Language learning

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Marianne
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Language learning

Postby Marianne » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:56 am

Any other people here who love picking up new languages? Want to share embarrassing stories, tips and tricks for learning, etc?

Personally I'm a language magpie--I speak English natively, French well, and German badly, and I've studied... uh... Russian, Arabic, Italian, Gothic, Old Norse, Latin, ancient Greek, and bits and pieces of Old English and Old French.

I don't know if I have many tips, since language learning comes pretty easily to me so I'm hardly one to advise others, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the only foreign languages I have any real proficiency in--French and German and to some extent Latin--are the ones where I exposed myself to lots of media (books, music, etc.) in that language. Textbook readings just don't cut it, as far as grasping how a language works in the real world and having any hope of retaining it once classes are over.

Music is really helpful, especially at the beginning stages, because not only does it expand your vocab and grammar, it acts as a ready-made mnemonic device. It sounds really silly but I... uh... accidentally taught myself German by listening to too much Rammstein when I was fourteen. And even now if I'm completely blanking on the gender of a noun I will mentally check whether I've heard it in a lyric somewhere, and often I'll remember what article goes with it in the context of the line.

(The full story of how I accidentally learned German is far too bizarre and amusing for me to do it justice at 4:30 in the morning, so I'll save it for another post, but "listened to too much Rammstein" is a pretty good summary.)
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.
- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

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Euphrasie
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Re: Language learning

Postby Euphrasie » Thu Jan 13, 2011 12:52 pm

I take French and Spanish at school, (and since I've taken Spanish since the seventh grade, I'm probably better at it) and the way I remember how to say cake in French (gateau) is because one day my French teacher was talking about buying cake at the store. I was in Spanish mode at the time for some reason, so I spent a couple of minutes wondering why she was buying a cat (which is gato in Spanish) at the bakery.
I'm pretty sure my cat's been reading my diary.

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Meg-Giry
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Re: Language learning

Postby Meg-Giry » Thu Jan 13, 2011 12:53 pm

I'd love to pick up something new in langues, beside I'm not the greatest talent...
I speak Swissgerman (if that counts - it would be my motherlangue), German, qutie good English and very bad French. So it's not much I can. And I always mess up my writing.

But a funny story of langues I can tell.
One I was with my friends walking along the Seine, when a man asked my friend: " Il y a FISCH dedans?" Meaning: Are there fishes in it? (the Seine) My friend starred at him - knwoing something was wrong with this quetion. But befor she found out the man told the women at his side, in Swissgerman. "Oh no - I used the German word for fish!"
So my fiend helpfulla ansured: "Ja, da hat es Poissons." Meaning: Yes, there are fishes. Speaking the whole sentence in Swissgerman using the french word for fisch.
It was as strange to ask her as a tourist something like that - as to ask me - in the middle of Prais for the way - when I hardly unterstood a word.

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Aurelia Combeferre
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Re: Language learning

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Thu Jan 13, 2011 2:34 pm

I only got to be bilingual during my high school days; English was my first language, and I was barely passing my Filipino language classes. That was, until my friends upped the ante and made this deal: I had to speak in Filipino for two straight weeks, otherwise I wouldn''t be allowed to join them on a trip they were taking into the mountains. Well, the trip got canceled the day we were supposed to leave, but I came through anyway.

Now, I'm picking up random bits of French and Spanish, thanks to stuff lying around the house and to my listening to songs. My embarrassing moment was when I tried to post to my Twitter in French, forgetting completely the feminine form of ""fatigue" . I got quite a few laughs.
"...all aptitudes having equal opportunity; politically, all votes having equal weight; religiously, all consciences having equal rights."

Usefulbeauty
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Re: Language learning

Postby Usefulbeauty » Thu Jan 13, 2011 7:27 pm

Haha, I love you for "accidentally" learning German.
Right now I only speak English and (caveman) French. (As in, "I'll be understood if I put enough words together and then gesture with my hands, right?") I'd like to learn to speak it fluently, but progress is coming along rather slowly. Like you said, music has been a big help, especially for me with pronounciation.

No funny stories on my part, but I had a friend who has a boy from Japan living with them (I think as part of a study abroad type thing?). My friend was trying to say "Happy Birthday" to him in his native language, but apparently what he ended up saying was "Go die, fat man."
Let us read and let us dance--two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.
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Starlene
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Re: Language learning

Postby Starlene » Thu Jan 13, 2011 8:42 pm

XD I laughed at that "go die, fat man" thing maybe a little too loud.

I speak Finnish as my native language, good English, poor Swedish and miserable French.

I've learned English very easily because it's around all the time - nearly all the music I listen to is in English, the websites I go to are in English, I watch movies in English... And it's such an useful language to know, so I've always been very motivated to learn it.

With Swedish and French things are a little different.

Every Finn has to study Swedish, and while I'm not one of those who hate it with fiery passion I still don't really love it. It's not too hard, but because I don't use it outside school almost at all I tend to forget a lot. I can say the basic stuff but if I need to write something any more complex than "Jättebra!!" I have to check everything from the dictionary.

And French... I've been studying it for seven years or so, but since I use it outside school even less than Swedish it often feels like I forget everything. It's always been one of the harder subjects for me.
I don't know why French is so difficult for me. Even though I try to listen to French music and such not much stays in my head, as simple as that. Well, some of it is just a matter of self-control and trusting in myself: if there's a French text I don't understand I give up very easily.
And soon it's the first French lesson after an almost half a year long pause. Eek!
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hazellwood
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Re: Language learning

Postby hazellwood » Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:47 pm

Ohhh languages. I love languages.

I'm fluent in English (it being my mother language), and I know a little bit of Old English. I can read and write French okay--I have enough basic knowledge to be able to successfully translate some things, but I have difficulty conjugating and distinguishing feminine and masculine terms. I can't speak it well, and I definitely wouldn't be able to hold conversation. A lot of my knowledge is from fashion plates, musicals and opera, and political stuff I've picked up from Les Mis. I can read some Latin and some ancient Greek. (I'm attempting to teach myself more Latin so I've spent more time with it.) I know some German, but I literally can't speak it because I can't make the noises. Same with Hebrew. The languages I want to learn but have never studied are Bosnian, Polish, Swedish, Portugese, and Hungarian. The priority outside of Latin and French right now is Bosnian.

I'm more of a language reader than a language speaker. :mrgreen:

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method in madness
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Re: Language learning

Postby method in madness » Fri Jan 14, 2011 1:00 am

Usefulbeauty wrote:My friend was trying to say "Happy Birthday" to him in his native language, but apparently what he ended up saying was "Go die, fat man."

Oh my goodness. :lol:
I am a native English speaker with five years of Spanish under my belt. I can read and write Spanish with some confidence; my weakness has always been speaking, mostly because I stress myself out about it far too much.
I'm planning on trying to teach myself French and Italian once the dust settles on the college search process. Again, I think reading and writing won't be so bad (especially considering that they're all Romance languages), but speaking...again, my best knowledge comes from songs (like how, after repeatedly playing the OFC clip on Youtube, I think I finally got the chorus of "A La Volonte du Peuple" down).
My Spanish teacher has a theory that people with a good "ear for music" find foreign languages easier to learn (particularly the inflections of speaking them). In my AP class of 11, there are at least three singers, a cellist, and a highly accomplished pianist...but it's also possible that the artsy kids are just more likely to take advanced language classes. What do you guys think?
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Re: Language learning

Postby thoroughly_mod_mizzy » Fri Jan 14, 2011 5:11 am

English is my native language, and I can occasionally be a grammar Nazi. I read French decently and speak it badly, and I've got an optimistic streak that says that I'll have to pick up SOME German by listening to Elisabeth repeatedly.
I tried learning Spanish one time. All I remember now is how to say "The television is very important."
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nashie-chan
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Re: Language learning

Postby nashie-chan » Sat Jan 15, 2011 4:32 pm

Ooh, language learning~

English is my native language - I was born and raised in Wisconsin and apparently we sound like Canada's little brother in regards to accents. In middle school, we all had to learn a foreign language and I had signed up for French. Unfortunately the French classes were full which they neglected to tell me until the first day of school. I looked at my schedule and went to the office, going, "I'm not supposed to be in Spanish." That was when they told me the classes were full and I had to take Spanish, which I had NO desire to learn.

I ended up taking five years of Spanish (three years required in middle school, two in high school). The result? I haven't spoken it seriously since then (does Spanglish count?) although I can read it just fine, and instead ventured off into learning French and Japanese.

And then I married a guy whose mom's family mostly lives in Italy (and he himself is fluent in Italian) so guess what language I tried learning next? 8D

I also speak fluent Gibberish, but that's another story entirely. 8)
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Euphrasie
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Re: Language learning

Postby Euphrasie » Sat Jan 15, 2011 4:42 pm

nashie-chan wrote:Ooh, language learning~

English is my native language - I was born and raised in Wisconsin and apparently we sound like Canada's little brother in regards to accents. In middle school, we all had to learn a foreign language and I had signed up for French. Unfortunately the French classes were full which they neglected to tell me until the first day of school. I looked at my schedule and went to the office, going, "I'm not supposed to be in Spanish." That was when they told me the classes were full and I had to take Spanish, which I had NO desire to learn.

I ended up taking five years of Spanish (three years required in middle school, two in high school). The result? I haven't spoken it seriously since then (does Spanglish count?) although I can read it just fine, and instead ventured off into learning French and Japanese.



It seems that's what guidance counselors are born to do. In seventh grade, I actually wanted to take Italian, but on my schedule the first day, they said I had Spanish I. Which clearly was a mistake--last year when we were doing our schedules, I told my guidance counselor that I wanted to take Italian. She agreed. If she had put me in a French class instead, that would've saved me some time, but then I wouldn't have discovered my love for Spanish culture.
I'm pretty sure my cat's been reading my diary.

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Lelia
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Re: Language learning

Postby Lelia » Fri Jan 21, 2011 3:34 pm

I'm confident enough in my French to know I'd survive if you abandoned me in Paris for a week. I just wouldn't be able to converse with anyone for more than 5 minutes.
At the moment I'm self-teaching myself Japanese. I think it's going rather well. The fact I like manga/anime/the pretty people that make music helps a lot.
I dabble in Swedish quite a bit as well and thus know lots of random phrases that will most likely be of no use to me in the future.
I too am impossible

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Marianne
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Re: Language learning

Postby Marianne » Fri Jan 21, 2011 4:53 pm

Lelia wrote:I'm confident enough in my French to know I'd survive if you abandoned me in Paris for a week. I just wouldn't be able to converse with anyone for more than 5 minutes.
At the moment I'm self-teaching myself Japanese. I think it's going rather well. The fact I like manga/anime/the pretty people that make music helps a lot.
I dabble in Swedish quite a bit as well and thus know lots of random phrases that will most likely be of no use to me in the future.


You'd be surprised, I managed to carry on some decent conversations with very patient French-speakers back when my French was more theoretical than practical. You just need to stumble upon that one person who will be like "Don't be embarrassed, you're communicating, aren't you? That means you're doing better than 95% of your countrymen, now keep talking!" instead of "...maybe this would be less painful for both of us if we switched to English."

I was doing an immersion program in 2007 and didn't believe I could talk for more than a couple minutes at a stretch, then I had a tutor who hit upon the magic words: "Tell me what happens in Les Mis. Don't skip over the details." Forty-five minutes later...

Okay, the full story of how I accidentally learned German: I have a sort of hyper-verbal brain that's unusually adept at picking up language structures, which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing for obvious reasons, a curse because other things like math and music get routed through the verbal parts of my brain too, and so I can't, say, read/write (or even surf the internet) while listening to music or my wires get hopelessly crossed. It wasn't always this way. Once upon a time I could do text/music multitasking (and once upon a time I saw music in color, but that's another story). Then around adolescence it started slowly disappearing. There was a point around when I was fourteen when I could read while listening to music, but only as long as there were no lyrics I could understand.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

Being fourteen and really into music that made my parents flinch, I was SO DELIGHTED to find Rammstein because it was awesome and I didn't speak a word of German so I could listen to it while I wrote. This continued for... a few weeks maybe? Then I started picking out words that were suspiciously close to English words, and I started getting curious about what was going on in between, so I took the plunge. I looked up the lyrics and the translations of a few of my favorite songs.

German is close enough to English that once I had a translation it was easy to tell which words corresponded to what. This meant all I had to do was go back and listen to those songs some more, and I had a ready-made lesson on pronunciation and a small but useful vocabulary to work with--a handful of nouns and verbs, and most of the common prepositions and pronouns. Then I unofficially got the hang of the word order. Then I started noticing verb conjugations. Then I started noticing that the articles and pronouns changed if they went with a subject, a direct object, or an indirect object. Then I noticed that they seemed to do it irregularly oh my god this does not make sense sometimes they even do different things with the same preposition and went to german.about.com to clear up this URGENT AND LIFE-CHANGING MYSTERY. And it all went downhill from there.

Suffice to say that when I walked into my first day of high school German class, I could no longer multitask while listening to Rammstein, and I could chatter fluently about fire, death, blood, crosses, churchyards, BDSM, and frozen undead children with music boxes in the place of hearts, but I had no idea how to say "Hello, my name is Marianne."
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

Ulkis
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Re: Language learning

Postby Ulkis » Fri Jan 21, 2011 7:17 pm

There was a point around when I was fourteen when I could read while listening to music, but only as long as there were no lyrics I could understand.


I'm impressed with anyone who can listen to music with lyrics (they understand) and read at the same time. I can do it if I'm reading a message board or something or but if I'm actually trying to concentrate on a novel or something I'm really into I have to shut it off. Although with instrumental music (that isn't too loud) I actually read better because it'll drown out any small annoying sounds. I can read better listening to a running washing machine that say, water dripping from the faucet.

Suffice to say that when I walked into my first day of high school German class, I could no longer multitask while listening to Rammstein, and I could chatter fluently about fire, death, blood, crosses, churchyards, BDSM, and frozen undead children with music boxes in the place of hearts, but I had no idea how to say "Hello, my name is Marianne."


Heh. But neither did the rest of the kids probably, so you still had the advantage over them!

I grew up speaking some Polish, but I don't know any proper grammar or anything, so it sounds quite horrible, and when I picked up my mom's old grammar book to try to learn, I got so bored because the book starts from scratch. I think I need to pick up a language learning audio and listen to it while I'm on the treadmill, that could help with my concentration, although maybe I should try to learn proper English grammar first!

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Re: Language learning

Postby Bannik » Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:06 am

Ulkis wrote:I grew up speaking some Polish, but I don't know any proper grammar or anything, so it sounds quite horrible, and when I picked up my mom's old grammar book to try to learn, I got so bored because the book starts from scratch. I think I need to pick up a language learning audio and listen to it while I'm on the treadmill, that could help with my concentration, although maybe I should try to learn proper English grammar first!


It's the same for me but with Russian. I'm a native speaker but I pretty much switched to English at the age of five so I have the vocabulary and vague grasp of grammar of a small child. Instead of a regular grammar book, maybe you could try a review book or study guide type of thing. I'm working through one right now and it's so much better than the other grammar books I've looked at because it assumes you're already familiar with everything and simply reminds you about it very concisely instead of trying to teach. There are plenty of exercises as well.

For language learning in general I like to read children's books. They're so much more accessible to language noobs than real literature. I have a copy of the French translation of Alice in Wonderland because for some silly reason my local bookstores don't carry actual French children's books. It's pretty awesome, though, and very forgiving.

And I found possibly the best history book in the universe while digging through my old stash of Russian kid's books. It's called My First History of Russia and it was written right around 1900. I've only read a few bits, but hardly a paragraph goes by without the words might or glory. The afterward is particularly shameless with gems like "Russia is mighty and great is her glory. She never did anything mean or dishonest." And the majority of the page on Alexander III concerns the beauty of his death and how much everybody cried. I kinda love it.


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