A language learner is a hunter.

In reply to my youtube video about the importance of context in language learning, I received this comment. Only someone who hunts for context, for examples of the language, for books, podcasts, CD’s, opportunities to interact with people etc. will learn the language. The person who waits for someone to teach him or her the language, will not learn very well at all.

“This is a great point for anyone learning a language. From my own experience of having learnt Hungarian and of a fairly extensive personal history of teaching Hungarians English, I can say with confidence that the most successful people were very much self directing and on a perpetual hunt for their own material to learn from. If this is not the case, then the entire process of learning is simply too passive, and dare I say it, too much like school!

10 thoughts on “A language learner is a hunter.

  1. I’ve been saying it forever and I’ll keep saying it: nothing beats using real, authentic, source material that <i>you</i> are actually interested in, be it a book, a TV show, a documentary, or a movie in your target language. Find something you personally enjoy that’s in your target language and then use <i>that</i> to learn the language. It beats the hell out of a textbook.Steve, have you ever elaborated on how exactly you go about finding and choosing your learning material? For example the book, I believe it was, that you mentioned about Czech history? As a beginner do you tend to choose simpler things like children’s books or do you dive right into things intended for adult native speakers?Cheers,Andrew

  2. I spend about 2 months on beginner stuff, whether a Teach Yourself or such, or our beginner material at LingQ. Then I start into subjects of interest, wherever I can find them. But I need electronic texts that I can import into LingQ, and I want audio to go with it.I do not use videos much because they force you to just sit there, and they are hard to understand.

  3. In some cases the learner simply is not an enthusiastic reader in his first language, so there’s not much incentive to put in the effort to learn to read in a second language. In that case it’s the teacher who has to be the hunter. When I had such students in Prague, where English lessons were a fairly common company benefit, I’d spend the first meeting finding out exactly what the learner needed English for – sometimes it was business related (understanding the Belgian-accented English of a boss), more often it involved tourism (including giving directions to tourists in Prague). So I’d have them start compiling lists of – or at least, noticing – things they wanted to be able to say in English, and then work on those expressions during meeting times. (I learned a lot about fusbol from one 11-year-old who had been failing English in school.) This took a lot of the pressure off the student, since he didn’t come to class nervous about assigned material he hadn’t studied during the past week. There’s no reason something of the sort couldn’t be handled through LingQ, the physical presence of a teacher is hardly essential. And if it turns out there is really nothing a person needs or wants the language for, they can decide to do something else with their time, with no feelings hurt.As for finding something to read – for some languages, it may be necessary to go to the country just to stock up occasionally. If you’re there for a while there are libraries, but the prices in second-hand bookstores mean you can feed your habit and still keep the costs under control. And then there are the free illustrated vocabulary study materials deposited in the mailbox on a weekly basis – advertizing flyers are an often overlooked resource, and almost anybody will gladly offer you a bagful of the things if you don’t have a mailbox of your own. The cost of foreign-language books in the States ($30 for a French version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo/Milenium – in paperback!) is enough to make you wonder just how practical a hobby language-learning actually is.

  4. @SteveThanks Steve, that’s very interesting, I do something similar.Regarding videos, I think they’re fantastic <strong>if</strong> they have subtitles or a transcript that’s in the language being spoken. My favorite resource, by far, for Spanish is Spanish-language movies that have Spanish subtitles available on the DVD such as Maria Full of Grace and Pan’s Labyrinth.Cheers,Andrew

  5. EXCELLENT point you make, Steve, about a language learner being a "Hunter". As I myself have seen over decades of teaching languages, it is the students with true passion for the language that make the most rapid progress. I have even seen cases of people who have never had a formal (school room) class in the language, yet who have learned it quite well. All depends on the individual’s motivation, and all-too often, the typical classroom setup is just a waste of time, at least for those who are there because they feel they "Must" learn instead of being driven by true desire.

  6. Yes, mostly what he said is right, I love learning languages, I learned English ~_~, Arabic and Japanese. learning all of them was interesting to me, I learned Arabic and Japanese with no teachers, but I’m good in them, especially Arabic, I speak as a native, to me the most important point to learn any language is the strong desire, this was one of the greatest site in teaching Arabic is LAFLWSP, thank you LAFLWSP.

  7. Well, I don’t think that learning all languages is really an option.. How about just learning the language of the place where you wish to live, and perhaps that of certain places you visit frequently? (assuming it’s not your home country).

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