Language learning materials

So I’m working on improving my Russian. These things drive me crazy about learning materials:

The pronoun pri means “during” (but also most of all other prepositions). And that counts and a definition. It is then followed by two, maybe three examples. And that is all. This works fine if you already know Russian and are looking to label and identify the rules you already know. Prepositions and cases from a learners standpoint are all chaos and unpredictability. I’d rather a length set of examples than some suspicious and long list of rules. Instrumental case– it’s the case to use for your profession (What the f*k?) It is also the case you use for certain “x and y” constructions. (What the f*k?) Dative case, it’s the case that you use in a sentence where you like things (What the f*k?) Just give me a length list of samples.

The genitive case is the case you answer with should someone ask “Kovo?” I asked my Mum who speaks not a word of Russian Kovo, over and over and she never gave me the genitive of any word. This rule works only if you are already fluent in Russian and need to be able to label this rule that you already know.

Single word repetitions. (You heard that word once, you’ve memorized it, right?) Should I fault books for not being flash card decks? I will. Why can’t they be creative and put words in, say a 8×8 grid, so that you can review them in pseduo-random order?

Single demonstrations. Okay, lets take an example outside of Russian– the Algonquian obviate. It takes a few pages to explain the obviate and at the end of that explanation you will be utterly confused about how the deep structure works. Or the superficial structure for that matter. You then get two example sentences. As a learner, I think I will need maybe 100 or more example sentences to illustrate a rule that no author can explain very well. An example from English would be dangling or stranded prepositions. (“There are some things I will not put up with!”– As a fluent English speaker, it sounds right, I don’t imagine even six pages of technical explanation would help a learner– but four or five hundred samples might help)

Charts. Here is a 1000×1000 chart of all the two word phrases in English. Memorize them. Each cell in a chart generally, for me, feels like a entirely separate fact/skill and their location in some grid is about as important as ordering them by number of letters, graphing them by which have the most straight lines vs curved lines, or other pretty but irrelevant details.

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4 Responses to Language learning materials

  1. Neicen says:

    I’m not learning Russian but, looking through /r/languagelearning I came across this

  2. I think Russian grammar is pretty easy; to me it’s remembering new vocabulary words that’s hard. I’ve been studying it for a couple years and am somewhere between B1 and B2 levels. In fact, I’m interested in finding a language (natural or constructed, or creating one) that has some of its features. Besides Russian, I’ve studied French, Spanish, German, and Hungarian. I have tried learning Esperanto (at least twice), but I can’t because it’s “too easy”. Moreover, its structure is too restricted. I like many features of the languages I’ve studied (though less of the features of Hungarian). I like phonetic languages (I learned that after having studied French!). I like grammatical gender and nouns that decline into 5 or 6 cases. I like having the option of omitting a personal pronoun because the form of the verb tells who the speaker is. I like the flexibility of changing word order based on the part of the sentence I most want to emphasize. These are all included in Russian, and while I enjoy the language, unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the people. I’m just wondering if there is a language (natural or constructed) already in existence that has these features of grammar. If there isn’t, and if others are interested, maybe it’s time to consider making a new language? :) Any input or help on this topic will be appreciated.

  3. Richard Lacy says:

    I feel your pain.

    Explaining grammar is useless to 90% of people. The remaining 10% are linguists who are attempting to describe the grammar they already know.

    Use grammar references (and that’s all most coursebooks are) if and when you wanna check something you already half understand.

    Work through functional examples. But where to find them? Use primary texts! There is a wealth of corpus data out there written by real natives; use it. And the big benefit: you’re understanding something real.

    And then try to produce using the language you’ve found. Straight away!

  4. Duke says:

    Hello, my friend, to you from Russia. O-genki des’ ka? If you need any help with our pretty crazy tongue, don’t hesitate to ask ))
    BTW, do you know lojban? That’d be a useful exchange, me thinks…