Anyone learn a second language as an adult?

bettyseldest

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My eldest daughter studied French, German, Latin and Mandarin at school. She then spent a year in Brazil where she learnt Portuguese, and is now Head of Science at an international school in Spain, having gained some degree of competence during her university years.

Since retiring, my wife has begun studying Latin, French and Irish. Though she did study Irish and French a little at school.

I sometimes have a go at her Latin homework and surprise myself with how much I remember, or maybe have worked out from exposure to other languages.

I did take a unit of intermediate French, as part of my Open University Mathematics degree. The unit tipped the balance, giving me the option of taking the degree as a Bachelor of Arts rather than Sciences.

In the 90s my father in law worked for Anglian Water Authority, driving round small sewage treatment works and pumping stations, carrying out checks and routine maintenance. They had an enlightened attitude to training, giving each employee£100 per year to be spent at one of a handful of local colleges. The training was done in the employees own time, but could be in any subject. Bob started with French, then word processing, followed by ballroom dancing and finally creative writing. Shortly before retiring he started writing weekly columns for a couple of local papers. Most articles related to farming matters or the weather, but an especially popular article related to a day trip he took to Boulogne.
 

Geoff738

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Lived briefly in France and Italy. Couldn’t speak/ understand either despite many years of French in school. It’s been so long I don’t even swear in Italian anymore.

Cheers,
Geoff
 

chris m.

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Neuroplasticity tends to decline with age, but I think the neural pathways and study habits forged by learning one or more foreign languages early in life can make it easier to pick up new languages and similar systems later in life. If you've only ever known one language, learning another as an adult is probably a lot more difficult.
I had a Greek babysitter and was also exposed to a lot of Tagalog as a child, being half Filipino and having gone to the Phils several times. I don't remember but I am told that I really did understand and could also speak a little Greek and Tagalog.

I think this increased my neuroplasticity in the language learning area. In high school and college I did great with French, and can hold my own in a conversation as well as when traveling to Francophone countries. In grad school I made friends with a bunch of Brazilian ex-pats in Seattle and decided that they were so much fun that I should move to Brazil. I lived in Brazil for six months and became conversationally fluent, and still am even though that was way back in 1987. I get by in Spanish, speaking "Portagnol".

Being able to have an actual conversation makes foreign travel really fun. I've used French in France, Montreal, Tahiti, Martinique, and sometimes randomly with people who happen to have French as a common foreign language with me. I've used Portuguese in Brazil, Mozambique, and with some surfers from Portugal who I met up with in Costa Rica. I also run into Brazilians all over the place.

I think a goal of decent conversational abilities is fairly attainable for most people, although similar to music some will take to it more easily than others. Getting so fluent that you don't make stupid grammatical errors and can speak at the level of a native, college educated professional is quite another challenge, though. It helps to just put yourself out there and not feel embarrassed by the fact that you can't speak the language perfectly. The goal is communication, after all.

I think having a musical ear helps with having a better foreign accent. One tip is to really exaggerate the accent. Lean into it and go for it and that will really help you not sound like a total gringo. There might be some genetics involved, too. My Mom is truly fluent in six languages ranging from English to Tagalog to Modern Greek. Greek people freak out when they hear my Filipino Mom speaking Greek that is often grammatically quite erudite. But she also knows all the modern slang and common ways of speaking it.

I always bear my experience with learning foreign languages in mind when speaking with foreigners or immigrants who are trying to speak English as a second language. It can take well over a decade to become so fluent that you no longer make common grammatical errors that a fifth grader wouldn't make. As one example, English doesn't assign a gender to nouns so it is very hard for me to remember whether a given word in French or Portuguese is masculine or feminine.

As far as people coming to the USA goes, research shows very clearly that while the people who originally immigrated often have difficulty learning completely fluent English and fully adopting American culture, their kids have no problem at all. By the third generation those kids are fully American in every way, for better and worse. And by and large the original immigrants do learn enough English to get by OK....though they will make various grammatical errors for years, they can carry on a reasonable conversation if the person on the other end of the conversation is willing to meet them halfway. Their pidgin English is at least as good as my pidgin Portagnol Spanish.

I also notice that some people tend to assume that a person speaking English with so-so grammar and a crappy accent must be stupid. Not at all! You might be surprised to learn that quite often those folks have advanced university degrees in very difficult fields, and perhaps are completely fluent in several languages, just not English (yet). At least they are trying their best. Meet them halfway and respect their effort....
 

Hey_you

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I've gotten Guitar/Amp down quite well in 3+ years. My Apple Mac is still a struggle, after a year. I spoke B. Gates for a long time. I still have very little clue when it comes to speaking Euro-rack Modular. Even after 4 yrs dabbling in it.
 

johnny k

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No but i like learning new things. I am always sad when i hear somebody say they are too old to learn.
 

Si G X

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Not really....

I learned a little French at school and a little German and Polish since I left. I could by buy a drink, say thank you and probably understand some simple phrases by knowing some of the words but that's about it.
 

saltyseadog

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In 1975 at the at the age of 25 I went to live and work in Denmark a couple of years after the UK joined the EU. It took me about 3mths to get a basic grip of Danish and by 6mths I was fluent. I also learned to read and write it by translating the word balloons in the Asterix and Obelisk cartoon series which was unknown in the UK at the time.

Because I can understand Danish I can also get by in Norwegian and Swedish. Although we have been back in the UK since 1994 I still have days when I will try to exclusively think in Danish.

Another thing is that some words I learned for the first time over there eg møntvask which translates to coin wash and although there were laundromats in the UK at the time there were none in the small town in Scotland I grew up in as everyone owned a washing machine so the word laundromat was not anything I used on a daily basis. So at various times I would find myself saying to my wife "what do you call a møntvask in English again?" There are other examples but I cannot recall them at the moment.
 

bobio

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Only if you consider Music Theory a second language, I sure do :D
Trying to become more fluent 👍
 

Chikubi

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As usual, it all comes down to KPop. Do you like you KPop with some English or all in English?

Some:


This first song is in Japanese. Interesting that they're a K-pop band, but singing in Japanese. Wonder if that just a demographic thing and they have the same song in Korean as well.

Either way, it segues into my reply to the thread. I speak Japanese and have for about 25 years or so by now. Took it in college when I was 28 and eventually graduated with a degree in Japanese society and culture, language being a big part of it. Studied and worked in Japan for a number of years, but came back to the US in 2003 once I got married. My wife is from Sapporo, but we both agreed it would be easier to live over here, plus we don't like the Japanese education system, so since kids were in the plan we didn't want to subject them to it. My wife's English was non-existent initially (we still laugh about her falling asleep in English class and blowing it off in general because, "When am I ever going to need this?"), but after almost 20 years now she works in the cafeterias of the school system I work in as well, gets by just fine, and is well liked. That said for both of us, apart from work, family, or interactions out in the world, we're 100% Japanese all-day, everyday, so it's not too hard to stay fluent at all for me.
 

Toto'sDad

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My aunt Helen could cuss her cat like two drunken sailors on shore leave! I overheard her doing that when I was about five years old, and thought I'd like to learn to speak that exact same language. When I got home, I went to cussin' the cat something fierce! My old man heard me and caught me up and unraveled that belt of his and wore my boney rear end plumb out. He said he wasn't whipping me for cussin' he was whipping me for cussin' a cat we didn't have! He said that was just plain stupid.
 

oatsoda

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Si, 56 days into duolingo spanish.

Although my wife speaks 4 languages, most of the time i still got no idea what she’s on about. Smile and nod.
 

BigDaddyLH

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This first song is in Japanese. Interesting that they're a K-pop band, but singing in Japanese. Wonder if that just a demographic thing and they have the same song in Korean as well.

Japan is a big market for K-Pop. We were walking past the Budokan in Tokyo and saw fans lined up for the K-Pop group Got7.

Trainees learn Japanese and groups released songs in Japanese. I don't know why, but groups don't typically re-release the song in Korean as well.

Crayon Pop has another song in Japanese (Ra Ri Ru Re) but the rest are in Korean. This song is about being bored, lonely and depressed.

 

HaWE

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At school I learned english and later french ( I finished school in 1977 ). English has always been and is my favorite foreign language.As a teenager I also listened a lot to AFN (american forces network) because they played all that kind of rock music I liked.So listening to the radio-djs was a good exersice. Understanding and speeking french is a lot more difficult for me.But I never had problems with communication in english.Now that I am retired from my job I joined a local group of people who gather to talk in english just for fun and to improve their english.
Besides that I am not interested in learning another foreign language.
 

String Tree

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I never learned an official second language.

I have however, taught myself how to listen to how others speak.
SYNTAX is Key. I only speak English (Farm Boy to be exact). Being able to speak broken English back to people without being an ass is how I have done it.

First, I had to establish the fact that just because they don't speak English, doesn't mean they don't know what they are talking about.
It means i don't understand.

The Majority of these conversations occured when they were faced with SERIOUS Electrical Issues in their Houses. They want a New Breaker but, the Buss Bar on the Panel (anybody here speak ZINSCO?) is Damaged beyond repair and they need a new Service Entrance.
It took a LOT of time but, 95% of the Time, we were able to come to an understanding.

Once they understood their House was in danger of burning down and, I was being honest, things went pretty smoothly.
 

CCK1

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I was hired by a private German company in 1984 and spent January through mid April 1985 about 25 km east of Frankfurt. Then spend 3-5 weeks per year in Germany for the next 35 years. One of the things the company generously provided was German language lessons twice per week, so that's around 16 private lessons in the German language.
I got pretty good at speaking German, but here's the problem, if you speak to a German native in German, they're going to likely answer you in German, that's when the problems started for me. And no disrespect meant to those fine people in Munich, they're speaking something other than German. I never knew there were so many different German dialects.
 




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