I sometimes am frustrated that foreign language instruction is so difficult to get right. I don't know if I learn foreign languages the same way other people do, but I've seen it done decently well and badly, and, motivation pending, I'm putting together things to teach myself Russian (hopefully allowing me to read some of their classics). For self-guided language learning, I like using the following steps:
- Learn the alphabet, if necessary
- Learn the articles (e.g. English's "the", Spanish's "el/la", and German's "der/die/das") and the connector (English's "and", Spanish's "y", German's "und")
- Expose myself to a lot of written works, and see how far I can get in recognising cognates. Try pronouncing things, and see how many giggles I get around native speakers
- Learn pronouns and basic conjugation, build a small vocabulary
- Talk with as many people I can, and mix use of that language into the normal mix of languages I use in my head
- Play games and shift elements around to give conjugation a workout
- Start reading things
Languages like Japanese frustrate me at step 1, but I deal with this by deciding that I will never learn Kanji, and am content with Hiragana/Katakana. How do the rest of you who play with languages actually do the learning? Do you prefer to learn more in a classroom way or in an informal way?
Also on the topic of language, I'm proofreading (and editing and reworking) a long paper a coworker wrote. I enjoy proofreading because I enjoy working with language. It's enjoyable working out the right way to phrase things, and my rarely-seen pedantic streak comes out in these cases.
Things are coming together for the Mediawiki trip. Exciting! I will stay an extra day or two to do a little bit of hanging out in the Boston area, thanks to having gotten both a lot of good advice and a cool guide. Hurrah.
Tonight is the night of shut-downitude for CMU...