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Typical Pentagon boondoggle
October 11, 2012 1:27 PM   Subscribe

The Global Language Online Support System (or GLOSS), produced by the Defense Language Institute in sunny Monterey, CA, offers over six thousand free lessons in 38 languages from Albanian to Uzbek, with particular emphasis on Chinese, Persian, Russian, Korean, and various types of Arabic. The lessons include both reading and listening components and are refreshingly based on real local materials (news articles, radio segments, etc.) rather than generic templates.

Important note: level 1 is considered "low intermediate" and assumes a basic knowledge of the language. For more elementary lessons, or if you just prefer your US government-produced language courses with a groovy 1970s vibe, try the ever-popular FSI Language Courses.
posted by theodolite (23 comments total) 214 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss! See you in a decade!
posted by ersatz at 1:29 PM on October 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh wow.
posted by odinsdream at 1:38 PM on October 11, 2012


I nearly forgot - the DLI also offers Flash-based introductory lessons in 21 languages, which require (free) registration.
posted by theodolite at 1:45 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I opened a Russian lesson and saw the following instructions: "Задание 1 - Прочитайте заголовок и посмотрите картинки." I hope that's a rare fluke?
posted by Nomyte at 1:52 PM on October 11, 2012


Lord, turns out I don't remember *any* swahili. Luckily this site both shows me that I've forgotten everything and helpfully provides the resources to re-learn the language. Thanks!
posted by ChrisHartley at 1:54 PM on October 11, 2012


Outstanding. Nice to see some return on the trillions spent on "Defense".
posted by pdxpogo at 2:00 PM on October 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


These are actually pretty good. Liking the mandarin ones.

人踩在人上面. Sometimes it's just too damn obvious.
posted by flippant at 2:36 PM on October 11, 2012


sunny Monterey, CA,

I'm guessing you haven't spent a lot of time in Monterey.

The DLI is quite an organization though. I didn't realize they had put all of this up.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:46 PM on October 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm guessing you haven't spent a lot of time in Monterey.

Hah. I grew up in the Bay Area, so I tend to assume that anything south of Santa Cruz is basically LA.
posted by theodolite at 2:49 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you! Bookmarked for that happy future in which I have time for this.
posted by Quietgal at 2:52 PM on October 11, 2012


I'm guessing you haven't spent a lot of time in Monterey.

Hah. I grew up in the Bay Area, so I tend to assume that anything south of Santa Cruz is basically LA.


By road freight distribution, anything south of the Monterey County line (north border of San Luis Obispo County) is Southern California.

But the Presidio, sunny? yeah, sure, on many days after about 1pm and before about 4pm.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 2:56 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just dropped the $5 to come by and say thanks for reminding me about this site. I learned about it after I came back from a semester abroad sponsored by the United States Military Academy. Another useful site is the main DLIFLIC site which has a bunch of resources for language learning.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 3:11 PM on October 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


Hii itakuwa na manufaa kwangu, lakini katika lugha tofauti
posted by univac at 4:27 PM on October 11, 2012


That is some good stuff. I pulled up a Japanese "structural" lesson at random and got an exercise based on a complex newspaper article that looks a lot like the stuff I did in my advanced seminars. It is hard to find decently glossed advanced articles, especially with study guides and extra info. And it's almost impossible to find it for free, like this.

This material reminds me a lot of my old seminar class. One semester, the teacher got a new, extremely difficult textbook. We started reading the articles, it was only partially glossed, since a major part of the exercises was to try to guess word meaning by context. But we were constantly stumped by complex words, which appeared to be neologisms. We'd go to the teacher, and she was surprised to discover these words that she did not know at all, and could not find in any dictionary. She even went around to all the native speakers she knew and none of them could even make a guess at the meanings. I gave the articles to a few Japanese friends, they could not read them at all. The textbook was abandoned when we all pretty much agreed that if native speakers couldn't read them, they were probably useless as learning tools.

Well, these GLOSS exercises certainly aren't as difficult as that, this one looks more like intermediate level, but they seem to have the same intent, to teach you to read without a dictionary, to determine meanings from context, and to "stand on your own two feet" linguistically (as my old teachers used to put it).
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:59 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The textbook was abandoned when we all pretty much agreed that if native speakers couldn't read them, they were probably useless as learning tools.

Technical papers are notoriously difficult to translate for this reason. It's not that the words or concepts don't exist, it's that a professional translator isn't likely to have the years of experience necessary to understand the material even in their home language.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:01 PM on October 11, 2012


Technical papers are notoriously difficult to translate for this reason. It's not that the words or concepts don't exist, it's that a professional translator isn't likely to have the years of experience necessary to understand the material even in their home language.

This is not necessarily true in every case. Many of the translators I know are second-career professionals who do have that experience — in nuclear engineering, soil science, industrial manufacturing, and so on. If anything, the problem is often that a process or organizational construct won't have an exact equivalent in the target language, so you have to deploy awkward neologisms and circumlocution. You'd imagine that problem was limited to literary translation, but it definitely isn't.
posted by Nomyte at 7:47 PM on October 11, 2012


Translation is a mixed bag, the cultural references can be harder than specialized scientific jargon. I had one gig where I figured out "solar irradiance" without a dictionary, maybe because I took physics classes in college from a solar astronomer. But I was baffled by an offhand reference to a book. It took me hours of research over several days to discover what it meant. I even emailed the author, who was so horrified that his paper was being translated that he retracted it and tried to kill all circulating copies. Oops. It turned out to be a book commonly known to Japanese college students, you could loosely translate it as "Cliff's Notes." That would have been easier to figure out if I had access to a Japanese college student when I was doing the translation.

Anyway, my textbook's essays that baffled the native speakers didn't seem to be problems with obscure jargon, but we could never determine that because nobody could figure it out, not even from context. It wasn't like these were tech articles, they were just stories from the newspaper. But I have noticed that Japanese media tends to function as distribution points of new trendy words. You'll see some morning show using some neologism, with subtitles in kanji so everyone can write it, and then suddenly you see everyone using it. A month later, those words are old and dead, and new lingo comes along to replace it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:33 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Geen Nederlands? Jammer.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:21 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fantastic. I've used it before for Persian but this is the perfect opportunity to brush up. The more people know about it, the better.
posted by Gordafarin at 9:16 AM on October 12, 2012


Español, here I come!
posted by ocherdraco at 9:37 PM on October 12, 2012


Geen Nederlands? Jammer.

Seriously, I'm going to go encourage my Flemish lab mates to consider blowing shit up so that my government will give me free resources to learn their language.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:39 AM on October 15, 2012


Here's an interesting article for language learners: How I Learned A Language in 22 Hours (Guardian)
posted by orrnyereg at 9:32 PM on November 10, 2012


If by "learn a language" you mean "memorise 1,000 words" and by "22 hours" you mean "two and a half months", then yes, I guess that's how you'd do it.
posted by Gordafarin at 11:52 PM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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