Polyglod’s Top Five Language Methods

Last week I talked about the first step to learning a new language, which came down to establishing a goal and planning accordingly.

Okay, let’s say you’ve done that. You’ve got your goal and you’ve got your plans, but you’re hung up on one tiny snag. You don’t speak the language you’re trying to learn. How are you supposed to create your own course if you’re not even qualified in the subject matter?

Here’s where my top five picks for starting a new language come into play.

I’ve put them in an order, but really it’s not representative of which I think is the best. What’s best out of these five favorites of mine really depends a lot on who you are as a learner and person as well as the specific goals you’ve set.

With that in mind, I’ll tell you what I do and don’t like about them, how much they cost, and who they might be a good fit for.

 

Glossika

Price Point

$39.99-119.99

The Good

This method is actually a ninja. It will teach you grammar without teaching you grammar and you won’t even know it’s doing that.

Luckily I’m part ninja myself and was able to pinpoint exactly how Glossika accomplishes this. It tosses you thousands of grammatical and useful sentences, that stick like caltrops in your subconscious, only with less pain and no bleeding. These sentences build on one another in theme, vocabulary and grammatical complexity. This is also sometimes referred to as an assimilation method

Out of fifty sentences, you might get the word ‘weather’ in several different contexts like: It’s nice weather today. How’s the weather? Bring an umbrella today, the weather’s bad.

This is so that while you’re picking up grammaticality and sentence structure, you’re also accidentally learning the words that you keep hearing.

The Not So Good

This technique doesn’t work for ALL the words, so if your goal is to build a huge vocabulary and fast, you’ll probably be better off looking into something like Anki.

Is It For You?

Lazy language learners like me, will love this one. If you don’t have oodles of time, and your goal is to be able to read and speak this method, like Neo, is the One.

Also great if you’re a fan of the IPA. (Sorry beer lovers, not that kind of IPA.) The International Phonetic Alphabet can be a great tool in language learning. Also sharing the other kind of IPA with strangers is a good way to make new language buddies!

FLR Method

Price Point

$40.00 (Per level)

The Good

This method gets you going with a self-introduction that can be used in your first conversation. It’ll also hand you a bunch of useful phrases and words, things like: ‘Can you repeat that?’ ‘What does X mean?’

If you’re at all familiar with Benny the polyglot from fluentinthreemonths.com, (who is not related to this method) then FLR will give you a pretty good toolset for following Benny’s advice, which emphasizes speaking as soon as possible. There’s a great article on that here.

This advice aligns with the actual creator of this method, Moses McCormick.

The Not So Good

My main gripe with this method is its piecemeal format. The design struck me as something I could have slapped together myself, which left me feeling like the price point should have been closer to ten or fifteen dollars. Still, it’s clear from the content that Moses knows his stuff when it comes to languages and regardless of the presentation it’s clear that an immense amount of time and work went into this.

Is It For You?

This is a language learning method designed by a self-learner for a self-learner. So if you don’t mind not having someone hold your hand and walk you through every step, then this might be the one for you. A noteworthy consequence of most self-learner oriented methods though, is that they’re time consuming. But I’ll argue in another article that the potential yield of skills offsets that.

The Pimsleur Method

Price Point

$119.95 per level (30 thirty-minute lessons)

The Good

Pimsleur’s focus is on listening and repeating, using the Spaced Repetition System. It’s somewhat like Glossika, in that it relies on audio and teaches you useful common words and phrases. But this is not an Assimilation method and does not rely on immersing you in thousands of sentences. Spaced Repetition, however, is proven to work wonders and you can read about how to benefit from it using an application like Anki, here.

The Not So Good

This method will not help you learn to read and although you learn a lot of useful sentences, it doesn’t help you get dive into any very interesting first conversations.

Is It For You?

If you’re a commuter or have no interest in reading in the language, then this might be the one for you. It’s also great if you have no previous background in the language, otherwise the first 10 lessons might try your patience, since clearly you know everything already.

Duolingo

Price Point 

Free

The Good

Duolingo is great for learning how to read and expanding your vocabulary. It does this using translation and is very similar to Rosetta Stone except in two things—it’s free and it’s better.

In addition to getting access to an active community of language learners, you get the added bonus (at the higher levels) of helping translate the internet, see Luis Von AHn’s TED talk.

The Not So Good

The only downside here is that, like Rosetta Stone it’s not the best at getting you into those really important first conversations.

Is It For You?

If you’re broke or just trying to save your capitol, this is a great option. Plus, its design is really intuitive and anyone who’s not my father can figure it out. But don’t mind him, he still calls his i-pad an Apple screen device.

Assimil

Price Point 

About $40.00 depending on options.

The Good

Assimil uses the power of story to make words stick, and the power of a bi-lingual text to lay bare grammatical structure in a way that’s visible and tangible.

Its short dialogues teach you to read as well as listen and luckily the dialogues dance the border between funny, corny and informative.

I learned about the history of monuments in Japan as well as heard some pretty great jokes.

The Not So Good

The dialogues help with understanding sentence structure and building intuitive grammar. But, like so many other methods it doesn’t really get you ready for conversations.

Is It For You?

Assimil is great if you like reading quirky, awkwardly funny dialogues/stories that give you brief explanations of grammar. But this one probably requires the most attention and time investment. For example, I would listen to and read along with each dialogue several times before going on or going through the mini grammatical explanations. And then there were short exercises at the end of each dialogue to help you practice what you just learned. I easily spent up to an hour or two a day reading/listening to these.

Put It Into Practice

Now that you’ve got my top five picks for getting started in a new language, you might be wondering how that connects with the mindset and goals that I mentioned in my previous post.

Simply, let your goals determine the method.

So to give you an example of how I might do that: Let’s say that my goal is to read Dostoyevsky in Russian.

I’d start out using DuoLingo so that I could learn to read without having to flip through and guess at pronunciation guidelines. Also instead of wasting my time learning how to pronounce each letter in Cyrillic I’d be learning how they work in words and phrases.

In addition to Duolingo, I’d pick up Assimil’s Russian book and audio files. Because sometimes, I like to not look at a screen. Plus I’d be able to read casually about grammar and how verbs work. Eventually (when I felt pretty confident with my ability to read in Cyrillic, I’d supplement these two by finding stories for children on the interwebs.

If any of these methods piqued your interest, I highly suggest looking more into them, as an in-depth look at these five methods was beyond the scope of this article. I’ve included links to some articles that give a more in-depth look at them.

Glossika: http://www.lingholic.com/glossika-review-mass-sentence-method/

Pimsleur:http://www.fluentin3months.com/pimsleur/

FLR Method:https://www.reddit.com/r/languagelearning/comments/3jr0lx/has_anyone_here_tried_the_flr_laoshu505000_method/

(Not exactly a review of the FLR method but this reddit thread raises some of my unvoiced concerns.)

Assimil:http://www.lingholic.com/reviews/assimil-review/

Duolingo: http://www.fluentin3months.com/duolingo/

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