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  1.  (5637.1)
    So I understand that a number of you guys know more than one language. How did you learn them? Meaning, what resources did you use and which ones did you find most helpful?

    Specifically, I'm learning Japanese and am trying to set the good resources apart from the bad. There are a lot of good and bad resources even within each type of resource (books, audio CD's, websites, etc.).

    Has anyone used the Rosetta Stone software to learn a new language? I've grown suspicious of it since I started seeing commercials for it late at night back to back with the ShamWow commercials and Billy Mays. However, it does have very high reviews on Amazon so maybe it's worth it if you've got $500 lying around...
    • CommentAuthorIan_M
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2009
     (5637.2)
    The Pimsleur stuff is very good, and it's been around forever so it's easy to find used. Pimsleur teaches the conversational form of the language, so you won't pick up any tourist phrases but you will learn how to order a drink and ask someone to come over to your place.

    When/if you decide to learn to read, start with kids books. I used to tutor English, and Dr Seuss was the best tool I had for teaching the rhythm of English. Once you've learned the basics of Japanese, see if you can dig up any of the old Mangajin collections.
    • CommentAuthorlooneynerd
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2009
     (5637.3)
    The best way to learn, if possible, is by immersion. I've always done pretty awfully in classes, but pick it up fast once I'm in the country.

    Rosetta stone is great. If you can afford it. It's price is based on the State Department's language levels; Level ones are easier for English speakers to learn, level fives are the hardest. I think Japanese is a class four, so look to spend several hundred dollars on the program, but it's absolutely wonderful!
    • CommentAuthorlead_pipe
    • CommentTimeApr 20th 2009
     (5637.4)
    I think there's a free product online called Mnemosyne, which is basically a set of virtual flash cards. It's a great resource to help you learn vocabulary.

    I use it for Talmud classes, and I think you can use it for any type of language script if you can download the font files, which isn't too hard (Aramaic is very different from Roman font).
    • CommentAuthorVerissimus
    • CommentTimeApr 20th 2009
     (5637.5)
    The best way in my opinion is to get a firm theoretical basis: find a good language course, but once you've done that the best thing is always to follow that up with immersion, like looneynerd said. Seize every opportunity to put what you've learnt into practice or it will fade away. For instance, if you are learning Japanese but you don't have the money to go to Tokyo for a couple of months, do you know any Japanese people in your neighborhood? Perhaps you could practice some pronunciation with them etc. etc.

    As to what is a good language course, that all depends. The Colloquial series is generally pretty good, but the quality may vary for different languages. For example I learnt beginners level Italian from "Italian for dummies" which was a very good book. I then assumed that they would be equally good with other languages, and later I bought "Chinese for dummies," which was horrible, absolutely impossible to learn anything from.

    The thing that helped me get into Chinese after some unsuccesful starts was www.loquella.com. It hammers home the fundamentals of the language; the sound structure, the grammar.

    You could always inquire at a university, ask them what language course they use with their students.
  2.  (5637.6)
    SuperMemo.
  3.  (5637.7)
    This guy has some pretty sound advice.

    Personally what I use to keep up my Russian skills is to read in Russian translations of things I have already read in English, like my favourite Discworld books. That way I am interested in it like I wouldn't be with a newspaper and it is easier to figure things out from context when you already know how the plot goes. Also, hours of fun lolling at awkward name-transliteration.