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Difficulties learning another language
Old 03-15-2019, 07:54 PM   #1
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Difficulties learning another language

I have written about this subject in the past, but the threads are old and I wanted to put kind of a new twist on it. I envy those who can pick up new languages easily. They say English is a Germanic language, and it is i think, but which one specifically I have my doubts. I think it might be just as close to Dutch or possibly some of the Scandinavian languages. It's also strongly related to French and Latin.
The reason I bring this up is because I wanted to throw it out there that I tried learning German before but gave up. Partly because I really have no use for it, partly because there was no easy way to learn it, and partly because I found the language so difficult. I am having just as much success and quite possibly more learning Russian as in learning German, and I am a native English speaker. How can this be?
I can't say Russian is easier, it's not of course, but I don't find it harder. German is just ,- a headache. I don't like the verbs they throw on the end of a sentence, all the little words you have to learn or the meaning of the sentence remains elusive. I don't know what it is. Mark Twain couldn't learn German either and I dare say he was smarter than me.

I like the way Russian sounds too. The word order doesn't bother me in Russian like it does in German. I have traveled to the Russian speaking part of the World before and may do so again and knowing Russian is essential. Maybe the reason I find Russian no harder than German is because English is such a duke mixture of influences anyway. I actually can speak a little bit of Russian and feel it has potential.
For German speakers let me say I am in no way saying I have anything against your language. I just find it hard. I guess it would be easier if I had a practical use for it. It's a lot of work learning another language. I take my hat off for those who have learned any new language. It's tough. Not sure I have any questions but I am open to any comments.
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Old 03-15-2019, 08:12 PM   #2
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English - yes, over 2/3 of the words are of Latin-based origin. So English is an interesting blend of Romance and Germanic language. In fact, only the very simplest smallest words are Germanic in origin. As soon as words go bigger, you are using words of Latin origin.

Word order as well. Ignoring pronouns, the consistent subject verb object word order of English matches Romance languages as well as multi-clause sentence construction. As compared to German which uses a very different word order.

So it’s not surprising that English speakers find Romance languages easier.

I have proficiency in Romance languages - particularly Spanish. And I have always found reading more advanced texts relatively easy due to the enormous number of shared root words. Even French, where my level is very basic, I can often glean the meaning from printed texts because I recognize the shared root words.

Contrast that with Dutch which I started to learn about 3 years ago. Dutch is almost exactly half way between English and German. The initial stuff is quick to learn because there are a lot of shared or similar common words. But once you get past a basic level, I felt like I was running into a brick wall, because there is this huge vocabulary of German root words that I do not know at all. Not nearly as many Latin-based words that I already know. Not to mention word order gets pretty complicated once you get beyond the simplest sentences.

The funny thing is that now that I’ve learned Dutch, I can suddenly decipher a lot more written German.

Edited to add: Scandinavian languages and Dutch are all part of the Germanic language family.
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Old 03-15-2019, 08:48 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by UnrealizedPotential View Post
I have written about this subject in the past, but the threads are old and I wanted to put kind of a new twist on it. I envy those who can pick up new languages easily.

For vast majority of us, learning a new language after reaching adulthood is near impossible. Our brain is set up to learn new language at very early age. Once past that, it's going to be hard. There's a research on the window of language learning. That's why children pick up new language much better than us. That's life.



I learned English & Spanish in high school, German in college, Japanese sporadically after reaching adulthood, and French in ER. I am master of none except English only b/c I have to use in constantly living in US. The later I tried to learn, the harder it was.
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Old 03-15-2019, 09:16 PM   #4
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I enjoy learning a new language for travel.
We go to Europe for 3 weeks in the Fall each year. So, I pick a language to learn.
I use Memrise.com and learn enough to say; hello.
PortuguÍs in 2017 was interesting and challenging.
Euskara in 2018 was mind blowing.
This year is Slovene and I find the whole idea of noun cases to be beyond my feeble brain. But, I push ahead.
Just remember the most important phrase in any language: one beer, please.
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Old 03-15-2019, 09:28 PM   #5
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These two phrases from you might explain a lot:
Quote:
I tried learning German before but gave up. Partly because I really have no use for it, ....

I have traveled to the Russian speaking part of the World before and may do so again and knowing Russian is essential.
Having a reason for learning Russian sure could be pushing you to do it.

I've looked at learning a new computer language before, but when I realized I really had no use for it, I just gave up. At first it was easy, most computer languages share a lot, but then you get into the details of parenthesis versus braces, or comma versus semi-colon, order of terms, etc, and it just gets tedious and boring very fast.

When I had a specific purpose to brush up on "C" and to learn Python, it wasn't so hard at all to learn enough for the small projects I wanted to accomplish.

-ERD50
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Old 03-15-2019, 09:39 PM   #6
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ERD50, Well, I think you make a good point. Having motivation helps. Having a purpose for anything in life is so important. It really helps. Does that make it easier? I don't know. It seems easier because one is trying harder with a goal. It sure increases the chance for success.
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Old 03-15-2019, 09:48 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by davebarnes View Post
I enjoy learning a new language for travel.
We go to Europe for 3 weeks in the Fall each year. So, I pick a language to learn.
I use Memrise.com and learn enough to say; hello.
PortuguÍs in 2017 was interesting and challenging.
Euskara in 2018 was mind blowing.
This year is Slovene and I find the whole idea of noun cases to be beyond my feeble brain. But, I push ahead.
Just remember the most important phrase in any language: one beer, please.
It's interesting you bring up the cases. Both German and Russian have them I believe. I am just not even thinking about cases and the word ending changes. I am concentrating on learning phrases that I know are already grammatically correct. If I tried to memorize each noun and how to use it correctly , I don' t think I could do it if I lived to be 100.

I say this because I have already tried to do that and I realize how futile it is.
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Old 03-15-2019, 09:53 PM   #8
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For vast majority of us, learning a new language after reaching adulthood is near impossible. Our brain is set up to learn new language at very early age. Once past that, it's going to be hard. There's a research on the window of language learning. That's why children pick up new language much better than us. That's life.



I learned English & Spanish in high school, German in college, Japanese sporadically after reaching adulthood, and French in ER. I am master of none except English only b/c I have to use in constantly living in US. The later I tried to learn, the harder it was.
I agree with everything you wrote. Great insight.
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Old 03-15-2019, 10:40 PM   #9
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I learned a little German as a very young child, since lost, and I had some French in middle school. But the majority of my language learning has been at college age or later. As an adult you learn languages differently then in immersion as a child, but you can still learn them. I've worked a lot more on languages since retiring. I find that it's not so difficult. I'm sure it depends on the individual. And being pretty advanced in one language I assume has made it easier for me to absorb others.
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Old 03-15-2019, 11:17 PM   #10
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being pretty advanced in one language I assume has made it easier for me to absorb others.
Assuming this is true, does anyone have a recommendation on a language to start with? I have never learned another language and have given some thought to doing so. I guess I assumed Iíd start with Spanish mainly because Iím sure I can find many people to converse with right here in the US. But, if there is a better ďbaseĒ language to start with, what might that be?
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Old 03-15-2019, 11:23 PM   #11
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Assuming this is true, does anyone have a recommendation on a language to start with? I have never learned another language and have given some thought to doing so. I guess I assumed Iíd start with Spanish mainly because Iím sure I can find many people to converse with right here in the US. But, if there is a better ďbaseĒ language to start with, what might that be?
I usually learn a language because I think Iím going to use it, or at least will hear it and want to understand it.

Most of my recent language learning has been motivated by travel.

I think Spanish is a relatively easy language for an English speaker to learn, not saying that itís easy, but compared to other languages you might choose. And there is a lot of exposure to Spanish in the US.
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Old 03-15-2019, 11:38 PM   #12
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I enjoy this Langfocus Youtube channel or blog by a Canadian linguist who publishes on an esoteric variety of language topics. Here he discusses what is the easiest language for native English speakers to learn.
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Old 03-16-2019, 04:19 AM   #13
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On the crossover issue, I became very fluent in Brazilian Portuguese. It was great fun for me, but I was delighted to find that it also let me understand a great deal of what I heard people say in both Spanish and Italian.

Similarly, for a trip to Sweden last year I put in a few months learning as much Swedish as I could and this year in Norway I found Norwegian to be pretty easy, without even putting any effort into it.

German and Dutch are both tough for me, but it really doesn't take that much effort to be comfortable in restaurants and train stations.

I think if people are truly interested in getting you to understand them, they will make an effort to speak clearly and avoid slang. If they don't, then you're hosed no matter what.
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Old 03-16-2019, 06:18 AM   #14
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If this thread motivates anyone to start learning a language, I recommend Duolingo (available online and as an app). It may not be the best way to learn a language, but it seems to work well for the casual learner. Itís sort of like playing a game, and you practice reading/listening/speaking.

Iíve been learning Spanish for ninety consecutive days, usually just 10-15 minutes a day. I will probably never be fluent, but I feel like itís a better use of my time than random web surfing.
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Old 03-16-2019, 06:40 AM   #15
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DH has always studied a little japanese, mostly self-taught, since high school. But even after years of that, it was only enough to have the most basic exchanges in Japan.

Recently he found a local instructor, and they meet for weekly lessons at a coffee shop, and he gets homework. He's been doing this for a maybe 6 months now, and probably more than doubled his prior learning.

A big part of this I think is having an instructor (they only speak japanese in person and via email) being forced into dialogue in the new language. And of course the structure and accountability of assignments and stuff, and most especially because he's paying for it!
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Old 03-16-2019, 06:53 AM   #16
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I've been practicing Spanish a few minutes a day with Duolingo for 3 years. I can read Spanish fairly well now (as, instructions in a tool manual, etc.) but I still can't understand a thing Latinos say to each other!

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If this thread motivates anyone to start learning a language, I recommend Duolingo (available online and as an app). It may not be the best way to learn a language, but it seems to work well for the casual learner. Itís sort of like playing a game, and you practice reading/listening/speaking.

Iíve been learning Spanish for ninety consecutive days, usually just 10-15 minutes a day. I will probably never be fluent, but I feel like itís a better use of my time than random web surfing.
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Old 03-16-2019, 07:04 AM   #17
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Studied Spanish for 4 years in high school ( easiest subject) and living in Florida more than half my life kept at it. A lot of Central and South American countries have so many ways to pronounce words, slang etc it's confusing to understand sometimes. Learning another language to me gives me better relationships ( and better prices) dealing with Latino immigrants and migrants that are in parts of Central and especially South Florida where it seems English is a second language. I was really impressed that even one of our former FL governors Jeb Bush would at times give his speaking conferences in Spanish and English. Impressive that my buddies who live in Europe speak multiple languages. My advice is practice the language with people who are fluent, get ready to fall and fail and get back right up and keep plugging away. When I traveled to South America I became immersed in the language and when I came back to Florida I practically kissed the ground to be back in the USA.
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Old 03-16-2019, 07:12 AM   #18
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I've been practicing Spanish a few minutes a day with Duolingo for 3 years. I can read Spanish fairly well now (as, instructions in a tool manual, etc.) but I still can't understand a thing Latinos say to each other!
I recommend watching Spanish language TV regularly to build listening comprehension as well as build vocabulary. Turn on the captions in Spanish. Mexican telenovelas are a good subject to watch as they present everyday situations and you start picking up a lot from context. Pick one and follow it. They usually run 5 nights a week or you can probably find a stream source. Netflix has quite a bit of Spanish content, but a lot is from Spain and you would be better off with Mexican content as the accents and slang are very different. So you just have to be careful what you pick. You almost never hear a Spaniard in the US.
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Old 03-16-2019, 07:14 AM   #19
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As someone who can only dream of someday becoming unilingual I find all of you very impressive. Well done!
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Old 03-16-2019, 07:18 AM   #20
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South Florida where it seems English is a second language.
I recall, in 1966, going into a supermarket near Miami - no-one, neither staff or customers, spoke English.

Being my first time in the area I found it quite surprising.
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