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How did you learn a foreign language and how did it affect your life?

Ruffian Dick :

I think that the point may be that one shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes in your new language. It causes many students to freeze up and stop studying.

I'm learning Indonesian and I've made more than a few howling bloopers on the way, the worst being telling the maid I wanted to watch her shower when I was trying to say, "See you later".
She went red, I realised I'd mixed up the words, I apologised and we both laughed. (The downside being I never got to watch her shower)
Another was going to the local shop and asking for engine oil to fry with. I knew I'd make a mistake when they fell around laughing.
Mistakes are going to happen so no need to worry too much unless the maid's dad come round and punches you on the nose.

I think my most embarrassing bloomer in Holland was when I went to the Post Office for a postage stamp and walked out with a lottery ticket. :)

Hi esty7 ,

Actually I have studied only one new foreign language at a time. Initially I started with russian, in third grade. Then after 2 years French was added.

When I enrolled to the language high school, there was one whole year dedicated almost entirely to studying English. A few other subjects like maths, geography, history and music too ... So in just one year I went from 0 to Advanced.

Then on the next year German was added, which was a bit of a problem because I wanted to continue with French .... But it was not a problem studying German and English at the same time because I already had quite a high level in English. Same was with Russian.

In my oppinion problems will arise if you start learning more than one foreign language at a time, and from sctatch. If you already have a level high enough in one of these languages then you will not have significant problems.

@Cynic - hahah I can relate. I tried to buy some salt my first week in Bulgaria and came home with sodium hydroxide!!

Yes, it is also important in the culture where I live - In Ecuador. But being polite, in my opinion, should not always be more important than honesty because, without honesty, politeness can become an untruth.

I regret that I did not take the opportunity in school to learn foreign languages. My younger brother decided to learn German by moving to Germany and taking a language immersion class. He has lived in Germany and Australia since leaving the U.S. He has also picked up some Spanish and Arabic. I envy that!

My fiance are now in our early 50s, looking forward to an early retirement abroad and are trying to learn Spanish using language learning apps that teach both written and spoken language. I utilize a microphone to test my pronunciation.

Fortunately, we live in Arizona where there are many Spanish-speaking people. One of these days when I am feeling more confident about my Spanish language acquisition, I will see if some of my bilingual friends would mind meeting me for coffee and conversation in Spanish.

A good topic - I appreciate reading everyone's comments!

1iguanab1 :

Yes, it is also important in the culture where I live - In Ecuador. But being polite, in my opinion, should not always be more important than honesty because, without honesty, politeness can become an untruth.

That's very interesting. Different cultures have different relative values for honesty versus politeness. For instance, some cultures (particularly Asian) prize "saving face" over other things. As a world traveler, I've given up trying to judge these things. :)

designermomaz :

Fortunately, we live in Arizona where there are many Spanish-speaking people. One of these days when I am feeling more confident about my Spanish language acquisition, I will see if some of my bilingual friends would mind meeting me for coffee and conversation in Spanish.

A good topic - I appreciate reading everyone's comments!

With Mexicans, the challenge is to get them to slow down and pronounce everything clearly. :)
Otherwise, you have plenty of Spanish language media on TV and radio where you are.

I am learning Finnish but still really terrible at it.
@Fred, I can teach you Bahasa Indonesia hehe

Having grown up on the Texas-Mexico border, I was always around the Spanish language. As well, I always had Mexican women help take care of my children as I was a working mom. As a result of this, I learned Spanish through immersion, necessity, and as a desire to broaden my horizons.

However, learning Spanish wasn't just useful in raising my children. It also helped me in my job. The majority of the students I have taught in my teaching profession have been non-native English speakers. Many of my students came from cultures where making a mistake was frowned upon, I found that that attitude held back the progression of my students who so desperately wanted to learn English.

I often likened learning a second language to learning to play music, as, in reality, music is a language in and of itself. I asked my students how they sounded when they first began playing their instruments, and all agreed that they sounded awful. As well, there were also in agreement that they learned through their mistakes - and for me, that is the most important part of learning a second language - without allowing ourselves to make mistakes, we practice less and speak less, and we never are given the opportunity to learn from those mistakes.

As to how learning a second language has affected me, all I can say is that it, indeed, broadened my horizons. I have been able to travel and live in Latin-language based countries and still communicate. I have traveled in Mexico, Central America, Spain and South America much more easily than if I had never learned Spanish. Finally, it enabled me to move to Southern Ecuador and live in an area that has 22C/72F most of the year...and, yes, that has truly been a benefit.

So, in closing, if you are trying to learn another language, you must take the risk of making mistakes because it is from these errors where the real learning takes place.

Espero haber dejado claro mi punto de vista para todos ustedes.

I grew up bilingual. Spanish came later. Amharic is now.

I agree there. Learning new language is hard. But it's really worth it, very useful later on when you are looking for a job or creating a business because you can talk with more people. I myself is learning Khmer for preparation when I move to Cambodia next year.

Seriously, Fred, I could have Freudianly slipped like that. ;)

Thank you for sharing your stories and joining the discussion, everyone!

I have 2 other questions/discussions for you:

1/ Did you have any funny experiences speaking the foreign language?

I have 2 stories from my acquaintances who were learning Vietnamese:

+ One guy from UK, after first few lessons he tried to ask 'How are you?',
in Vietnamese, it is "Bạn có khoẻ không?"
and he said two times people brought for him a lighter instead of answering the question.

+ One guy from US, we met for dinner in a group, he asked one of us in Vietnamese
with the content of "Do you like the sweet broth dessert?'
instead of saying "Bạn thích chè không?", he said it like "Bạn thích chết không?"
which mean "Do you like to die?"

2/ Did you ever identify the purpose of your communication?

Do you learn the foreign language to get a better job,
learn new experiences, meet new people?

Do you communicate to make people feel better about you? or about themselves?
How is the speed of communication?
Where to stop/change topic?
How is it to be in silence? (Do we need to talk all the time?)

I have few thoughts about this but would love to hear your sharing.

Thanks,
Khuyen

dear tim
im very happy of the way u done it, im trying to learn spanish now , im trying to find people who can speak native so i can learn from them , im happy did it.

Khuyen: The funny instances you refer to above are caused by the extreme difficulty of learning tonal languages for people who are not used to them. These difficulties are also the reason why there will never be large numbers of foreigners speaking Chinese, Vietnamese or other tonal languages.

A funny occurence from my side was during a cycling trip in a rural area in Taiwan. When I felt a digestive urge, I stopped at a restaurant in the next village and asked for a toilet - but nobody spoke English and, not knowing the Chinese word for it, I just couldn't make myself understood at all!
Out of desperation, I grabbed a napkin and a pen and drew a toilet bowl. Suddenly everybody smiled, said "cèsuǒ" and I was shown where the restrooms are.
I will never again forget the word - although I'm not sure I am able to pronounce it correctly ...

Fred :
Ruffian Dick :

I think that the point may be that one shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes in your new language. It causes many students to freeze up and stop studying.

I'm learning Indonesian and I've made more than a few howling bloopers on the way, the worst being telling the maid I wanted to watch her shower when I was trying to say, "See you later".
She went red, I realised I'd mixed up the words, I apologised and we both laughed. (The downside being I never got to watch her shower)
Another was going to the local shop and asking for engine oil to fry with. I knew I'd make a mistake when they fell around laughing.
Mistakes are going to happen so no need to worry too much unless the maid's dad come round and punches you on the nose.

Lol, what did actually said? :D

Btt:
I am learning basic Vietnamese, especially numbers and how to pronounce street names correctly. Because Vietnamese has different vowel, consonants and accents too. If something's not going right usually cab driver just show plain face, then I just write down the number and street names and we both laughed. This street name: cửa đông causes lot of pain to me, lol.

Jubariver, I grew up on the border of Mexico, so I have spoken pretty good Spanish most of my life.

Now, my home is in Ecuador, so I think my Spanish is improving.

Spanish is spoken differently in different countries. Are you learning European, Mexican, or South American Spanish?

dear friend i appreciate ur replay ,
actually im learning the basic now so i dont know the different between the spanish different accent yet ,

I took French in high school. I got decent grades but struggled to speak it, even a little bit. That experience made me think I'll never be able to learn another language. I really want to learn Spanish so I can move to South America but have no one to practice conversing with and know I can't learn from reading text books.

Try googling full immersion programs where you go to a country and are hosted by a local family, take classes part of the day and live with a native family the rest of the time.  It worked well for several acquaintances.

1. when i tried to speak greek i didnt pay attention the tones properly. Gy:ros but i told Gyro:s

2. Latin and ancient greek ruined my early twenties... I catched some opportunities because of english.

I did modern greek at university and still struggle for greek... i am supposed to earn money of this language. there are always lots of new greek words for me. when panic i hardly speak it.

I met people who speak turkish (my native) and i think they are good at almost all the topics.

jonesey10 :

I took French in high school. I got decent grades but struggled to speak it, even a little bit. That experience made me think I'll never be able to learn another language. I really want to learn Spanish so I can move to South America but have no one to practice conversing with and know I can't learn from reading text books.

If you're in the USA, Spanish is the most widely taught languages in schools and Latin American immigrants are everywhere. You've got it easy.

jonesey10 :

I took French in high school. I got decent grades but struggled to speak it, even a little bit. That experience made me think I'll never be able to learn another language. I really want to learn Spanish so I can move to South America but have no one to practice conversing with and know I can't learn from reading text books.

If you got good grades in French, the vocabulary in Spanish shouldn't be  any more difficult.

A lot of people struggle to start speaking.  There two things to keep in mind.  Overcome any embarrassment that you'll make errors and people will ridicule.  I've found that people appreciate your effort to speak their language and they'll help you along.  After 50 years using Spanish off and on, I still make mistakes.  I don't worry about.  I just keep talking and look for signs I'm not being understood.  If so, I start over again or rephrase.  Patience and a smile on your face goes a long way.  Also, starting a conversation with a greeting and a lot of use of please and than you means a lot.

Exploring on my own in several countries/cities in Latin America and Spain made the effort at learning extremely worthwhile.

Hello everyone!

I'm Melisa from Turkey. I am a polyglot who speaks 7 languages fluently. I speak Turkish (native), English, Spanish, Latin, Norwegian, Polish and Japanese. I am learning languages since I realized that not everybody speaks my native language. Between 2011-2015 years, I had a great opportunity to learn languages since I was living in a very touristic city in Turkey (Antalya, Alanya) , so I made a great use of it, met so many native speakers. Actually for me, learning a language is like riding a bicycle, the more you spend time on it, the better you get at it. I use dictionaries in my life as a hobby, I used to enjoy reading fiction books for teenagers, since last few years I enjoy grammar and vocabulary books, phrasal books, dictionaries, history and travel books. Speaking plays a huge role in learning a language, for example, for Hindi, being able to speak it is much more important than writing it, same goes with Turkish and many more languages. But of course, writing a language is as important as understanding and speaking it. So I made so many native friends who speak the languages I wanted to learn, still doing the same thing and it actually helps too much. Without having any Indian or Pakistani friends that I can speak with, I don't think I could ever understand what they say no matter how much time I spend on grammar books. But the balance is important. So basically, I learnt foreign languages by books written about the language, with help of online platforms, and native friends. If anyone is interested in have a conversation about languages, I'm here. :)

Sounds interesting .... or even amazing! Congrats!!

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