When we learn languages, it's a full time job. It was 9 months to learn Mandarin to a B1, 6 months to a C1+ in Spanish, and I'm currently at a B1 in Estonian after 5 months.
There are several things I think are crucial after years of full time study (note: this assumes you're going for professional fluency, not just touring around the country where interactions are largely scripted and predictable):
* There is no substitute for production - you must speak the language with a native speaker (not an app) and talk about topics that are relevant to the kind of scenarios you anticipate. We spend the first several months discussing current events in target language - at first scripted, then later free form. This builds vocabulary and helps fluency. This is quickly expanded to discussing current events in depth and participating in mock debates.
* Give mini presentations - target 3-5 minutes of talking about a relevant topic with little prep time. The difference between intermediate and advanced is the ability to move from discussing only facts to making a coherent argument. Native speakers will often not be able to follow your train of thought without learning to connect cause and effect using structures appropriate for your language.
* Interview native speakers - prepare 2-3 questions about a particular topic and check your comprehension by translating their answers to English. This obviously helps build your comprehension, but also helps to learn to "automate" comprehension while you are thinking about something else. If you can take notes in English while a native speaker is talking at normal speed (and achieving 90%+ accuracy), it will make it easier for you to participate in normal speed conversations.
* Read target language news - this is critical for expanding vocabulary and learning colocations - knowing what verbs are used in particular contexts (e.g., do they say "I talked with X" or "I talked to X". Do they say country X shot, launched, or threw a rocket?)
Bottom line - language learning is not just about the number of hours you put in. The quality and type of practice you do matters a lot. You aren't going to be fluent via Duolingo alone. You need to put in the time using structured practice with native speakers to really learn anything.
And also, for learning languages, one way could be significantly less painful than others.
I grew up in China, where almost every student struggles so much on English learning, every day. I found myself very easy to pass every exam and beating the average, without listening to the lectures or doing any homework - simply by playing video games (especially RPG). I was/am by no means excellent at English, but it was almost a totally free perk for me.
Basically video games are:
1. Designed to be both engaging and challenging, whereas schools suck at those so much.
2. Have specific and meaningful targets, if you failed to understand what's going on or what's the mechanism you're not likely to play along.
3. Including scenarios and plots. A lot of reading and listening activities. You don't have to appoint a teacher or native speaker to talk with you. You can start anytime you want (except I have intolerant parents so I have to play it sneakily).
I thought this was the case across all of Europe but found out that in the rich part of Europe all entertainment is dubbed in the local language so youngsters there had worse English skills than I expected for such wealthy nations.
It's probably one of the reason so many US tech companies have opened up shop here, other than lower wages.
Dutch, English, French, and German are also all mandatory subjects in school for us.
E.g. the italian "Language Defense Law" (not sure of how to translate it to English but that's basically the literal translation of this Law) was established by Mussolini and later used as inspiration for similar laws in Spain, Germany and France.
The spirit of such laws were basically propaganda. It dictated that dubbing of all foreign media was mandatory, so it had to be done for everything, regardless of it being a cheap animation show for kids, or a big Hollywood production. Also it introduced the opportunity to review the contents of the audio and apply censorship when deemed desirable by those in power.
Then tell me when the product is ready so I can use it.
My parents used to make me do quick one page math worksheets. Each sheet which took about 60 seconds earned me 5 minutes of time with "Command and Conquer", and to this day I'm able to quickly do Math in my head that most people would need to put on paper. My abilities drastically drop off at past the Algebra level.
If kids today had to memorize 5 new phrases in French while they were stuck in an Overwatch lobby, or something equivalent to get than new skin in League of Legends I think it could be a very powerful learning tool and not require the hands on effort from the parents.
In the load screens/waiting rooms it could be pretty simple too, the game could show and say the word then give you a grid of like 9, 16, 25 words to choose from and make you pick the correct one. The first few times you'd probably struggle but if you were playing for an extended period in a session, or over a week, you'd get that reinforcement every round/match/zone and be able to quickly select the correct words.
If you bootstrapped those people with a month or two of 1:1 lessons with a native speaker and then started them watching anime aimed at young kids with no subtitles, slowly moving them up to more complex examples, still without subtitles, they would end up learning to understand Japanese passably well after enough hours of it.
If you just dump them “countless hours” of complicated Japanese which they can ignore while reading English subtitles, then they’re going to end up learning a few words and phrases but not really becoming fluent.
If they started with poor English reading skill it’s not a completely useless way to practice that though. (Reading books would be better, but reading anime subtitles is better than nothing.)
That being said it's still a slower way to learn because the language in anime is quite removed from a typical real conversation you will get in to.
I believe Krashen's theory is easy to misunderstand. If you only take a brief look at it you may think it's over simplified. The theory isn't just input in the sense that you've at least got the language going in you're ears. The "comprehensible" part means that you are comprehending via the language, using context to fill in the blanks. I don't think you learn from outputting language, but outputting is essential for producing the ideal comprehensible input.
For example, BTBurke's third point is to ask questions to a native speaker. Note that here, the native speaker is doing the speaking, and BTBurke is learning when listening, not when asking the questions. But asking questions to a native speaker like this and refusing to give up and go back to your native language engages the human brain in a way that simply watching some videos doesn't, and provides important context. Krashen calls this compelling input.
In BTBurke's first point, they say production is essential, but I think Krashen would say this so-called production (talking to native speakers) is really just using production to get ideal comprehensible input from native speakers when you listen to them speak back to you.
As for the 5 minute minute presentation. I would say that this 5 minute presentation is mostly just testing one's current ability, but the preceding the presentation there would be hours of looking up (and inputting) sentences that you wish to say rather than learning randomly, and that's where most of the real learning occurs.
I apologise for the "It's both right and wrong at the same time" kind of answer. In summary I believe BTBurke is a fantastic language learner, but if you look closely at what they are doing, you'll see they are providing themselves with plenty of comprehensible input, and the production/output as actually a more minor part that facilitates this input.
So no, I don't think we ever have that same level of growth and rapid learning.
Language is not a one way street. Being able to manipulate another person's actions and words through speech is as much a part of language understanding as being in a position to have others manipulate your actions and words.
Part of knowing a language therefore is being able to speak and write it. In order to learn how to speak and write it, you are not going to get away without speaking and writing it.
And even if Krashen's hypothesis that input is ultimately the whole story were true (which by definition it isn't), production would still play a critical role in memorization. Every time you struggle to find a word and eventually conjure it, it gets reinforced.
It takes a lot of hard work for children too. They just have no other choice, and usually some adults going way out of their way to help as much as they can.
> beginner book/audio recommendations if you want
Please! Anything with an easy level but appropriate subject matter for young kids?
I studied French in high school and would like to start reading some French kids books to my 3.5 year old, but I haven’t made the effort to find any yet.
Sure, I'll take a look. Thanks!
This is a brilliant point and never thought about it this way. I've spoken spanish for 5 years but i've always felt some things lacking when i've tried to make an coherent argument about politics for eg. One more thing i'd like to add is 'humor'. If you can make jokes or be sarcastic to natives in their language, then you've definitely crossed another barrier.
Beyond that humor is very much cultural and learning a language through humor immediately exposes you to the culture in a way that talking about current events would not.
Actually, I often find that I can fluently exchange with someone speaking English (which is not my native language), but if a third person ask me to translate, it's really a higher level of complexity to find the relevant expressions.
I understand that at the start, one feel more at ease to use its know point of reference in languages already known, but at some point this scaffold is only an additional layer that slows down your expression flow, isn't it?
We also meet with a wide variety of people and take copious notes. I personally take notes in a mix of English and the local language, but mostly in English because I have my own shorthand to help me remember what is said. It's hard to develop that kind of shorthand in a foreign language without writing everything and that is too slow for a normal conversation.
I myself am a linguist and translator, no professional background in the hard sciences or IT at all, but I have still been involved in Free Software for many years and so HN is a natural news channel to read.
Eventually I'll have to retire and so I always hope some of my side projects will take off to supplement my retirement income.
Learn things? I'm none of the things you listed, nor do I do anything remotely related to computer sciences, but I still frequent HN.
Not all diplomats are political science or economics majors. Policy touches so many sectors that it's useful to have people with backgrounds in many areas.
It's not uncommon to have prior software engineers, teachers, etc in the foreign service.
Are you saying it takes a year and a half to reach fluency if you take it on as a full time job?
It's an organized class for 5 hours a day in small groups with a native speaker as the teacher.
There is usually an additional 2-5 hours of independent study/homework depending on the complexity of the language.
Professional fluency takes between 24 and 88 weeks depending on the difficulty of the language. Spanish is 24, Mandarin would be 88. "Hard" languages like Finnish and Estonian are in the middle at 44.
We test with native speakers at the end to determine our level on a 5 point scale. Each of our embassy jobs has an associated language requirement, usually 3/3, which means professionally fluent in speaking and reading.
Why to English?
Getting to a solid level of competency in a language actually is not that hard. It just requires dedication and consistent practice.
That said, native speakers operate on a different level entirely. In my recent visit to Barcelona, I had no problems asking for directions, talking to the hotel staff and people in bars, chatting it up with friends in Spanish, etc. However, walking into a noisy / crowded restaurant where the language is going 100 miles an hour is a totally different scenario.
As much as I want to believe otherwise, I'm of the opinion that getting to a level of "automatic" response where you can fluidly handle any situation requires living in a country where the language is in your face all day every day--and even then it still takes real effort.
A friend of mine, who's a US ex-pat living in Madrid is of the same opinion. After three years living there, he still doesn't feel 100% confident; although, he admits that he has spent most of his social time around English speakers.
None of this is intended to discourage anyone at all. In fact, learning Spanish ranks as one of the best decisions I've ever made; however, I think it's important for folks to go in with realistic expectations, as there's big difference between functional competency--with a language and fluency with fluency being a "white whale".
Though that's why it's hard. Just like eating healthy and exercise isn't hard, just requires dedication, yet notice how few people have a particularly good looking body.
The opportunity cost of learning a language is also immense. I've spent an incredible amount of time listening to and reading Spanish. It just isn't for everybody. It has to be something that makes you happy.
Unless you have extended family or somehow became smitten with a foreign country, I am almost certain this is the case. So any attempts are really halfhearted and very little progress is made because the commitment is so large.
This is why, if I ever get around to learning a second language, it will be Esperanto. It takes an order of magnitude of less time to learn and gives you the accomplishment of knowing another language. (Plus uniformity in language is cool.)
Your opinion is a pretty localized one. For many people learning a second language is not an option, it is a must. I would have a very hard time functioning in my field without access to a second language.
You can make do with less, but it's probably going to have an impact on your career, at some point.
The first is whether you speak articulately about complex topics. This one is easy to do from home; reading books, listening to podcasts, and talking with language partners on iTalki will all help get you there.
The second is informal, everyday communication. This one's definitely a struggle. Not only is it hard to pick up on your own, but I'm pretty sure that, even if you've spent some time in a region that speaks the language, there's still no great way to avoid steadily losing it if you ever leave. TV, especially sitcoms, helps, but only a little. There's just not a whole lot of overlap between the things people actually chatter about all day, and the things that make for interesting entertainment.
That applies even to your original language. ~15 years after moving away, talking to family and friends at home feels... awkward. I can still do it easily, but honestly, sometimes I wish I could use English, even if that's not perfect either.
It's so much easier with friends who also moved out. We can switch to a more comfortable language for each thought or even mid sentence if you prefer a specific word choice.
If I have a half an hour conversation, there might be one word that a normal person should know, but that I've forgotten. Comes as a bit of a shock to me when this happens.
On the other hand, the latter probably can't be done at home. While it isn't necessary to be very, very strong in French, without that immersion experience I think you'll never feel "at home" among francophones until you put in the necessary hours into hanging out in French.
Despite this, having the latter is certainly very useful and allows you to get your point across in the vast majority of situations, so if it's the best you can do, it's still worth it if you really want to learn the language.
I think getting C1/C2 certification doesn't really test for that kind of thing, but instead, to my knowledge, being able to communicate increasingly complex ideas in a relatively sterile environment. So, you probably could get fairly automatic when debating about economics or having general conversation or something abstract at home, but in France you probably won't be automatic until you spend a sufficient amount of time practicing all the little things in daily life. This is something I will struggle with to unless I immerse myself someday, but being able to say what you want generally is definitely good enough to at least survive at live decently well. Good luck, sounds like what you're doing is the best possible!
Like most skills, language proficiency work in steps, and you are usually only able to see the next step, the rest goes above your head.
In the case of language, the first step is learning the words and grammar. This can be tested. But there is a whole world beyond that. I realized it when talking about the Japanese language with a girl she didn't even talk about things that come up in tests, like vocabulary. Instead she talked about how to talk to different kind of people, idiomatic expressions, how to convey emotions, even the quirks of writing text messages. She was on the next level, the part about describing things was already a given, not something worth talking about. There are certainly many things lying beyond that, maybe accent, body language, a point where the distinction between language and culture starts to blur...
An interesting thing is that AFAIK, there are no tests that evaluate the proper use of "bad" language. French (my native language) is famous for its colorful swearing. And you can't really call yourself fluent if you don't know how to do it. Proper use of casual and even offensive language, is, I think, an important skill that most foreigners lack, in any language, and yet, most test don't go below business level speech.
It is when you think in this language. Yes. Exactly. You need to become fluent in thinking in a language to be fluent in real life situations.
And its also kinda cool to be able to think in two language. Its kind of a superpower :)
There are 8760 hours in a year. Even if you somehow managed to learn a word an hour, that's still multiple years to get to 20-40k words.
I think we take for granted how many years it takes for kids to learn a language to adult level when we say "kids have an easy time learning languages". It may be easy in that it doesn't require as much conscious study as adults do, but it isn't quick either. Granted mental maturation messes up the time lines, but I think it's hard to argue that it doesn't still take many years.
So depending on what motivates you the time commitment needed at a minimum can be heartening (I'm taking years because there's lots to learn) or disheartening (This is a multi-year endeavor that I'll have to focus on when I could be doing something else).
EDIT: Though reading up on what B2 is, it is a much less daunting proposition, but even C2 doesn't sound like native speaker level, just able to communicate effectively level.
Today, except for pronunciation, I would consider myself fluent, though of course not native. While I do use English daily, I have never worked in an English-speaking country until well after I became fluent. The one thing that made it click was watching a lot of video content without subtitles
I honestly don't get how people talk in noisy bars and restaurants. I struggle even in English. One almost has to shout in the other person's ear. If it's that close I am thinking more about how my breath smells after having a few drinks rather than topic of discussion - lol.
I can tell you from personal experience that it's most important that you speak the language. Get yourself in conversations where you are forced to speak and listen to the language. There's a big advantage to recall words when you need them and to try to understand what the other person is telling you. The stress of the situation will burn the words into your memory. Ultimately you will have no choice but to learn it. Also, even fluent speakers will lose fluency if you don't practice so there's no such thing as being fluent for life without using the language regularly.
The biggest disservice you can do to a person that's trying to learn a new language is to translate for them in their native language. It helps at the moment but long term it's harder for them to learn the new language.
I believe there's a difference between "competence" (I know how to say X) and "fluidity" (I can say X as easily as breathing).
You can learn the first on your own. Takes a lot of effort, sure, but it's doable.
I don't think you can learn fluidity outside of actually living in a country. You need to be bombarded daily with questions that you're forced to respond to. Even then, some people just don't make the effort, which is why you get people who have lived in a foreign country for decades and their language skills haven't improved.
My first three months in China were worth more than the preceding three years of self-study.
You can learn fluidity on your own, but it takes the right kind of practice. It's easy to think of learning a language as "study". You go through books learning words, phrases, verb endings etc. Most exercises in textbooks only care about you getting the right answer, not how quickly you do it.
Compare this to learning a musical instrument. There is some study needed, but realtime practice is the bulk of what you do. If you need 30 seconds to work out the next chord in a song then you can't play the piano. The gold standard is practicing with a metronome. The areas where you can't keep up are the areas where you need to practice.
I'm quite surprised that this idea of realtime practice is still so uncommon even though everyone has a smartphone nowadays. In the past, Pimsleur language courses put an emphasis on being able to answer in the language you are studying more or less straightaway.
According to CEFR link in article, a B2 level:
Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their field of specialization.
Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party.
Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
CEFR Estimated time required to academically learn B2 level French: 560-650 hours
Probably the most insurmountable one is that the pace at which the class can move is limited by the pace at which the least motivated student is going to learn.
But I also think that it's just a structurally bad environment for efficient language learning. Since everyone needs a chance to participate, you spend the vast majority of your time listening to other people who don't know the language any better than you do, so there's just not much to learn from them. Since you're working from a textbook, everyone has to read the same uncompelling least-common denominator materials, which, by virtue of being boring, are just as likely to sap as to sustain your motivation - and an unmotivated mind isn't going to absorb much.
I'm starting to feel that way about canned programs in general. I've been working on the kanji lately. At the start, a friend of mine told me he thought I was crazy to do all my own flashcards (though I am following the learning order from Remembering the Kanji) when I could just subscribe to WaniKani and have it all handed to me on a silver platter. A couple months later, he estimated I had learned more kanji over 2 months than he had in years. Just assembling your own materials admittedly involves a lot more up-front work and a steeper learning curve, but the process itself has a lot of mnemonic power.
Listening to other people at my level didn't seem a particular detriment because teachers have to speak at roughly my level anyway. They made more mistakes, but the instructors corrected them, and the corrections were valuable since they were often the sorts of mistake I'd make myself. Textbooks are trite, but since their main competition in the internet age is materials put together by dedicated but ultimately pedagogically-unskilled amateurs, I think they're better than most alternative prepackaged materials.
What I will acknowledge is that private study through a flashcard deck is probably the best way to acquire vocab, but that was never my biggest challenge. My vocab has consistently been on the large end of other people I've learned with, just because memorisation suits my personality (and I suspect that's true of a lot of people here). That never, though, translated to being the best in class - ability to fluidly construct a sentence beats out perfect word choice every time. It's also very easy to pair with a taught class, since there's no downside to learning extra vocab on the side.
Classes move a bit slowly, but I think the rationale is valid: You're here for three years anyway, you're probably trying to get to around B2, so we'll train you up to B2 in three years.
I'm not going to argue that it's as good as a private tutor, but it was closer to second-best than worst in my experience.
It is honestly helpful to have other learners to practice with: They, in general, have the same knowledge base as you do. Workbooks give repetition, and is helpful with things like grammar and word placement. (I only used a workbook with the first 2 books in the first year). The textbooks had common-sense dialogs and things: These focused on everyday situations (small talk, apartments, speaking about one's background, basic job stuff, and so on). A lot of reading introduced these things or made sure to include information about culture or civics.
And honestly, if one only went to school, participated, and did the homework when we had it, one would learn some language. You were simply better off if you worked on it yourself. I'd certainly not have as much understanding of dialects or grammar trying to learn Norwegian on my own.
This was completely different than the classes most folks had back in the US, generally in high school. I got more instruction as an adult in a day than we usually would get in a week back in high school. I had native speakers teaching. The class was taught in the target language from the first day.
Not all class is the same, and some are very beneficial.
Surely classrooms are the worst environment for learning anything. Of course it's going to be easier to learn any subject if you have a dedicated teacher who makes sure that you understand the material before moving on and keeps you engages. However is it worse than anything? Classrooms usually end up giving you access to a teacher who you can ask questions to and receive a comprehensible response.
Just like in any subject if you actually don't take the effort to study from your own curriculum you're going to be relatively behind. If all someone does is attend their CS lectures and do the bare minimum on their homework assignments then they're effectively wasting their time as they'll be behind their peers who met with professors to collaborate on research projects or with peers to found a startup (in addition to side projects).
Classrooms for any subject are a bad environment because like you stated everyone else has a chance of participating. In addition the material is suited for the majority and isn't personalized. When I was learning about geometric functions in middle school no teacher ever related it to cosine similarity that can be used in NLP.
However 1-on-1 lessons are expensive, so aren't classroms a good enough compromise?
Most other subjects, I'd say classes are a bit sub-optimal, but still a great choice if you aren't working with unlimited resources. There's value in hands-on group projects, labs, instructor feedback, etc. And, in most subjects, there are plenty of successful people who did a lot of their learning in a classroom environment.
Language learning, though, I'd say that a classroom is worse than nothing at all, if you're motivated. And not just a little worse, like, a lot worse. In language learning, it seems remarkably consistent that the vast majority of people who achieve much success eschew classrooms entirely.
As a French, I’ve lived a few years in Australia. A lot of people there can only say “Bonjour” and keep a bitter memory of their lessons. It feels like learning German for the French people, also a difficult (albeit more regular) language. It is merely necessary for political cohesion but not at an individual level; As such German lessons are... not designed for the students. If I had to believe the lessons, there are only two topics that Germans talk about: The Wiedervereinigung (reunification) and the war. All their movies are black and white with yellow subtitles. That’s how I imagine the French language in the Australian culture ;) Something you gotta learn at school, like se hazing or something.
It really feels like we haven’t mastered teaching, as a civilization. Our teaching works for pupils who have an interest; but for the others, it’s like signing for a mortgage and hating the house from the day you move in.
In fact, a lot of Ozzies I’ve met told me they went to Paris and felt hated by parisians. This testimonial was so frequent (dozens of times) that I led my little survey. On Twitter and among friends, all French people love Australians, between surfing and Crocodile Dundee, we have good conversation starters ;) Some may dislike some British but I don’t think there are many, let alone many who would act it out on the street. I just think parisians behave like stressed people behave in very stressful cities. So, no, we don’t hate English-speaking people, and I’m sorry that my language is so hard and so required in your curriculum ;)
Good day everyone!
The reason was that I had only visited the center of Paris, and I really felt disdained there. I even developed the habit of opening conversation in Spanish (my native language) because then people would try English and we would communicate. When I opened conversation in English, they replied in French, I wouldn't understand and they didn't seem interested in communicating at all.
After going to other parts of the country like Nice, Avignon, Lille... and being involved professionally with French people, I had the chance to meet many excellent people and now have several awesome French friends.
Later on, I had the chance to revisit the center of Paris and it no longer felt that unwelcoming anymore (probably partly because I got the hang of the culture and at least some of the language, and partly because I had some more money to go to somewhat better hotels, etc., which can help). But for the first-time clueless foreign visitor, it can feel really hostile. I'm not at all surprised by the testimonials you mention.
When I later actually wanted to learn about those on my own time, it became obvious that those initial classes were not only not helpful, but actively harmful.
High school language courses might just be overinfluenced by academic linguists-- obscure grammar is probably the right focus if your main interest is comparative linguistics and you've already studied six other languages. That just doesn't apply to many high schoolers.
High school fitness education is like a bad daycare with spontaneous expectations for you to run a couple miles, despite having never been trained in how to build up capacity slowly over time. It's as if the goal is to teach people that fitness is unlearnable and out of reach. It's exactly the opposite, it's one of the domains where it's easiest to measure how much consistent practice improves performance.
I feel like we could redesign both from scratch, based around how people grow up and actually learn these things, and we'd be way ahead.
Yeah, it's just anecdotal, and I don't want to take away anything from anyone's great gym memories, but I think there's something systemic, or at least common and broader than my own experience, for a few reasons.
I went to multiple schools with different teachers that all used the concept of modules to expose kids to a bunch of activities in rapid bursts without practicing or developing any skills.
Let's play badminton for a week, then football, then dodgeball, then baseball. Now let's administer the presidential fitness test without any warning or prep. No attempt to work on those measurers after the test, making it unclear how important they are.
I might have drawn all the bad teachers and was just unlucky, but my experience seems to track with most people I meet and also with portrayals of gym in popular media.
Many years later, I can kind of enjoy exercise like running or swimming but I still never go to gyms as they give me bad feelings.
Indeed, being a teacher myself today, I'd rate my gym teachers as terrible, as setting goals (like somersaults) with little relation to the actual exercise most people do, and more relation to innate talent than effort, while not providing much motivation or explanation of why that is useful (I still don't see why today), seems like a huge pedagogical failure. But I had various gym teachers and they all seemed cut from the same cloth, and other people with similar age and country give similar descriptions. Maybe it's better in other countries or it has improved by time, I don't know.
A school or education system that was serious about exercise or fitness would look nothing like the American one. There would not be elementary schools without recess, exercise would be a part of every student's schedule every day and not taking part would not be an option.
As is gym class has to deal with absurdly huge variations in interest and ability. Some children exercise every day, or play multiple sports because they're either enthusiastic or genuinely athletic. Having them in the same class as bookworms and couch potatoes serves no one well.
Gym is awful and cannot be made not awful without a thoroughgoing reform, not of gym class, but of the entire education system. It would be better off burned to the ground. That way it would at least not teach many people that they hate exercise, it would just leave them indifferent.
It's the somewhat true in Québec too, but Québec isn't busy like Paris, so there must be something more to it.
The govt tries to force feed French to new Quebeckers who wants to settle in Québec. I am an expat in Québec. The attitude of Francophones and the Language Policing in Québec makes me not wanting to learn French at all even though it's the best opportunity to learn French. While I understand the reasons behind protecting French in Québec, I feel it can be done differently than by being rude and coercive. Ex: The pastagate in Québec.
They're also older than the rest of the country by a good amount of time (I seem to recall Montreal celebrating its 375th birthday during Canada's 150th). And there's definitely a culturally French element to it: being defensive of the French culture and language is not exclusive to Quebec, see the Toubon Law  introduced in 1994 forcing 40% of songs on the radio in France to be in French. There's been a lot of pushback to lower the percentage these last few years, while at the same time arguably french-language rap and hip-hop is at an all-time high most likely in big part thanks to that very same law  [4, in french]
So in a way you can see why being defensive of the language is mostly a reaction to the shift in dominant language throughout the world, in this case coupled with the good old nonchalant attitude that is part of the French heritage.
And Parisians don't hate you or Australians or anyone in particular, they just hate everyone.
 in French: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5kIjAikHbs
See Le Louvre, La Tour, Musee D'Orsay, Sainte Chapple, perhaps pop in to
l'Orangerie, then get on a train and visit the real France and find real French people.
Actually Père Lachaise is pretty cool too: Fourier and Jim Morrison are buried there.
According to my lessons, they also talk about Umweltschutz (environmental protection), especially Mülltrennung (garbage sorting).
Everyone below 50 speaks B1 or better English anyhow.
Most of the corrections she/he received are not justified at all. Like using the work "crédits" is totally fine in this context. I can't get why they corrected some connectors like "à" or "pour", as the usage of these in the text seem at least as correct to me.
It doesn't mean anything except that there's a lot of people who are situationally deficit of social skills and anxiously trying to prove they're even smarter than the original poster.
My pet theory is that these jeklers want acceptance and a sense of community, but don't know how to do it.
You say, with derision and personal insults to those people who dared not meet your standards for perfect corrections and perfect judgement of feedback desirability.
You wouldn't believe the amount of times I was "corrected" with suggestions that were clearly, blatantly wrong if I didn't outright say that I was a native speaker.
I think it was mainly Americans from Spanish speaking immigrant families who were overconfident on their skills, but it was funny nonetheless.
For those not familiar, American Spanish diverged significantly from "mainland" Spanish. Even then Mexican Spanish is quite distinct in its own "charming" way from nearly every other Spanish speaking American country. It's not just the vocabulary, even the verb tenses are used differently in different countries. Case in point, the only time I've heard vosotros used outside of school was in a La Polla Records song (ya ahora que?). Or looking for the baños in the Barcelona airport…. The differences are significant enough it's possible you're both right.
Whenever I've seen language discussed online lots of people come out of the woodwork defending their own niche regional variations. The comments section on Vanity Fair's Slang School series of youtube videos is a particularly obnoxious example. The videos themselves are great IMO. It's not always that bad though. I was trying to figure out how to differentiate between a banana and a plantain in Spanish (yay spanishdict forums) and I didn't realize just how many different ways there are to say banana/plantain. It's like Eskimos and snow.
To be properly obnoxious I'll wonder if that's how those folks were taught to speak/write. In my mind the analogous English situation is when British speakers use me in place of my.
It's grammatically incorrect to write "s'inscrire à une salle de sport" and should indeed be "dans une salle de sport" and so it was warranted to correct that.
The other corrections are similarly warranted.
I'm a bit worried if you guys all think the original text was fine... ;)
Source: Am a quebecer (fr). I do it mostly when i speak English.
As for the "crédit", the dictionnary definition seem to state it is correct (even though "bon" would be a bit better).
Crédit: Autorisation de dépenses accordée par les autorités qui établissent, votent ou règlent les budgets ; somme ainsi allouée : La bibliothèque dispose d'un crédit de dix mille euros.
So "s'incrire à" is not incorrect per se, e.g. "s'inscrire à des cours de danse". Even, you must say "s'inscrire à la mairie" (e.g. for poll lists) and not "s'inscrire dans la mairie".
I think that what is technically correct is to use "à" when you talk about where you sign in or register (usually a one-time action) and "dans" when you talk about signing in to perform a recurring activity.
That little à word derives from the Latin words "ab" and "ad", which you can find in words ("adjacent", "adverb", "addition", "adventure"... hemmm I mean *aventure"; sometimes English is more Latin than French) which tell the idea of proximity or direction.
Sometimes the meaning changes as well. For example "s'inscrire à l'école" and "s'inscrire dans une école". The latter means "to register with a school" but the former is more "to register to start school" in the sense that it is 'school' in general.
As for "crédits", indeed the meaning is basically the same as in English and the original sentence is correct in the language. But it's not something anyone would say. The terms used would most likely be either "bon" (voucher) or "forfait" (inclusive special rate), or perhaps "chèque" (cheque) instead of "bon" if it was given by your employer as a benefit.
I'm not even sure. If you consider a "salle de sport" is an activity rather than a place, it becomes correct. You would say "s'inscire à la piscine" (for swimming-pool) for instance because "piscine" is considered an activity rather than a place, in this context.
It's fine to say "s'inscrire à la salle de sport/piscine" if you are talking about a specific one.
I noticed that most of native speakers of any language are not that good actually in their mother tongue.
For someone who’s learning the best disservice is to not point their mistakes out.
And sorry it’s not being pedantic to ask people to be precise enough to not spend my time guessing what they maybe were thinking.
It’s already hard enough when well written.
That doesn't make any sense. Maybe they're not good according to the normative institutions attempting to control the language, but that doesn't have any bearing on the ability of billions of people to communicate with their peers using their mother tongue. Just because an institution says a certain form is "incorrect" doesn't mean people are going to stop using it and make themselves understood with that form.
It does make perfect sense when the improper use of tenses or grammar break the temporality, spatiality or relationships of the narrative.
Eg. The obvious ones in french: ce/se, ça(cela)/çà/sa... etc. A bit less obvious: “après qu’il ait”, subjunctive after stating a fact or is the subjunctive intended and it wasn’t a fact... etc.
And sometimes it becomes poetic “à l’insu de leur plein gré” when both forms are correct but with completely different meanings.
Generally speaking, proper use of tenses and moods is overrated; it is inconsistent across Romance languages yet speakers of either have no difficulty making themselves understood, or learning others' systems. Many non-Romance languages dispense entirely with this system and yet their speakers don't encounter any difficulties expressing the same shades of meaning as they would in French.
That’s definitely not true, and what follows is thus complete bs sorry. Where does this come from to begin with? I even miss Spanish’ subjunctive future in French!
It’s not only a mistake wrt the language rules but also a logical one, if intended initially to state facts.
> Generally speaking, proper use of tenses and moods is overrated
Wiping your butt after pooping is overrated too, you should try the opposite.
To order a coffee maybe, but there is definitely something more interesting in (not only) french.
That’s what makes a language more or less concise and elegant. You can express countless shades of meanings in pure arid arithmetic too, but yet...
And people don’t understand nor agree with each other generally speaking: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeneutics
Alright I have my trusty Grammaire espagnole (Beschrelle) at hand, and here are the differences in use of the subjunctive. The following cases involve the indicative in Spanish and the subjunctive in French:
-A concessive clause, whose opposition relies on a reality-grounded fact (aunque està lloviendo/bien qu'il pleuve)
-A relative clause after a superlative or similar adjectives expressing the idea of "first", "unique", uses the subjunctive in French. The comparison point being grounded in reality, Spanish always uses the indicative. (la mejor secretaria que hemos tenido/la meilleure secrétaire que nous ayons eue).
Conversely, here are cases where Spanish uses the subjunctive and French uses the indicative:
-Expressing a condition, hypothesis or hypothetic comparison after si (si vinieras conmigo/si tu venais avec moi)
-Expressing a supposition (quiza ella esté al tanto/peut-être qu'elle est au courant)
-Temporal clauses in the future (Cuando venga/Quand il viendra)
I can go on if you like. Very clearly, Spanish's use of the subjunctive very closely follows the hypothetical/unrealized aspect of the content, whereas French's use is less consistent with that aspect, and mostly depends on the locution being used.
>I even miss Spanish’ subjunctive future in French!
And yet I'm sure you don't have any problems expressing the hypothetical and/or fictious in Spanish, do you? At least hundreds of millions of Spanish speakers don't.
>Wiping your butt after pooping is overrated too, you should try the opposite.
Seeing how mood use is inconsistent from one Romance language to the other, I guess Spanish and Italian speakers aren't wiping their butts according to your point of view (and you aren't wiping yours according to them). Or...we could just stop adopting such a normative attitude and admit usage changes across countries and time periods without anything being reprehensible about it?
>That’s what makes a language more or less concise and elegant. You can express countless shades of meanings in pure arid arithmetic too, but yet...
Are you seriously arguing that languages that lack the tense and mood system of Romance languages are somehow less elegant and concise, or less able to express countless shades of meaning somehow?
Oh yes go on please.
But you were originally stating that subjunctive in French lost its semantic value. Now you making it narrow and added "compared to Spanish".
> I guess Spanish and Italian speakers aren't wiping their butts according to your point of view
I think you missed the point. It was meant to say that misuse of tenses and moods may alter causality and in general events chaining is not commutative (poop o wipe != wipe o poop).
> And yet I'm sure you don't have any problems expressing the hypothetical
> Are you seriously arguing that languages that lack the tense and mood system
By the very definition of "concise", yes.
I said you can do it in any language, but the formulation at some point will become cumbersome.
I said almost lost, and I'm choosing to believe out of charity that you didn't notice the extra word.
> But you were originally stating that subjunctive in French lost its semantic value. Now you making it narrow and added "compared to Spanish".
Yes, that's the crux of my argument, comparing use cases in French with that of other Romance languages in order to show how far the subjunctive use cases in French drifted from their original purpose and meaning. How else am I supposed to demonstrate it without a couple of reference points to compare with?
> It was meant to say that misuse of tenses and moods may alter causality and in general events chaining is not commutative (poop o wipe != wipe o poop).
I did take your point a little too literally, sorry. Still, the fact that mood and tense use across Romance languages is inconsistent, yet:
-People who speak either Romance language have no trouble distinguishing the actual from the hypothetical within their language, and
-People who speak multiple Romance languages have no trouble switching from one mood to the other according to the use case/language combination at hand,
shows how unlikely your "poop o wipe" situations are in practice. People "misuse" tenses and moods all the time (which is the prescriptive way of saying tense and mood usage evolves all the time) yet they still manage to communicate clearly somehow. This shows that these are not actually central to convey meaning and there are other avenues that do not use this system (context, adverbial cues, etc.).
>I said you can do it in any language, but the formulation at some point will become cumbersome.
Do you have any evidence for this? Like, can you showcase foreign languages that do not feature this system and whose formulation of the hypothetical would prove consistently more cumbersome and verbose than that of Romance languages? I'm not sure if you realize how far-reaching that statement is.
My theory: when you ask someone to correct language, and they know the author isn't a native speaker, they'll nitpick on things that native speakers wouldn't be corrected on; but the corrections will be much more about the idiosyncrasies of the corrector than the level of the author (when that author has reached a certain level of proficiency of course).
I know it sounds absurd, but maybe the corrections weren't made by native speakers.
> I initially preferred native French speakers, but after taking lessons with non-native speakers, I found that I couldn’t really tell the difference between natives and non-natives.
In fact, the only correct correction among all that red is to replace "gym" by "salle de sport". Not to be confused with "gymnasium", it's similar but not the same thing.
The 4th line is misusing the future tense. Should have been pointed out.
In this case, 'dans' is at the very least 'more correct' than 'à'.
It's one thing to imagine yourself doing this given six months of dedicated time (not that they claimed to have had this) and another to get a real sense of how one might fit this into one's life. Anyway, great, detailed article and an impressive accomplishment.
>Understand strongly accented speech. I understand essentially all the “standard” French without subtitles, but very little of the Quebecois.
Most European French speakers have trouble understanding Québecois as well, especially if it delves into slang, so I wouldn't fret much. High level (and written) speech should be ok though.
>Understand very slang-heavy speech. I know a good chunk of argot but there are still plenty of informal vocab words and expressions I don’t know. Especially that damn verlan.
Again, seeing how most people over 35 don't understand any of that stuff either I wouldn't worry too much. Especially because this stuff evolves like crazy and new slang/verlan words keep popping up all the time. I'm in my late 20s and can already feel the divide in the slang I and friends in their early 20s use.
>Write error free text. I can get the message across pretty well without relying on a dictionary, but I often phrase things a bit unnaturally and make minor grammatical errors.
Like I and another poster said, most of the mistakes aren't really mistakes. Only the most extraordinary pedant would object to these.
>Quickly use less common verb tenses. While I know how to construct the past conditional and future perfect, I still can’t use them very fluidly.
>Recognize all the weird literary tenses. Imperfect subjunctive? Yuck.
Yeah no one uses these. In fact if you did attempt to use these in a normal conversation there's a good chance you wouldn't be understood. Even in writing, modern authors are more and more switching to present and past perfect. Even tenses like the future are getting increasingly uncommon, people instead use the present and rely on contextual clues or markers, like in German (" we'll meet tomorrow" -> "we meet tomorrow").
What I mean to say from all of this is that even native French speakers are not completely at ease with these pain points so it's no use worrying about them too much.
The passé simple is almost never used orally these days, and in writing mostly only in literary texts.
I've noticed that the subjunctive is used less in writing since some change to 'simplify' (i.e. dumb down) the language.
Exotic forms of subjunctive (imperfect subjunctive, anyone?) are hardly used anymore even in contemporary literary texts.
The past conditional, maybe. The future, really? Do you actually say things like nous nous verrons demain or il l'aura fait avant in casual speech? Well I don't know if you do, but the vast majority of French speakers would say something like on se voit demain et il l'a probablement fait avant. Instead of using specific verb forms to convery meaning people instead rely on context and adverbial cues, as do the speakers of the dozens of languages that do not use the byzantine tense and mood system of the Romance languages (see: Japanese, Chinese, etc.) and are certainly not the worse for it.
>I've noticed that the subjunctive is used less in writing since some change to 'simplify' (i.e. dumb down) the language.
You're aware that the argument you're making about the language getting "dumbed down" is literally millennia old, right?
I am a french speaker from Québec and hear both of those often.
Japanese may be a pain in the ass to learn but it’s hard not to be jealous of the resources and media available to Japanese learners, as someone learning most any other language (though, in the US at least, Spanish media’s pretty easy to get ahold of)
I've also watched several videos and concluded after a while that it wasn't my TL but a related language.
Best way to start is watching tv news. Hosts have very clear pronuntiation, it's their job after all.
I first research what tv channels are more popular in the country, then search YouTube with that info. YouTube doesn't seem to offer a lot of search options, but it's possible to do the search from Google or DuckDuckGo and later select "videos" tab.
DuckDuckGo has a dropdown menu that allows search localization, so the first results are the most relevant to the selected country. Once you find a handful of interesting channels, you're set up.
This is a reflection on me of course - you should have your own opinions.
Anyway, if there's a channel with lots of contents, it's still possible to select only interesting topics. Maybe it's easier for me, because the language I'm most interested in is English :) Usually I don't even need YouTube, just setting Netflix language to English.
For other languages, I'm mostly interested in listening to specific words pronuntiation, usually names.
France Inter is the main radio station, France Culture the "intellectual" one and France Info the live news radio.
Also the best music in the world is on FIP.
> It’s still much tougher to come by that one might think.
You could try Arte: https://www.arte.tv/
It's a joint French-German project based on public TV programming from both countries, approximately half of the content is in French.
There's also the option of buying DVDs on Amazon
It's a typical 24/7 news channel but that's real, everyday French and, well, the latest news.
It helps, but is nowhere nearly as effective as not being able to escape it. In Germany, I remember going to bed exhausted with a headache quite a bit for a period of months, roughly the phase from when I was barely functional to when I was able to take part in class in non-stupid ways.
Watching TV for a couple hours is nothing like that.
I currently chat with my teacher every morning on my bluetooth headphones while exercising in my backyard (of course, confirming first that this wouldn't annoy her). Most productive hour of my day, and I she likes the certainty of me committing to a daily time slot.
Cool way to build friendships too. In April I'm visiting her in Venezuela. Though I recommend using a service like https://www.conversationexchange.com/ for a more overt way to meet different people while practicing language.
> 3/19: Reached the end of the Duolingo tree (level 1 in all skills, but most were level 3+)
This is pretty impressive. I've started French Duolingo around the same time and have been doing 30 min per day every day; 14 months later I'm about 1/2-way down.
This must have taken ~3h/day of Duolingo.
(Although it's good enough, it could be much better: the French dictionary lookup consistently swaps accented with nonaccented e's, the translator goes to Bing instead of deepl.com, the French->English lookup (which pops up in parallel) forgets at least half the time that the source is French and displays a useless null English->English translation of an actually French word. Going beyond the minimum, why couldn't we align a human-translated edition if you've bought one, or found a public-domain one? And the same for an audiobook of the same text? There's so much room to do these things better, not just for Duolingo. I blame DRM and the intellectual-property status quo to a considerable degree. I'm a little ashamed to be plugging a DRM-promoting setup here.)
There are some webapps and iOS apps for parallel-text reading, but last I looked the execution wasn't very compelling to me, and for me the time when parallel texts made the most difference is past. (Also, you learn that translators often seem to want to exercise excess creativity, or misunderstand things. This counterbalances their still-better-than-Bing general skill.)
To make the jump early, assuming you can enjoy them, see if you can find a wide selection of children's books from the library. It was kind of a nostalgic experience -- I'd forgotten what it felt like to be running into puzzling words and expressions all the time. This way is not so quick for dictionary lookup, though.
So many people, me especially, go through spurts of wanting to learn something new or complete a project, reach a goal, and yet I always seem to fizzle out because in the end, why bother?
I'll argue it's incredibly rare for people to set goals, work continuously towards them, and consider it a success more so than what they can now do.
Why did it not work in 2017 and 2018 despite motivation? Distractions. Some external, but mostly internal.
Why did it work in 2019 without motivation? Committed to put in that effort in a non-distracting environment. Well phones are everywhere to alert us, but the constant deadlines and exams keep you grounded.
I think we all have the same issues.And if you/we have a wandering personality (In 2020, we all do thanks to our devices and subscriptions), we need some external tools to keep keep us focussed.
Do find something similar. For myself, I am thinking of 3 months on, 3 months off kind of learning in a formal setting (need not be college) so as not to be overwhelmed.
- M. Russell Ballard
I always wonder why people post out of context quotes without commentary, when arguably their interpretation is the most interesting part. I care a lot more about what you think than what that religious leader says.
In following this philosophy I turned down many opportunities that seemed too good to be true because they didn't fit my life goals.
This is the main benefit I see in the quote, goals help with stretching yourself, sure. But I think it's far more valuable to stick to something instead of chasing every distraction that comes your way.
I rarely met people that had actually viable goals while in school (not that their goal was unrealistic, just missinformed and ill fited for them), and we all took our first years out of school as a discovery period to find something that was working for us.
But the quote is sort of bland and not that insightful anyway.
You can think whatever you want. It's a quote that I enjoy that came to mind while reading the parent comment. I was going to leave the name out because inevitably anything Mormon on the internet gets bombarded with comments like yours, although yours is fairly benign compared to most. I decided it was odd to quote someone and leave out the citation.
For this reason, I'm relatively reluctant to start new things unless I feel that I can actually commit to getting to the level of competency that I want.
This has frequently been my problem. I think maybe I'll learn enough to know it's not relevant or helpful outside some curiosity.
Languages are really hard. As an American speaking English I really get no use from knowing another language. Over my life I've learned, Spanish, Hebrew, French and Japanese. Enough to make sentences, and I forgot them all and never used them except for a trip. Everyone in foreign countries speaks English anyway.
Maybe you'll find an interesting travel destination where that's not the case by sorting this list by percent English speakers, ascending:
(I say classical here not to exclude others, but because this is the area I know first hand.)
I started learning very casually sometime in November using the Duolingo mobile app. After a while I switched to the desktop version of Duolingo and felt myself making pretty good progress. I enjoyed learning French enough to keep at it, and after a couple months I got the idea to move to France after finishing up my master's program. That probably won't be the case anymore, but for most of 2019 I had the motivation to become fluent enough to do pretty well in case I ended up moving to France.
I don't have any French speakers among my non-acquaintance friends, and absolutely 0 French-speaking family. So, there has never been anyone in "real-life" for which I was motivated to learn French. However, wanting to move to a foreign country was definitely enough to motivate me for the better part of a year.
Nothing is quite as motivating to learn a language than dating someone (or, more likely, trying to) who doesn't speak English very well or is willing to refuse to speak it.
It’s pretty cool to learn a second language and travel. I learned Spanish and backpacked from Guatemala to Buenos Aires over 9 months. I spent the first 3 months learning Spanish in Guatemala.
I understand feeling as though your structured grammar classes in school failed you when you first went to X country and spaghetti came out your mouth. However, that grammatical framework served me incredibly well as time went on. I found it filled in holes of knowledge without need to go back and correct them later. IMO, it is not a bad place to start, a traditional grammar focused class.
If you're looking for tips, the biggest is to maximize exposure - speaking, reading, writing, hearing the language. It is simply a matter of time if you force yourself into it. In addition to everyday language practice with my colleagues to do my job (don't let them speak your native tongue with you, ever!), I hosted french movie nights, read in french, and installed Antidote for my emails (seriously - if you're learning French, buy Antidote).
Seriously, don't let them speak your native tongue with you, ever, for any reason. Force the language you want to learn without exception - conversation language patterns are very, very hard to undo once set.
Last point: Contrary to the author, "heavily accented French" to me is France French, I am far less fluent with it. Choose your teachers based on what accent you want to have, yourself.
I wrote an article about my own method for language learning, focusing mainly on the spaced repetition aspect.
You are correct in that a decent chunk of the words are relatively useless, and I forgot many of them already after stopping Anki for a few months. There were also some words that I had no idea how to use, as you said. However, I did some extra looking-up of difficult words, and the deck included example sentences for many of the words. Also, I definitely claim that your method is more effective, but clearly this one at least worked well enough to do what I did.
I see this somewhat frequently among some parts of the online language community. For some reason people seem to think that you're not immersing in a language unless you're in a country where that language is frequently used. They somehow equate being immersed in a language with physically being in a country where that language is frequently used.
Don't get me wrong, being in a country is a great way to immerse yourself in a language, but it is by no means a requirement.
In terms of exposure to content in the language you're learning, what's the difference between someone who is living in a country where they see that language on TV, in the newspapers, hear it on the radio, and speak it with native speakers, versus someone who watches content in that language on youtube, reads articles/newspapers online in that language, talks online with people who speak that language, but lives somewhere where they don't speak it? Not much.
Setting up a "local immersion environment" requires putting effort into finding native resources and trying to reduce your exposure towards your native language. It's certainly more effort than being in a country where you can't help but be surrounded by your target language, but it's definitely not impossible.
The idea that listening to music, listening to podcasts, watching youtube videos and reading articles in your target language is not immersion is silly, since this is what native speakers living in their country experience on a daily basis. Environment is everything, not location.
Regarding differences between this pseudo-immersion and "true immersion", I think there are a ton of things that I never picked up that I would receive had I lived in the country, which is a big reason why I still make this distinction. For example, I haven't shopped at a French grocery store and asked for help, and while I could do so, I'd probably use some uncommon wording. Or, for example, IIRC French people say "I'm having X" in restaurants instead of "I would like X", as all the online resources tell you to do, but I would have never picked up on this if I hadn't read it in a random article once. This sort of expression-mimicking you get from interacting daily with native speakers is, I imagine, hugely important in actually becoming natural in a native environment and is completely lacking with what I did.
I've never been to a French hospital, or complained about cigarette butts on the sidewalk, or explained how I stepped in dog poop on my way to work this morning, or told anyone how sweaty I became after rushing to catch the train. I could say all these things, but they'd all be new situations and there would be unnatural wording and a distinct lack of common expressions and idioms in my speech. Theoretically, I could watch enough movies or read enough books to catch a decent chunk of this, but in my immersion method I read 1 book and 0 movies or tv shows, (aside from a kid's cartoon for a bit.) This doesn't even include the massive amount of slang and idioms that are only said among very informal friends that I've never used with my Italki teachers. Perhaps including a lot more media in my method would be significantly more "immersive", but in any case I think the distinction is warranted. That being said, immersing yourself as much as possible, even at home, is definitely a very useful and effective way to learn a language.
-I started Duolingo Danish, only 15-20 minutes every day, just unlocking stuff, not completing evey level. I never completed it all, but there's not much left.
-Then I followed a couple major Danish newspapers on Twitter. This is good because it is just incorporated in my couple daily sweeps through my timeline, provides a little "cultural immersion" and the translate button is sitting right there to help with those couple of words you didn't already know.
-The Twitter thing also works well to give a sense of progress: After a while you find you don't have much trouble with the tweets themselves and start clicking on some links to get a harder challenge with the articles themselves.
-When you can make out what most of the press articles say, you can start trying with some fiction: In my case I chose ebook Danish translations of the Millenium novel series, for no particular reason (just more Nordic noir). I had not read them previously.
I read them using my phone and set up the reader to provide Google translation by selecting words or sentences. I found out I could in fact enjoy the novel and had to use the "dictionary" less and less as I went on. I read the two first novels and the average speed was about half of English or my native Spanish.
- Since my Danish reading was by now quite effortless, for an aditional challenge I tried the third novel in the original Swedish. This was viable and still fun, but certainly more belabored.
All this took about 3-4 months.
So now I can read Danish, Norwegian and Swedish newspapers but I can't really understand the spoken language. (In fact spoken Danish is notoriously difficult to understand). I can catch the drift of conversation, recognise words and phrases but not really understand or speak myself. I can surprise Danes by greeting them and exchanging some smalltalk, but not really keep up a conversation. But hey... it was all pretty much effortless, so RoI is great.
Nowadays I'm doing the same with Russian. It goes slower because I'm not as obsessed and stop from time to time, but I can understand tweets from Komsomolskaya Pravda pretty well by now.
Ikenna learned (conversational?) French in 6 months. It's quite an inspiring video. After watching a few of his videos now, it definitely plays a part in continuing to motivate me learning Japanese.
If you can go to a country where the language is spoken and are able to spend all of your time working on the language, you can learn to B2 level in much less than a year. I would say you should be able to achieve B2 level in a relatively easy (because close to English) language like French in less than 6 months.
I have some family that have done intense language study, and lived abroad for years (mostly Russia, but other places too), one thing I've always been curious about is wordplay.
Do non-English languages and cultures have the same amount (or potential for) wordplay like English does? My family who've lived abroad have said 'not as much as English', but... they only lived in non-English places for a few years, so their experience - while valuable - may not be conclusive.
Here is a website with some:
Ex with the website name: la poule qui mue (the hen that is moulting) -> la moule qui pue (the mussel (slang for pussy) that stinks).
If you are in a business setting and you are scheduling your next meeting, avoid saying "Je te laisse le choix dans la date" (I'll leave you the choice of the date).
For anyone who is bored of learning yet another programming language, learning a human language will challenge you and humble you and reward you if you keep going at it.
Just please give up on self-imposed deadlines, and as this article states, there is no magic bullet, no magic method to learning a language, despite what SEO-driven blogs and videos will tell you.
However, I was not able to speak French at all. I actually went to the South of France thinking I'd be able to converse but was immediately disheartened when I couldn't understand the first thing they said and they couldn't even understand me saying the word "tarte" in a patisserie.
My approach to learning to read/write French was simple. First learn the grammar of your mother tongue. If you don't speak a second language, you probably don't know this. Secondly, learn the grammar of the new language by using study materials written in your mother tongue. There is an excellent series of books that covers both of these called English Grammar for Students of X (where X is, French, for example). Thirdly, learn loads and loads of vocabulary (including genders etc if necessary). For this I used Memrise which was excellent at the time (but I think it has regressed since). Then just read a lot.
Things I found not useful at all were Duolingo and Rosetta Stone. They don't teach grammar to adults. They are aimed at babies which is fine if you have ten years to learn this, I guess. There are no shortcuts if you want it to be quicker.
I still know a surprisingly large amount of French after several years, but it's fading. I'd still love to be able to speak it fluently one day. Any advice for getting there?
What I've found is a lot of pessimism about how well Duolingo teaches you a language, with many arguing it's a waste of time altogether.
I'm surprised that could be the case though. They have data from millions of language learners processing through their lessons, and looking at their making-of blog (https://making.duolingo.com), the product seems data-driven. They do A/B testing to see the efficacy of new features they roll out. Aside from that, they combine reading, writing, speaking, and listening exercises, and have made some innovative features like chat bots. One language tree includes a few thousand words.
If anything, I would expect Duolingo to be vastly more effective than other methods.
Duolingo is certainly a grind, but I don't think that's 100% a bad thing. It's far from perfectly executed, but I think you need a certain amount of grind to really drill some of the vocab and grammatical concepts into you.
As an example, in a classroom you do some homework exercises, and maybe get feedback the next day on however many exercises you do. You don't necessarily get to redo the exercises you miss enough to let the concept sink in, and you might do way too many exercises that do nothing for you as you've already internalized the concept. With Duolingo grinding, you have to repeat your weakest points after you get them wrong and get to drill in all the exercises until they stick.
I estimate that each lesson of roughly 20 questions, with redoing exercises I got wrong, takes me something like 3-5 minutes, so in an hour of focused effort you might get 300 exercises in. That's far more exercises than I imagine you do in school for example, and you also get to decide if a unit is too easy and you can afford to skip it, or if it's hard enough where you have to repeat it. Plus, each sentence has a discussion page, many of which (especially the tricky ones) have detailed explanations about the concepts within the sentence.
Duolingo is far from perfect, but despite all the criticism it receives (rightly so for what it claims you can do with 5 minutes a day on the mobile app), you can actually make it a surprisingly effective tool.
It's just that I moved on nearly as soon as I could to learning by osmosis from reading real books; which, not being deliberate practice, is quite suboptimal in learning rate too, but is a much more tolerable use of time. If they were as effective as I think they could be, I wouldn't ditch them so soon.
I have the unusual issue of being severely hard of hearing and I'm not sure what'll be the effective way to learn spoken conversation if I do move to a French-speaking country. Even hearing English is, uh, problematic in most settings. So this is also an example of tailoring your own approach in view of goals and context. I like reading books, and this most directly got me the thing I like.
By this I mean starting from the very basics to a level where you can comfortably talk about main concepts and start designing or experimenting using your knowledge
The article (not the NYT one, which is just typical whiney urban cat lady trash) has a lot of the components of a marketing submarine. Particularly obviously as .... well, who is this person?
I do think apps are pretty helpful in stuffing vocab in the brain. Mixed bag though. Duolingo is shit for me; they don't have continental Portuguese (Memrise does). The rest of it rings true as well (I listen to Portuguese radio at home to work on my understanding when I'm not being a slug).
Living in France will not teach you French, besides "survival French" and probably "minimal conversational French". Even having a French partner won't help at all, unless you both commit to speaking French (and then your partner is put into a weird position where they're your partner but have to constantly correct you)...
Acquiring Superior/Distinguished  level vocabulary basically entails dense vocabulary study, daily. And then putting it into practice with usage and recognition (i.e. reading French books). Anything else is far too slow.
> When I try to tell a story in French, I sense that the listener wants to flee.
The hardest part of learning any language is just accepting that you're going to make mistakes. Maybe French people are more snobbish about French (I have no idea) but generally speaking... people understand that you're taking the time and effort to learn and speak their language.
s/French/<Your Desired Language>/g
I know people who have lived in Korea for 5, 8, 10 years and are frankly still terrible at it. Some of these people own businesses there! Having a bilingual Korean partner is probably the worst thing that I noticed, because you end up always speaking the language that's more convenient, i.e. English.
I have a low opinion of NYT columnists. As you say, you really have to work at it. Reading the peregrinations of someone who admitted they didn't actually work at it, larded with excuses from psychologists (who are measuring people who also didn't work at it) isn't real edifying or useful; we already know how people manage not to do it. Enough people succeed in learning new languages as adults, I'd rather hear from them.
* using the desktop version of Duolingo
* the shared Ankiweb decks for <x> most common words in <x> language
I've been slowly learning Spanish via a few short classes and intermittently using Duolingo on my phone.
I'm not even sure I knew a non-mobile version of Duolingo existed until now and it's so much better. Even though I knew that turning off the work bank was better for learning I didn't do it because typing on my phone sucks.
And I had never used Anki before but earlier today I downloaded it and a top 5000 Spanish word deck and already went through my first lesson.
Even these two small things will help me a lot so thank you.
I didn't like the Anki UI at first but I got used to it quickly. My Anki pace of 50 new cards a day was very aggressive, but this was largely possible due to the massive number of cognates between English and French. I imagine the same will hold for you in Spanish, though perhaps to a slightly lesser extent. I think Anki is wonderful for acquiring vocab though, so keep at it and you should do quite well! Also consider making your own Anki deck or using sentences instead of words. While this 5000 word deck was good enough to get to B2 for me, those methods are very likely more effective for long-term retention of more obscure words, although of course they are far more time-consuming.
Yeah I'll eventually build my own Anki deck. I'm spending a month in Mexico right now so that's definitely helping too :)