View Full Version : Foreign Language Learning Question

07-09-2012, 09:54 AM
I'm not sure if this is the place to put this, but since a lot of people on these forums most likely speak another language (perhaps two or even three), I thought maybe I might get some advice here. Here is my question:

I've been studying two foreign languages, Hebrew and Arabic. Because of a limited budget and no place nearby that teaches both languages, I've been learning them on my own by using Youtube (which, BTW is a phenomenal foreign language learning tool). I find that foreign languages come very easily to me and I enjoy them, and I've managed to pick up quite a bit on my own. However, I would like to be able to go to school and study them, not only to make sure I'm learning to pronounce things correctly, but also to learn how to speak them correctly as well, since I have no one to converse with in these languages.

There is a school I want to go to that offers both languages, as well as another subject I would like to study, but it is very far away from where I live and I currently don't have enough money to relocate (I'm eventually hoping to be able to make enough money off of writing to do this). One school in my area offers Arabic, but it is insanely expensive (regardless of whether or not I'm auditing the class), and financial aid is only given if you're getting a degree. If I'm going to go to the trouble of getting a degree, I want to go to a school that teaches both languages.

So what should I do? Should I just continue to teach myself at home, as well as I can, until I can get a further education, and work on my writing at the same time? I know that knowing foreign languages can earn you a good income if you're skilled enough at speaking them, and I want to have a skill I can fall back on if my writing doesn't prove financially profitable. However, I also know that learning foreign languages can take several years to master, and I don't want to waste time in this regard if I can help it. Or should I focus on my writing and hopefully earn enough money to go away to school someday? I know this post is a bit long, but I would appreciate any advice I'm given.

Katrina S. Forest
07-09-2012, 07:28 PM
I can't answer your question on which school you should go to, and really, I don't think it's reasonable to expect anyone here can. We don't know you. We don't know where your passions are or what you really want to do with your life. That's a decision you have to make on your own. (Maybe someone here knows if there's more of a demand for Hebrew or Arabic translation, job-wise, if that effects your choice?)

Here's some info I can give you that might help your decision:

1) I've taught ESL students and taken at least one class in five foreign languages. From my experience, people learn languages much better from interacting with native speakers. With self-teaching, there's no one to correct you when you mess up, and then bad habits become hard to break.

2) Unless you dump yourself into a culture where you're forced to use a foreign language on a daily basis, becoming skilled enough to be a reliable translator is a long and difficult process. I took Spanish classes for eight years, beginning in middle school and continuing through my first couple years of college. I also spent six weeks living in Mexico. Even at my best, I hated being called on to translate. I could do it, and was often told I spoke quite well, but I never got to the point where it felt natural to me. (Now, had I lived in Mexico for a couple years, without an English-speaking roommate like I had for those six weeks, I might have gotten to that point rather quickly.)

3) I've also been trying to get an agent for several years now. You don't know when your writing will start being profitable, if ever. It's not a predicable thing and, imo, not something you want to put pressure on yourself to do. Especially if you're just starting out and don't have a lot of feedback on how close or far you are.

07-09-2012, 11:41 PM
Learn the languages and work on your writing.

Were I you, I'd concentrate on reading and aural/listening knowledge. It's easier to learn to write when you have someone to work with you.

Check the resources at your local library; they may well have DVDs that are close-captioned (I learned a lot of modern languages in part by wating movies and Star Trek over and over in the other languages). They may also have software like Rosetta Stone.

Look for a local synagogue that will let you take beginning Hebrew; often they will welcome even if you're not Jewish, have super learning materials, and the costs are manageable.

07-10-2012, 12:15 AM
Check out the local mosques, too, for Arabic. Here you can learn Hebrew, Arabic and Greek from the respective religious institutions, and the classes are usually free :)

07-15-2012, 08:48 PM
I agree with the other posters, but would like to add that there is no substitute for experiencing the language with native speakers. I would think that there would be mosques (for Arabic) and synagogues (for Hebrew) somewhere in Wichita (your location according to your profile). I speak a little Arabic (lived in Lebanon for a year) and can also verify that your learning will accelerate if you learn to write at least the basics. Arabic is very phonetic and Hebrew is close enough that I'd assume it is much the same. So once you learn the alphabet and the sounds of each letter, you'll be better off.

One other consideration is dialect. Just be clear about what you want to do with these languages in order to steer clear of any non-mainstream dialects. This would be especially an issue if you do find a native speaker to help you. Be sure the native speaker understands you want a very mainstream type of Arabic.

Good luck. Remember that even if you never are proficient in either language, any knowledge of a foreign language is a bonus to your brain. Different languages use different parts of our brains, as has been well-studied by scientists working with brain-damaged people. That's another long-winded discussion but just want to say it's helpful.

07-15-2012, 09:06 PM
I'll second trying to get in touch with local folks who speak the language. Maybe look in local colleges and post an ad of some sort?

If you can, listening to radio stations or watching TV in those languages are also good ways of maintaining a steady stream of stimulus.

Good luck!

07-16-2012, 04:04 AM
Wichita State offers elementary Arabic. Why not take that one class and see how it goes before making any major decisions? I am sure they offer a creative writing class too. It's a good school and reasonable. --s6

07-16-2012, 04:06 AM
ps--in order to reap the financial rewards of a second language you will have to pass a test in that language that will include grammar and composition as well as speaking.
of course there are always rewards for having a second language but in order to earn $ as a translator you need to be certified and titled, for example as proficient or fluent. --s6

07-21-2012, 03:33 PM
I've been studying two foreign languages, Hebrew and Arabic. Because of a limited budget and no place nearby that teaches both languages, I've been learning them on my own by using Youtube (which, BTW is a phenomenal foreign language learning tool).

Go here:



They are free. Pay for the notes or the learning center. (and they prices are really reasonable) You should be able to find 50% coupons on the internet too.