Learning languages

May 6, 2009
8,524
1
0
One of the great things about this forum is that we have a lot of people who don't speak English as a first language (even though they are fluent), or others who speak more then one language. So anyway, I'm really looking at learning a new language, and I have contacted an old friend of mine to speak to his wife about the possibility of teaching me Japanese (she is from Japan and teaches it). I have been to Japan before, and I survived for the 8 days I was there, but when it came to communicating with the locals, it was a bit of a struggle, and I do intend on visiting the country again next year. Also, I feel as though I need new challenges to keep my mind active or otherwise it will turn to mush.

I realise learning a new language is best when you are a child, but unfortunately I'm past that stage, and at 25, it's going to be a lot harder. So how hard did people find in learning a new language, and did you find learning English easy or hard (for those who are not native English speakers)? Also, is there an 'easy' language to learn?

I'm not too bad in picking up bits and pieces of French and Italian, and make out bits of Spanish, but I would have to know what the topic was about.

Otherwise, I could get someone (and I know who I could ask) to teach me German if I so wish.
 
AS far as I am concerned, the only way to learn a language is to use it as much as possible. Taking lessons for an hour or so a week isn't much help.

I didn't speak more than a few words of German when I moved here. Being immersed in the language helps you to learn it fast, although I am still not really satsified with my German.

Susan
 
Jul 10, 2010
2,906
1
0
Immersion - works the best for me. I've always hated the classroom stuff - gag me. It's never useful.

I go someplace, and I can start picking it up within a couple weeks - at least for the Romance languages. I went to Russia, and it took me about a year and a half to reach a level that would have taken less than 3 months for Spanish or Italian.
 
Cool thread, Craig. :)

I came to Belgium with bunk-off schoolboy French. I've only picked up courtesy Dutch but due to being uncertain about my future here and living in a majority francophone city, I haven't taken the Dutch further as yet.

I haven't taken any lessons since I've been here. I work mostly in English and I chat in French. My French is pretty reasonable now after a couple of years of it and I get on well, especially since almost everyone in this city is a foreigner in some way. Listening to some folks who've been here longer can be quite intimidating - after 10 years only the accent gives you away!

The things that have helped me most with French as a latinate language are:

1. Practice with native speakers - if you don't have this, you cannot go beyond the glass ceiling
2. A solid grounding in grammar having done Latin at school - helps you discover that all latinate languages are basically the same outside of the regional wrinkles (I can decypher simple stuff in any of FR, IT, RO and ES because of it)
3. Cultural context - reading novels, listening to the news and eating the food etc

EDIT -- 4. Necessity. Another problem with learning à distance is that you don't have to do it to survive and thrive. Reading Susan's post made me think that necessity in some environments, and the lack of it in others, has coloured my progress. At home I speak EN, which has made FR absorption a little slower (guessing from friends who have had to conduct love affairs etc in a second or third language) and at work I have to speak FR to be able to communicate with everyone possible, which has probably made FR absorption quicker.

You also have to love learning and using it, of course, not just doing it out of curiosity or boredom. That's why I don't buy all that cobblers about not picking up stuff beyond the age of whatever. If you want it enough, you'll get it. :)

Unlike "size", language itself doesn't matter, it's what you do with it that counts. ;)
 
Susan Westemeyer said:
AS far as I am concerned, the only way to learn a language is to use it as much as possible. Taking lessons for an hour or so a week isn't much help.

I didn't speak more than a few words of German when I moved here. Being immersed in the language helps you to learn it fast, although I am still not really satsified with my German.

Susan
I'm curious to know, Susan - you probably picked up oral DE from having to speak all the time and listening to folks around you. How did you get on with the reading and writing? Do you perceive a gap between your spoken facility and your reading and writing?
 
REading is no problem, and my understanding of spoken German is quite good. My writingin German is awful (at least in my opinion).

You have some good points: immersion, listening to and speaking with natives, hearing the local radio/tv, etc.

Susan
 
Susan Westemeyer said:
My writing in German is awful (at least in my opinion).
Interesting that you say that. I think just about all of the people I've met here with EN as their second, third or nth language have quite a low - deflated, even - opinion of their EN ability.

At first, I thought it was false modesty, but now I think it's just because they attempt to compare themselves on the same scale with native speakers (a level which is in practical terms unachievable, of course). I'm the same with FR.

I love it when a colleague comes over all humble and says something like this: "I am not really of the opinion that my English could be considered satisfactory and therefore I am somewhat loathe to use it openly, but I endeavour to improve so that I might be better understood despite my lack of clarity and instantaneity". ;)
 
Jul 14, 2009
2,499
0
0
Germans and Belgians were always very kind w helping as long as you have a vocabulary and are willing to try. Der,De,Das will kill anybody and verb conj will reveal anybody that didn't grow up there. My own experience is just make sure you don't take the lead in a bunch of conversations and you can learn lots. If you ask big sweepers about politics or culture everybody will be tired after going back and forth from native to English. For men it's way easier because once you learn how to say the common terms for female beauty and have a few beers everybody is more relaxed. If you are going to Germany or Belgium,Holland to race bikes enroll in volkshokshulle and just go out and practice your skills. Also watching Night Rider and Baywatch with sub titles will assist a little. Listen for phrases about ordering food and drink or in little shops was better than any school
 
fatandfast said:
If you are going to Germany or Belgium,Holland to race bikes enroll in volkshokshulle and just go out and practice your skills. Also watching Night Rider and Baywatch with sub titles will assist a little. Listen for phrases about ordering food and drink or in little shops was better than any school
This.

I attended a VHS course, it was very helpful. Watching the tv and having to speak German in stores were both very good.

Susan
 
Mar 18, 2009
745
0
0
Susan Westemeyer said:
This.

I attended a VHS course, it was very helpful. Watching the tv and having to speak German in stores were both very good.

Susan
Dang Susan...they still make 'em on VHS???

I second immersion, and listening to phrases used...

I knew diddly when I moved here (I still blame my wife for being a lousy Norsk teacher ;)) and struggled at first, but being forced to use it has work wonders...
 
Apr 26, 2010
325
0
0
I was taken to Jerusalem when I was 12, from Amsterdam, where I was born, as my parents got jobs with the UN there.
I did not speak a word of English, and after three months, I was fluent. I also quickly learned Arabic in the years that we were there, and when I went to the UK to read history, I took the opportunity to first study in France and then in Italy, so I speak those languages as well, albeit not as well as I would like to.
I still keep a lot of contacts in Israel, France and Italy to keep my languages at a considerable level.
 
First of all, the language you have chosen to study (Japanese) will be much more work than a language more closely related to your native language. As Japanese is a language isolate, there is very little in its word structure, grammatical structure or anything else that can be familiar to you, which could make learning it from book form either a) too simplistic, so that much of it is of little practical use, or b) too involved, so that much of it is daunting and difficult to follow without a background in linguistics.

The best benefit that I've found from book-learning languages is that I have an eye for language changes and families; words and concepts that are familiar across languages are vital in allowing you to expand your vocabulary, which makes reading the language much easier. Knowing the names of various grammatical terms may be utterly meaningless when you come to speak, but you do need to know how to form a sentence - plus if you start learning more languages, knowing those grammatical terms can be a shortcut, because when you are comfortable with language learning, it's easier to add a further one just by absorbing the structure of the language and then expanding your vocabulary by a combination of what you learn, what you hear and your own intuition. Never be afraid of saying that you don't understand, but do make it clear you want to learn - especially as a native English speaker; many foreigners like to practice their English and may feel that they're doing you a favour by doing so.

Ultimately, languages can be learnt many ways, but it all boils down to:
1) pick up basic set expressions for politeness and introducing yourself, family, food terms
2) work out set of rules that language works to, apply it to sentences and phrases you want to use
3) build the vocabulary and the confidence with experience.

Learning from a book can certainly help with 1) and 2) but is only really necessary for 2); that can be done without language teaching aid, but can be more time-consuming, depending on the person and their approach to learning. 3) is something you can only do by immersing yourself in the language. Motivation is also key; if you're in a position where it's not difficult to give up, then there's more chance you will. A situation where you force yourself to use the language may make it a chore and disrupt motivation; it's about finding a balance that suits you - but you need to make it something you do regularly, to keep it fresh in your mind.
 
Mar 8, 2010
3,263
1
0
"Just" and "only" bothers me right now. :confused:

When to write:
Just ?
Only ?
only just ? is this possible ?
just only ? is this possible ?

Must have forgotten some rules.
 
Mar 8, 2010
3,263
1
0
Immersion with some "basis" ist the best way to learn a language seriously, I think.

I always thought I could understand/talk English - till I was in England. :D
Many many heavy to understand dialects.

I shared an apartment with an (London)-Englischmann for some years, who was born in Ireland. Was good to understand and I learned a lot. But many years have elapsted since then and there is not much left because of missing practise.

For me, the Irish or London people are good to understand, American English a little bit tougher to understand, but the crown is Scottish or some dialects from the "northern *******s".
Thats how my mate called them. Sorry. :D


About French: I can read it very well (1 year French at school), but I will never understand them, when they talk. Most of them really talk to fast for my german brain.

Dutch: Simular to Deutsch but yet so different. But I understand most of it, when the are talking and I can also talk some Dutch. Main reason for that is, that I could throw stones out of my window and hit Holland
 
Cobblestoned said:
Immersion with some "basis" ist the best way to learn a language seriously, I think.

I always thought I could understand English - till I was in England. :D
Many many heavy to understand dialects.

I shared an apartment with an (London)-Englischmann for some years, who was born in Ireland. Was good to understand and I learned a lot. But many years have elapsted since than and there is not much left because of missing practise.

For me, the Irish or London people are good to understand, American English a little bit tougher to understand, but the crown is Scottish or some dialects from the "northern *******s".
Thats how my mate called them. Sorry. :D
That's the same with any language though. German is particularly bad for this because Low German is almost a whole new language! I lived in Frankfurt for a while, had the language absolutely sussed, more or less fluent, would get home at night and realise that, without noticing it, I'd been holding conversation in German for several hours at a time. I could understand all the Germans around me, most of the regionalisms made sense to me, everything was going great.

Then I visited Switzerland.
 

Barrus

BANNED
Apr 28, 2010
3,480
0
0
Libertine Seguros said:
That's the same with any language though. German is particularly bad for this because Low German is almost a whole new language! I lived in Frankfurt for a while, had the language absolutely sussed, more or less fluent, would get home at night and realise that, without noticing it, I'd been holding conversation in German for several hours at a time. I could understand all the Germans around me, most of the regionalisms made sense to me, everything was going great.

Then I visited Switzerland.
Yup, Suisse-Deutsch is terrible, hardly understandable. I can handle myself in Germany quite well (thank god that Dutch is just a dialect of German), but with Swiss people, it just becomes that much harder. Luckily those that I do came across also spoke English.

But to Craig, from what I've heard from some Canadian and American friends, is that German is one of the language that is easiest to learn from English.
Japanese is a language that is terribly hard to learn, again going from what I've heard from others.
 
My German husband swears the Swiss don't speak German.

I have few problems understanding Austrians, but the Swiss are much more difficult.

As to Dutch, I have always said that if you know German and English, you can read most Dutch.

By the way, Cobblestoned, I live only a few kms north of you, also on the border.

Susan
 
Barrus said:
Yup, Suisse-Deutsch is terrible, hardly understandable. I can handle myself in Germany quite well (thank god that Dutch is just a dialect of German), but with Swiss people, it just becomes that much harder. Luckily those that I do came across also spoke English.

But to Craig, from what I've heard from some Canadian and American friends, is that German is one of the language that is easiest to learn from English.
Japanese is a language that is terribly hard to learn, again going from what I've heard from others.
I disagree. German has surprisingly few words which are similar in english, and those who only speak english often struggle with the concept of masculine neuter, feminine nouns, adjectival endings, nominative and accusative tenses determined by endings rather than word order etc etc etc.

Spanish is in my opinion the easiest to learn from english. It has a very large number of words which are the same or similar in english, and the grammar is very similar to. There is masculine and feminine but you dont need to worry too much with word endings.
 
The Hitch said:
I disagree. German has surprisingly few words which are similar in english, and those who only speak english often struggle with the concept of masculine neuter, feminine nouns, adjectival endings, nominative and accusative tenses determined by endings rather than word order etc etc etc.

Spanish is in my opinion the easiest to learn from english. It has a very large number of words which are the same or similar in english, and the grammar is very similar to. There is masculine and feminine but you dont need to worry too much with word endings.
German is the most closely-related major language to English. The closest-related is probably Frisian (although some classify Scots - not Scots Gaelic, but Scots dialect - as a language). And actually, lots of the words are familiar to English, but slightly more obtuse or old-fashioned words that have been replaced by Romance loanwords. Also, the phonemic system of German is the closest to that of English, with the [x]/[ç] phonemes denoted by 'ch' being the only ones not existing in English; and unlike Dutch, the vowel system is almost the same. The Romance and Slavic languages can cause trouble for Germanic-speakers because of 'pro-drop', where the subject or even object of the sentence is not mentioned because it's clear from the conjugation - whereas English has very little by way of verb conjugation. Phonemically, Italian is probably the easiest of the Romance languages for an English-speaker - but Spanish may be easier grammatically and vocabulary-wise - although most of the Romance words in English come from French.
 
Mar 8, 2010
3,263
1
0
Libertine Seguros said:
That's the same with any language though. German is particularly bad for this because Low German is almost a whole new language! I lived in Frankfurt for a while, had the language absolutely sussed, more or less fluent, would get home at night and realise that, without noticing it, I'd been holding conversation in German for several hours at a time. I could understand all the Germans around me, most of the regionalisms made sense to me, everything was going great.

Then I visited Switzerland.
Schweizerdeutsch yes, its nearly complete other kind of Deutsch. But funny thing is, that they write it like normal Deutsch. :D

But when you are German and hear Luxemburgisch - thats the absolute hell (for me). I am really damaged by the fact, that I sat behind some Luxemburgers in the ICE for over 4 hours. :mad:
I think they write normal Deutsch nevertheless, too ?
 
A lot of Luxembourgers write French out of preference. Many also write German, for which they use standard (German) German. They do now have a fixed orthography for Lëtzebuergesch, however, so unlike Schwyzertüütsch (or however you're supposed to spell that) people can write in Luxembourgisch if they want. I did a bit on dialectology when I was studying German, and that entailed a bit of Lëtzebuergesch. I think you'd be best off asking Christian though - he's a Luxembourgish poster here.
 
Mar 8, 2010
3,263
1
0
The Hitch said:
I disagree. German has surprisingly few words which are similar in english, and those who only speak english often struggle with the concept of masculine neuter, feminine nouns, adjectival endings, nominative and accusative tenses determined by endings rather than word order etc etc etc.

Spanish is in my opinion the easiest to learn from english. It has a very large number of words which are the same or similar in english, and the grammar is very similar to. There is masculine and feminine but you dont need to worry too much with word endings.
Yes, thats the hardest point for English people, I think.
For example, my English mate once asked:
Why is it called "DIE Maus", but "die Sendung mit DER Maus" ? :D

For me, the similarity to English often is a trap for me. I mainly mean the sentence construction.
 
Mar 8, 2010
3,263
1
0
Susan Westemeyer said:
My German husband swears the Swiss don't speak German.

I have few problems understanding Austrians, but the Swiss are much more difficult.

As to Dutch, I have always said that if you know German and English, you can read most Dutch.

By the way, Cobblestoned, I live only a few kms north of you, also on the border.

Susan
Isch hoff ja für disch, datt du noch ein AC Kennzeischen hass ? Odder schonn HS ? ;)
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY

TRENDING THREADS