Learning a new language: how to go about it?


Jedi Master
[quote author=Mariama]What a lovely idea, Robin Turner, to use folktales.[/quote]

Thanks, but the idea is not mine. Here is the introduction from the book I mentioned already, ‘Using Folktales’. I’ve highlighted some techniques that could easily be transferred from a teaching perspective into a learning a new language, but I’ve also highlighted aspects that I think might be relevant to other points that have been raised in this discussion.

[quote author=Eric K. Taylor. Using Folktales. P. 3]1. What makes folktales so good for language teaching?

Although they are certainly valuable in their own right – as good stories, as literature, as social and cultural expressions, and as moral teaching – folktales have many special characteristics that make them exceptionally good for language teaching. Their frequent repetitions make them excellent for reinforcing new vocabulary and grammar. Many have natural rhythmic qualities that are useful for working on stress, rhythm, and intonation in pronunciation. And the cultural elements of folktales help both bridge common ground between cultures and bring out cultural differences – developing cultural awareness that is essential if we are to learn to think in another language and understand the people who speak it.

Because folktales began as oral stories, they also have many characteristics that make them easier to understand than other types of literature. Since folktales are often published as children’s books with easy language and context-providing illustrations, many are accessible to students with limited language abilities. Yet there are also many more difficult, literary retellings of folktales. This means that folktales provide material for all levels from beginner to advanced, with natural bridges from each level to the next. The varying levels of difficulty also make folktales very useful in the multilevel classroom.

In addition, folktales are especially useful for developing cognitive and academic skills. For example, academic tasks often require students to compare, contrast, and evaluate. You can require students to use these skills at nearly any language level by having them read or listen to different versions of folktales (for example, the French, Japanese, and North American versions of Cinderella), identify how they are similar and different, and then consider how important the similarities and differences are. Folktales are similarly well suited for academic skills like analysing, drawing inferences, synthesizing, summarizing, and noting underlying text structures.

Folktales also fit well with the growing emphasis on content-based instruction and with communicative approaches that focus on teaching language while communicating meaning. Folktales fit in not only with literature but also with sociology, history, religion, and anthropology.

And folktales, because of their moral nature, fit in with values education, an aspect that a growing number of educators feel has been critically lacking in mainstream language teaching.

Finally, as we will see, folktales are excellent for addressing listening, speaking, reading, and writing – either separately or an integration with each other. Because of the many different versions and the varieties of potential activities, they are especially suitable for use in the multilevel classroom. Because of their flexibility, folktales can also be easily integrated with a variety of approaches to language teaching.[/quote]

Robin Turner said:
[quote author=Eulenspiegel](I am learning Chinese right now and have been living in China/Taiwan for these past 2 years)

Pardon me, Eulenspiegel, this is off-topic, but I’d like to clear up the above ambiguity. Do you mean you’ve lived (or have been living) in both places over the years, or do you think that, based on the grounds of your observations, that there is no need to make the necessary distinction between them?


I apologise for my late reply. I meant that I've lived in both places. The China-Taiwan debate is a tremendously emotional subject for both parties involved so I know what you're getting at(I'm half Taiwanese). Hardly anything objective ever comes out of these debates, aside from the fact that these two countries are economically and financially intertwined and that these emotionally charged discussions distract from that fact. Many young Taiwanese people i've talked to complain that Taiwan is a blind follower of the US Empire and even though I hope that China will try to do something similar to Russia and show people that you do not necessarily need to bow at the feet of Washington, I am quite sure that Taiwan, Korea and Japan are firmly under the control of the U.S.

Getting back on topic, I've just returned from my stay abroad, and I want to give some input on what I've learnt about learning languages that are not related to your mother tongue.

-Comprehensible input(my ability to understand and express myself in another language took off once there were only 1-2 unknown elements in each sentence I heard or read). Most university courses throw a lot of vocabulary and grammar points at you, which quickly overloads most people's brains. Gradual progression is key. It needs to come in bite sized pieces that, over time, create a solid structure in your mind. These bite sized pieces need to be practiced often and in the form of
-Spaced repetition. Anki, a spaced repetition software, is excellent for that. It's basically an intelligent flashcard system that automatically schedules what you need to review before you are about to forget it.
-High Volume and High Quality Audio Sentences that are structured like this
[a sentence in your mother tongue] [pause in which you can translate it into your target language] [correct sentence in the target language]

If you set aside 1-2 hours a day for that, you can easily go through around 1000-1500 sentences a month. There is a company called Glossika that offers sentence packs made by native speakers that will allow you to reach basic spoken fluency in a wide variety of languages.

At some point, usually after a year or so, you'll have most of the basics down and can then expand your vocabulary through reading books, watching movies and hanging out with friends. At that stage, it is crucial that you're emotionally invested in whatever you're doing. This is why relationships usually help you learn foreign languages at a much faster rate. Or a series of books/movies that you love to read/watch and which are also available in your target language.

I remember that shortly after graduating from high school, I stumbled upon the collected Cassiopaean transcripts that were floating around the web. I became so fascinated with them that I read through them over the course of a few sittings. Of course, this was long before I became aware of this forum or that the transcripts weren't meant to be read in isolation. But back then, it certainly helped me learn English!

I want to stress that Motivation, Discipline and not being emotionally disconnected from what you're doing are keys towards the progressive realization of any worthwhile goal, and that includes learning foreign languages.


Jedi Master
[quote author=Eulenspiegel]I meant that I've lived in both places.[/quote]

Thanks for clearing that up.

Now, as for your position on the matter:

[quote author=Eulenspiegel]The China-Taiwan debate is a tremendously emotional subject for both parties involved so I know what you're getting at(I'm half Taiwanese). Hardly anything objective ever comes out of these debates, aside from the fact that these two countries are economically and financially intertwined and that these emotionally charged discussions distract from that fact. Many young Taiwanese people i've talked to complain that Taiwan is a blind follower of the US Empire and even though I hope that China will try to do something similar to Russia and show people that you do not necessarily need to bow at the feet of Washington, I am quite sure that Taiwan, Korea and Japan are firmly under the control of the U.S. [/quote]

I like your impartiality and emotional distance from the issue… Perhaps I came across as twitchy (indicating an emotionally charged attitude) and should do the same.

Then again, I cannot deny the fact that I would like to delve deeper into the above, but since this would veer off from the topic under discussion, and since it was I who (perhaps unnecessarily) poked at the issue in the first place, I’m happy leaving it at that for now.



At school you learn your grammar and your vocabulary and you have to use these textbooks and TBH it is all frightfully boring, unless as a teacher you are allowed to make up your own stuff, but as the curriculum is strictly controlled over here and in the UK for example chances are teachers just have to follow the guidelines which kill all creativity.

I wholeheartedly agree with you on that. I studied German and English at school for almost 10 years and couldn't understand written/spoken sentences beyond the elementary school level. Worst than that, I started to dislike German as a language because classes/exams slowly turned into torture over the years. What a wasted opportunity :-(

So, my question is: what did you do in order to learn a new language? What helped, what didn't help? Do people really need schoolbooks or can we just look for alternative teaching materials which could be more tailor-made?

I finally got to learn English as an adult while at my engineering school. The English teaching there was rote memorization of business-related terms, idiomatic expressions and dialogues (which we had to act out in front of the class). While it was far from being sufficient in order to become fluent, it gave my brain a solid foundation on which to build upon. I strongly dislike rote memorization without context so it was a blessing that I was forced to do it like that at that time. Otherwise, what I learned next/in parallel wouldn't have stuck.

At home my goal was to understand SoTT articles and the recommended books. Since few books where translated to French, it was a strong incentive for me to start learning English seriously. So I started by reading 1-2 articles regularly; I was slow and it usually ended up in headaches due to straining. Understanding articles on geopolitics or psychopathology ain't easy I can tell you that
:lol: Joking aside, the topics themselves were what drove me forward during the (rough) first few months. In parallel I started to watch a lot of subbed tv series, movies and youtube videos without subtitles (podcasts mainly).

Since I didn't have any English-speaking people to talk to (and I was also a depressive introvert at the time), I started to talk and think in English in order to get used to build sentences and pronunciation. While reading an article I would read aloud sentences and paragraphs, while watching a podcast I would imitate a person by matching their accent and gestures. It is easier to imitate a sound if you put you whole body into it (face, hands, arms, body movements, etc), the copying mechanism of the brain activates the right muscle groups inside the mouth which you can isolate to reproduce the sounds more easily. Just as you can elicit emotions by taking specific stances or mimicking them (e.g. sobbing).

Over time it became an acting game, reciting SoTT articles as if I where the narrator of a Greek tragedy or a comedian performing a comedy skit. Improvising here and there. Same for the podcasts or movies, imitating a person or character and saying outlandish things, swapping accents and intonations. It was crude and at times way off the mark, but boy was it fun!

After 3 years, I suddenly realized I couldn't tell whether a piece of content was in French or English if I didn't pay attention. I was quite baffled by the fact that I had learned something without witnessing my progress along the way. All in all, I believe repetition, having a goal/need and being playful are definitely three of the pillars for successful language learning. After all, what's the point in learning a new language if it's not fun and meaningful? And without the grammatical+vocabulary foundation, you're like a painter without a canvas, a seed without a soil, a scuba diver without water, a dancer without music, a... Ok, ok, I'll stop it here. You get the point :lol:

Nowadays I'm far from perfect, my accent and my sentence-building skills aren't great since I don't practice like I used to. But I'll settle with an ok-ish English level for now. There are many other things to learn and so little time to do it unfortunately.


FOTCM Member
In case some of you don't know about it, I've found this app to be quite useful.

It allows you to basically watch any video in your target language AND get subtitles, both in your mother tongue and in the target language as well. You can export a PDF or copy the text. The translation is not perfect, but it works quite well.

It's handy to listen to interesting people in foreign languages too even if you aren't learning the language and are just interested in the content. :-)


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
In case some of you don't know about it, I've found this app to be quite useful.
Thank you for sharing. I can install it, but for some reason, it does not attach to the YouTube and show up as an option after the time indication.

After watching the latest
MindMatters: Meaning All the Way Down: The Wonders and Mysteries of Language with Juliana Barembuem
And revisiting these videos:
Sounds - Part 1: Why is it important to work on pronunciation?
Sounds - Part 2: Which sounds do you really need?
Sounds - Part 3: A hidden talent that you can awaken again!
I looked up some webpages and found:
A Complete Guide to Language Learning. Part 1: Learning Pronunciation, written by Timur Baytukalov. The article has a strong focus on learning pronunciation:
The exercises described are modified excerpts from my book about language learning, "Quick Foreign Language Learning: From English to Japanese" (published in Russian).[...] The most important exercises are highlighted in bold.
  1. Passive learning exercises
    • 1-A. Passive watching of video
    • 1-B. Passive reading of phonetic transcription
    • 1-C. Passive reading of foreign text
  2. Active learning exercises
    • 2-A. Active watching of video
    • 2-B. Active reading of phonetic transcription
    • 2-C. Active reading of foreign text
  3. Consolidation exercises
    • 3-A. Autonomous speaking
    • 3-B. Autonomous reading of phonetic transcription
    • 3-C. Autonomous reading of foreign text
What About the Meanings of Words?
You might have noticed that none of the exercises described above require you to learn words' meanings. Why? Does this mean you will be learning foreign words without knowing their meanings? Well, yes! That's the trick. Do you remember how language learning is similar to learning a musical instrument or a sport? These pronunciation exercises have analogs in those activities too.
In music, these pronunciation exercises are like learning scales or playing on mouthpiece in the case of some wind instruments. Nobody will ever play on mouthpiece in a band or orchestra; however, mouthpiece exercises are essential for beginners and even professional musicians sometimes use them.
In line with his philosophy he has developed a paid program that can show IPA phonetic analogues to subtitles of English films if one uploads the subtitles. He also has a BLOG ABOUT PRONUNCIATION AND PHONETIC TRANSCRIPTION. There is also an IPA alphabet for American English, French, and Russian and a useful list of terms used when speaking about the sounds of a language. In general, he suggests:
You carefully watch how a native speaker pronounces a sound or word, and then you imitate them. You form your lips the same way the native speaker does, and you do your best to produce the same sound as he or she does. That's all there is to it!

Another site with a very strong emphasis on phonetics is Front Page where one finds this article:
The IPA Alphabet: How and Why You Should Learn the International Phonetic Alphabet, which has:
IPA contains 163 symbols. But don’t worry:, you don't need to learn them all.
Before you look at IPA for a foreign language, it's better to start with the IPA symbols that you already know how to pronounce. What are the IPA symbols used by your native language?
See also the official site: IPA Chart with Sounds

There are Wiki articles of the phonology of many languages. For English, for instance this. In general, one can go to the Wiki index with languages, select the language needed if available, then go the section on phonology, and click link to the main article if available.

During the preparation of this post, I came across a few videos for those learning French and English. First there was, Learn French Pronunciation in 12 Minutes which is for English speakers and focuses on the sounds that are not known in English: 3 consonant and 10 vowel sounds. Another, French phonetics / French sounds gives examples using mostly the names of animals.

The following teacher from speaks French only, but has an interesting way of explaining the French alphabet. One can switch the subtitles on, the auto-translator if one likes. The link is Cours de français : l'alphabet - How to pronounce the French alphabet ? and the second Pronounce French Alphabet : Les Particularités Phonétiques De l’Alphabet Français and for the nasals this French Pronunciation - Les Voyelles Nasales "ON" - "EN" - "AIN" For another video on the same subject that clearly shows the position of the mouth from both front and side, check French Truly TV: 4 Great Tips for Easy French Pronunciation

For French speakers learning English, this is about pronouncing the "h" when saying hotel in English. Another channel, English with Carla, has a video about a few difficulties French speakers often encounter when speaking English. Moving into English in a more general way, she also has a useful review of the 16 BEST YOUTUBE CHANNELS FOR LEARNING ENGLISH!

This video from English with Lucy recommends combining reading a book with text like in a physical book or an e-book along with the audiobook, so one can combine the sound and the visual impression.

Finally, Rachel's English has suggestions that could apply to other languages too. How to THINK in English.

To find interesting tips and material is more easy than finding the time to practice all the good advices, though I also learned a something while writing, it can be very enriching to look at how different teachers approach the challenges of learning language, especially pronunciation.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
The International Phonetic Alphabet vowel chart with more details
On the page of IPA chart, one finds:
IPA table of vowels.png
If the reason for the shape lacks an explanation, there is this image from the Fluent in 3 Months article, The IPA Alphabet: How and Why You Should Learn the International Phonetic Alphabet, I referred to in the previous post. Perhaps this can make it more easy to locate where in the mouth the vowel sounds are located.

If the locations of the sounds are somewhat schematic in the two previous models, this table from the IPA Chart With Sounds is more specific:
IPA vowels.png
A way to work with the chart would be to find the vowel locations of the vowels one already uses.
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FOTCM Member
Good sources, @thorbiorn ! Thanks for sharing some of those.

In my experience, what worked the best was:
a) always reading material that I had audio for (never separate until level B1 was reached)
b) working on minimal pairs. This source has good stuff for several languages: French Archives - Fluent Forever
c) marking the text with curves for the melody and // for pauses, then playing at imitating what I was hearing and reading. Recording myself and comparing with the original.
d) talking to a native speaker who was willing to focus on pronunciation for a while, and correct me (unless you ask, most people won't correct you).

I found that by doing that, I was also learning the language faster. Nothing like making mistakes to go, "ouch! I'll never say that again".

As for the IPA, it's not strictly necessary, although I have to say I found it very useful for transcribing and remembering/discriminating sounds years ago. But, the same can be accomplished in pronunciation with steps a, b and c above, without adding the burden of learning yet another thing. Unless one finds it fun and interesting, of course!

Whatever the method, at least for me, learning a language starts with becoming at least very familiar with its sound system, its melody, etc. I always found that that made learning everything else in the language easier.



The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Whatever the method, at least for me, learning a language starts with becoming at least very familiar with its sound system, its melody, etc. I always found that that made learning everything else in the language easier.
Thank you, Chu, for all your suggestions. I will try to incorporate some, and see where it leads.

Below is an attempt to compare some sounds in English, French Spanish and Russian, followed by notes on different accents and dialects of English.

It began with:
Ordering the sounds used in different languages
On the same website, there are a few simplified charts. After working with the data, joining the lists, inserting a reference number (the one to the left below), and ordering, it looks like this:
64 French (IPA) a ➔ année /a.ne/ travail /tʁa.vaj/
88 Spanish (IPA) a ➔ casa /ˈka.sa/ una /ˈu.na/
14 British English (IPA) aɪ ➔ eye /ˈaɪ/ time /ˈtaɪm/
50 American English (IPA) aɪ ➔ eyes /ˈaɪz/ time /ˈtaɪm/
22 British English (IPA) aɪə ➔ fire /ˈfaɪ.ə/ science /ˈsaɪ.əns/
17 British English (IPA) aʊ ➔ out /ˈaʊt/ down /ˈdaʊn/
51 American English (IPA) aʊ ➔ out /ˈaʊt/ down /ˈdaʊn/
25 British English (IPA) aʊə ➔ hour /ˈaʊ.ə/ power /ˈpaʊ.ə/
120 Russian (IPA) ɐ ➔ они /ɐ.ˈnʲi/ какой /kɐ.ˈkoj/
38 American English (IPA) ɑ ➔ father /ˈfɑ.ðɚ/ not /ˈnɑt/
75 French (IPA) ɑ̃ ➔ ensuite /ɑ̃s.ɥit/ seulement /sœl.mɑ̃/
9 British English (IPA) ɑː ➔ father /ˈfɑː.ðə/ last /ˈlɑːst/
49 American English (IPA) ɑr ➔ art /ˈɑrt/ large /ˈlɑrdʒ/
5 British English (IPA) ɒ ➔ lot /ˈlɒt/ not /ˈnɒt/
113 Russian (IPA) ɕː ➔ щёки /ˈɕːɵ.kʲɪ/ вещь /ˈvʲeɕː/
28 British English (IPA) ð ➔ there /ˈðeə/ mother /ˈmʌð.ə/
57 American English (IPA) ð ➔ there /ˈðɛr/ mother /ˈmʌð.ɚ/
95 Spanish (IPA) ð ➔ todo /ˈto.ðo/ nada /ˈna.ða/
32 British English (IPA) dʒ ➔ just /ˈdʒʌst/ age /ˈeɪdʒ/
61 American English (IPA) dʒ ➔ just /ˈdʒʌst/ age /ˈeɪdʒ/
83 French (IPA) dʒ ➔ budget /byd.ʒɛ/ Djibouti /dʒi.bu.ti/
2 British English (IPA) e ➔ said /ˈsed/ bed /ˈbed/
65 French (IPA) e ➔ été /e.te/ général /ʒe.ne.ʁal/
89 Spanish (IPA) e ➔ señor /se.ˈɲoɾ/ creo /ˈkɾe.o/
116 Russian (IPA) e ➔ чем /ˈt͡ɕem/ где /ˈɡdʲe/
19 British English (IPA) eə ➔ air /ˈeə/ where /ˈweə/
13 British English (IPA) eɪ ➔ say /ˈseɪ/ make /ˈmeɪk/
53 American English (IPA) eɪ ➔ able /ˈeɪ.bəl/ make /ˈmeɪk/
21 British English (IPA) eɪə ➔ player /ˈpleɪ.ə/ layer /ˈleɪ.ə/
7 British English (IPA) ə ➔ about /ə.ˈbaʊt/ after /ˈɑːf.tə/
42 American English (IPA) ə ➔ about /ə.ˈbaʊt/ people /ˈpi.pəl/
73 French (IPA) ə ➔ besoin /bəz.wɛ̃/ ne /nə/
121 Russian (IPA) ə ➔ думал /ˈdu.məl/ только /ˈtolʲ.kə/
16 British English (IPA) əʊ ➔ over /ˈəʊ.və/ both /ˈbəʊθ/
24 British English (IPA) əʊə ➔ mower /ˈməʊ.ə/ follower /ˈfɒl.əʊ.ə/
39 American English (IPA) ɛ ➔ said /ˈsɛd/ bed /ˈbɛd/
74 French (IPA) ɛ ➔ elle /ɛl/ nouvelle /nu.vɛl/
93 Spanish (IPA) ɛ ➔ el /ɛl/ está /ɛs.ˈta/
115 Russian (IPA) ɛ ➔ это /ˈɛ.tə/ цели /ˈt͡sɛ.lʲɪ/
77 French (IPA) ɛ̃ ➔ ainsi /ɛ̃.si/ loin /lwɛ̃/
47 American English (IPA) ɛr ➔ air /ˈɛr/ where /ˈwɛr/
44 American English (IPA) ɚ ➔ percent /pɚ.ˈsɛnt/ never /ˈnɛv.ɚ/
12 British English (IPA) ɜː ➔ early /ˈɜː.li/ first /ˈfɜːst/
45 American English (IPA) ɝ ➔ early /ˈɝ.li/ first /ˈfɝst/
96 Spanish (IPA) ɣ ➔ algo /ˈal.ɣo/ amigo /a.ˈmi.ɣo/
34 American English (IPA) i ➔ even /ˈi.vən/ these /ˈðiz/
66 French (IPA) i ➔ ville /vil/ qui /ki/
90 Spanish (IPA) i ➔ aquí /a.ˈki/ dinero /di.ˈnɛ.ɾo/
8 British English (IPA) iː ➔ see /ˈsiː/ these /ˈðiːz/
1 British English (IPA) ɪ ➔ if /ˈɪf/ which /ˈwɪtʃ/
35 American English (IPA) ɪ ➔ if /ˈɪf/ which /ˈwɪtʃ/
122 Russian (IPA) ɪ ➔ идёт /ɪ.ˈdʲɵt/ если /ˈje.slʲɪ/
18 British English (IPA) ɪə ➔ ear /ˈɪə/ year /ˈjɪə/
46 American English (IPA) ɪr ➔ ear /ˈɪr/ years /ˈjɪrz/
117 Russian (IPA) ɨ ➔ быстро /ˈbɨ.strə/ чтобы /ˈʂto.bɨ/
33 British English (IPA) j ➔ yet /ˈjet/ new /ˈnjuː/
62 American English (IPA) j ➔ yet /ˈjɛt/ yesterday /ˈjɛs.tɚ.ˌdeɪ/
85 French (IPA) j ➔ Dieu /djø/ fille /fij/
106 Spanish (IPA) j ➔ bien /ˈbjɛ̃n/ tiene /ˈtje.ne/
109 Russian (IPA) j ➔ его /jɪ.ˈvo/ такое /tɐ.ˈkoj.ə/
102 Spanish (IPA) ʝ ➔ mayor /ma.ˈʝoɾ/ oye /ˈo.ʝe/
103 Spanish (IPA) ɟ ➔ ya /ɟʝa/ yo /ˈɟʝo/
104 Spanish (IPA) ʎ ➔ ella /ˈe.ʎa/ allí /a.ˈʎi/
79 French (IPA) ɲ ➔ gagner /ɡa.ɲe/ ligne /liɲ/
98 Spanish (IPA) ɲ ➔ señor /se.ˈɲoɾ/ años /ˈa.ɲos/
26 British English (IPA) ŋ ➔ thing /ˈθɪŋ/ going /ˈɡəʊ.ɪŋ/
55 American English (IPA) ŋ ➔ thing /ˈθɪŋ/ going /ˈɡoʊ.ɪŋ/
67 French (IPA) o ➔ aucune /o.kyn/ nouveau /nu.vo/
91 Spanish (IPA) o ➔ como /ˈko.mo/ esto /ˈɛs.to/
71 French (IPA) œ ➔ valeur /va.lœʁ/ seul /sœl/
78 French (IPA) œ̃ ➔ un /œ̃/ brun /bʁœ̃/
54 American English (IPA) oʊ ➔ over /ˈoʊ.vɚ/ both /ˈboʊθ/
41 American English (IPA) ɔ ➔ all /ˈɔl/ want /ˈwɔnt/
72 French (IPA) ɔ ➔ homme /ɔm/ comme /kɔm/
76 French (IPA) ɔ̃ ➔ longtemps /lɔ̃.tɑ̃/ nom /nɔ̃/
10 British English (IPA) ɔː ➔ all /ˈɔːl/ more /ˈmɔː/
15 British English (IPA) ɔɪ ➔ oil /ˈɔɪl/ point /ˈpɔɪnt/
52 American English (IPA) ɔɪ ➔ oil /ˈɔɪ.əl/ point /ˈpɔɪnt/
23 British English (IPA) ɔɪə ➔ royal /ˈrɔɪ.əl/ loyal /ˈlɔɪ.əl/
48 American English (IPA) ɔr ➔ order /ˈɔr.dɚ/ morning /ˈmɔr.nɪŋ/
118 Russian (IPA) ɵ ➔ живёт /ʐɨ.ˈvʲɵt/ всё /ˈfsʲɵ/
99 Spanish (IPA) r ➔ razón /ra.ˈθõn/ rápido /ˈra.pi.ðo/
63 American English (IPA) ɹ ➔ right /ˈɹaɪt/ through /ˈθɹu/
100 Spanish (IPA) ɾ ➔ ahora /a.ˈo.ɾa/ quiero /ˈkjɛ.ɾo/
80 French (IPA) ʁ ➔ raison /ʁɛ.zɔ̃/ sera /sə.ʁa/
112 Russian (IPA) ʂ ➔ шёл /ˈʂol/ наш /ˈnaʂ/
29 British English (IPA) ʃ ➔ social /ˈsəʊ.ʃəl/ show /ˈʃəʊ/
58 American English (IPA) ʃ ➔ she /ˈʃi/ social /ˈsoʊ.ʃəl/
81 French (IPA) ʃ ➔ chef /ʃɛf/ riche /ʁiʃ/
111 Russian (IPA) t͡ɕ ➔ чего /t͡ɕɪ.ˈvo/ ничего /nʲɪ.t͡ɕɪ.ˈvo/
110 Russian (IPA) t͡s ➔ цель /ˈt͡sɛlʲ/ лицо /lʲɪ.ˈt͡so/
31 British English (IPA) tʃ ➔ child /ˈtʃaɪld/ teacher /ˈtiː.tʃə/
60 American English (IPA) tʃ ➔ child /ˈtʃaɪ.əld/ teacher /ˈti.tʃɚ/
84 French (IPA) tʃ ➔ tchèque /tʃɛk/ match /matʃ/
101 Spanish (IPA) ʧ ➔ mucho /ˈmu.ʧo/ noche /ˈno.ʧe/
36 American English (IPA) u ➔ school /ˈskul/ who /ˈhu/
68 French (IPA) u ➔ ouvrir /u.vʁiʁ/ souvent /su.vɑ̃/
92 Spanish (IPA) u ➔ tú /ˈtu/ usted /us.ˈtɛð/
11 British English (IPA) uː ➔ school /ˈskuːl/ who /ˈhuː/
119 Russian (IPA) ʉ ➔ любит /ˈlʲʉ.bʲɪt/ любил /lʲʉ.ˈbʲil/
87 French (IPA) ɥ ➔ situation /si.tɥa.sjɔ̃/ lui /lɥi/
6 British English (IPA) ʊ ➔ good /ˈɡʊd/ book /ˈbʊk/
40 American English (IPA) ʊ ➔ good /ˈɡʊd/ book /ˈbʊk/
123 Russian (IPA) ʊ ➔ ушёл /ʊ.ˈʂol/ могут /ˈmo.ɡʊt/
20 British English (IPA) ʊə ➔ sure /ˈʃɔː/ pure /ˈpjʊə/
4 British English (IPA) ʌ ➔ other /ˈʌð.ə/ one /ˈwʌn/
43 American English (IPA) ʌ ➔ other /ˈʌð.ɚ/ one /ˈwʌn/
86 French (IPA) w ➔ oui /wi/ loi /lwa/
107 Spanish (IPA) w ➔ cuando /ˈkwãn.do/ bueno /ˈbwe.no/
97 Spanish (IPA) x ➔ gente /ˈxɛ̃n.te/ trabajo /tɾa.ˈβa.xo/
69 French (IPA) y ➔ unique /y.nik/ étude /e.tyd/
108 Russian (IPA) ʐ ➔ жить /ˈʐɨtʲ/ тоже /ˈto.ʐɨ/
30 British English (IPA) ʒ ➔ vision /ˈvɪʒ.ən/ measure /ˈmeʒ.ə/
59 American English (IPA) ʒ ➔ decision /dɪ.ˈsɪʒ.ən/ measure /ˈmɛʒ.ɚ/
82 French (IPA) ʒ ➔ jamais /ʒa.mɛ/ déjà /de.ʒa/
3 British English (IPA) æ ➔ man /ˈmæn/ back /ˈbæk/
37 American English (IPA) æ ➔ ask /ˈæsk/ back /ˈbæk/
114 Russian (IPA) æ ➔ взял /ˈvzʲæl/ меня /mʲɪ.ˈnʲæ/
70 French (IPA) ø ➔ Europe /ø.ʁɔp/ lieu /ljø/
94 Spanish (IPA) β ➔ favor /fa.ˈβoɾ/ sabes /ˈsa.βes/
27 British English (IPA) θ ➔ three /ˈθriː/ nothing /ˈnʌθ.ɪŋ/
56 American English (IPA) θ ➔ three /ˈθɹi/ nothing /ˈnʌθ.ɪŋ/
105 Spanish (IPA) θ ➔ gracias /ˈɡɾa.θjas/ hacer /a.ˈθɛɾ/
It is interesting to notice some sounds appear in the standard pronunciations of several languages, while others are less common.

One can copy the above data, paste it in new spreadsheet and order the first column to find the order for each language. In some formats, importing does not work well since the arrow signs can not be read. It works in Google Docs, though I used Notepad, Notepad++, and LibreOffice/Excel to sort the list.

Pronunciations, accents, and dialects
The pronunciations of a word fall within a range, therefore the accuracy of the phonetic transcription will be specific to a particular accent. In the following, there are two words used frequently, accent and dialect. An accent sounds different, a dialect also has differences in vocabulary and grammar.
The Wiki, on Regional accents of English, has:
This article provides an overview of the numerous identifiable variations in pronunciation; such distinctions usually derive from the phonetic inventory of local dialects, as well as from broader differences in the Standard English of different primary-speaking populations.

Accent is the part of dialect concerning local pronunciation. Vocabulary and grammar are described elsewhere; see List of dialects of the English language.
The Wiki for List of dialects of English mentions:
Dialects are linguistic varieties that may differ in pronunciation, vocabulary, spelling and grammar. For the classification of varieties of English only in terms of pronunciation, see regional accents of English.
In school systems, Standard English in many forms are important, though this may vary according to region, the above Wiki has:
In an English-speaking country, Standard English (SE) is the variety of English that has undergone substantial regularisation and is associated with formal schooling, language assessment, and official print publications, such as public service announcements and newspapers of record, etc.[1] It is local to nowhere: its grammatical and lexical components are no longer regionally marked, although many of them originated in different, non-adjacent dialects, and it has very little of the variation found in spoken or earlier written varieties of English. According to Trudgill,[2] Standard English is a dialect pre-eminently used in writing that is largely distinguishable from other English dialects by means of its grammar.
Standard English in Britain is British English
British English (BrE) is the standard dialect of the English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom.[5]
In relation to the teaching of British English to foreign students, the above Wiki mentions Received Pronunciation as a model:
Most people in Britain speak with a regional accent or dialect. However, about 2% of Britons speak with an accent called Received Pronunciation[16] (also called "the Queen's English", "Oxford English" and "BBC English"[17]), that is essentially region-less.[18][19] It derives from a mixture of the Midlands and Southern dialects spoken in London in the early modern period.[19] It is frequently used as a model for teaching English to foreign learners.[19]
To explain the time of formation of Received Pronunciation, there is:
The early modern period of modern history follows the late Middle Ages of the post-classical era. Although the chronological limits of this period are open to debate, the timeframe spans the period after the late post-classical or Middle Ages (c. 1400–1500) through the beginning of the Age of Revolutions (c. 1800).
Another frequent model for foreign students learning English can be
General American English. The Wiki has:
General American English or General American (abbreviated GA or GenAm) is the umbrella accent of American English spoken by a majority of Americans and widely perceived, among Americans, as lacking any distinctly regional, ethnic, or socioeconomic characteristics.[1][2][3] In reality, it encompasses a continuum of accents rather than a single unified accent.[4] Americans with high education,[5] or from the North Midland, Western New England, and Western regions of the country, are the most likely to be perceived as having General American accents.[6][7][8] The precise definition and usefulness of the term General American continue to be debated,[9][10][11] and the scholars who use it today admittedly do so as a convenient basis for comparison rather than for exactness.[9][12] Other scholars prefer the term Standard American English.[3][5]

Standard Canadian English accents are sometimes considered to fall under General American,[13] especially in opposition to the United Kingdom's Received Pronunciation; in fact, typical Canadian English accents align with General American in nearly every situation where British and American accents differ.[14]
To explain further, General American English is an American English within North American English that also includes Canadian English. Some of the above pages goes into details with the differences in pronunciation and have even links to sound bits. Se also:
North American English regional phonology.

The range of dialects
For an illustration of the range of dialects and accents across the British Isles and North America, below are three images. From the List of dialects of English:
Dialects British Isles.png
From North American English Canada and mainland US:
Canadian English dialects.png
American dialetcs.png
Understanding different accents and dialects
The advice of one teacher I watched was to expose oneself to the sounds of different dialects in order to increase the range of Englishes one can understand. If you are required or have chosen to imitate a particular dialect, you will have to see how to go about that when exposing yourself to many others.


FOTCM Member
Interesting, thanks! Now, can you read this? it's Standard American:

Screenshot 2021-09-14 130953.png

When you are interested in this, IPA can help notice nuances that you wouldn't unless you have a very attentive ear and lots of training. But, like I said before, I don't think it's for everyone. It's a lot of work for a very small return to language learners, OSIT. And, like you pointed out, accents can then vary so much, that the transcription above may not give you an accurate depiction in the end.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
In case some of you don't know about it, I've found this app to be quite useful.

It allows you to basically watch any video in your target language AND get subtitles, both in your mother tongue and in the target language as well. You can export a PDF or copy the text. The translation is not perfect, but it works quite well.

It's handy to listen to interesting people in foreign languages too even if you aren't learning the language and are just interested in the content. :-)

Another extension I've found useful is called Toucan for Firefox and Chrome/Brave, which does that for text pages. So it will insert words from the language you wish to learn into web pages that you can look up via mouse-over, or have whole sentences or paragraphs translated.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
a) always reading material that I had audio for (never separate until level B1 was reached)
If somebody is interested in French, and wish to read a text along with an audiobook, then this page Lectures Cle en Français Facile offers more than 50 easy readers in mixed genres and of varying difficulty. The audiobooks are on the webpage for each book. If you download the audio file, you can adjust the speed of the playback on a VLC player or similar.

Probably other companies provide similar services. One could look for "easy readers in English" or or alternatively: French/Spanish/Russian/Chinese etc., or one can translate the words into the target language and search that way, which may give different publishers. A few searches that worked for me: FR, livres en français facile/ES, libros fáciles en español para extranjeros/RU, книги на легком русском языке для иностранцев. I did not forget Chinese, but after a few translation variants in different search engines, also www.baido.com, I concluded the most consistent results actually appear to come in English. If needed one could ask in a social media group for the learning of Chinese.
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