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  1. #1
    Martino's Avatar

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    Learning a Foreign Language

    I am just recently back from a holiday visiting family in Sardinia, Italy. Hearing the beautiful Italian language spoken on a daily basis for the past two weeks and trying to communicate with my broken Italian has spurred me on to finally start learning it properly. It's something I've always wanted to do and almost feel obliged to as I have a lot of family scattered around Italy. A wish of mine has also been to live abroad and explore during my younger years before settling down and I would love to live in Italy for a few years.

    The current aim is to become competent in having a reasonably basic but effective fluent conversation within around 5-6 months through self-teaching however I am looking at taking classes at university to help further the process. I understand and appreciate that learning Italian is going to be a steep learning curve.

    What are your experiences with learning a foreign language? I'd love to know about any experiences whether it was learning Italian, French, English or any language really!

    Even if you have no experience with learning a foreign language have you ever considered learning one?

  2. #2
    MarcLager's Avatar

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    I'm Swedish, but I'm fluent in English, and got a fair grasp of German - though I lack confidence to speak it, I understand it pretty well. I don't have a natural talent for language, but I'm stubborn, which is a good asset.

    As a Swede I get bombarded with English language all the time, through US and UK movies, television and culture. I've always had a fascination for the English language, and consumed a lot of UK culture - be it music, literature, movies etc. I always found it fun, so I never really considered practising it a chore. In high school a friend and I had an unhealthy interest in Monty Python, and memorising and re-enacting sketches was a good way of practising pronunciation*. In my 20's, I could easily fool anyone I was a born and bred Englishman. In later years, I've kind of lost the edge, and my Swedish accent cuts through a bit, and I've lost some grammar skill.

    German is a lot harder. I really have to work on that, because it doesn't come as natural - TV does not show many German shows, for example. I've bought comics in German, listen to German radio, watch German movies etc. All this has increased my understanding of the language. However, I need to write and speak it more to become fluent. There's just no short cuts there, I find. At least not for me. It's like learning to play an instrument. You simply have to put in the hours.

    I think the thought of learning a whole new language, fluently in 5-6 months is a bit na´ve. It's doable, but you'd have to do nothing else, and you'd need tutoring, and probably a whole lot of innate inclination for language. But don't let that put you down. Just keep in mind that this will be likely to take you years to achieve.

    My suggestion is to get a book of the language basics, and perhaps take an evening course. Then there are great tools like Duolingo, Babbel and other site's to help practice grammar and vocabulary.

    I also suggest you read a lot. Perhaps you have a favourite book you know very well in English, then get that in your new language. I know there used to be German and French classics with the original text printed on one page, and the English translation printed on the opposite. Get magazines on topics you're interested in in a foreign language - be it sports, music, fashion.

    If you're really serious, you might want to move to the country in question. If you're a student, check out which exchange programmes are available. If you're young, with no children or big career going, try to find an easy job and make the move there.



    * I remember once in civics class, everyone in the class was to pair up, and in front of the class had to act out a job interview - one being the interviewer and the other the interviewee. I'm not sure why the teacher thought this was a good idea, and everyone found it really rather boring. And after watching two or three pairs of you class mates try to play job interview at the teachers desk, it got really boring. When my fellow Python fan and I were up, we sat down opposite each other. Dan looked at me and simply went: "I would like to have an argument, please." After which we acted out the whole sketch, word for word. (I know it's lame, but it's how I learned to speak English with a British accent.) Luckily, the teacher turned out to be a big fan, and was impressed with out English skills. Perhaps she also realised the assignment was a bit lame, because after we were done, no one else had to do it.

  3. #3
    Martino's Avatar

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    Thanks for the input mate, very interesting read! I know it wouldn't take 5-6 months to become fluent, I stated I would like to be able to hold a 'reasonably basic conversation', which I don't think is out of reach.

    I've been using the website Memrise which a few of my friends recommended and it's quite enjoyable. I also downloaded the Memrise app too so it is frequently reminding and encouraging me to keep learning.

    I think the bilingual books could be a great shout, I did have a brief look into it but couldn't find too much other than really basic kids word books and the odd short story book which were quite pricey. There doesn't seem to be too much on Italian out there, Spanish and French are much more popular.

    I'm definitely going to take the extra classes at uni as well when I go back after summer.

    Love how you learnt to speak English better through Monty Python though, absolute classic! "My hovercraft is full of eels".

  4. #4
    MarcLager's Avatar

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    Memrise, you say. Looks interesting. Cheers for the tip! I strongly recommend you look into Duolingo. They've got a great app as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Martino View Post
    Love how you learnt to speak English better through Monty Python though, absolute classic! "My hovercraft is full of eels".
    I think Monty Python and my interest in song lyrics were quite essential in my learning.

  5. #5
    William Colman's Avatar

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    I would second the notion of living the language. Once you've got some basics down, take any opportunity to go and live in Italy. I'm going to be doing my masters in Copenhagen next year so I'll be doing lots of work before hand, then doing a 3 week intensive course (run by the university) just before the programme starts and then really try to use it as much as possible. Avoiding english people is also a good idea if you've just moved to a new country.

    Kudos on being commited to it. We english are terrible with languages. We expect everyone else to speak english.

  6. #6
    MarcLager's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by William Colman View Post
    I'm going to be doing my masters in Copenhagen next year
    Copenhagen is such a great city! The "problem" with Scandinavians, is that we're probably the most keen English speakers in the world (not counting native speakers, naturally). We take any opportunity to speak and practice it, making it hard for English speakers to learn our language by moving here, as well switch to English at the slightest chance.

  7. #7
    DorianGrape's Avatar

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    I always found it really difficult to try & learn languages by studying them because I always hated studying. I studied Irish and French and neither of them stuck. Part of that too is because of a lack of practical application - simply not having a need or opportunity to speak the language you are learning makes it all the more difficult.

    The best way to learn any language is a combination of study and travel.

    When I moved to Spain I hadn't a word of Spanish, but I learned more in a few months than I had done from studying French for five years. After a year or so, I'd soaked it up by osmosis, which was handy, coz I hate studying!

  8. #8

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    I'd recommend checking out the Rosetta Stone series. I learnt Swedish from them a while back. I didn't get close to fluency but after a month I was able to do the basic necessities. I travelled to a part where English wasn't as widely spoken as in the large cities (I was in Riksgransen and Kiruna) and the CDs were really helpful for ordering food, drinks, etc. They're quite well designed as they use word / image association to help retention. They also have a nice system of being able to specify what style of course you want - for example you can do an extensive fluency course, a basic conversational course, a course for business travellers, a refresher course, a crash course of absolute basics.

    I'm currently trying to learn some Slovenian however it's such a small country (the entire population is less than 2/3rds that of Wales) and there are barely any decent learning materials. It's hellishly difficult to learn as a result.
    Last edited by naturals; 06-07-2014 at 06:29 PM.

  9. #9
    PopePeter's Avatar

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    To learn language you have to expose yourself to it as much as you can. Read stuff, write, listen and talk. I was once pretty fluent in spanish but haven't used it in years so sadly I have forgotten most about it. I think the best way to learn a language is read a book (pick one depending on your current level). Whenever you come a cross a word you don't know, write it down, translate it and memorize it. Once you've read the book and memorized the new words read the book again. To practice pronunciation read out loud. This method is time consuming but worth it.

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