Learning Another Language….

Learning another language as an adult is HARD. I grew up a 30 minute drive from the Mexican border, so in school we learned Spanish…every single year. I literally took Spanish Classes from kindergarten to eighth grade, two semesters in high school, and two semesters in college. In high school I also had the options of French and German, and though I desperately wanted to learn French, Spanish was the easy way to go for me. Same with college. When I transferred to a university, Spanish was the only second language offered. That’s the Southwest for you.

But I digress. This past year I’ve been attempting to learn French. I thought it would be easy. All I had to help me learn Spanish were my text books and TV. This time I’d go into language learning as an adult with resources. I bought Rosetta Stone, numerous language learning books, seasons of French shows on DVD….and a year later I know about as much French as I could have learned in three weeks in grade school. Granted, I’m not studying every single day. Ain’t nobody got time for that, but I still thought I’d know a lot more by now. Having a slow-learning adult brain is weird.

This whole post is my roundabout way of asking all of you fabulous wordpressers if you have any ideas or resources to share. I’m not giving up, damnit. I will learn French if it takes me ten year.

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27 thoughts on “Learning Another Language….

  1. đŸ™‚ I hear you!!! Going through the same process but for Dutch. Try Duolingo though. Its a cross platform program/app which is great for when you find yourself waiting for…whatever. Then you can spend a few minutes learning on your phone and carry it on later at home on your computer. I started the French one some time ago (actually a year ago đŸ˜› because they didn’t have Dutch back then and I thought it would be nice to re-learn french). Although I haven’t been consistent, I surprisingly still remember what I have learned and don’t feel the need to start all over again. My only explanation for this is that perhaps the learning method is helping it stick in my very sketchy memory. lol

      1. I was about to say Duolingo too. Helped me a lot with my German Class. I could say I am a bit ahead in my class because of this. Would teach you nice and they have those games and flashcards. I do not know how but they would ask you to strengthen some words that you might forget over time. Enjoy and have fun!

  2. I’ve tried Duolingo, which somewhat worked for me (time is also an issue for me, and if I really wish to master the language I’m working on I should spend a lot more time practicing then I do now đŸ˜‰ ). They offer (free) digital language instruction in a somewhat gamified way, which tends to help you remember. If you’re interested, you can find the website at: https://en.duolingo.com/

  3. Making cards on quizlet helps me learn Japanese a lot. Games make learning new languages a lot easier and definitely helps them stick. If games help then I recommend mind snacks french đŸ™‚ I have it only for Japanese but I’ve learned a lot from that.

  4. I live in the Southwest and grew up trying to learn espanol too. I am currently trying to become fluent in French. I reccomend doing everything you do in English in French. Watch TV shows in French. Watch French bloggers. Read French blogs. Sign into the French version of Websites like Amazon. Spend time memorizing the music. Read. write stuff on lang-8. Google how to learn French. Find a friend who speaks the language.Vous pouvez le faire.

  5. I had friend who immigrated from Germany. He learned by watching American TV especially The Flintstones-no joke- and being around Americans. The best answer is to move to France. Short of that see if there are French speaking people in your area an hangout with them.

  6. French? I had some books in French lying about my bookshelves but I never had any French in school. Getting bored with English (everybody speaks English) I started reading a book..with a dictionary by my side..this was slow at first but I got better and got hooked so now really never use a dictionary except very rarely. You have to learn some idioms too, slang words as well and there you are. I CAN read French, effortlessly, alas, speaking is something very different and would not attempt it except if my life depended on it. I love its sounds, have watched French films all my life, but when they speak quickly, their nasal agglutinative lingo is just an incomprehensible babble. Alas and alack. To learn it properly and fluently at this age, well one should go back in age (say three years old) and be parachuted into France…children assimilate it through their skin.
    Italian I knew and Spanish I learned to love and revere and as I got into it through and only through Mexican telenovelas I learned to revere its Mexican form and to absolutely abhor Spanish Spanish. Oh well..but thanks to telenovelas I can read it too, there’s nothing to it really..well if you’re familiar with Italian. None of these languages did I learn formally but I would be more at ease attempting to speak and converse in Spanish than in French!!

    1. Yes, I wish I had been exposed to French as a child. Though I’ve lost a lot of my Spanish, I can still have simple conversations since I learned it at such a young age. Hopefully if I immerse myself enough, my 28 year old brain will catch on eventually :).

  7. Hey Sara,

    My name’s Josh and I help my mom out with her blog and the children’s books she’s writing and selling under this name; The Pelican Family Series — http://www.pelicanfamily.com/.

    I think I’ve had similar experiences to you, I grew up in California and had Spanish lessons from 5th grade through college and while I felt I had a solid foundation for a vocabulary and could communicate on a very, very basic level…I never really put myself in situations that reinforced that structure and allowed me to build. It was always question and response in class, or give a short PREPARED talk. That’s a start, but that doesn’t establish the skills I believe are really necessary for learning a language. Then when I was almost 24 I moved to Japan to teach English and ended up staying a few years. I went over with no Japanese language skills and during that time I developed a stronger Japanese ability than I ever had after 12 years of Spanish study.

    I used similar approaches such as studying from text books and using flashcards while I sat on the train or whenever I found a few minutes. I strongly believe with language and other skills, that short study sessions as often as possible are more fruitful than one long one once a day or once a week, etc. I also read children’s books, practiced writing journals to native speakers I knew and having them make corrections for me, listening to podcasts, watching tv, etc. But I’d say best of all is having the chance to actually speak with someone (maybe you could find a French boyfriend lol). I’ve seen other language learners from other cultures have a highly developed vocabulary but during a conversation they would get overwhelmed with the speed of topics and their grammar and vocab would deteriorate. The more they struggled to find words or keep up the more anxious and worse they got.

    All the practice in the world through books and writing is no substitute for actual conversation in my opinion. Plus I would often learn words only to find different people telling me different ways to use them, or not to use them, or to use them more. Part of learning the language is leaning the culture and the way each person/generation/age level/education level/etc, views that word and the context that goes with it.

    I once heard a statement that a language student must use a word 16 times before their mind starts to grasp it. I have no idea if there’s any evidence to support that. But whether it holds any truth or not, I do believe that the more situations you can use a word/phrase the more you start to understand how people interpret it and what situations they use it in, plus it cements that word/idea connection in your mind that you can later retrieve without having to think about it. Wait till you start dreaming in that language, it’s crazy!

    So once again, I strongly recommend studying through text books / flashcards / writing / reading and all the other ways (they are very important)…but to really solidify the language in your brain and be able to express your thoughts at the drop of a hat without having to get out your phrase book or look in your dictionary…I think real-world practice with native speakers is extremely important. If you’re in or close to a bigger city, you can often find native speakers that could be willing to do language exchange or maybe willing to help you out in exchange for another skill you could teach them. I would often meet with native speakers and do 30 mins of my language for 30 mins of theirs as we’d correct each other and help where we can (obviously some people are better at helping/teaching than others). I’d look for gatherings to join in and talk with native speakers (and since I was in the country it was easy to find speakers – but you can also check places like meetup.com to see if there are any groups in your area). You have to be careful to establish rules as the more dominant speaker often wins out and the whole time becomes their language (beneficial if you’re the more dominant, but bad for practice if you’re the weaker speaker). Nowadays with the internet I’m sure there are also plenty of sites/or places you can go to meet people and do free video sessions online. One type of site I have used after coming back to America is: http://www.conversationexchange.com/

    I hope some of those suggestions help. Keep at it, repetition and real communication can do wonders!

  8. Hey Sara,

    I was thinking about it more and I’m adding to my response if you don’t mind, (a few more suggestions/thoughts) for you to consider or ignore. đŸ™‚

    I think if you keep trying and don’t give up you can do a lot (we’ve all heard that before). But seriously, motivation is EVERYTHING!

    On top of finding speakers to practice with, motivation is maybe the most important thing…in my opinion. Motivation/dedication and studying in a valid manner. I only add something about correct studying cause I’ve seen people who expect amazing results from limited input. And unfortunately learning a language is not winning the lottery. You can’t bring out the same tired old list of 25 words in flashcards and read through them once a week and expect to be conversational a few months later. Like you mentioned, no one has time to study all the time…but, if learning French is something you really want to do, make time for it. Schedule it into your day, start or fall back on 10 mins in the morning, 10 at lunch and 10 in the evening, or at least twice a day.

    I waste time TONS of ways, I’m sure I can allocate 20 mins for language review (reading, writing, speaking, flashcards, whatever it may be).

    If you lose interest or your motivation plateau’s, you’ll probably stop putting in effort. And, “no effort” is a horrible way to learn a language. Seldom have I come across someone that finds their skills improving with no effort. I’ve seen many students come in the first week all gung-ho only to lose interest a few weeks later. Motivation can be fragile, and is often feuled by successes. Don’t set unreasonable goals, break things up into little goals and accomplish them so you’re mentally excited to move forward and do more. Make clear goals going into something for what you want out of it. (for example: Goal: This week I’m going to learn these 5/10 words — Process to do that: Write flashcards, write example sentences, write a story with them, talk to someone about a topic you can use them in, tell your friends or family a quick story using those words, even if they don’t understand…just give your mind time to play with the words/ideas and absorb them at the level you’re best capable of for now.)

    It’s not easy to protect our motivation, but I find being upfront about what the goal is can help a lot. If you just approach the week as “I’ll learn more French this week” — that can leave a lot of options and ultimately be unsatisfying…your mind doesn’t have a clear goal to focus on…or complete…or feel happy about when you succeed. Teaching gave me the chance to see first hand the benefits to our psyche of narrowing down the lesson to 2 or 3 accomplishable goals and the satisfaction the students walked away with knowing their time was well-spent and worthwhile. I had to realize what I wanted the student to get out of it, what was the important take-a-way, (even if it’s basic, it’s ok, as long as you lock it in, then you can build on that next time). Be upfront with yourself before you start studying that week or day so you know what you’re trying to achieve, it makes things a lot easier to accomplish when you’ve identified them and they’re not as abstract as “fluency”. “I’m going to be fluent in a year” is not a good goal, it’s quite monumental, and subjective on top of that.

    A random thought:
    When you find a new word or phrase, go out of your way to give it roots in your head. Write example sentences with it, listen for it in shows, watch shows with similar topics in hopes they use that word in conversation, try to use it in sentences verbally or saying them in your head, listen for it in conversations (different people say it different ways or possibly with different meanings/slang), start conversations that you’ll have a chance to use it in. Make sure you have established it firmly as one of your words in French that your mind recognizes. Review it for a few weeks, just 5 mins here, 5 mins there. Then one day you won’t have to search your mind for it, it’ll present itself when needed.

    Stay motivated.
    Practice with native speakers whenever possible.

  9. Check out your local library. Besides having plenty of DVDs, audiobooks, regular books and dictionaries, public libraries often have free language instruction databases you can use. For free! I work at the Cincinnati Public Library and we have two language databases that have downloadable apps so you can learn on your phone on the fly. Thanks for following me. I hope to read some of your writing soon.

      1. The public library is changing in fascinating ways these days. In Cincy, we stream movies, music and have lots of downloadable ebooks and audiobooks. Hopefully, Rosetta Stone will work for you. Have you been to France? I went to Paris a couple of years ago and it was one of my most favorite vacations besides Prague.

  10. Hi Sara, thanks for visiting my blog, well done on your books. About learning another language. We moved to Spain from Ireland in 1999 and I had to learn Spanish there. I eventually did my driving test with a Spanish driving instructor who had no English at all, except for the words Stop and No. What we found worked for us was to watch animated movies. Apparently that’s a good way to learn a language So we spent the first year watching Spanish DVDs of all the Disney movies. Monsters Inc and the Lion King were good. We had a three year old with us who became fluent during her seven years in school there. All the best with your French. You’ll get there.

  11. In school, I had the option to learn French. well, it was hardly an option, at the time. Back then, I did whatever I could to pass. Only pass.. I didn’t really spend the time I should’ve. I didn’t think highly of learning another language. Now that I’m an adult, I wish high-school-me had more sense. xD I’ve taken an interest to other languages, and have taken classes for Japanese, in college.

    I second those who’re suggesting Duolingo to you – I use it for learning German and it’s amazing. I use it every day, write down all of the translations in a notebook so I can both refer back to them and help my mind grasp the meaning better. Plus, it’s free.. can’t get better than that. I also like the reward system, and ability to follow friends and kinda compete a little to see who has a higher learning streak, or practiced more that week.

    Whether you try it or not.. good luck! Learning new things, especially something as complex as a new language, is never easy. But then, nothing worth doing is ever simple, right?

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