For a recent Irish Times feature 3 journalists tried out different ways of language learning: total immersion; tandem teaching; and a listen-and-speak CD course.

Kathy learnt French through total immersion, spending a(n) (expensive) month in a French language school, speaking nothing but French from 9-5 every day.  Her evenings were left free … for French homework.  Although it was very tiring she really improved and even had a dream in French.

Louise had been living in Berlin for 2 years but couldn’t speak German.  She’d hoped to just pick it up without having to try.  Her chosen method was tandem teaching: she taught English to a German girl and the German taught her in turn.  She enjoyed herself and improved but not as much as Kathy did.  The name comes from a type a bicycle:

 width=  The third method, the CDs, was used by Ismene to learn Russian.  The package is called “The Rosetta Stone”.  Learners are given pictures to help them, and the method is “directed at absorbing language’s textures rather than learning its rules”, according to Ismene.

She also warned students against using phrasebooks:  “you oughtn’t ask the way to the bus station if you don’t know about left, right, straight on, corners and so on.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Start small, and work your way up.

What all 3 agreed on was the need for patience, hard work, and small doses, even if that dose is frequently repeated.

So, does anyone have any tips that could help their fellow students?  If so, please post ’em here and maybe we’ll all learn something new.  As well as that, we’ll be obeying one of the golden rules – working together.  You can’t talk to yourself, can you?  Well, perhaps you can, but we have a word for people who make a habit of it.