:Chris Bates <christopher.bates@...>
Date:Thursday, March 11, 2004, 9:03
DON'T BUY "TEACH YOURSELF" BOOKS/PACKS. Sorry, but I've listened to a
few of them, and I always found their grammar explanations to be
extremely poor, to the point where the only reason I could figure out
the grammatical details is because I know some things about linguistics
already. Anyone with an average knowledge of linguistics, or foreign
languages (average amongst general population here = knowing practically
nothing even about english grammar (well... I mean not knowing it
innately, but...)) would just end up memorizing little phrases and
things, and picking up a very incomplete knowledge of the grammar
necessary to build your own sentences for situations which aren't taught
in the book. Maybe I just got bad ones though.
 For spanish, an introductory (but very basic) pack I found good was
"Oxford Take Off in Spanish". It takes until near the end to get to the
past tense, and I abandoned it before I listened to all four CDs because
I found the pace was a little too slow for me (I listened to the first 3
CDs, later along with lessons with a spanish tutor, and I have several
CDs from more advanced courses I've listened to), but I truly believe
that for the beginning with an average knowledge of linguistics, its far
better at giving you a (very) basic grounding in the language than
"Teach Yourself Spanish".
 I've seen a little of the suenos spanish course (sorry about the
missing tilde), and I think its... okay would be the best word. It
certainly goes farther than the basic "Take Off in Spanish" I mentioned
before, but I think the grammar explanations could be better. "Pasos" is
good for listening practice, but the book is useless. Erm.... Don't try
any "Colloquial..... " books if you're a true beginner, because they go
too far the other way and generally dump so much vocabulary and grammar
on you in each chapter that you just give up in despair.
 Okay... given that I've critised just about every spanish course that
popped into my head... take my advice and get yourself a good tutor or
join a good course. Books and tapes and CDs can take you so far, but a
language is meant for communication, and you need other people to
communicate with to truly feel comfortable with the language. The other
option is to go and live wherever the language is spoken for a year of
 I don't speak Latin, German or French anywhere near as well as spanish,
so I wouldn't want to recommend a course or book for them. I have to say
though that its very difficult to get good books teaching you Latin,
because most of the people who write latin books don't seem to want to
teach it like languages are taught in the main now, but instead seem to
come from an era of learning by rote, vast tables to be memorised, and
throwing pupils in at the deep end of latin grammar to see who can
figure out how to swim and who drowns. If there is a good book that
teaches Latin, I've yet to find it. Again, joining a proper course with
a tutor would be far better if you can find one near you.

End of rant now....



Chris Bates <christopher.bates@...>
Danny Wier <dawiertx@...>