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How Did You Learn A Foreign Language?  
User currently offlineUAL747 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3361 times:

I've always admired Europeans for their language skills. It's so interesting that there are so many different languages in an area with relative size to the United States. Anyway, to my point, how did you learn your foriegn language skills? Was it by being exposed to a foreign language in daily life, the classroom, or that you just have the interest. I speak 3 languages, well, 2 fluently, (French and English) and I speak fundamental Mandarin Chinese. In fact, I just used my Chinese a minute ago when the Chinese food delivery lady came to my door. We chatted a bit in Mandarin, she is from Taipei.

Back my point, I learned French by studying in school from a young age. I speak French rather fluently. I studied Mandarin in college, and I spent time living in Beijing, studying at Beijing Shou Du Da Xue (Beijing Capital University).

Secondly, I need to brush up on my Mandarin skills. Does anyone have any recommendations? It's rare that you find someone in Oklahoma City who speaks it, unless you go to the Asian district. Often times, and I know this sounds weird, I have conversations with myself in French and Chinese, just to keep the skills up. For instance, I went to Home Depot two days ago and I made myself talk about what I wanted in French. LOL, the reaction to ANY foreign speaker in OK is funny. People look at you when you speak French and ask you where you are from. Sometimes I do it just to make people feel weird. But, seriously, I need to keep my language skills in check. What do you do to stay fluent?


63 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
User currently offlineDtwclipper From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3356 times:

Quoting UAL747 (Thread starter):
how did you learn your foriegn language skills? Was it by being exposed to a foreign language in daily life, the classroom, or that you just have the interest.

I speak fluent German, and I am told by native speakers, it is accent free, quite an accomplishment for an American.

I took German Lit. as a Major at NYU.
Spent two summers at the Goethe Institute in Germany (Schwaebisch Hall & Prien am Chiemsee)
I took an opportunity to do an apprenticeship in s.e. Germany for a summer.
I then worked and lived in Germany and Switzerland for 5 years.

User currently offlineKnoxibus From France, joined Aug 2007, 260 posts, RR: 23
Reply 2, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3348 times:

Being French obviously indicates that it is my mother tongue.

In the family we always had a stuff for other languages.

Learned English and German in school, but I mostly forgot all about German, but I want to start it back.

Well as for English, always loved this tongue, I don't know why, it seems to be easier to tell jokes, sing, and express feelings with english rather than french.

Lived in England for 4 years so it made it easier for me to master it, and try to get rid of that filthy french accent.

Learned Japanese for 2 years, but as with german, without practice, I lost most of it.

For English, well I am an extremist, as I only read books in English (currently James Clavell's "Gai-Jin"), only want to go to the movies if it's subtitled, and same for the series, TV, etc.

And at work, (guess where  Smile from my profile) plenty of foreigners and British, so it's great to keep the level up.

No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.
User currently offlineAirxLiban From Lebanon, joined Oct 2003, 4536 posts, RR: 52
Reply 3, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3341 times:

Learned English because my father wanted me to be fluent in it

Learned French from home and from school

Learned Arabic from my parents and took a course at AUB

Learned Armenian from my mother and grandmother

Learned Turkish from living in Turkey

Learned Spanish after I had finished all the courses that my high school offered in French as a 10th grader, so I took 2 years of Spanish.


Learned Basic as an 8th grader  Wink

Learned C as part of my college engineering curriculum

Learned Java because I took a class in it

Learned SQL and PL/SQL in school and used it while working at Boeing

User currently offlineZRH From Switzerland, joined Nov 1999, 5601 posts, RR: 32
Reply 4, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3334 times:

In school and traveling abroad. Here in Switzerland the kids have to learn at least two foreign languages. In my Canton (state) the pupils learn the first foreign language from second grade and the second from fourth grade.

[Edited 2005-09-07 20:01:19]

User currently offlineAndz From South Africa, joined Feb 2004, 8594 posts, RR: 9
Reply 5, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3334 times:
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I learned Afrikaans when I arrived in South Africa in 1975 because I had no choice, at the time both official languages (A and English) were compulsory school subjects. I took immigrant classes for a year and picked it up pretty fast.

I learned German when a company I worked for offered us lessons for free, the course was Deutsche fuer Erwachsene (German for adults) that concentrated on the practical daily use of the language rather than the structure that is taught in school.

After Monday and Tuesday even the calendar says WTF...
User currently offlineCarmenlu15 From Guatemala, joined Dec 2004, 4763 posts, RR: 26
Reply 6, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3331 times:

Another language thread... I love 'em!  bigthumbsup 

I started learning English in preschool, and though I never took any courses besides the regular school program, I progressed well enough, up to the point of holding a fluent conversation by the end of elementary school.

Of course, I continued learning, and took a translation course after graduating from high school. Nowadays, English is a must for anyone looking for a decent job, and my good command of language surely has helped me in that sense... Besides translations as part of my job, I practice written English a lot by posting here (oh really?  silly  ). My spoken English could use a little brush-up, though, but it's still at a good level.

Other than that, I took up German a couple of years ago but had to drop it (no time, no $$$...). I didn't have a chance to practice it enough, so I've forgotten most of it. Same goes for the kaqchikel I learned as part of the translation program...  Sad

Hopefully I'll be able to retake the language studies I left unfinished... and then we'll talk Big grin


Don't expect to see me around that much (if at all) -- the contact link should still work, though.
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 66
Reply 7, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3331 times:

Took two years of Spanish in high school. Did not speak it again until I went to Hong Kong. Lived two years in Latin America but around too many Gringoes for me to gain any real fluency.

I now wish I'd learned more languages back when my brain was more malleable.

Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineME AVN FAN From Algeria, joined May 2002, 13937 posts, RR: 23
Reply 8, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3325 times:

Quoting Dtwclipper (Reply 1):
worked and lived in Germany and Switzerland for 5 years

just was wondering how you got along with Bavarian and Swiss dialects, which are more or less (or rather less and more) different from "standard German" ?

User currently offlineRossbaku From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2005, 673 posts, RR: 1
Reply 9, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3318 times:

Learned French in school.

Learned English because it is my native language.

I'm currently trying to learn Russian because my Dad's wife's family is Russian and so I'd actually be able to use another language other than mine for good use!


User currently offlineAR1300 From Argentina, joined Feb 2005, 1750 posts, RR: 2
Reply 10, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3317 times:

Well, as it seems obvious I speak spanish as it is my mother tongue.We are jewish, so we speak hebrew, as it is a regular thing in our lives, starting to learn it from the kinder.
And about english, i went 7 years to a private school and I had a mentor back at home, twice a week.Then I moved to Chicago for three years, so I mastered it there.
The little arabic that I know, is from my GP being Egyptian, and they insist in talking to us grankids in arabic, and sometimes in French.But French sounds like ''tre,tre,tre'' to me.I don't get a blasted word.


You are now free to move about the cabin
User currently offlineDtwclipper From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3314 times:

Quoting ME AVN FAN (Reply 8):
just was wondering how you got along with Bavarian and Swiss dialects, which are more or less (or rather less and more) different from "standard German" ?

I of course learned "Schrift Deutsch" as you say in Switzerland, but I was aware of dialect from day one.

I understand a little Berner and Basler dialect, and somewhat more Schwaebisch and Bavarian.

I made every attempt not to let my German be "corrupted" because it sounds really dumb (or so I was told) to try and speak dialect. As you know, most people will work with you and speak in "high German".

My accent did however become flavoured a bit with southern German, as I found out when I moved to Dusseldorf.

User currently offlineManuCH From Switzerland, joined Jun 2005, 3031 posts, RR: 44
Reply 12, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 3308 times:

My mother tongue is Italian because I live in the italian-speaking part of Switzerland.

My parents both speak German and French because they come from the german-and-french speaking part of Switzerland. They speak both languages when talking to each other, so that's how I learned these 2 languages.

And my uncle lives in the US. I was allowed to spend a month every sommer with him. That's how I learned English...

And by the way, in our schools we are taught all these 4 languages. But that's a little bit overkill IMHO ... if you didn't learn them somehow before, it's hard to become fluent in all of them, just by learning them at school.


Never trust a statistic you didn't fake yourself
User currently offlineMatt27 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 3307 times:

Swedish - mother tongue
English - from school (8 years)
German - from school (6 years)
Spanish - from school (3 years)

I also know some Danish and Norwegian, those languages are very similar to Swedish.


User currently onlineAOMlover From Singapore, joined Jul 2001, 1335 posts, RR: 11
Reply 14, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 3283 times:

English from school (9 years), idem for Italian (7 years).
The Internet, especially forums like this one, helped me a lot improve my English skills.
I chose Italian because I live in a Mediterranean area, and I also have Italian ancesters. Plus it's a very beautiful language, but not as easy as you'd think at first sight.

User currently offlineLH423 From Canada, joined Jul 1999, 6501 posts, RR: 52
Reply 15, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 3281 times:

My grandparents were from Québec and from a very young age they would speak to me in French. Though, now with no one really to speak to I'm starting to lose some of my oral abilities though through reading a lot and listening to Québécois radio and tv and music I keep my reading, writing, and listening skills in good form.

My dad started teaching me German when I was young and I started getting good at it, but we didn't keep it up and I've lost most of my German aside from basic salutations, needs, etc.

Quoting Knoxibus (Reply 2):
Lived in England for 4 years so it made it easier for me to master it, and try to get rid of that filthy french accent.

You know, a lot of people find a gentle French accent to be quite sexy!  Smile


« On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux » Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
User currently offlineEilennaei From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 3282 times:

The residents of the continental U.S. perhaps don't realise that they live on what is probably the world's largest monolinguistic island, albeit a shrinking one.

I learned the foreign languages I know by staying home and letting the good people of Finland pay my tuition fees.

[Edited 2005-09-07 21:31:15]

User currently onlineAOMlover From Singapore, joined Jul 2001, 1335 posts, RR: 11
Reply 17, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 3269 times:

My mother speaks fluent Mandarin, I should've realized before that it would've been an awesome opportunity for me to learn Chinese. Better late than never, if I ever move to China I know where to seek support.

User currently offlineBritish767 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2005, 284 posts, RR: 18
Reply 18, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 3264 times:

The only foreign language I am learning is German. I have been learning it for 7 years now, and about to start studying it at university for another 4 years. School laid down the foundations and gave me a basic knowledge (and also complex grammar) of the language, but I found that I have learnt a lot of my German, and gained some confidence by being in Germany itself, and speaking in a conversation with natives (although speaking to shopkeepers and so on didn't help my confidence at all!). I would say I am about 50% fluent or so.

I went on a German exchange to a town called Kassel in 2002, and my German was really, really limited. But after being in the country for a mere 6 days I managed to learn the whole thing regarding the perfect and imperfect tense from my exchange partner! This to me was proof that being in the native country really does help!

Quoting AOMlover (Reply 14):
but not as easy as you'd think at first sight.

I'd have to agree with your there!! I learnt Italian for about 5 months or so, but I found it too difficult to get my head around!

[Edited 2005-09-07 21:22:37]

User currently offlineMarambio From Argentina, joined Oct 2004, 1172 posts, RR: 23
Reply 19, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 3218 times:

Well, let's say languages are something I have always liked.

Of course I am a fluent Spanish speaker, as it is my mother tongue. I'd rather say my mother tongue is Lunfardo, the somewhat dialected Spanish we speak in Argentina, but oh well.

I speak French at an almost-native level. I have been learning Molière's language since the age of 3, and I am about to pass my Baccalauréat exams (the Epreuves anticipées, actually) in less than two months. For those who may know the French school system, I picked the série Littéraire.

As for English, I started learning it at the age of 12, at a private institute here in Buenos Aires. My performance was certainly improved by occasional trips to both the US and the UK. Last year I passed Cambridge's First Certificate of English, and I'm looking forward to passing the Certificate of Advanced English next December. Overall, I still find my English to be plain average, and I am really trying to get rid of the damn accent.

I am now taking Portuguese classes at school in order to obtain more credits for the Baccalauréat. Even though Camõens' language is very similar to Spanish, that is also its main problem - it is somewhat natural to end up speaking in Portuñol, a half-Spanish, half-Portuguese hybrid.

Although I never took an Italian course, I can speak it somewhat fluently, due to the strong link it has got with Lunfardo. The latter, according to some linguists, looks more Italian than Spanish sometimes.

German is widely spoken in my family, thus I can understand and read it without big trouble, yet my speaking is horrible. I will take some German classes somewhere in the near future.

Finally, my mother has lived in the Netherlands for the last two years, so I managed to pick up some Dutch while visiting her. For sure I cannot have a fluent conversation, but I can read it without too much hassle. Lately I have read some texts in Afrikaans, and I understood half of them because of its similarity with Dutch.


Aerolíneas Argentinas - La Argentina que levanta vuelo
User currently offlineUSAFHummer From United States of America, joined May 2000, 10685 posts, RR: 51
Reply 20, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 3211 times:

Took my required 3 years of a language in high school...I took Spanish...I was contemplating taking Norwegian here at college, just cause I wanted to learn another language that was a bit less traditional than the standard offerings of French/Spanish/German etc. but unfortunately I don't have enough spare credits anymore to allow that...


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User currently offlineLFutia From Netherlands, joined Dec 2002, 3407 posts, RR: 30
Reply 21, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 3199 times:
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I've learned dutch all on my own... through various websites ... Audio/video and friends on MSN... i've been learning since January 2002.

Leo/ORD -- Groetjes uit de VS! -- Heeft u laatst nog met KLM gevlogen?
User currently offlineLooneyToon From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 444 posts, RR: 1
Reply 22, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 3191 times:

My first language is English.

I learned my Spanish (now fluent) from living 6 years in El Salvador.

I learned Portuguese (also fluent) from living 4 years in Mozambique and visiting Brazil often.

I learned French (semi-fluent) while I lived in South Africa for 4 years while attending school.

I learned Guarani (just talking, its nearly impossible to write/read) because thats what my parents speak to each other and I just picked it up by listening.

User currently onlineMAH4546 From Sweden, joined Jan 2001, 34612 posts, RR: 70
Reply 23, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 3186 times:

Spanish was my first language, so I became native to that. When I started school, I started learning English, and some Swedish, when I first went to school. Naturally, English became my "best" language, even though it wasn't my first. I took some German in high school, which I vaguely remember I learned Italian and Portuguese in college, as well as two years of Hindi. Italian and Portuguese came very, very easy to me simply because they are so familar to Spanish.

Living in Miami, keeping up my Spanish speaking is a breeze. I use it on a daily basis. I also get to practice my Portuguese, and to a lesser extent my Italian, in Miami quite frequently, as both are commonly spoken around here in downtown and Miami Beach. Practicing my Hindi is the most difficult. I watch a lot of Bollywood movies, and, when I'm living in Chicago, head to Devon Street. I don't practice my Swedish and German, both of which I am terrible at.

[Edited 2005-09-08 00:18:00]

User currently offlineBoogyJay From France, joined May 2005, 490 posts, RR: 4
Reply 24, posted (10 years 8 months 3 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 3179 times:

French (fluent) from my mother + living in France.

Turkish (bilingual) from my father + summer holidays in Turkey.

English (quite good) from school + Master Degree this year in the UK.

German (OK) from school + summer holidays in FRA with aunt/uncle.

Tried to learn Spanish with my mexican friend but given up because of lack of time.

Tried to learn Chinese with Chinese friends but given up because of lack of motivation from these friends.


25 Post contains images FlyAUA : By having a foreign boyfriend. Easy! That's how I learnt Dutch I am trying to learn other languages now by purchasing those beginners kinda books from
26 ArmitageShanks : I can speak a little Spanish, but not enough to hold a conversation. I took 3 years of Spanish in school. I can get buy in German and Dutch, but I can
27 LFutia : Spreekt u Nederlands echt goed?
28 Post contains images AsstChiefMark : ...by watching every single Star Trek episode ever recorded. Twice. Mark
29 Post contains images Airdolomiti : -Italian: native -German: from my mom (I only speak German with her, and only Italian with my dad. Being bilingual is a great thing IMO ), plus 3 year
30 QANTASforever : When I first arrived in Australia I could only speak Dzongkha and a little English - now I cannot remember any Dzongkha but I speak English perfectly.
31 Post contains images Canuckpaxguy : I learned French in school and did pretty well at is since many of the grammar rules are the same as in Greek, which is another language I learned at
32 SW733 : I learned Hungarian from my grandparents, and used it constantly with my family in Hungary, that's how I learned it. Kinda fun because since my grand
33 Post contains images USAFHummer : You are absolutely right... I did not realize that the United States was an island.. How could I be so dumb?? I mean...we've got that country that's
34 CurtisMan : I grew up in Quebec, Canada so that means both english and french were common in my neighbourhood. My mother spoke english to us with some french mixe
35 Post contains images Springbok747 : Geez..I suck...I can only speak English and very little Afrikaans...that's it
36 Eilennaei : I said "monolinguistic island". I did not want to say "a monolinguistic linguistic island" for the benefit of some moderators, as that would been wha
37 Post contains images Kilavoud : Courses (school or others). Using internet for connecting people speaking like a native the language I want to learn. Watching DVD in the language I w
38 Duke : Languages are a thing in my family. Both my parents, especially my father, have a background with language learning. I first spoke Serbian with them,
39 Doona : My dad is Scottish/Irish, so I've spoken fluent English since I could speak, first with a south-western Irish accent, but after my dad moved to the US
40 Post contains images Carmenlu15 : Close! Should be "Yo tengo un gato en mis pantalones". Now, why would you want a cat in your pants?
41 Doona : Who doesn't? Anyway, thanks for correcting me on that, I'll try and remember it... Cheers Mats
42 Post contains images FlyAUA : Maybe he meant 'hole' and not a 'cat' Gat means hole in dutch. Plus it would make more sense. But thanks for the laugh
43 Kilavoud : Doona, Carmenlu15 se quiere un gato en sus pantalones por une razon que no podemos comprender si no estamos nativo Suecia. Es asi que ya lo comprendo.
44 Pyrex : Its actually Camões... it is very similar in gramatical terms (as are most Latin languages) but the sound is actually completely different... it is
45 Post contains images RobertNL070 : Totally fluent in English and Dutch. I must make the time and effort to learn some Spanish ('Iberian' as opposed to Latin-American) this winter. Regar
46 Post contains images RobertNL070 : Sorry UAL747, my post was beside the point! English - mother tongue French - 6 years at school (sadly neglected) Dutch - I live here since 1987 - tota
47 BaylorAirBear : I had a foreign girlfriend. BAB
48 Captaink : I am learning to speak proper spanish. I did take it as a subject in high school, but now that i live in Mexico i realize that I was only scratching t
49 Doona : OK, hold on, something about wanting cats in your pants being a Swedish thing...? As I said, can't speak Spanish worth a damn... Cheers Mats
50 Post contains images AA767400 : This is so true, and I thought I was the only one but Portuguese from Portugal does sound like Russian from a distance. I would say that the best way
51 Eilennaei : Spanish was exactly my point, in plaintext, when I mentioned the shrinking "island" of English, which is due to the increase of Spanish speakers in t
52 Numbertwelve : Hehe, same here (just converse): learned English and French at school but I mostly forgot my French. But when I am on holidays and meet French people
53 An-225 : Came to the US and had no choice but to learn English. Took Spanish for 2 years and can't really speak, but can understand a lot. So now I speak: Russ
54 2H4 : Back in high school, I applied for and was awarded a full scholarship to study abroad in Germany for a year. Prior to my departure, I had no German l
55 Post contains images AA777 : English-- Learned in school... my mom speaks it as a first language. Spanish-- Started learning it in Middle School, and took it for 6 1/2 years. My a
56 Dba4U : I'm learning: English since grade 5 at school (more or less fluent, damn tenses...) French since grade 7 at school (as nice as it sounds, as hard it i
57 Smitten : Moving to the UK... hehe
58 Jafa39 : When I lived in Corfu, I learnt what Greek I knew from an Australian, heaven knows what it sounded like but I had a Greek mate out there, Spiros and h
59 Post contains images DAL767400ER : Learned English thanks to my parents starting to take me with them on vacations in the US when I was only two. Learned Latin in school, but have alrea
60 Post contains images BMIFlyer : Aprendí español en la escuela. La escuela acabada en 1995, sino yo todavía no ha estado a España   Estoy entrando afortunadamente en cerca de 4 s
61 Post contains images Atco2b : I started learning French in Year 6 (age 11). I continued it through secondary school, and passed my GCSE last year with a Grade B My teacher for the
62 AMSGOT : Dutch - Native English - Fluent (Learned at school since I was 9 yrs old) Swedish - Fluent (this means I understand Norwegian too) (Learned it mostly
63 Lijnden : Dutch: native tongue (I also understand Flemish and about 75% of Afrikaans) German: Boarding school in Switzerland (also: Swiss-German) US English: Co
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