The Language Learning Curve – 1

ahlan wa sahlan! 

Both of the above phrases are just different ways of saying, Hello! Welcome!, in Arabic.   They’re two of the first phrases anyone will learn if they begin to study the language – just as they would learn to say, Buenas dias, in Spanish or Bonjour in French or Good morning in English. 

But, what if you want to get beyond, “Where’s the bathroom?” (ayna hammam?)  What if you want to learn to have a real conversation with someone from, or in, a country where your own language is not spoken?  What if, even more importantly, you don’t want to spend a ton of money to do it?  What resources do you really need?  What resources are available on the Internet?  And, perhaps most importantly, do they work?

I’ve gotten to a point where I can ask some more complicated questions and even offer some nice compliments.  I am even to the point where I am beginning to string these phrases together into what come close to conversations.  I have done this all part-time, and I’ve relied on my ownself for motivation.  But, I’ve relied on a wide range of materials and resources to accomplish what I have accomplished so far.  So, during the next several posts, I am going to share some of the resources I’ve used, almost all of which offer the opportunity to learn whatever language you want to learn.

The first thing I am going to tell you to do is to spend some money.  But, I promise it is money well spent.

Anyone who wants to learn a new language – regardless whether on your own or in a formal class – should read Barry Farber’s How To Learn Any Language, available from (and probably other sources, too).  Farber, who speaks about 14 languages fluently (and another 14 or so to some extent) offers an absolutely straight forward and practical methodology for gaining a strong foothold in another language.  While a bit dated, due only to the advent of the Internet, the basic information found in the book provides a foundation to learn any language at all.  He stresses how to do so while laying out the most minimal amount of cash necessary.

Personally, I credit his techniques with helping me learn what I’ve learned in Arabic so far.  Things like making one’s own flashcards for memory and review, translating articles from a target language newspaper (because the daily  language will not get any harder than what you read in the paper), and losing one’s fear of practicing on native speakers.  Farber recommends the purchase of two books:  a basic grammar book and a good quality phrase book containing a decent sized, but basic, dictionary.  With these, he says that a learner can get a solid grasp on the target language.  So far, he’s been right.

In the next post, I’ll talk about some Internet resources available to those with Internet access.

ila liqaa!
(see you later)


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