Please discuss in the comments.
If someone wishes to learn from English with no previous success in language learning either French, Spanish, German or Italian then I recommend starting with Paul Noble’s audio only courses, published by Collins. For 8 further languages, namely Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Greek, Russian, Polish, Dutch and Portuguese I recommend the Michel Thomas series to absolute beginners. After these courses, or from the start for languages not covered by those courses, I recommend Pimsleur courses. All these are audio only courses and are done with no teacher following the instructions outlined by the presenter.
Once this audio material has been front loaded, it is time, if the learner is still enthusiastic, to work through a written course. Most of these also have audio which should be used earlier in the process rather than later. Good courses include such series as Colloquial by Routledge, the Teach Yourself series (older courses tend to be better than new in that series) Living Languages and the Essential grammar series.
To learn the material in the written courses I recommend my own method called the Goldlist method which is free on the internet if you google for it. It helps to memorise written material to the long-term memory with the least possible total time of engagement per word or phrase. It is more effective than having a teacher who will try to activate sparse knowledge too soon.
You should aim to develop fluency in reading because the difference between fluent reading and fluent speaking is three days of immersion. Not a hundred lessons at 20 dollars a shot. Teachers are only really necessary for languages where you cannot tell the pronunciation from the writing or which have highly complex writing systems – and for tonal languages for those encountering this for the first time. A teacher is more likely to impede the adult learner in most Inter-European language learning.
One small word of warning to the absolute beginner – be ready for words and phrases in the language you know to be used completely differently in the other language. Just to give you an example, take the English “What’s happening now?” In French this would be “qu’est ce qu’il se passe maintenant?” Now this means exactly the same in terms of what the French would understand as the English phrase “What’s happening now?” but if you literally translate each of the elements in the French phrase, you get “What is this that he passes handholding?” If a French person tried to learn English using a verbatim approach as you can see he would not make himself understood, but equally anyone trying to put “What is happening now?” word for word into French will find that they come up with something equally nonsensical to the French, moreover the words you would need to do it do not even exist.
I met an Australian one time who said he was “orry” when I asked him how he was. I said “Orry? What’s that?”
“That’s French, mate”,
“You mean ‘horrible’?”
“No, mate, it’s French for “good”, I’m good, mate”
“How is “orry” French for “good”?”
“What? You’re a linguist and you don’t know the French for “goodbye” which is “orry-vwar”?”
I smiled at the wit and then it gradually dawned on me that the guy wasn’t joking. This is the biggest hurdle people have at the beginning, an expectation that the target language is going to work just like their own, you just slot other sounds in instead of the English ones. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.
If you can get your head around that, then you are ready to approach a foreign language.
It’s interesting, is it not, to consider how many ways the English language has developed for saying that something is not something else. Now it seems that to get anywhere these days an article has to have a list of ten items in it. Let’s see if I get much of a readership by jumping on that bandwagon…
1. !=, ≠
In mathematical notation, we have for instance != or if someone wants to go to the trouble of finding the classical symbol ≠ (Unicode numer 2260) then they have a very elegant way of noting “is not equal to” in a mathematical or logical sense.
2. In-, im-, un-
Then we have the classic prefixes, which encapsulate the diglossia in English: un- prefixes grace Germanic roots in the main and in- or im- go with the Latin or French roots (the latter if the root begins with b, p, or m but for some reason not the other labials f and v) However, the cut-off is not strict, because in- can refer to something going into something also. So “information” does not mean a lack of formation – to get back to that idea you can non- or borrow un- from the Germanic stock for it, so for example you could comment that you found this whole article “uninformative”.
3. Dys-, dis-
Or there is disinformation. This dis- is an additional Latin based prefix showing that something has gone off in all directions, or in a wrong direction, with a more common version of that being dys- from Greek, which isn’t fussy about attaching to Latin roots either, so that you get dysfunctional people … Read the rest of this entry
The teacher said, “Let’s begin by reviewing some American History. Who said ‘Give me Liberty , or give me Death’?”
She saw a sea of blank faces, except for Chandrasekhar, who had his hand up:?’Patrick Henry, 1775’he said.
‘Very good! Who said ‘Government of the People, by the People, for the People, shall not perish from the Earth?”
Again, no response except from Chandrasekhar. ‘Abraham Lincoln, 1863′ said Chandrasekhar.
The teacher snapped at the class, ‘Class, you should be ashamed. Chandrasekhar, who is new to our country, knows more about our history than you do.’
She heard a loud whisper: ‘F ___ the Indians,’
‘Who said that?’ she demanded. Chandrasekhar put his hand up. ‘General Custer, 1862.’
At that point, a student in the back said, ‘I’m gonna puke.’
The teacher glares around and asks ‘All right! Now, who said that?’ Again, Chandrasekhar says, ‘George Bush to the Japanese Prime Minister, 1991.’
Now furious, another student yells, ‘Oh yeah? Suck this!’
Chandrasekhar jumps out of his chair waving his hand and shouts to the teacher, ‘Bill Clinton, to Monica Lewinsky,1997′
Now with almost mob hysteria someone said ‘You little shit. If you say anything else, I’ll kill you.’ Chandrasekhar frantically yells at the top of his voice, ‘ Michael Jackson to the child witnesses testifying against him, 2004.’
The teacher fainted. And as the class gathered around the teacher on the floor, someone said, ‘Oh shit, we’re screwed!’ And Chandrasekhar said quietly, ‘I think it was Lehmann Brothers, November 4th, 2008′.
(I don’t really mean this, it’s just a humorous poem, which I wrote ten years ago, and just came across it going through old papers…)
If you were a daphnia,
A hydra or a snail,
You’d be more scared of a clown loach
Than of a killer whale.
Small things bother the little ones
Great things bother the great
So don’t come at me with your issues
Trying to upwardly delegate.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 38,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
My answer to a question on Quora “Is there any defensible reason to believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God?”
God has made a world in which in some places you might see ten thousand penguins on a beach but the right mother hears the voice of its own chick and the chick recognises its own mother. When you have read the Bible and heard in it the voice of God to your heart, then this is a stronger case for inspiration than worrying about how to understand this verse if it seems to contradict that verse, etc etc. The way that God speaks to YOU in the prayerful reading of the Bible, this is God’s word to you. In order to get a balanced view it is a good idea to read the whole Bible, which creates a complete and internally congruous view of the development of the idea of salvation, from the law given to one nation, via prophets, judges, then kings, and the continual failure of people to keep a law that reflected the holiness of God, if only at times symbolically, through to an actual physical incursion of the Creator into His own creation, becoming one of us, and then sacrificing Himself to pay the ransome for our sins, enable an exit route from sin into atonement, resurrection and eternal life. This is the message that the Bible has and it is not the message of any other book other than books based on it.
If this be the meaning of life – and I find no better meaning anywhere on Earth in anything else, and all other explanations of what this life is for do not ring true to me – then the place this is revealed is in Scripture and I believe and defend that the Bible is therefore the inspired word of God, authorative, and containing sufficient for me to know so that I can believe the essentials needed to believe in order to find myself covered by the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ.