General Question

quarkquarkquark's avatar

How can I learn a non-romance language on my own?

Asked by quarkquarkquark (1695points) April 30th, 2009

I can use books to teach myself a language like Spanish or French that uses the same alphabet as English, but I’d like to learn Russian or Arabic (or both) on my own. RosettaStone costs a lot of money. My primary concern is speaking, but I am what you would calla visual learner and would prefer not to learn from tapes. What do you think? Am I backing myself into a corner?

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9 Answers

andrew's avatar

I know Rosetta Stone is expensive, but I can’t rave enough about it—especially if you’re a visual learner or enjoy games. I’m addicted to it.

eponymoushipster's avatar

While i obviously respect @andrew ‘s opinion, i have to respectfully disagree with Rosetta Stone. It’s a very poor approach, and I’ve heard arguments against it at several seminars I attended. Rosetta Stone tends to be very robotic and, for many, lacks stick-to-itiveness.

I really prefer Pimsleur and their methodology (you can find a good explanation on wikipedia). Granted, it’s not a visual methodology, by any means, but it does teach in a scientifically proven way. I’ve learned the basics of 5 languages with Pimsleur, and i’ve used their methodology while teaching Russian classes.

What do you mean by “visual”? Do you need to see the words, or do you mean more like seeing a scene and learning about it? If it’s the former, i’d suggest listening to the Pimsleur lesson, and write down the key words of the lesson. I’ve done this myself; it’s not recommended, but it worked for me.

Once you have basics down, another thing i’ve done/do is picture a scene, or remember an event that happened during the day, and try to think what words/grammar you’d need in order to explain it to a person who speaks that language. Not in tremendous detail, but the basics – enough so that they got the point.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

I mean I tend to see the words in my head. I can do this with Spanish, for example, but not with Russian because I do not know the alphabet. Pimsleur is just audio? Is there a series or product I can get for learning the basic phonetics?

eponymoushipster's avatar

@quarkquarkquark i’m the same way – i visualize the words. There is a tape/booklet kit, don’t know if they still make it, by Baron’s called “Pronounce it Perfectly in Russian”. You could check Amazon and/or eBay for it. It just went through basic tongues positions, etc. and provided visualization (of both the tongue and the words) via the booklet. I used it prior to the Pimsleur CDs.

i also meant to add: the higher priced Pimsleur kits (they range from $10—$1000 depending on size and curriculum) include reading units, and a booklet. If i recall correctly, you do 8 or 10 audio units, then a reading unit is introduced and some of the reading is from the previous audio units. FWIW

Fyrius's avatar

I don’t think you could ever become fluent in any language without talking to people in it at some point. Let alone without listening to people talk in it.

The alphabet problem would be easily fixed though. Learn that first. :P

Lupin's avatar

I did Japanese with Berlitz and then Phillips. I did not become fluent until after spending two years in a Japanese office working, socializing, eating, drinking and, yep, bathing with coworkers and friends.

andrew's avatar

@eponymoushipster Are you saying that Rosetta Stone isn’t scientifically proven? That it’s the Bose of language learning?

eponymoushipster's avatar

@andrew well, the methodology works well, but their execution of it is where Rosetta Stone is lacking.

There have been some issues with the Russian edition (, as well as other languages and cultures.

When I’ve used it, and the same has been said by others I know who’ve used it, it lacks real world application, and the explanations are often lacking.

andrew's avatar

So, after a bunch of back-and-forth with @eponymoushipster, I picked a copy of Pimsleur French from the library.

It is pretty great. I like the emphasis on conversation. I like that it sprinkles native phrases.

I like Rosetta for its interactivity—it’s very addictive—and its emphasis on visual imagery and its indrocution of written words from the beginning.

My plan is to use Rosetta Stone to learn new vocubulary and ideas, and Pimsleur to fill it out, drill my conversation skills, reinforce new concepts.

@quarkquarkquark, see if your library has a copy of Pimsleur in your language of choice—it’s a great way to see if the style works for you.

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