Resources for learning Hebrew, French, Lithuanian, Russian?
August 7, 2010 2:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm at different levels in three different languages I'm learning (French, Hebrew, Russian/Lithuanian). How to proceed in each?

French: I've been learning French since I was twelve, but it was mostly in school, so I'm not very good at it. I can write fairly well, but I have horrendous listening and speaking skills. I also don't like to read large amounts in French (doing the accent in my head is tiring). I'm at the point where I've learned enough—probably way too much—grammar, but I don't know enough to really (so I believe) benefit from watching French movies. I'm figuring I'm at a fork in the road: either live in France, or my French skills will deteriorate. I blame my lack of reading and listening skills on having so much grammar drilled into me at school. But what can I realistically do to improve my French? I don't mean in general, because I know I should ideally join a class or move to France or talk to French people. But I can't right now, realistically. I've had a lot of French penpals, but obviously that only helps with writing. You know. With French, I pretty much want to get better at conversational French. Even children's movies in French are too hard for me! Would it be worth the try though?

Hebrew: I just started learning Hebrew, but it's surprisingly hard to find good resources that teach anything past the alphabet. What's really important to me is to not ruin Hebrew for myself by learning way too much grammar, so I want a book or tape or some way to learn Hebrew more "naturally" than I learned French. I'm taking a class at our temple...but, er, it's not really fast-paced. My main goals in Hebrew are 1.) Not to learn it the way I learned French, and 2.) Be able to test out of Hebrew 101 when I transfer this spring! I know a few roots in Hebrew, and very few words, but I don't want to learn too much more grammar right now. I found a great Hebrew comic book, and that's probably the kind of stuff I'm looking for right now.

Russian: I mostly want to learn Russian in case I can't learn Lithuanian, because I want to visit Lithuania. I'll have to re-learn the alphabet but I know "hello", "thank you", and that's about it. Are there any good Russian resources?

Lithuanian: There's pretty much zero Lithuanian resources anywhere! Should I even try to learn without taking a class in Lithuania?

Thanks for any help you have! I'm mostly concerned with Hebrew, and I'm secondly concerned with Lithuanian. I'm at vastly different levels in each, but I'm wondering if there are any alternative, unusual, interesting methods for learning a language that I'm not aware of.
posted by lhude sing cuccu to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Re: Hebrew

The Harry Potter books are available in Hebrew, so if you're familiar with the stories (or own English copies that you can open side-by-side), they may be a fun way to learn the flow of the language and a good bit of vocabulary.

Also, if you're an aural learner, getting a couple of Hebrew-language music CDs in your favorite genre (pop, folk, hip-hop, whatever) is a good way of learning common idioms in modern Hebrew.

One note, though: If you're specifically hoping to test out of Biblical Hebrew in the spring, these resources probably won't help.
posted by AngerBoy at 3:06 PM on August 7, 2010

But what can I realistically do to improve my French? I don't mean in general, because I know I should ideally join a class or move to France or talk to French people. But I can't right now, realistically.

Well, that's sort of what you need to do. I guess you could memorize vocabulary and listen to French radio over the Internet.

Really, I think you should focus on one language and ignore the others until you attain at least an intermediate level of fluency. Otherwise, in my experience, it's going to be hard for you to learn any of them well.
posted by smorange at 3:07 PM on August 7, 2010

Best answer: Note that very few people in Lithuania speak Russian as an everyday language, in contrast to next-door Latvia. I've found LiveMocha is great for basic travel phrases, especially if you try to practice words/phrases over and over with flash cards later on after initially learning them. (Lithuanians also realize that very few people speak their language, and English is spoken in enough places in Vilnius, at least, to make a visit there pretty easy!)
posted by mdonley at 3:25 PM on August 7, 2010

There is a great free resource called 'Learn French by Podcast' that you might enjoy. Short, simple lessons based on conversation and vocabulary. There is also a game called 'My French Coach' which you can get for iPhone/Touch or Nintendo DS. It has vocabulary-based lessons with games to reinforce vocabulary. You don't need more grammar, you need more words!

I found for me the best way to improve my reading was to install a French-English dictionary of my Kindle. I can look up words as I read, without leaving the story. I am at last at the point where I can read without feeling like I need to translate every word in my head.
posted by JoannaC at 4:26 PM on August 7, 2010

Best answer: I just finished (today) spending the last 7 weeks learning French at the Middlebury @ Mills program. I showed up with intermediate level grammar skills and relatively nonexistant speaking or listening skills, and at this point I'm around C1 proficiency (The step of fluency that comes right before being indistinguishable from a native speaker). The Middlebury summer language programs are ridiculously good, and they have decent financial aid if you apply early enough (December, January)

They have 7 week programs in French and 9 week programs in Hebrew. (and 8-9 other languages)

Aside from that, Anki is a *fabulous* language learning tool for vocabulary and grammar. I bumped my vocabulary in French from ~100 words to more than 4000 words in 3-4 months with Anki. You can access my French deck with the key 6c444927a0f1b8bb, but the best thing to do is to make your own cards, ideally without using any English (translating from English is the death of fluency)
posted by sdis at 4:54 PM on August 7, 2010 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Note that very few people in Lithuania speak Russian as an everyday language,

Wow, I didn't know that. Thanks!
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 5:08 PM on August 7, 2010

Beginner's Lithuanian is a good introduction if you're able to deal with serious grammatical material. Read the reviews at that Amazon link and you should have a pretty good idea of whether it's for you.

And yeah, much as I love Russian and encourage people to learn it, it won't do you a lot of good in Lithuania.
posted by languagehat at 5:45 PM on August 7, 2010

Best answer: Hebrew: I did two ulpans in Israel, one at Kibbutz Gezer (part of an exchange program through the University of Haifa), and one at Hebrew U in Jerusalem. They were both great, the Hebrew U one especially if you're more advanced. Afterwards, the best study tool I found was the Vis-Ed Modern Hebrew flash card set. Some of Vis-Ed's flashcard sets are utter failures (I'm looking at you, Korean), but the Hebrew one is top notch. Each card gives you several extrapolations per card, so if the card is for "ben" (son), it will also include "ben-adam" (man), etc.

I also really like the Encounters in Modern Hebrew series for self-study. Edna Amir Coffin, the author, also teaches Hebrew at UMich (very old-fashioned website here, still with some useful stuff though).

Check out these links for online Hebrew study at UT Austin and Stanford as well.

Continuing with the music stuff, I've also had fun learning Shlomo Artzi, Idan Raichel, and, of course, David Broza songs.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:57 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the early 90s my mother dragged my teenage butt to Lithuanian language lessons. My grandparents were immigrants, but the Lithanian they spoke after years of living in the US was pretty casual and used a lot of English words with Lithuanian endings
(dogas instead of suo, that kind of thing).

Anyway, my mother wanted the two of us to learn "correct" Lithuanian and she found a class offered by a little old lady through the
Knights of Lithuania. The K of L is a Catholic organization but I bet they would know of ways of learning the language.
posted by crankylex at 8:07 PM on August 8, 2010

French: For the love of god don't move to France unless you REALLY. FUCKING. WANT TO. This has been the hardest international move I have ever made, and you need to really really want to be here for all of the little daily battles to not wear on you (and yes I speak French and already have a job and savings and support network, so you think it should be easier but it's not).

Lithuanian: Have you checked for a FSI language course? They are free! There is also a database of all government teaching documents (Peace Corps, etc) called ... Edgar? which may turn up more possibilities.

Are you in a big city? Look for events with meetup groups of expats and other studiers and consulates or cultural associations. Once you meet one (eg) French person in your area, suddenly you will be hooked up with all of them.

Anywhere? Look for partners on livemocha (already mentioned) or the polyglot club (which has meetings in many cities worldwide).

Unless it is necessary for your learning type, don't pay much heed to those saying you can only do one thing at a time. I love learning languages side-by-side, and it has really only been a problem in Spanish/Portuguese (they're very distinct yet some words want to pop out when they're unwelcome).

Good luck...
posted by whatzit at 11:57 AM on August 15, 2010

Response by poster: whatzit...if you read this again, what in particular don't you like in France? I am very interested!
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 9:04 PM on August 29, 2010

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