The following is a little long but interesting. It is an exchange from antimoon.
Thanks for your summary on Kato Lomb and the link with more information about her. From the article, it looks as if she did not refer to grammar books, or texts, or even dictionaries before attempting to learn directly from an original novel. My question is: How is that possible for a language that is unrelated to anything one knows? I can understand this method if you know languages that are similar. I could probably try tackling Italian, from whatever French and Spanish I know. Antimoon’s Michal Ryszard Wojcik studied Norwegian (see his “Norsk Experiment,” (http://www.apronus.com/norsk/index.htm), but knew English and German well–and used Norwegian CDs, a beginner’s book, and a pronunciation guide. Kato Lomb, however, studied languages basically unrelated to Hungarian, and without necessarily knowing how they sounded, or even the writing system! The “Antimoon Method” agrees with Lomb on motivation and input, but also strongly emphasizes dictionaries, pronunciation, and no mistakes. Can the average learner really study as Lomb did, especially for an unrelated language?
I guess her method was tailored to her own personal strengths, so there would be no point in copying it altogether. However, I have experienced that context-based input (mostly through reading or listening, using motivating content) works fine for languages which are similar to a previously known language (such as Italian or Spanish after having learnt French). I also could do quite well without a dictionary for quite a long time after I started learning English (true, I learned it with the help of teachers). As I understand Lomb’s method, she was trying to build up a set of “usage patterns”: going beyond mere words, concentrating instead on the appropriate phrase to express a given content. On the other hand, it is a mystery to me how she coped with languages such as Ivrit or Chinese. I guess I’ll have to get her book, although there must still remain some element of mystery after reading it. In the final analysis, you will have to create your own method of learning, even if you can take over elements of methods that worked well for others. One should avoid being “prescriptivist” in this respect as well.
Lombs method works even better for language like Chinese or Japanese since the grammatical explanations for these languages that you find in textbooks make no sense whatsoever, believe me. At least in learning in a European language we understand what the grammar terms mean. This is not the case with unrelated languages. So learning words, phrases and patterns and a lot of exposure is all you can rely on.
The more interesting the content the more likely you will continue. The availability of instant online dictionaries makes it possible to tackle any content in a new language if you are determined enough. It does help if any new content you choose can be automatically graded to your vocabulary level which is what we have done at The Linguist.
You can also read my book on this subject which is available at Amazon. The Linguist, A Pesonal Guide to Language Learning.
I do not agree with this emphasis on pronunciation, dictionaries and avoiding mistakes.
Yes you should work on pronunciation at the beginning and then not worry about it. However close you get to native is good enough as long as you are understood. The obsession with accents verges on the narcissistic.
Dictionaries should only be used online where they are instant. Otherwise it is too time consuming to look something up that you are going to immediately forget. In my day I relied on interesting readers with word lists. I avoided the dictionary. Efficiency and intensity is simply too important to language learning to allow yourself the luxury of dawdling over dictionaries. You have to see the word many times before it becomes a part of you. Spend your time listening and reading.
You will make mistakes. You will continue to make mistakes until you have had enough exposure. Spend the time on input instead of a vain attempt at early perfection. And never pass up an opportunity to use the language. But even if you have no opportunity to use it you can improve a lot through constant intense and interesting input.
But when you speak to someone in the language do not get uptight over your shortcomings. Just enjoy the experience. It should always be a joy to communicate in another language. It is like flying. It is something that you have taught yourself that many other people cannot do.