Latin was probably the single most useful subject I was taught in school. I despised it at the time, but now I have come to realise its importance and many applications–the greatest of which is how it has helped me learn other languages.
In learning languages (although none to fluency… yet) I have found the following resources invaluable. This is the order in which I would suggest researching/learning:
- Choose a language to learn — How to Learn Any Language provides good language overviews and gives information on difficulty, popularity, and other metrics. However, don’t be put off by stats!
- Deconstruct your desired language — Tim Ferriss provides a good overview of how to quickly deconstruct a language — an important step that will give you a great insight into the workings of a language.
- Understand the deconstruction — Yes, you may have deconstructed it, but do you really know what it all means? Study the linguistic typology of your chosen language to really understand it.
- Find high-quality free material
- FSI Language Courses should be your first port-of-call. Produced by the United States’ Foreign Service Institute to train ambassadors, diplomats and ‘other’ agents, the FSI courses are in the public domain and are of a high quality.
- Wikiversity’s Centre for Foreign Language Learning provides great material for popular languages.
- Wikibooks’ Language Bookshelf also has a wide selection of learning material for the popular languages.
- Go to university — Not literally, but instead search the OpenCourseWare Consortium’s available courses. This is material provided free from universities the world over — e.g. MIT’s foreign language selection.
- Hit the books — Start learning using all the material you acquired in the previous step. There’s a specific order in which you should do this:
- Pronunciation: From the very beginning you need to know how to pronounce words correctly. Find some native speakers or learn the IPA and do it phonetically.
- Vocabulary: Learning grammar becomes much easier with spaced repetition. Don’t translate from your native language: use a combination of images and target words (translation will limit your use of the words). Choose your words wisely: word lists that are tailored to your situation are always good.
- Grammar: Again, spaced repetition and good material is the way to go.
- The Rest: Reading and writing, speaking and listening… now that you have a grasp of the language (however small), it’s time to immerse yourself.