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Speaking in foreign tongues

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates has spent the last few months in Paris specifically studying French. His latest dispatch, "Or Perhaps You Are Too Stupid to Learn French," looks at how hard it is to apply the rules of new language in real time, while fighting with one's perceptions and limitations (Other dispatches are here).

Washington Post writer Jay Matthews asks if learning a foreign language is worth it and recounts his own struggles studying Chinese. Another WaPo writer, Elizabeth Chang, recalls her experience in learning Arabic.
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Aug 22, 2013 - 200 comments

Learn Korean Easy!

Learn Korean Easy!
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Jan 17, 2013 - 46 comments

Typical Pentagon boondoggle

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. [more inside]
posted by theodolite on Oct 11, 2012 - 23 comments

What is that? Is that a red pen? No, that's not a red pen. That's a rock.

Where Are Your Keys? (WAYK) is a language-learning game that starts with identifying a few simple objects and builds into a conversation dealing with abstract concepts — in the space of an hour or two, with minimal supplies. [more inside]
posted by The demon that lives in the air on Jul 16, 2012 - 7 comments

The Mimic Method

The only way to become fluent in a language is to actively mimic the speech sounds of native speakers. Idahosa (ee-DAO-ssah) Ness has developed a language learning system based on music and mimicry.
posted by unliteral on Jan 17, 2012 - 49 comments

Adventures with an Extreme Polyglot

“Most of the languages I’ve studied I’ve never spoken, and I probably never will,” he told me. “And that’s okay with me. That’s nice if you can do that, but it’s rare that you have an interesting conversation in English. Why do I think it would be any better in another language?
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Jan 12, 2012 - 70 comments

Computer RTFM, Conquers Civilization.

Computer Gets 33% Better at Playing Civilization, By Reading the Manual: An MIT experiment has apparently succeeded in getting a computer to learn from human-readable, English-language text, the computer extrapolating useful strategies and tactics from an instruction manual so effectively as to dramatically increase its victory ratio in the Sid Meier universe. Via io9.
posted by darth_tedious on Jul 12, 2011 - 66 comments

Learning Resources (things to make you look like you are working)

The first time I met ERIC, I fell in love. Maybe you will, too. The Education Resources Information Center is a project of the US Department of Education. Some of you may especially be interested in the wide variety of language learning materials, journal articles, and more, that go way beyond even the public domain Foreign Services Institute offerings, from Aymara for Spanish speakers (English, too) to Uzbek study for Peace Corps volunteers. There is also non-language stuff of all kinds like World Myths and Legends in Art and teaching (or learning) buckyballs. Best results when using advanced search for their full-text links only.
posted by whatzit on Aug 17, 2010 - 11 comments

Are you happy to see me or is that just a dictionary in your pocket?

In search of the world’s hardest language
posted by Gyan on Jan 3, 2010 - 148 comments

Goodbye, "Leih Hou Ma," Hello "Ni Hao Ma!"

"Chinatown" communities across the United States (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco) are undergoing a shift in linguistic identity, as recent immigrants are more likely to natively speak Mandarin (the official spoken language of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan,) instead of Cantonese. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Oct 22, 2009 - 56 comments

80 Million Tiny Images

A visualization of all the nouns in the English language arranged by semantic meaning. [NSFW words included!] [more inside]
posted by carsonb on Jan 15, 2009 - 40 comments

One Minute Languages

At One Minute Languages you can learn greetings, talking about names, counting, and more in Catalan, Danish, French, German, Irish, Japanese, Luxembourgish, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, and Russian.
posted by sveskemus on Nov 11, 2008 - 25 comments

The Michel Thomas Language Method

Polyglot Michel Thomas came to prominence through his work for the French resistance and the successful interrogation of Nazis (who had formerly imprisoned him). After the war he started to develop (and eventually patent) a method for teaching languages that eschewed notes, books, writing, memorisation and homework. Instead, words and phrases would be built up in lego-like constructions to provide “confidence in hours not years”. He gave private lessons to a long list of A-list celebrities including Woody Allen, Natasha Kinsky, Tony Curtis and Grace Kelly. A BBC documentary from 1997 told his story and tested him out with the less exalted audience of 16 year old London school kids pre-selected to be “incapable of learning a foreign language” by their teachers [YT pt 1, 2, 3, 4]. He was secretive about how his methods worked until the end of his life when he finally made his courses available as audiobooks. [more inside]
posted by rongorongo on Mar 20, 2008 - 24 comments

Hi, I'm Muzzy. Big Muzzy.

Over the years millions of children have been introduced to a foreign language by Big Muzzy [wiki], a friendly, green, clock-eating monster. Here's the complete British English version of Muzzy in Gondoland on YouTube: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.
posted by sveskemus on Dec 16, 2007 - 12 comments

So you want to learn Japanese

So you want to learn Japanese . . . (Also, a more serious look at the question from a 2005 AskMe)
posted by spock on Jul 10, 2007 - 49 comments

Coming soon to a cinema near you

The Human Speechome Project - "A baby is to be monitored by a network of microphones and video cameras for 14 hours a day, 365 days a year, in an effort to unravel the seemingly miraculous process by which children acquire language.". Selected video clips. Paper (PDF, 750KB). To test hypotheses of how children learn, Prof Deb Roy's team at MIT will develop machine learning systems that “step into the shoes” of his son by processing the sights and sounds of three years of life at home. Total storage required: 1.4 petabytes.
posted by Gyan on Jul 23, 2006 - 21 comments

A podcast for learning Italian.

learnitalianpod - a thoroughly archived podcast that can teach you to speak Italian. RSS
posted by nthdegx on Jul 15, 2006 - 26 comments

Utile pour apprendre le français

French In Action is now available for free, online. (click on the "VoD" link to the right of each episode; free registration required ) Long a staple of high school French classes and late-night PBS broadcasts, French In Action is notable for teaching French without translating it; meaning is made clear through context and repetition. It's an approach some people find useless and others consider "so excellent it almost justifies the invention of television ". If you'd rather learn Spanish, there's Destinos and for German, there's Fokus Deutsch--but neither one features Valérie Allain, subject of intense fascination (and occasionally creepy obsession.) ( Unfortunately, free streaming of French in Action doesn't seem to be available outside the US and Canada; Destinos and Fokus Deutsch have no such restrictions.)
posted by yankeefog on Apr 25, 2005 - 43 comments

Learn English.

Learn English.
posted by xmutex on Apr 17, 2003 - 15 comments

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