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This paper is meant to serve as a handbook for learning a new language without formal instruction. It started from notes perapared for students in the intensive foreign language classes at the School for International Training who wanted to know what they could do, without taking a formal course, to optimize their continued learning once they got overseas. They had had training in the basic grammatical patterns and pronunciation of the language and had been exposed to a limited amount of vocabulary; their question was one of knowing how to use the envorinment (in the countries to which they were going) to gain fluency, to expand their vocabulary, and, in general, to be able to function comfortably in the culture.

This paper, in its present form, has been expanded to include information which will be of use to those who want to learn a language by themselves, whether or not they have had formal instruction, and whether or not they are in the country where the language is spoken. It can be used as a guidebook for effectively using "teach yourself" books and home-study courses, or it can be used to supplement an individual's own intuition and imagination in planning efficient and effective learning strategies.

A wide range of topics related to the learning of languages is covered; while the emphasis is on the listing of practical, specific techniques, some theoretical discussions are presented when it is felt they will help the reader in the application of the techniques included or in the development of his or her techniques. The sections of the paper are arranged alphabetically and can be read in any order. It is not expected, of course, that all of the information and suggestions will be of use to everyone. The reader must pick and choose according to his or her own needs. The suggestions should be used like tools: find the ones that work best and make maximum use of them; put the others to one side, ready for future use when and if the need arises.

For further suggestions on how to use this paper, see Basics, p.3.


Curriculum and Instruction | Education | First and Second Language Acquisition