Language learning thread

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by wallyj84, Oct 25, 2010.

  1. wallyj84

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    I've been looking at some of the threads here and it seems that quite a few members have an interest in learning foreign languages.

    So I'm thinking with this thread we can discuss languages we have learned, difficulties we've had, tips and just anything related to learning a language different than your native tongue.

    I'll start with a simple question, what's the most difficult part of learning a foreign language for you?

    For me it's learning new vocabulary. That might be because I've mainly studied East Asian languages, but I always have to spend a lot of time memorizing vocab words.

    Anyone else have a similar view? Any tips or suggestions?
     
  2. D_Tim McGnaw

    D_Tim McGnaw Account Disabled

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    learning German all through school I've never found grammar difficult, and like a mimic I can do most accents and pronunciation pretty easily. My comprehension in several languages is good, what I forget when trying to either refresh or learn a language is the simple things, like little words which are crucial to making sentences make sense, things like that.

    I really need to relearn Italian, it drives me wild how much I've forgotten, but the extent to which Spanish (which I speak better than Italian) and Italian blur in to one in my head is nightmarish, my rudimentary Latin gets in to the mix too sometimes! For pleasure I want to learn Japanese.
     
  3. molotovmuffin

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    I barely know my own language...
     
  4. Bbucko

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    I like to say that I speak two and one-half languages: my English and French are fluent and come more-or-less with equal ease (though it does require a moment's re-wiring in my brain, as fluent speaking requires one to think in that language, not continuously translate). My half-language is Spanish, which I learned in bed, in restaurants and in shoe stores :cool:

    The reason why I can only claim half-fluency is my stubborn laziness to bother learning Spanish verbs, though I understand spoken Spanish with ease 98% of the time. I can even differentiate between, say, Cuban, Venezuelan and Mexican accents. Many years ago, I used my exceedingly limited Spanish with an Italian family who, for some reason, was buying furniture in Boston despite none of them speaking so much as a word of English. They were so grateful for my efforts that I outfitted virtually the entire house.

    I studied Russian for a semester before (stupidly) dropping out; the Cyrillic alphabet baffled me, and, at least for me, the language was exceedingly difficult to pronounce.

    I can negotiate porn blogs written in Portuguese and Catalan, though would never profess to anything but the most rudimentary understanding of either. This is because, as I figured out while gaining "the ear" in Paris, 80% of comprehension is anticipating what will be said (or written) in advance. It's only the unexpected responses that truly threw me off.

    I have a friend from Australia who speaks Japanese quite well. He says it's (relatively) simple for English speakers due to its straight-forward grammar and ease of pronunciation.

    The only German I know comes from watching porn :redface:
     
  5. zaragoza

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    I'm fluent in both spanish and english,(My first language is spanish).I don't remember having any trouble learning english,but i was taught at a very early age,which i think was very useful,if you actually spoke to me,you'd be surprised about the fact that i sound 100% american.

    I would love to and i will learn how to speak japanese,i also think that french and italian are beautiful languages.You don't know when being multilingual will come in handy.
     
  6. nudeyorker

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    I'm fairly fluent in english and french but I have to use both or my speech and pronunciation become lazy.
    I can get by in italian or spanish speaking countries but I really have to think about what I am saying or writing. If I am in a place for at least a week where I speak either language it is less of a strain.
    Japanese is something else all together; it takes everything I have to communicate in Japan and for some strange reason I end up thinking in either french or spanish or italian when I am struggling with Japanese.
    One thing that I have found that helps me if I am visiting another country is immersing myself by reading or writing the things that I might need to communicate for several days.
    I'm working at learning Hebrew at the moment with difficulty.
     
    #6 nudeyorker, Oct 25, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2010
  7. Bbucko

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    Please pardon my ignorance in such matters, but don't nearly all Jewish kids go to Hebrew School? I always thought it was something like Catechism was for Catholics.
     
  8. nudeyorker

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    Yes but speaking a language and memorizing and reciting when you are 13 years old are two different things. BTW my brother and I did our Bar Mitzvah together. I was told I am a master at lip syncing.
     
  9. Calboner

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    To add to what Nude Yorker has already said: In my experience, Reform Jewish Hebrew school is pretty much a joke; and my viewing of the movie A Serious Man inclines me to think that the institution does not fare much better in Conservative Jewish communities. (Orthodox Jews would be quite another matter.) A reasonably attentive graduate can sound out the letters (provided that the vowel points are written in) and recite a smattering of words and phrases. I have read excerpts from documents written in the 19th century in which American Reform Jewish educators deplore the conditions of Hebrew school: how little it is possible to do in just two hours a week of instruction and how uncooperative, inattentive, and restive the students are: it sounds just like my own experience a hundred years later.
     
  10. Bbucko

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    Thanks for the clarification. When I was 19, I briefly dated a brilliant-but-troubled guy (in other words, just my type) who took so well to Hebrew School that he more or less graduated from pupil to instructor. The remembered bits and pieces of scattered dialog I remember us sharing always made me think that it went deeper than memorizing prayers, etc, so the image has always just stuck with me.

    But what you say makes perfect sense to this WASP goy :wink:

    ETA: Thanks, Cal, for the added info.
     
  11. nudeyorker

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    Dash Cham, I forgot to mention earlier that I'm also studying Hawaiian so Me ke Aloha!
     
  12. Calboner

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    I took classes in German from middle school through college but never actually learned to speak it until I finally went to Germany for a summer course at a university there. After that, I finally had something to build on. After I had finished college, I took a French course at a university language lab, without an instructor, and acquired a sufficient command of basic grammar and vocabulary to continue learning the language on my own. After that, I taught myself Italian and Spanish, though I did not persist with Spanish long enough to solidify what I had learned. Through this process, I got the idea that I was good at learning languages. Then, when I was in my forties, I tried to learn Russian. I tried on my own and did not get very far. I took a class and got a little further, but still not very far. I took some private lessons and learned a little bit more, but still did not get very far. Eventually, I fucking gave up.

    What troubles me most about this dismal outcome is the likelihood that it owes less to the inherent difficulty of the Russian language (for Anglophones) than it does to the decline in my powers of memory. I fear that the primary source of my difficulty is CRS (can't remember shit).
     
  13. bigbull29

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    I do French (very fluent), German (semi-fluent), Russian (intermediate) and Turkish (intermediate). My Japanese grammar knowledge is pretty high, but my vocab is extremely limited (reading ability practically non-existant).

    One shouldn't generalize and qualify one language as being harder than another (not linguistically intelligent). It drives me crazy when there are threads on language forums discussing "the hardest language", which is often considered to be Finnish, Mandarin, Japanese, Polish, etc. It's just best to compare aspects between languages, once the mother tongue of the learner has been established. I don't have a problem, though, with someone saying that he or she found one language to be more difficult than another, provided serious attempts were made to learn both (I mean a Pole is not going to find Russian harder than English or German). Just don't generalize and universalize your experience.

    Yes, Bbucko, Russian pronunciation is a bitch, and I'm very gifted for accents. Although I've pretty much mastered it, it took me a tad longer (and, yes, again, to the Cyrillic alphabet being a second bitch, even though some folks say it was so damn easy at first).

    French pronunciation is often considered quite difficult for native English speakers -- and it is! However, it all always came quite easy to me (but I'm rare LOL.)

    Apart from the writing system (Kanji), Japanese seems somewhat easy in terms of pronunciation and grammar, but grasping some of the main concepts are extremely difficult to grasp (e.g., particles wa vs ga politeness issues, etc)
     
  14. Bbucko

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    I think part of my problem with Russian is that my instructor was not gifted with accents (at all: she was also my 10th grade French teacher), and found little correlation between the Russian I heard in the language lab and the one she spoke in class. It was just a huge disconnect for me.

    The issue with French for Anglophones revolves around multiple vowel sounds, I think. English is pretty much consonant sounds interspersed with vowels one after the other; French is not, at least not always. Take a word like vielle, for instance, or oreille, where the "ll" takes on a "y" sound, or that odd little exhale taken after eu, su or bu. These are very difficult things to learn except once immersed in a completely Francophone environment. Everything I hear in Portuguese has the similar issue: where are the fucking consonants? :tongue:

    Politeness issues must be a huge big deal in Japanese, much more than that faintly annoying tu/vous thing, which I always thought a waste of breath (but used, without fail). It drove me nuts when my BF's mother would vouvoie me, as I felt it connoted a lack of acceptance, when in reality she used the same person for all of her kid's SOs. That took a month or so to really figure out.
     
  15. luka82

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    Living in ex Yugoslavia makes you multilingual by birth: Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian...(almost the same shit, anyway)
    I have been studying English since the age of 8 and spelling is the worst part for me. I have a very rich vocabulary in English but I hardly use it because I hate the fact that I don`t know how to spell correctly. I have a degree in Arabic, so I`d say I`m quite fluent. And I have spent four years studying French in high school. I understand a lot nowadays, but can`t speak much of it:(
     
    #15 luka82, Oct 25, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2010
  16. accemb

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    Languages came easily to me. I grew up in the same house as my Italian grandparents, and in high school and college, I studied Latin, Spanish, Italian, and French. I have not used much of my language skills in the years since college, having gone into a career in publishing and ad sales. However, when I went to France in 1988, and Mexico in 1991, much of it came back. Hearing Spanish and French in usage helped me to recall more of it than I expeced to. Occasionaly, now, on cable TV, I can catch French, Spanish and Italian news programs, and understand some of it (they speak too fast).
     
  17. joyboytoy79

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    I have a knack for saying "I don't speak..." in a variety of languages. That's not exactly helpful.

    I took 3.5 years of Spanish in High School, but I hardly ever use it. As a result, I have a moderate but waning vocab, and a decent understanding of grammar.

    Now I'm taking French in college, which is MUCH more fast paced than High School was, yet it seems to make so much more sense. It helps, of course, that dans la classe, nous parlons fran├žais.
     
  18. Calboner

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    Sure, if you divide one language up into three or four "languages" differentiated by the location and ethnicity of the people who speak them, then the speaker of one of those languages becomes "multilingual"! I once read a scholarly book, published, I think, about five years ago, on the language or languages that used to make up Serbo-Croatian. The author, an English scholar of Slavic languages, reported that in Belgrade he was complimented on his speaking Serbian so well, while in Zagreb he was complimented on his excellent Croatian. He was, of course, simply speaking one language throughout his travels. At one point, though, he ran afoul of what Freud once called the narcissism of small differences: while in Serbia he used a word for one of the months of the year (I don't remember which one) that is now used only in Croatia (or maybe it was the other way around). One of the people that he was talking with took him aside somewhat crossly and demanded that he recite the months of the year in Serbian.
     
    #18 Calboner, Oct 25, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2010
  19. DiscoBoy

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    Being raised by Portuguese immigrants (who, to this day, are still unable to speak fluent English), my first language was Portuguese. I picked up English from TV, and obviously when I was put into school. When I was 11, I was put into 2-hour Portuguese classes after school on a daily basis (excluding weekends), for 3 years. I hated it, but I'm happy I was made to go as I learned to read and write the language proficiently. It's helped quite a bit with other romance languages.

    I took French for all of high school (and elementary school, as is mandatory here in Canada), and I have a basic level of comprehension-- I get by. Understanding it is really easy, and I've no problem with the pronunciation, but the verb tenses get confusing (I translate from Portuguese into French in my mind to simplify things).

    I've never studied Spanish, but I understand it perfectly. There are heavy similarities to Portuguese; more closely related than any of the other romance languages, I'd imagine. Speaking it is only made difficult by the fact that I replace Spanish verbs with Portuguese ones.

    Watching television in foreign languages really helps with learning them.
     
  20. D_Gunther Snotpole

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    How well do you do during visits back to Portugal?
    Do some people assume you've lived there all your life?
    Or are there little giveaways that you're from elsewhere?
     
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