As I said in Part One, “Creating new sentences aloud is my main approach to learning languages as a beginner.” If a course already exists which helps me to do that (such as Michel Thomas), I’ll use it. If not, I need to create my own course in some way.
One way I sometimes do that is to take a long list of example sentences with audio (such as Glossika or Book2), learn some sentences by repeating a lot after the audio, deduce some grammatical rules from the sentences, and then substitute a word from one sentence into another to make a new sentence.
Here is an example from the old Glossika Indonesian course. This course is no longer for sale. Glossika now uses artificial intelligence (AI) to generate sentences for each individual learner. But I bought the old course and used it for a while. Of course, I could still use this approach with the new course or with a different source of sentences, such as Book2. Here are a few sentences from the old Glossika Indonesian course:
- Lihat, temanku di sana. – Look, there’s my friend.
- Ibunya di rumah. Dia di sekolah. – His mother’s at home. He’s at school.
- Anak-anaknya di sekolah. – Her children are at school.
- Saya seorang supir taksi. – I’m a taxi driver.
- Adikku seorang suster. – My sister’s a nurse.
This doesn’t give much to go on, but after 50 sentences, I noticed patterns and started deducing the grammar. Actually, for the first 10 sentences, I had to look up each word and find out what it meant. After that, I was able to start figuring out which English word or phrase matches which Indonesian word or phrase. (Note that it’s not always a 1-to-1 relationship. For example, the Spanish word “hablo” means “I speak.” Here, two English words equal one Spanish word.)
For example, I realized that the English word “my” is expressed in Indonesian with the suffix “-ku” attached to the end of a noun. Likewise, “his” or “her” is the suffix “-nya.” In the sentences above:
- temanku – my friend
- adikku – my sister
- ibunya – his mother
- anak-anaknya – her children
From this knowledge, I can create new word combinations, such as “taksiku” (my taxi) or “taksinya” (his/her taxi). If “ibunya” is his mother, then “ibuku” should be my mother:
- temannya – his/her friend
- adiknya – his/her sister
- ibuku – my mother
- anak-anakku – my children
After each sentence study session, I stop the audio and try to recall as many sentences as I can from today’s session from memory. I then pick some sentences and start substituting words from other sentences to make new sentences. For example, I can make these sentences out of the first sentence just by borrowing words from other sentences:
- Lihat, adikku di sana. – Look, there’s my sister.
- Lihat, taksi di sana. – Look, there’s a taxi.
- Lihat, sekolah di sana. – Look, there’s a school.
And from the second sentence:
- Dia di rumah. – He’s at home.
- Saya di rumah. – I’m at home.
- Anak-anaknya di rumah. – Her children are at home.
I can coin new words such as “taksiku” (my taxi) and create even more new sentences:
- Lihat, taksiku di sana. – Look, there’s my taxi.
- Lihat, sekolahku di sana. – Look, there’s my school.
This method works best with languages that don’t have a complicated system of verb endings or case endings. It works well with Asian languages such as Indonesian and Mandarin Chinese, and might work well for someone learning English as a foreign language. Even so, it’s best to meet with a tutor after each 50-100 sentences to correct errors in your source of sentences or in your deductions about the grammar (as well as your pronunciation errors). My italki Indonesian tutor only made a couple of corrections when I read off Glossika’s first 50 sentences with their English translations.
I wouldn’t use this exact method to learn Arabic, Russian, or Turkish from scratch. I could, but I would make a lot more errors along the way and it would be more painful to correct them. However, after learning a lot of grammar, it could certainly be done. This is why Glossika was intended for high beginners, not total beginners.
The sentence-creating approach has weaknesses which you, the reader, are probably already thinking of. I’ll address one or two of them in my third and final installment.