And now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
November 18, 2010 10:19 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about the most well-written, engaging, and creative language-learning books and websites. For any language.

I like learning (superficial and ultimately useless fragments of) languages. Wrapping my mouth around new vowels, figuring out all the exciting ways that people use the Roman alphabet, learning new alphabets/abjads/syllabaries/runic inscriptions, nodding appreciatively at ultra-simple Austronesian grammars and shaking my fists at convoluted five-declension chaos, finding out that a common preposition sounds just like a dirty word in English... the problem is, a lot of language learning resources are really boring. I don't like "natural learning" methods like Rosetta and Livemocha, and I don't like the how-to-order-a-sandwich tourist basics kind of curriculum. I want books and sites that go through the basics of a language systematically, tell me all the messy details, and introduce concepts with interesting vocabulary and examples.

For example:

Lojban for Beginners is a great guide to a (unpopular, problematic) constructed language. It's not dry, it's systematic and complete, it's fun to cruise through even if you don't plan on ever visiting Lojbania.

French for Reading Knowledge is a remarkably slender volume that just plows quickly through everything you need to read Madame Bovary. It's meant for people who've already learned a language or two and doesn't spend much time explaining how to use a conjugation table or what an infinitive is. From the very first chapter it's got you reading entire paragraphs through the extremely clever use of English cognates.

I honestly don't care what language, as long as the lessons are good. Bonus points for anything online (ebooks are fine - there's a billion of them here, but I have no idea which of them are any good.)
posted by theodolite to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Did you see this post from yesterday? It's got some good leads for Swedish.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:27 AM on November 18, 2010

Response by poster: Did you see this post from yesterday? It's got some good leads for Swedish.

That post actually partially inspired this one - I saw the FSI link, listened to a few of the different tapes there, paged through a bunch of the PDFs, and remembered how much I liked learning a new language. The FSI resources seem quite good, actually, although I wish they didn't Romanize everything.
posted by theodolite at 10:39 AM on November 18, 2010

This is a fun site for learning Welsh: Colin and Cumberland (BBC).
posted by dayintoday at 11:11 AM on November 18, 2010

Have you seen this?
I thought it was really awesome.
posted by juv3nal at 11:21 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

A couple websites I've found useful: - dedicated to polyglottery, the forum is an excellent resource. - includes overviews of languages and reviews of language learning resources. This guy also has a dedicated forum on the website above.
posted by smokingmonkey at 12:14 PM on November 18, 2010

There is a man, Michel Thomas who speaks several languages and has a great teaching method, which I rather copy/paste from the website rather than trying explaining myself.

"In essence, Michel Thomas breaks a language down to its component parts and enables learners to reconstruct the language themselves to form their own sentences, to say what they want, when they want. The experience of learning a language becomes so exciting and satisfying that it stimulates self-motivation and builds confidence."

My girlfriend picked up the italian one for a couple of weeks. She quit after a while, but while she was doing it I was impressed of coming home at night, jokingly throwing a couple of italian sentences here and there and having her replying in italian quickly, without thinking.
posted by madeinitaly at 12:54 PM on November 18, 2010

Fluent in 3 Months - tips from Benny the Irish Ployglot
posted by jontyjago at 2:03 PM on November 18, 2010

This one where french is taught by 2 people with a Scottish accent is super cute and immensely engaging.
posted by cynicalidealist at 2:20 PM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Lipson's Russian book is pretty fun and interesting.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:35 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I second Lipson; it's the cheekiest language book I know. Loads of fun.
posted by languagehat at 2:45 PM on November 18, 2010

It's a bit old, but I like this guy's site about learning Dutch.
posted by neushoorn at 10:42 PM on November 18, 2010

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