Your Language Studies

I would be interested to year about your (whoever you may be) own experiences learning a language. What did you study? Did you ever learn it very well? How long did it take? Did you find classes very helpful? What (if anything) was most helpful about those classes?


4 thoughts on “Your Language Studies

  1. I’ve tried many times to learn a language. I failed at learning both Spanish and Japanese. I once learned that there are two types of people, one that is very good at memorizing facts, and another that is very good at understanding ideas. I am the second type of person, so I now understand a great deal of facts about Spanish grammar and verb conjugations, while after 5 years of spanish class, I can probably say no more than a few short sentences, like, “Hola!”, or “Como se llama.” In fact, I took the advanced placement test in high school and failed it.

    The classes were designed for people who are good at speaking and memorizing, but needed help understanding the concepts. So most of the time was spent trying to understand. What would have been more helpful for me was less time studying grammar and more time practicing, with an understanding that I would begin to understand more as I practiced more. I think practice speaking is the one ingredient that is required, the rest are meant to help you practice.

    • That’s helpful, thanks. I’ve noticed that a fairly major problem for me is that I usually find that I don’t want to say the sorts of things that seem most obviously learnable, because they’re not the sorts of things I would say unless prompted even in English. I need to keep better track of “things that I find myself wishing I could say fairly regularly,” along with “things I regularly wish I could understand,” and focus more on learning those things.

      Something that often surprises me about adult students is that they hire a tutor without any particular interest in topics that they want to be able to be able to talk or read *about* in English — although content is the driving force behind language, and it matters immensely, especially with adult students, I think.

  2. I’ve taken pretty good variety of French classes. I think the turning point for me was a teacher in high school who was actually french and spent a lot of time talking to us in French and expecting us to respond as well. I guess it worked for me because I had a fair command of basic grammar by that point and he confined himself to stuff I would know how to say and understand. So, method is, learn some and then be forced to use it? (He used a curriculum called “French in Action” which I have a great respect for.)
    After that, I think another turning point was another class in French in France (not using a textbook). I don’t know that I remember much of the grammar I was being taught, but I got a feel for “how the french go about saying things” and what sorts of constructions show up all the time, which made my french much less “high school textbook” french.
    I also talk to myself in French…. which sure helps with getting anything whatsoever in a foreign language to come out of one’ s mouth?
    I guess an issue is, how to use “basic English”, which a fairly new student might have a grasp on, but use it in a way that is consistent with how English speakers actually speak.

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