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Bad at languages

Bad at languages

Old Mar 21st 2018, 7:23 am
  #16  
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Default Re: Bad at languages

Hi there

You’re probably not “bad” at languages (you seem pretty good with English!); you’re just not used to hearing and speaking Spanish....... and I’m genuinely not trying to be facetious here. So the first thing you need to do is remove that mental block that’s telling you it’s going to be difficult

It’ll take a lot of patience, trial and error and frustration, but the best way for anyone to learn is to immerse themselves in it. You’re not looking for fluency, just to get by, so simple things like kids’ books as suggested by Euskadi May be useful. You could even arrange a sort of swap thing - you meet someone who want to learn/improve English and have an hour over a coffee or beer with some very basic, slow conversation, half an hour each language.

My husband is also planning to join an archery club. This will expose him to brief chat and some day-to-day phrases. Is there something you enjoy where there would be a regular club?

The only other thing I’d say is persevere - even when frustrated. Try not to take the easy option of asking the person just to speak English (or ask a Spanish-speaking Brit to take over). You need to practise.

I hope everything goes well for you (que todo te venga bien )......... this is something you’ve already done with English!!

Caroline.
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Old Mar 21st 2018, 11:13 am
  #17  
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Default Re: Bad at languages

Do an hour a day on Wlingua.com you can't go wrong

HABLE MÁS LENTO POR FAVOR
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Old Apr 5th 2018, 6:29 am
  #18  
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Default Re: Bad at languages

Studying languages is one of my hobbies. In descending order of fluency, I've studied German (hovering around B1 mark; strangely it has really stuck with me 30 years after I studied it in school and a bit at university, with bursts of going back to it along the way), Spanish (good basic reading and comprehension; terrible spoken), French (ok basic reading and comprehension; terrible spoken), Italian (very out of practice and I've lost a lot of vocab), Japanese (used to be much better than I am now, very out of practice), Thai (very basic), and Cantonese (can order food and drink well enough to make native speakers look askance at me (always surprised when a gweilo can speak a bit) and give me what I've asked for!).

I'm currently making a serious effort at Spanish and have a one on one lesson with a Spanish teacher once a week, and I try and do some study every day. I really want to overcome my speaking difficulties. Part of that is my desire for perfection; I get tongue tied when I know I'm getting the grammar wrong and then want to stop, go back and repeat everything perfectly. Listening to ESL folks I often realise that ungrammatical English isn't a barrier to comprehension or communication - we virtually always understand what others are saying (particularly in a transactional setting) in English even if the grammar is a bit wonky. I need to give myself permission to speak Spanish a bit wonkily too.

I've found a few keys to successful language learning:

1. Try to practise for at least ten minutes every day (Duolingo and other apps are great for this purpose).

2. Mix up what you do as you would in English - if you cast your mind back, every day in our own language we did some formal grammar/syntax study (maybe, depending on when you were schooled), read a book, newspaper or magazine, watched some TV, listened to the radio, transacted with others and spoke with our family. These different settings help to set the scene for embedding grammar (eg, in a family setting we may use the past tense a lot "what did you do today?" "I did/went/made/swam..." and the future "what are going to do tonight?" "I am going to read/watch TV/go running" etc).

3. Have a think about different exchanges in English and replicate those in Spanish. Phrasebooks are good with this sort of thing and are particularly good once you understand some of the structure and grammar of the language (helps to contextualise what is written).

4. Take every opportunity to speak Spanish. Yesterday I discovered my taxi driver was Colombian and we then prattled on in Spanish for about 15 minutes. A lot of my conversation contribution was "si, no, entiendo, de acuerdo, ingles es mas dificil, espanol es mas bueno etc", but I understood everything the driver was saying and we kept the conversation going.

5. As others have mentioned, persistence is the key. We did not learn to speak (and read and write) English in a matter of months. Assuming English speaking parents, we had 4 or so years of listening to it and developing our own speech, and then possibly another 18 years if you include university of some sort of formal instruction conducted in English. Think about how totally immersed we are in English - we think in it, speak in it, write in it and read in it. We may also sing in it and play a sport in it. Our lives are dominated by our language. It's hard to replicate that immersion in a foreign language, but persistence really pays off, as others have noted.

Also, never give up! Progress can seem slow sometimes (every time I make a mistake I think I'm hopeless, but then I remember that it's just a matter of correcting the mistake and soldiering on). I also regularly torture my French-speaking spouse by insisting on speaking in French. He hates it because I mangle French so badly (I tend to speak French in German word order, and my pronunciation is frequently awful - French and Australian English is a terrible combination), but I persist and it does help to embed things.

Good luck! Learning a new language is a wonderful thing - it opens doors to marvellous experiences and new friends, and keeps the brain in tip top shape. Everyone can learn a new language and the rewards totally repay the effort required.
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Old Apr 5th 2018, 11:19 am
  #19  
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Default Re: Bad at languages

Originally Posted by MelVan View Post
Studying languages is one of my hobbies. In descending order of fluency, I've studied German (hovering around B1 mark; strangely it has really stuck with me 30 years after I studied it in school and a bit at university, with bursts of going back to it along the way), Spanish (good basic reading and comprehension; terrible spoken), French (ok basic reading and comprehension; terrible spoken), Italian (very out of practice and I've lost a lot of vocab), Japanese (used to be much better than I am now, very out of practice), Thai (very basic), and Cantonese (can order food and drink well enough to make native speakers look askance at me (always surprised when a gweilo can speak a bit) and give me what I've asked for!).

I'm currently making a serious effort at Spanish and have a one on one lesson with a Spanish teacher once a week, and I try and do some study every day. I really want to overcome my speaking difficulties. Part of that is my desire for perfection; I get tongue tied when I know I'm getting the grammar wrong and then want to stop, go back and repeat everything perfectly. Listening to ESL folks I often realise that ungrammatical English isn't a barrier to comprehension or communication - we virtually always understand what others are saying (particularly in a transactional setting) in English even if the grammar is a bit wonky. I need to give myself permission to speak Spanish a bit wonkily too.

I've found a few keys to successful language learning:

1. Try to practise for at least ten minutes every day (Duolingo and other apps are great for this purpose).

2. Mix up what you do as you would in English - if you cast your mind back, every day in our own language we did some formal grammar/syntax study (maybe, depending on when you were schooled), read a book, newspaper or magazine, watched some TV, listened to the radio, transacted with others and spoke with our family. These different settings help to set the scene for embedding grammar (eg, in a family setting we may use the past tense a lot "what did you do today?" "I did/went/made/swam..." and the future "what are going to do tonight?" "I am going to read/watch TV/go running" etc).

3. Have a think about different exchanges in English and replicate those in Spanish. Phrasebooks are good with this sort of thing and are particularly good once you understand some of the structure and grammar of the language (helps to contextualise what is written).

4. Take every opportunity to speak Spanish. Yesterday I discovered my taxi driver was Colombian and we then prattled on in Spanish for about 15 minutes. A lot of my conversation contribution was "si, no, entiendo, de acuerdo, ingles es mas dificil, espanol es mas bueno etc", but I understood everything the driver was saying and we kept the conversation going.

5. As others have mentioned, persistence is the key. We did not learn to speak (and read and write) English in a matter of months. Assuming English speaking parents, we had 4 or so years of listening to it and developing our own speech, and then possibly another 18 years if you include university of some sort of formal instruction conducted in English. Think about how totally immersed we are in English - we think in it, speak in it, write in it and read in it. We may also sing in it and play a sport in it. Our lives are dominated by our language. It's hard to replicate that immersion in a foreign language, but persistence really pays off, as others have noted.

Also, never give up! Progress can seem slow sometimes (every time I make a mistake I think I'm hopeless, but then I remember that it's just a matter of correcting the mistake and soldiering on). I also regularly torture my French-speaking spouse by insisting on speaking in French. He hates it because I mangle French so badly (I tend to speak French in German word order, and my pronunciation is frequently awful - French and Australian English is a terrible combination), but I persist and it does help to embed things.

Good luck! Learning a new language is a wonderful thing - it opens doors to marvellous experiences and new friends, and keeps the brain in tip top shape. Everyone can learn a new language and the rewards totally repay the effort required.
Fascinating post, some very relevant points, thank you!

We started Hungarian with a teacher up to A2 level (but still weak on the oral side, particularly comprehension), broke off lessons for the summer & restarted classes this last winter.

During the summer we spent between 15 & 30 minutes, every day on Duo lingo to keep us "a la mode" but found the Hungarian version b***** awful. That was a pity as the app itself (structure & functionality) is good but the textual content was dreadful, full of "green ants crawling along the bus" and "kindergarten teachers flying out of the windows"!

Didn't help us at all, hopefully the Spanish version is better.

As you imply, immersion, by any means, is vital, the other problem we have is that so many Budapestis speak English and insist on doing so - makes life easy but doesn't help us learn the language!

However our teacher is great so onwards & upwards!
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Old Apr 5th 2018, 12:07 pm
  #20  
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Default Re: Bad at languages

Originally Posted by Expatrick View Post
Fascinating post, some very relevant points, thank you!

We started Hungarian with a teacher up to A2 level (but still weak on the oral side, particularly comprehension), broke off lessons for the summer & restarted classes this last winter.

During the summer we spent between 15 & 30 minutes, every day on Duo lingo to keep us "a la mode" but found the Hungarian version b***** awful. That was a pity as the app itself (structure & functionality) is good but the textual content was dreadful, full of "green ants crawling along the bus" and "kindergarten teachers flying out of the windows"!

Didn't help us at all, hopefully the Spanish version is better.

As you imply, immersion, by any means, is vital, the other problem we have is that so many Budapestis speak English and insist on doing so - makes life easy but doesn't help us learn the language!

However our teacher is great so onwards & upwards!
Agree totally with Expatrick, extremely useful post MelVan thank you.

Unlike yourself, I am not a perfectionist in these matters, my priority is verbal communication over and above reading and writing. My best Brit friend here would get all tongue-tied when she realised that she had made a grammatical mistake, but I have always just blundered on through.

I'll admit that I've been dragging my feet trying to get in to learning Dutch (I'm known as a kan-ban person, both when I was working and in personal life), but that's because I like to suss out all the options as I hate wasting time.

I particularly appreciated your point:

3. Have a think about different exchanges in English and replicate those in . Phrasebooks are good with this sort of thing and are particularly good once you understand some of the structure and grammar of the language (helps to contextualise what is written).

I've been trying to note down as many of my day to day interactions - mostly transactional - and am aiming to focus there. I'm far more confident when I know the context; theological discussions and 'best ways to clean a goat' can come in phase two.

The word order thing will bite me a little going forwards; I can separate French from German mostly, but the French 'cheat' by switching noun and adjective sometimes, thus altering the meaning of the phrase.

I've also been trying to find Dutch radio stations - indoors, can't get them in the car here (!) - as I found that that kind of exposure helped a lot with both my French and German.
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Old Apr 5th 2018, 12:37 pm
  #21  
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Default Re: Bad at languages

Having a smartphone with a decent Translate App is invaluable - I often prepare for what I want to see by using an App, really handy when ordering tickets at bus and railway stations.

My Polish friend said that when he was learning English he concentrated on building up his vocab rather than being perfect in terms of grammar, an App which is good for this is Learn Spanish Vocabulary - 6,000 Words:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...ylearn.spanish
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Old Apr 8th 2018, 3:05 am
  #22  
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Default Re: Bad at languages

Originally Posted by Expatrick View Post
Fascinating post, some very relevant points, thank you!

We started Hungarian with a teacher up to A2 level (but still weak on the oral side, particularly comprehension), broke off lessons for the summer & restarted classes this last winter.

During the summer we spent between 15 & 30 minutes, every day on Duo lingo to keep us "a la mode" but found the Hungarian version b***** awful. That was a pity as the app itself (structure & functionality) is good but the textual content was dreadful, full of "green ants crawling along the bus" and "kindergarten teachers flying out of the windows"!

Didn't help us at all, hopefully the Spanish version is better.

As you imply, immersion, by any means, is vital, the other problem we have is that so many Budapestis speak English and insist on doing so - makes life easy but doesn't help us learn the language!

However our teacher is great so onwards & upwards!
Thanks, Expatrick.

Duolingo definitively has its limitations. The Spanish version is not too bad (there's a huge community contributing to its development), and just yesterday it was significantly upgraded. It also has some wonderful eccentricities, particularly about kings and queens writing letters, but the advantages of having something to hand on one's phone, tablet or computer to do ten mins of drills outweigh its disadvantages. One thing I am convinced of is that it is not something that can be used as one path to language learning - it's just one tool among many.

On the recommendation of folks here, I've now tried (and bought a year's subscription to) Wlingua. It is more expensive than Duolingo, but does come with advantages. It's course levels align to the EU languages classification (A1, A2, B1 etc). It has grammar explanations every step of the way, and there's a good inbuilt dictionary.

Hungarian is a devil of a language. There's been historical controversies as to its origins and classification, and whether it's a linguistic isolate. Good on you for trying to learn (in the face of the rampant onward march of English) it. I have three words in Hungarian (from when I visited over 20 years ago; English wasn't as prominent as it is now I expect, and oddly I found there were more German than English speakers, particularly among older folks - don't know whether that's still the case) - jo napot, jo reggelt and koeszoenoem (I'd go mad trying to do the diacritical marks...).
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Old Apr 8th 2018, 3:21 am
  #23  
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Default Re: Bad at languages

Originally Posted by BuckinghamshireBoy View Post
Agree totally with Expatrick, extremely useful post MelVan thank you.

Unlike yourself, I am not a perfectionist in these matters, my priority is verbal communication over and above reading and writing. My best Brit friend here would get all tongue-tied when she realised that she had made a grammatical mistake, but I have always just blundered on through.

I'll admit that I've been dragging my feet trying to get in to learning Dutch (I'm known as a kan-ban person, both when I was working and in personal life), but that's because I like to suss out all the options as I hate wasting time.

I particularly appreciated your point:

3. Have a think about different exchanges in English and replicate those in . Phrasebooks are good with this sort of thing and are particularly good once you understand some of the structure and grammar of the language (helps to contextualise what is written).

I've been trying to note down as many of my day to day interactions - mostly transactional - and am aiming to focus there. I'm far more confident when I know the context; theological discussions and 'best ways to clean a goat' can come in phase two.

The word order thing will bite me a little going forwards; I can separate French from German mostly, but the French 'cheat' by switching noun and adjective sometimes, thus altering the meaning of the phrase.

I've also been trying to find Dutch radio stations - indoors, can't get them in the car here (!) - as I found that that kind of exposure helped a lot with both my French and German.
Thanks BuckinghamshireBoy.

Dutch is very interesting. It's an intermediary on German's transmutative path to English. Bill Bryson's book, Mother Tongue, has a great story about that (Penguin, 1991, p.38 et seq). Good on you for learning it!
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Old Apr 8th 2018, 8:40 am
  #24  
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Default Re: Bad at languages

Originally Posted by MelVan View Post
Thanks, Expatrick.

Duolingo definitively has its limitations. The Spanish version is not too bad (there's a huge community contributing to its development), and just yesterday it was significantly upgraded. It also has some wonderful eccentricities, particularly about kings and queens writing letters, but the advantages of having something to hand on one's phone, tablet or computer to do ten mins of drills outweigh its disadvantages. One thing I am convinced of is that it is not something that can be used as one path to language learning - it's just one tool among many.

On the recommendation of folks here, I've now tried (and bought a year's subscription to) Wlingua. It is more expensive than Duolingo, but does come with advantages. It's course levels align to the EU languages classification (A1, A2, B1 etc). It has grammar explanations every step of the way, and there's a good inbuilt dictionary.

Hungarian is a devil of a language. There's been historical controversies as to its origins and classification, and whether it's a linguistic isolate. Good on you for trying to learn (in the face of the rampant onward march of English) it. I have three words in Hungarian (from when I visited over 20 years ago; English wasn't as prominent as it is now I expect, and oddly I found there were more German than English speakers, particularly among older folks - don't know whether that's still the case) - jo napot, jo reggelt and koeszoenoem (I'd go mad trying to do the diacritical marks...).
Egészségére!
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