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Use a how-to book to learn a new language?


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I'm doubting if you can learn a new language by just reading a book whose words you don't even understand. I came across a book titled, "Spanish for Beginners" and after flipping through it, realized that taking a stab at learning a language that way would be a waste of time. You'd never even learn how to pronounce the words right.

Have you ever tried to learn a new language using just some book?

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I've used books to help learn languages before.  Most books will have a pronounciation guide to help you speak correctly.  Plus, with a language like Spanish, every letter is pronounced just one way, for the most part, so you can easily figure out how to pronounce a word just by reading it.

Of course, if you truly want to master a language, you need to listen to it too.  I'll study a book for a little bit, then listen to a tape or watch a movie to hear the language as well.  Nothing beats having an actual conversation in the language, though.  I learned more Spanish in one week in Mexico than I did studying Spanish for three years in America.

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I tried this with Japanese as well, and came to the same conclusion. I don't know how people managed to learn languages from books before the internet existed. :D They are still somewhat helpful, though, don't get me wrong. I've memorized a lot of phrases from those books back then and it's easier to just learn the pronunciations later on like I'm doing now.

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I think it would be difficult, but I think it could be done. I think it all has to depend on what the "How To" book has to offer you. If it does not have a great amount of knowledge it can teach you, then it might not be a good idea but if it does it might be very beneficial.

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  • 6 months later...
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No, I've never tried learning a language by just using a book. I am the type of person who has to have a teacher or someone I can rely on for correction and guidance or even another learner to share with. I believe that depending only on books can never be enough to master a language.

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I have to use a book. I can't hear. I have to use sight to learn as sound doesn't really work for me. Learning to READ a language is a LOT easier than speaking it. I can speak, not a problem as I wasn't born deaf, but I use a lot of sign language because most times it's just easier than trying to modulate the volume of my voice.  (People kind of get put off when you're screaming at them!  :laugh:)

I wouldn't say using a book to learn to speak another language is the best way to do it, but it sure works great for reading and spelling. :wink:

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I'm doubting if you can learn a new language by just reading a book whose words you don't even understand. I came across a book titled, "Spanish for Beginners" and after flipping through it, realized that taking a stab at learning a language that way would be a waste of time. You'd never even learn how to pronounce the words right.

Actually most language textbooks nowadays have a CD attached to them for students to listen to the vocabulary words and the dialogues presented in the book. So they do learn how to pronounce the words correctly.

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There are a few foreign language books which are good, but I agree with you that you need to flip through the pages first for you to see whether it actually considers the fact that when you start learning, you have no idea about the language at all.  There are a few good books who start teaching you the basics and the foundations of the language in a step by step way.  It will be in English or in your mother tongue.

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Well, I do not think that these easy "how-to" books are really good. I haven't personally read any of these, but I have a feeling these are the kinds of books that advertises themselves as "Learn this language in less than 3 weeks by using only this simple how-to guide!". And of course, we all know that ain't going to happen. They might help you to learn some of the common sentences, and saying "hello" and all that... But that's not really getting you very far.

As far as books in general goes though, I love books. You do of course also need some listening/speaking tools outside of just the book (assuming you want to learn how to understand and speak the language in question. There are actually lots of people who do not want to do that, that only want to learn how to READ a language) if you want to fully understand the language... But I don't think you need too much of that to be honest. If you want to become fluent in speaking, of course you need to speak a lot. But you can probably go a pretty long way just by knowing how to pronounce the syllables/letters if they are all pronounced the same, like in japanese, and many other languages. You will still need to speak to become fluent, but as long as you learn how to pronounce those things in teh beginning correctly, you will be able to pronounce most things/everythign correctly.

Personally I'll take things one step at a time. Once I have learned how to read the kanji, and gotten some grammar/vocab/etc in my "backpack", I will try to watch some japanese dramas without subtitles. I will probably not be able to catch up to the meaning of everything, and it might take a while to get a good listening comprehension, but ti will be possible. I'm not a big fan of learning everything at once. I mean, of course you can split up things even more than I am, but I'm trying to learn X hundred kanji first, then I learn some basic grammar, then I learn some basic vocab... Then I might try some basic listening comprehension, if i feel like it... And then I go on to the next level (I go by the JLPT levels, as most other japanese students outside of japan does).

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Reading kids books is a great way to learn a new language because there are always lots of great pictures to look at as you go to help you figure out what the story is about.  It is the same principle that kids use when they learn to read in their native language.

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I'm doubting if you can learn a new language by just reading a book whose words you don't even understand. I came across a book titled, "Spanish for Beginners" and after flipping through it, realized that taking a stab at learning a language that way would be a waste of time. You'd never even learn how to pronounce the words right.

Have you ever tried to learn a new language using just some book?

I don't know how others can do it. It is way too easier if there are visuals and audio guides. But for me interaction with other people speaking the language is still the best form by the way.

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Reading kids books is a great way to learn a new language because there are always lots of great pictures to look at as you go to help you figure out what the story is about.  It is the same principle that kids use when they learn to read in their native language.

I agree that it's very helpful to have some accompanying pictures and that's why there should be no shame in starting out with kids' books because if you are just starting to learn a new language then you are essentially a kid in that particular vocation. It also helps way more if there's someone there to guide you along or to answer your questions as well.

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Learning a language through an how-to book seems tricky, I don't even know what you mean by that. If it is a language book sure, why not? Considering you have some sort of audio support because without audio it's impossible to learn how to speak unless you are in the country.

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I only use book's that are in the language I am trying to learn to help me pronounce words. While I have no idea what the words I am reading mean, I do however get some good practice pronouncing them. I can't just learn a new language by reading a book, there is no one for me to understand what I am reading unless I look up every word online which will be very time consuming.

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I'm not one for books. I think it's hard to learn a language in book form since you'll be reading it with your own tongue by default and getting the pronunciations right is out of the question. In learning language I prefer using tapes or videos since I can hear and see how the words are written and spoken which is really important when it comes to the part of imitating accents.

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I will have to agree with you Denis. I do not like the whole book idea. Audio and video has helped me out tremendously in learning a new language. I especially like to look at they lyrics of songs, and I go through to translate the lyrics so that I understand the meaning. Songs stick with you so much longer because you are using 2 of your senses at once, tactical and audio.

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I don't think books are that great when it comes to teaching language. I would prefer either a video or audio format. Its hard to learn the pronunciation and accent when you're trying to learn about it in a book, you must be able to hear and see how it's spoken so that you can easily mimic the language.

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  • 4 weeks later...

No I haven't tried doing that yet, and I agree that you won't really get to pronounce words right. I think it would be better to learn through watching a foreign movie or through other learning materials. I actually have a free German CD-ROM that teaches you basic words in German that I got from the net.

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That's true. Using a standard paper back book doesn't make learning a new language easy. I mean, if you're going to use a book, an audio book is definitely a good idea. The thing is, an audio book actually has someone who pronounces the words for you to hear, which can actually teach you how to pronounce the words that you're trying to learn.

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I learn English online by just reading what people in a yahoo chat wrote day after day.  Then I attempted to communicate typing when I was messaged.  Then I move into forums and pen pals.  Yup, it can be done, but you won't have the easiest time trying to learn the right pronunciation of many difficult words.  Some words were no brainers and others... well, let's say the TV helped a bit as well.

This isn't for everyone, it definitely won't work for everyone. I honestly don't know why it worked for me, probably because I wasn't even trying to do a thing... I don't even know why I did what I did and didn't stop.  I often think it was some kind of thing that was written in my destiny and had to be done no matter what.

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I use an audio book, there is an explanation how every word is pronounced. It comes with a grammar explanation also. You should get some audio book, or you should try some language course.

I love audio books, sadly they aren't enough if you want to learn to spell words right on paper.  That's the problem I'm having with the audio book I'm using right now.  It comes with a small booklet with some readings, but it's just a few words for each chapter.  I wish it had a booklet with all the transcriptions of the conversation, along with some grammatical notes and so on, not too much, just something very basic.

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I do use books but not for the same purpose, I kinda use it to know how to pronounce words. Not all the words, just the words that i really don't know how to pronounce. No one can learn a language by reading books written in that language, because you're not gonna understand what you're reading.

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