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A Question About Acquiring New Languages

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#1 SaxonViolence



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Posted 12 August 2012 - 08:53 PM

Three or four years ago, I came into a windfall and ordered the Complete Pimsleur Course for Spanish {The three 30 day courses and the smaller supplement}.

{I also bought all three 30 day Japanese courses and the brief Irish Lesson pack (I Think 12 Lessons--all that was available in Gaelic then.)--but I never even started those.}

Basically you're supposed to take one thirty minute lesson per day. {Don't progress through more than one per day.}

One should attain perhaps 85% to 90% mastery before moving on, but perfection is not required.

I generally listened to the same lesson both morning and night. I seem to be slow at picking up languages.

I would often repeat the same lesson twice daily, for two or three days before moving on.

Somewhere about lesson 24 I became incredibly bored with my lessons.

Let me rephrase--I'd been getting progressively more bored, but about lesson 24 or 25 my distaste for my lessons grew to the point that I could no longer force myself to sit through them.

Though I often wish that I had the will-power, I haven't listened to a lesson in two or three years.

Was my holding myself back until I had a very good, almost perfect command of a lesson actually inhibiting my learning somehow?

I still retain many Spanish words and sentences.....

If I'd blasted half-heartily through all three 30 day lesson packs and the short supplement, I might have picked up quite a few more Spanish Words and Phrases--maybe enough to be half-way fluent.

Did I go about it wrong?

Saxon Violence

#2 Guest_MacPhee_*

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 11:05 AM

Saxon, I believe that what you experienced with your Spanish lessons, is the natural distaste shared by most English-speakers who set out to learn a foreign language.

This distaste comes from an instinctive feeling that English is the best language. And isn't that true? Surely English is actually the best language that humans have so far devised. It lets you convey fine shades of meaning, and really say what you mean. It has a huge vocabulary - much richer than any other language possesses.

Other languages such as French, have far fewer words. Their vocabulary seems meagre and poverty-stricken compared to English. For example, I remember being quite shocked to find that the French have only verb - "aimer" - which is supposed to cover the ground of our English "love, like, be fond of"!

I could go on to discuss other failings of foreign tongues - like the inability of their verbs to distinguish between "I read/I am reading", or - "I was reading/used to read/kept reading/tried to read" (all apparently subsumed by the Imperfect Tense)

But - the main bugbear of learning languages like Spanish and French must surely be - the un-natural genders of the nouns! In English we call males "he", and females "she", and everything else - ie sexless things - the neutral "it". That's logical. But Spanish offends logic, by attributing gender to sexless things. That must cause revulsion to an English speaker.

How can you remember whether a Spanish microscope is masculine or feminine, and which to call it - a "he" or a "she"?

Edited by MacPhee, 04 September 2012 - 11:21 AM.

#3 Chemical



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Posted 22 July 2014 - 05:48 AM

I don't agree that French only has one word to express "like" and "love"; it has many. I speak French, Spanish and Turkish and I can tell you that there are a lot of languages out there that are way richer than the English language.


English is simpler for us because it's our mother tongue, but if you really want to learn a foreign language, there is a very important rule: you must stop comparing it with your own because you will get confused. Every language has a completely different structure and if you try to compare, you will go crazy.

Edited by Chemical, 22 July 2014 - 05:49 AM.