PHX787
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How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 9:19 am

Given that posting in English is a rule for this website, and seeing that the majority of the members are from nations other than the US or UK, I'm curious: how did you all learn to write such perfect english?


You see, at ASU, I volunteer at the AECP program- American English and Culture Program, which teaches foreign students English.....usually, though, their English doesn't improve much due to the flaws that the program has.


SO I am curious: how did all of you from a non-English country learn? Have you studied in an English speaking country before?

Pardon my curiosity  

-Z
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bwest
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 9:38 am

TV and movies... the advantage of not dubbing, you pick up a language easier.

Oh, and having an English speaking partner for the last 10yrs or so also helped  
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autothrust
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 9:51 am

School, Chatting, Internet, Work

However my english is very far from being perfect. The school was almost for nothing.
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Rara
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 9:55 am

In school. There's still much to learn though.. some people from non-English countries on this site are rather good rhetorically, and can hold their own against the English speaking masterdebators (   )... but I always feel I can make a point more elegantly in German.

Still, at least for us English isn't much of a challenge. Interestingly I've just read an article about why it is so damn hard to learn Chinese (http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html/), another second language of mine which I don't speak nearly as well.. It really is no comparison. English is pretty accessible, all in all.
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NoUFO
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 11:10 am

I feel like I am still learning it.
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CPH-R
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 11:10 am

School, movies, TV, books as I got older, 2 weeks of language school in the UK and 5 months studying in Wagga Wagga, Australia.
 
JJJ
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 11:28 am

Perfect? lol

Well, I got the foundations at school but it was watching films, talking to people and reading books in English what really did it for me.
 
MD11Engineer
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 11:43 am

First, thanks to Mrs. Graetschel, my first English teacher in grade 5, primary school in Berlin. While she was German, she grew up in a former British colony in Africa and went to school there. While she spoke German at home with her parents, her schoolfriends were all Englishspeakers and school was taught in English as well, so in fact she was a native Englishspeaker, not a German who just learned English through books and in school.
She made sure that all the typical German-accent misspronounciations were corrected right in the beginning (I remember how she had us repeat "Ruler, rubber, red" to get us pronounce the English "R" correctly. we also practised the correct pronounciation of the "th".).
Since she went to a British school she also could tell us kids firsthand how life in schools was over there, something which interested us kids a lot.

There were other factors: My father spoke English, Spanish, Catalan, French and Portugese. He also had a huge library of non-fiction and fiction. If he could speak the language, he liked to read the books in the original language. At the age of 14 I got interested in some English language novels, but couln´t get a translated copy. So I started reading them, at first using a dictionary (the first book was Isaac Asimov´s Fantastic Voyage). After the third book I didn´t need the dictionary anymore and today read English just like German.
My mother also speaks English, in the early 1960s she spent a year as a young nurse working in the UK.
Then, since my father was a scientist, we often had foreign scientists, guests of his university department, visiting us. Often they would get invited to sleep in our visitor´s room for their stay.
Another impact was the fact that I grew up about 500 metres away from an US Army barracks in West Berlin. In my late teens and early 20s I had a friend, who was a sergeant with the US Army Berlin brigade. We were usually talkung in English.
In secondary school I p'ssed off a stupid English teacher, a wannabe professor of literature by reading English language novels under my desk while he was droning on about interpreting boring poems.
Then almost all women I had relationships (including my current one) with were non-Germans. Usually we would talk in English (sometimes Spanish).
Finally, during the late 1990s I spent 2 1/2 years living in rural Ireland, working for an Irish company. There I picked up an Irish west coast accent (which I unfortunately lost for a big part, but when I came back other Englishspeakers usually thought that I was Irish).
Working in aviation helps as well, since English is our working language.

Jan
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CXB77L
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 11:51 am

Watching films seems to be a common one, and that is true for me as well. When I first arrived in Australia in 1990, I spoke little to no English, and being the shy little person that I was, I didn't take time to socialise with native English speakers. Instead, I sat at home and watched James Bond movies  

Nowadays, many people tell me that I speak with a slight English accent. I've been asked several times if I've spent time studying in the UK. Apparently, I sound more English than Australian.

Watching native speakers speak is a very good way of learning, in my view. It gave me an understanding of grammar and pronunciation, and that spoken English is somewhat different to written English.
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sebolino
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:00 pm

First at school, very inefficient.

Then, by talking to my Danish cousin, his friends and other Danes, plus listening a lot to good music   -> much more efficient.

Ah, and I forgot to add : a lot of web browsing on English written sites helped a lot (like this one).

Seb

[Edited 2012-06-29 05:17:45]
 
AF1624
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:17 pm

French schools are as inefficient as can be when it comes to teaching languages.

So I've learned with movies, tv shows, music (lots of it).

As my English level got better I even ended up choosing an accent (I speak some kind mixed UK English).

I'm now totally fluent in English and most of my UK colleagues didn't realise I wasn't a native English speaker before I told them or before the conversation got long enough for me to have to look for words.

But I must admit I feel like I've had it easy, because I was born in Brazil from French parents I learned two mother tongues right away. I feel as if this has given me some kind of help with languages, making me learn them quicker. Maybe someone in the same situation here (two mother tongues) could tell me if they feel the same?

Also, it should be noted that we non-native English speakers most of the times didn't have a choice. Native speakers can NOT learn another language because English is spoken virtually anywhere else in the world. But the rest of us do speak at least some English because it's necessary in this day and age. You'll rarely find a job offer here in France that doesn't state you need good English...
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einsteinboricua
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:41 pm

TV and movies from Disney. Mother always bought them in English and even though I never understood what they said, it made learning English easier. I have come to prefer English programming as opposed to Spanish...and I HATE translated movies. There's also school, but you have to put up with those that don't pick up the language easily so school isn't an effective way to learn (unless you're in an all English school). Pretty much it.
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Charles79
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:28 pm

I had the advantage of growing up in Puerto Rico (a US territory) where you have to at least take basic English classes in school. Moreover, due to the close relationship with the US, the island has a lot of influence from the mainland in terms of films, music, books/magazines, TV shows, musicals, and retail/stores, meaning that English is always around you in some form (often as the charmingly called “Spanglish”). When I ended up transferring to a college in CT, the total immersion in the language was the final piece in the puzzle to make me confident in my language skills.

Now one particular thing that really made a difference for me was my interest in cars - I would read most of the regular US car magazines constantly, always referring to my dictionary whenever I encountered a new word. I’m now following the same strategy with German, to the point that currently I only read German car magazines.
 
Klaus
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 2:09 pm

• school (I knew I would get into IT, so understanding english was an obvious necessity)
• books (translations usually suck)
• movies (see above, plus most dubbing nowadays is atrocious)
• music lyrics
TV (US late shows with Leno & Letterman, fictional series, news)
• internet fora (this one has been a major practicing arena)

Online dictionaries still remain helpful (sometimes including Urban Dictionary ).
 
bjorn14
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 2:36 pm

watching The Simpsons and other Fox cartoons   
"I want to know the voice of God the rest is just details" --A. Einstein
 
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GrahamHill
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 2:44 pm

Quoting PHX787 (Thread starter):
how did you all learn to write such perfect english?

I learnt in school, and since languages were the only stuff I was interested in (with geography), I decided to do translation studies. I studied English to French and Spanish to French translations for 4 years at university and got my diploma for both.

I also watch a lot of movies and TV series in English.

And I spent 7 years in Ireland, which helped a lot.
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Aeroflot777
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 4:33 pm

Started learning it when I lived in Copenhagen for a few years. Then moved to attend school in San Francisco. The rest was history.  

Aeroflot777
 
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Mortyman
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 4:35 pm

At school

English is a compulsory and pervasive subjects in Norwegian primary and secondary schools. The training provide knowledge of English language oral and written, as well as knowledge about culture and society in English speaking countries.

Quoting bwest (Reply 1):
TV and movies... the advantage of not dubbing, you pick up a language easier.

Indeed. Here in Norway it is only typical childrens stuff like Disney etc, that is being dubbed. Most foreign language films / TV has subtitle option though. I don't think that alot of Norwegians really need subtitles, other than perhaps elderly people, however it basically comes as standard.

[Edited 2012-06-29 09:38:44]
 
PHX787
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 8:31 pm

Quoting Rara (Reply 3):
There's still much to learn though..
Quoting autothrust (Reply 2):
However my english is very far from being perfect.
Quoting JJJ (Reply 6):
Perfect? lol

Well I haven't heard any speaking but your writing and grammar seems good  
Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 7):
There were other factors: My father spoke English, Spanish, Catalan, French and Portugese.

   WOW! that's impressive!

Quoting CXB77L (Reply 8):

Where are you from originally?

Quoting Aeroflot777 (Reply 16):
Started learning it when I lived in Copenhagen for a few years.

Do they speak a lot of English in Denmark? Seriously, one of my friends whom I met in Japan is from there and she speaks like an American.
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Scooter01
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 9:32 pm

From reading the instructions of how to build aircraft plastic-model kits, -Airfix etc.
Reading MAD Magazine and other English written cartoons.
School (Our teacher was an English lady married to a Norwegian man.)

Living in Canada for 24 years also helped a lot.
-working for Germans (BMW and VW/Audi) in Canada also helped me to keep up with another language they taught us in school, but I regret to say that my French has suffered.

I believe that a language must be used frequently to keep current. -A.net has helped a lot in the last few years.....

Scooter01
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NoUFO
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 9:52 pm

Quoting PHX787 (Reply 18):
Do they speak a lot of English in Denmark?

First and foremost they speak Danish.  
But it is true that many of them speak fluent English. It is partly due to the fact that they don't dub American movies.
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Aeroflot777
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 10:11 pm

Quoting PHX787 (Reply 18):
Do they speak a lot of English in Denmark? Seriously, one of my friends whom I met in Japan is from there and she speaks like an American.

Mostly everyone there that I have encountered has very good English. I go back every once in a while (just came back about a month ago from my most recent visit) and I'm just dumbfounded by how big of a melting pot CPH really is.
 
iakobos
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jun 29, 2012 10:21 pm

In chronological order
- primary school
- secondary school
- Playboy, Mayfair and Hustler
- electronics & radiocommunications school
- regular holidays at auntie's place in Surrey
- a nice blond Irish girlfriend
- hobbies (ham radio, aviation)
- books and magazines
- jobs and business (aviation, radiocom, satellites)
- internet
- more books
 
EddieDude
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:16 am

When I was a very young kid, my Dad, who lived and went to school in England, would speak to me in English. Later on, I would watch U.S. TV shows on cable TV (non-dubbed but rather captioned). Then, my best friend from middle school had an American Mom, and whenever I went to their house, everybody would speak English, including to me. I guess those things pretty much did it for me.
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PHX787
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:29 am

Quoting iakobos (Reply 22):
- Playboy, Mayfair and Hustler

LOL!!!!!

Quoting Aeroflot777 (Reply 21):
Mostly everyone there that I have encountered has very good English. I go back every once in a while (just came back about a month ago from my most recent visit) and I'm just dumbfounded by how big of a melting pot CPH really is.

Yeah it's one of those lesser-known global cities, isn't it?
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prebennorholm
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Sat Jun 30, 2012 1:06 am

Quoting PHX787 (Reply 24):
...melting pot CPH really is.

Yeah it's one of those lesser-known global cities, isn't it?

Global city, sure yes!

"lesser-known"? What are you talking about? It's the center of the universe!

I learned English at school - couldn't avoid it. (Same with German. They tried to teach me a little Swedish as well, but to little avail).

Working a few decades together with 100,000+ colleagues in a British company operating in 100+ countries didn't do much harm either.
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Rara
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Sat Jun 30, 2012 10:28 am

Quoting Klaus (Reply 13):

Not bad, would have expected you to have lived abroad for some time.
Samson was a biblical tough guy, but his dad Samsonite was even more of a hard case.
 
fraspotter
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:07 pm

Quoting iakobos (Reply 22):
- Playboy, Mayfair and Hustler

So I guess the age old excuse of "I only read it for the articles" is actually true!   
"Drunk drivers run stop signs. Stoners wait for them to turn green."
 
iakobos
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:30 pm

Quoting FRAspotter (Reply 27):
So I guess the age old excuse of "I only read it for the articles" is actually true!

In all honesty, mainly for the eye-opening editorials...  
 
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:58 pm

Quoting Charles79 (Reply 12):
Now one particular thing that really made a difference for me was my interest in cars - I would read most of the regular US car magazines constantly, always referring to my dictionary whenever I encountered a new word. I’m now following the same strategy with German, to the point that currently I only read German car magazines.

That sounds like a good idea.

I suppose I could start with the web instead of tracking down paper magazines.

Which German car magazines are good?

What about German aviation sites?

Quoting FRAspotter (Reply 27):
So I guess the age old excuse of "I only read it for the articles" is actually true!

They have articles? I never noticed!

Actually back in the day when I would nick my brother's Playboy mags, I used to love the jokes page.

Some of my best dirty jokes came from there.
Inspiration, move me brightly!
 
CXB77L
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Sat Jun 30, 2012 2:05 pm

Quoting PHX787 (Reply 18):
Where are you from originally?

Hong Kong.
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HELyes
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Sat Jun 30, 2012 7:25 pm

Started English studies in the third grade, like most Finnish kids. Studing English supported other Germanic languages Swedish (the 2nd official, compulsory) and German I started later, Finnish is very different from all of these.

Quoting bwest (Reply 1):
TV and movies... the advantage of not dubbing, you pick up a language easier.

Same in Finland, not dubbing helps a lot. Similar with computer games, just read how the games have motivated Finnish boys especially to improve their English skills.
 
PHX787
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:46 pm

Quoting CXB77L (Reply 30):
Hong Kong.

I thought HK was bilingual?
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CXB77L
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Sun Jul 01, 2012 11:54 am

Quoting PHX787 (Reply 32):
I thought HK was bilingual?

Yes, English was a compulsory subject in both primary school and high school (back then when Hong Kong was under British rule - not sure what it's like now), but I came to Australia mid way through grade 4. Nevertheless, the English I would've been able to learn in Hong Kong is nowhere near the level that I can achieve by learning from a native English speaker. Being able to watch English films is one thing, surrounding myself with native English speakers who don't speak any Cantonese was the other catalyst for me to force myself to learn the language. Had I remained in Hong Kong, my English wouldn't be anywhere near as fluent as it is now.
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nipoel123
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Tue Jul 03, 2012 5:37 am

The very basic things I learned in primary school. The majority of my vocabulary comes from games, films, books and websites. I'm currently doing bilingual education, the first three years of which are almost entirely in English, that has made me think in English fairly often. The last three years, of which I just finished one, are focussing on implicity in language, basically. The immersion of English is far less though, as there are only two or three subjects that are still taught in English, our final exams are still in Dutch.

So, in a nutshell, school didn't provide me with a broad range of vocabulary, media did that, but it is trying to make me question every single letter in a text. Not entirely sure whether it is very useful though, I'm happy with my current level of English, it doesn't have to be near-native...
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sturmovik
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Tue Jul 03, 2012 6:16 am

School, and my mother who is an English lecturer. She used to be able to speak/read/write around 8 or 9 languages (English, our native Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, Russian, Greek, Latin, Bengali, bits of German and French). I think she's planning to do a course on interpreting hieroglyphics later this year. When my brother and I were growing up, she was extremely particular that our spelling and grammar were good. Her love for languages has rubbed off on me as well, and I'm currently working my way through Russian and French, though the latter is a halfhearted attempt.

Quoting Klaus (Reply 13):
• books (translations usually suck)

My mother spends most of her time translating books from one language to another   These are mostly historical scrolls and such, which most of us are unlikely to read  
'What's it doing now?'
 
sebolino
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:47 am

Quoting NoUFO (Reply 20):
Do they speak a lot of English in Denmark?

First and foremost they speak Danish.
But it is true that many of them speak fluent English. It is partly due to the fact that they don't dub American movies.

Actually, nearly everybody speaks good english in Denmark, but of course some of them have a strong Danish accent.
I guess I must have also a Danish accent some times, mixed with the famous French accent ( ZE french accent) considering I've spoken English mainly with Danes.
 
flyingturtle
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:17 am

At school.

I began learning it during my 10th year, and I made lots of progress by reading in English as often as I could.  
Keeping calm is terrorism against those who want to live in fear.
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jul 06, 2012 11:43 am

Out here there are way too many languages....but most popular in school is ENGLISH/HINDI and a regional language.
Thats where it all started  
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dcaviation
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:02 pm

When I moved to US I could only speak very limited English. I enrolled into two local high school ESL programs. Two nights a week at each school. What a joke and waste of time.
My goal was to memorize at least 5 new words a day, studying on my own. After 4 months watching tv and studying on my own I understood everything but had problems creating proper sentences (grammar).
Then I got my first job and had to communicate with people. Rest is the history.
I still have thick accent. Most of the time when people are guessing my origin, they say Russia or Germany   They are wrong  
Also, chatting with strangers helped to learn English. And of course joining a.net forum back in 1997 helped too  
 
AM744
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Mon Jul 09, 2012 5:16 pm

Quoting PHX787 (Thread starter):
Have you studied in an English speaking country before?

Nope.

Private Elementary and High School. Let's say 2 hrs a day of more or less formal lectures, activities, etc. Then, on to the the Anglo Mexican Institute of Culture, a well known British cultural institution here in Mexico City until I got the FCE and CAE certificates for English as a Second Language students. Of course there's movies, technical books, work, and... THIS SITE.
 
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RE: How Did You Learn English? (Non-native Speakers)

Mon Jul 09, 2012 8:09 pm

Quoting Rara (Reply 3):
English is pretty accessible, all in all.

Well, it is a Germanic language (by structure), with a bunch of silly French words thrown in.

I know a few Dutch people from my travels, and when they start speaking in Dutch, about every 3rd or 4th sentence is spoken exactly the same way it would be in English (with a heavy accent). I even answered a question one of them had asked in Dutch, and it sounded the exact same in English.
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