Learning a foreign language online?

Digital Larry

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I've been half heartedly learning Japanese for 30 years, starting when I began to travel there for work. I've decided to start it up again. Local junior college has a 5 unit course, which looks pretty intense actually, but that doesn't offer a lot of flexibility say if I get really busy with work. I signed up for "duolingo.com" about a week and a half ago and am starting to find its approach sort of frustrating.

All of the lessons are supposedly based on different situations, but I find the pace at which things go to be maddeningly slow. There's a way to skip over content, yet they still seem to insist on just beating everything into your head via repetition.

e.g.
John is a cool person.
Is John a cool person?
Naomi is a cool person.
Is Naomi a cool person?
John is a nice person.
Is John a nice person?
Naomi is a nice person.
Is Naomi a nice person?

Alright already, I get it! Then when you get to the "next level" it's just more of the same.

I'm sort of looking for a more concentrated thing like "vocabulary" and "grammar". Obviously they have some algorithm going on, but it's not adjustable by me, so while the lessons do introduce new words, it's very gradual. There are also things where you build up sentences from individual words, either based on dictation, or translate from English to Japanese or vice versa. When translating to English, quite often there is only one way that you could arrange the words into a sentence that makes any sense and you are rarely called upon in a single question to distinguish between "here" "there" "way over there". In other words, you can answer it correctly using other clues.

I'm sure it's an OK way to get started, and I have learned quite a bit, but I'm starting to get frustrated with it.

Any other experiences?

DL
 

john_cribbin

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Duolingo is very basic at the beginning. As you progress it does open up a lot.

For Japanese, it might be worth looking at NHK online, they have a couple of different courses on their TV channel, I think it's all online.
 

loopfinding

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I don’t think it’s going to get you much of anywhere. My Spanish is between B2/C1 level. For giggles before coming here, I pulled up duo and I tested out of every unit, and I expected that to be a little challenging...but no, it was a breeze. My only practice right now is basically watching/reading the news and having to write emails, and I’ve stalled speaking-wise because of that. I can ace duo or read the paper but still sound like a dumbass guiri when I open my mouth in public.

I have been doing the duo stuff for Japanese, I was (old) JLPT N3 once long ago, but I haven’t really recouped much. It’s especially bad for learning/remembering kanji. I really think you need to bite the bullet and get a speaking partner - a tutor (even if just in video chat) can provide you with that. Probably a number of affordable services at this point.

Part of the reason I got as far as I did in Japanese as quickly as I did (2 years?) was because my teacher would almost only talk to me in Japanese, make me write/recite summaries of my week (forcing me to learn new phrases or kanji) and because at that time I would visit Japan and play shows with friends for a few weeks at a time once a year.
 
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Digital Larry

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I have three colleagues in Tokyo that I meet with regularly (in English) and several others who speak Japanese well in the local office. I am mostly interested in possibly traveling there again, whether for business or pleasure. Although I think I've been there more than a dozen times, I would not feel confident doing too much without a guide.

So, speaking, listening and reading are most important, and writing not quite as much. I'll keep looking at the options. Mostly I am interested in the breakdown of what is being taught rather than just rote memorization of phrases.

I tried another one just now that tries to recognize what you are saying. It's either 100% or 0. In fact it shows a hiragana transcription initially and I captured that and I got it correct but it still claimed not to understand.

Thanks!
 

loopfinding

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I have three colleagues in Tokyo that I meet with regularly (in English) and several others who speak Japanese well in the local office. I am mostly interested in possibly traveling there again, whether for business or pleasure. Although I think I've been there more than a dozen times, I would not feel confident doing too much without a guide.

So, speaking, listening and reading are most important, and writing not quite as much. I'll keep looking at the options. Mostly I am interested in the breakdown of what is being taught rather than just rote memorization of phrases.

I tried another one just now that tries to recognize what you are saying. It's either 100% or 0. In fact it shows a hiragana transcription initially and I captured that and I got it correct but it still claimed not to understand.

Thanks!

What have you had to do there?

When I went, the longest time I ever went was a month, and I went solo. So I was mostly sleeping at people’s houses who didn’t speak English super well, who worked during the day (so I’d be running around aimlessly at electronics stores, lunch counters, and record stores), and who I’d go out with in groups at night (where half the group didn’t really speak English). So there was a lot of forced practice.
 
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Digital Larry

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What have you had to do there?
Get from the airport to the hotel, deal with the hotel (in Tokyo anyway this is not so hard to do in English). But last time I was there we were staying in Shibuya and it's a fun place to go walk around and get food on the street or in a restaurant, go to Tower Records and try to find the surf music section, go to a guitar store, deal with train tickets, shopping, museums, blah blah blah. After awhile my Japanese colleagues got tired of chaperoning so we were left to our own devices.
 
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Digital Larry

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I gave up on Duolingo and canceled before the payment kicked in. The free version will make you scream for mercy with its ads also.

I looked at the free stuff from NHK online, looks good.

Right now I am going through another free one, https://minato-jf.jp As far as I can tell, it's all free, no payment option, no annoying ads. Arigatou gozaimasu!

I find that at the beginner level, there is a lot of omission in any given program and just by doing several different beginner level ones I am learning more than just sticking with one.

As an example of my new found prowess in Japanese, I have written a haiku in French and also made it into a nearly identical meaning haiku in English. Wasn't able to get it into Japanese yet but I may still try.
----
Il était une fois
Il y avait une grosse oie
Ta gueule, elle a dit.
---
Once upon a time
There was an overweight goose
Shut your trap, she said
 
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johnb

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Get from the airport to the hotel, deal with the hotel (in Tokyo anyway this is not so hard to do in English). But last time I was there we were staying in Shibuya and it's a fun place to go walk around and get food on the street or in a restaurant, go to Tower Records and try to find the surf music section, go to a guitar store, deal with train tickets, shopping, museums, blah blah blah. After awhile my Japanese colleagues got tired of chaperoning so we were left to our own devices.
Been there and done all of that.
I just went out by myself. The only time I had a problem was with a Taxi driver that couldn't understand my version of Harajaku, must have been my Southern accent.
I realized that I could just walk from the ESP store in Sibuya to Shakey's in Harajaku. It was less than a mile.
Be bold and just go! You will have adventures to talk about.
 

Linderflomann

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You can use Anki as well, there's probably some good vocabulary decks out there.

But from what I've been able to gather; once you have established enough of a vocabulary & grammar, the main thing in learning a language just becomes consuming lots of it. Find something you enjoy and watch the hell out of it.

It's funny because I taught myself English when I was a kid, before I ever had it in school. I just watched cartoons with subtitles, videotaped so I could rewind. I got so good that I got mistaken for a local the first time I went to America, despite never having actually conversed in English with a real life person prior to that. And once I got it in school I just breezed through all of it.

As an adult trying to learn other languages I started looking towards apps, books, etc, all sorts of 'magic bullets'. Then a while ago I saw a YouTube video by a guy who had taught himself fluent Japanese by just watching lots of anime and soap operas. And then it clicked with me: if that worked for him, and that's how I learned English, there's probably something to this method.
 

Digital Larry

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As an adult trying to learn other languages I started looking towards apps, books, etc, all sorts of 'magic bullets'. Then a while ago I saw a YouTube video by a guy who had taught himself fluent Japanese by just watching lots of anime and soap operas. And then it clicked with me: if that worked for him, and that's how I learned English, there's probably something to this method.
I'm not looking for a magic bullet. I know it's complicated and I'm getting into geezer territory. I do have the opportunity to converse with my Japanese colleagues although I don't want to wear them out on it. Having learned French pretty well in high school (and I can still remember it although my French colleague does not like to speak to me in French), I am interested in grammar as well. I'm spending probably a minimum of 30 minutes a day using a variety of methods and am not expecting instant results. But just having done this now for about 6 weeks, I'm pretty sure I've built up a little more than I had before.

I found a YouTube channel called "Cure Dolly" which is fairly strange but many people seemed to like it. I have to turn the English subtitles on (it's delivered in English) because the audio is poorly recorded. It focuses for starters on grammar and fundamental differences between Japanese and English. I also found some stuff that is trying to teach a bunch of things but assumes that I already know what all the Kanjis mean, which is baffling. Also, on a computer screen, Kanjis start to just look like a blob without zooming way in.

I had watched some Japanese TV shows before, maybe I'll check those out again.
 

Fretting out

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You have colleagues that speak the language that is your answer right there!

Ask them stuff if they are willing to share

I learned nothing really practical in 3 years of high school Spanish

I worked at a plastic factory that was 99% southern Mexicans and learned more than I ever did in school

Is there such a thing as an internet pen pal, find someone that knows enough English to help you and you can help with English

Most important thing I learned in another language is “how do you say?” from there it opens up, as you can ask them what it is in their language and if they don’t know it in English you can help them, win-win

Good luck

I’d love to learn a couple languages myself
 




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