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Foreign language CDs


bob b

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After two years of mediocre weather in the UK, I've decided to make a decision and visit Italy next year for a month or two.

To that end, I've bought an Italian language CD. The question is, has anyone out there tried these language CDs and can report a measure of success ?

I tried the French CD, but it quickly became apparent that the tutor had a speech impediment.

ciao.

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It's certainly a good idea in principal but didn't work for me. A bit like yourself, 2 years ago I bought a French tutorial CD & book.

 

I can't get further than the first couple of chapters without a severe attack of boredom and chuck the towel in.

 

I get by on holiday with a few basics left over from school days (many years ago) and wonder if I'd be better off going to night classes where I'd hopefully be inspired by like minded people.

 

Good luck with yours :-D

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In 2004/05, before we started to go abroad on holiday we did French night classes, at the end of our first year (June 2005) we then went to France and it was great! We were able to understand a lot of what was being said and also were able to read signs etc especially the 'history' stuff at museums etc. We were far from perfect in the language but it really did make a huge difference.

 

It was especially useful when our sat nav had died and we were trying to get out of Paris and back up to Calais, we took a wrong exit and ended up in the wrong place and were able to converse with a nice French gentleman who didn't speak any English at all but we understood his directions perfectly! :->

 

You simply cannot replace going to a night class to learn a language - not only do you learn to speak/read it, you also get some cultural information which can be very useful and it can be absolutely hilarious when you do exercises 'pretending' to be tourists, shopkeepers, hoteliers etc to practice your new 'skill' .... we have a wonderful vision on how to remember the number 14 (quatorze), one girl used to imaging the owl and the pussycat in their pea green boat ... the cat used 'cat oars'! :D

 

You will only get a lot out of it though if you put in the effort, we had to write some essays, mainly half a side of A4, in French every few weeks, and in between we'd be given homework, ie learn new words/phrases and conjugate the verbs etc (I didn't even know what that meant before I went!). Some weeks it was hard going having to spend a good few hours trying to get the gist of the new stuff, but it was good fun too, especially when we 'invented' new French words!!! :$

 

We haven't looked at our French books for a couple of years now but once we're there, most of it soon comes back to us. Its nice to be able to speak to the locals and have a 'chat', it really does make the holiday much more enjoyable.

 

When we went to Germany for our August/September holiday we really noticed the difference - we speak very, very little German and really missed being able to read the tourist info stuff as very little of it is in English, or any other language for that matter. Apparently this is something which Germany tourist board is starting to address but it'll take quite some time to catch up with other places. We were given a German language course and books so guess what we'll be doing during the winter ... or we might get a Spanish one as we could well end up there for a month or two early next year. Not the same as going to night class but at least with the 'grounding' we got in French we know 'how' to study to get the best out of our own language lessons. :-D

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Excellent reply Mel,

 

You've convinced me that night classes are the way to go. Only problem is making the time around working full time and all the midweek activities that 2 young girls require during the week ie. swimming lessons for little one, swimming club for big one, Brownies and extra swimming club stuff for big one(also takes up most weekends)

 

It's never ending .... :'(

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I understand and speak German which I learned naturally. By Naturally I mean by listening and then speaking. This was done without the aid of lessons and /or language CDs.

 

I am not trying to be clever by saying that only pointing out that there is no better way to learn than by hearing the language preferrably for as long as possible and from as many people as possible.

 

Many years ago I attended a night school (not for a language class) and in the next class was a, clearly, English woman teaching German. I spent the whole evening gnashing my teath as her pronunciation was beyond funny. She had obviously learned from a book and had never been tested on her conversation skills.

 

Moral of all this is get out there and give it a go - if you try you will find the locals will be generous with their time and correct your mistakes and you will be surprised how quickly the skills come.

 

We try to learn a bit of the language for any country we visit and although I would love to be a polyglot it really would be impossible to fully learn them for all the countries we like to visit.

 

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I agree with both Mel and Bernie but there are obviously problems with both methods, primarily the opportunity to attend night school (and the cost!) or to find native speakers. In addition of course everyone learns in a different way, there is never just one right way. I speak French but my husband never had the opportunity to learn it at school. However, at social events while in France he just sat and listened and eventually understood practically all the conversations. He never progressed to speaking a great amount but nevertheless enjoyed the company more.

 

There are lots of other ways of absorbing different languages. Obviously the internet has lots of sites with articles and news in a different language frequently with translations alongside or at least the most difficult vocabulary highlighted. It is possible to tune into France 5 and I think France 24 is still broadcast. There is the French radio which can be picked up on long wave - be careful though, when I listen to it in the car I tend to start driving on the right! Finally, for those "of a certain age" don't forget the University of the Third Age (U3A). Most towns have groups and these often include conversation meetings with like-minded people who enjoy visiting other countries. It's much cheaper than night classes, perhaps more relevant too, and often held in the daytime.

 

At the moment I am trying to improve my very poor Spanish ready for my proposed trip in the winter. Need to be far more disciplined!

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I tried the CD route for beginning to learn Spanish before we moved over here almost 7 years ago.

 

Personally, I fould them awful, very dry, uninvolving; and gave up pretty quickly.

 

 

What really worked for us was intensive lessons (just the 2 of us with one teacher) twice per week, an hour at a time, with set homwork to do in between lessons.

OK, it was pricey, and took a lot of commitmnet, but after 6 months we were pretty competent at day-to-day Spanish, both speaking it and reading it.

Then making friends with Spanish people, and watching Spanish TV most evenings helped us yet further......as of course did moving away from the "Brit" Costa Blanca coastline to a lovely Spanish village a couple of miles inland.

 

 

 

Just one long-shot option you might consider...........

 

There might be an Italian person living near you who is keen to improve their English.

Maybe an advert in local shops/freebie papers suggesting informal weekly meets over coffee in each others homes at times to suit you both to help each other for free? (Insert usual words of caution about personal safety etc........)

 

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Certainly it will be easier for you living in Spain and Patricia in France. Of course, it also helps when there are two of you practising foreign jawbreakers.

I'll make enquiries about evening classes.....Missed the start of the course though.

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Speaking the language of the country certainly enhances the experience. Even if it is only a few phrases it shows the locals you are trying and they are then usually much more friendly and helpful towards you.

French was learnt at school so I can get by with a little revision before the holiday.

I decided to try German at a much later stage in life. Night classes should be better as they give you a face to face dialogue. I found them very hard going after a day at work then straight to college before home for tea at 9:30pm.

Having learnt the basics I now use tapes/cds as revision. They are dull but the secret is to keep the sessions short. I find 10-15 minutes every day works well. Don’t be too ambitious, the idea is to “get by” not be fluent.

French certainly proved useful when my wife broke her arm skiing last year. I got to the nearest ski lift where the attendant spoke no English but understood me and called emergency services on radio. It must have been the shock but I mixed up the French words for arm and leg. (my French is poor but not that bad). Luckily the rescue snowmobile had both arm and leg braces. I got by.

 

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If you are going to go down the CD route I would recommend the 'Berlitz' Premiere box set. This gives you a CD which you can load on to your PC. It provides 'Flash Cards' and a programme of activity, you cannot move on to the next stages until you attain a certain level of competence. There is an introductory lesson at the start of each stage which shows you the words in both English and the foreign language. You then move on to a series of flash cards in the foreign language and translate them in to English, then the flash cards will show you the English and you have to type in the foreign meaning. I have probably made it sound too complicated but it isn't. You can also load it on to an iPod and there is a CD to put in to your music system in the car, on your CD player at home or other portable CD player.

 

You can spend as much or as little time as you like but does reply on self-discipline.

 

You can purchase them from all good book shops, WH Smith, Waterstones etc.

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