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Mercutio 03-22-2013 06:44 AM

Learning languages- General
G'day all,

What with Talon's Japanese language thread in full swing and many people saying that they'd like to learn a language over in the Bucket List thread created by deoxys, I thought it would be useful for us to have a general languages thread. I know that we have a fair few people here who have studied linguistics and I know there's a few people here who speak other languages naturally, so hopefully this can become a useful resource.

Post here to ask/provide tips on learning new languages!

Mercutio 03-22-2013 06:50 AM

So, I want to learn German. I was half decent with high school French about four years ago but the skill has atrophied to the point where I can say unconnected sentences of like six words... maybe. I'm far better at comprehending what is said to me than saying things myself and far better with oral conversation than written text.

Wat do?

I'm thinking evening classes, once a week kind of stuff. There's self teach tapes, but I'm lazy, so will be far more motivated if I have some structure to it. One problem is that I never committed the grammatical quirks to memory, so although I understand what someone says if they say it in German grammar, I couldn't generate the phrase myself.

I also can't remember which pronouns (der, die oder das) go with which words. At all. Which is fine, because people still understand you if you say "der frau", but they look at you like you're a child. Or an Englishman, which is in fairness the truth.

I want to be near fluent within a year of getting this Master's, so basically by the middle of next year. I'd like to get business German under my belt as well, since I'd like to work out there (or in Europe generally) at some point if I can.

Tips appreciated!

Rangeet 03-22-2013 07:20 AM

The way I learned English was very simple. I learned up the basic rules of grammar and sentence construction, from school...and then I read a crapton of books, basically starting from a very useful magazine called Tinkle(but that's India only); moving up to Enid Blyton, Harry Potter, CS Lewis, and kept on moving as far as I could, though of course by the time I finished most of Enid Blyton I knew pretty much a lot of it.

Basically, that's a fairly good way to learn any language, in my opinion. Just take a few evening classes to just get a basic idea of the structure- and if you read enough books, it'll become second nature which pronouns go with which words, for example.

If you've ever read anything translated from German, that might be a good thing to read- but start with the simpler children's stories, is my advice. Books are ridiculous great tools to learn language with. Keep a dictionary nearby if you want, but ideally you should never need it after the first few books.

DaveTheFishGuy 03-22-2013 09:27 AM

I'm in the same boat as you, Kush. Learned French from Year 7 (age 11), picked up German in Year 8, then dropped German when it came to picking GCSE options and got a C in French. Then forgot most of it.

I kind of wanted to learn Welsh while I was at Uni, but really couldn't be bothered. There's a few languages I wouldn't mind either refreshing (French, German) or picking up (Welsh, Spanish, maybe Japanese), but I'm just horrible at learning languages. I had to really work to even get a C in my French, and while I know it's useful I'm just so very bad at it.

Lonely Cubone 03-22-2013 01:26 PM

My girlfriend speaks English, French, German, Russian and a bit of Afrikaans, which makes me feel more than a little bit inadequate.

I picked up transactional Japanese whilst I was out there, and was pretty good at German to GCSE level. I'll probably try to pick German back up after graduating, not least because I'd quite like to live there for a bit, so let me know what you do and how it goes Kushster.

Marion Ette 03-22-2013 02:00 PM

I used to be very good at Spanish. Made it all the way to Advanced Placement Spanish 5 in high school and managed to pass the AP Exam, but that was at least 6 years ago, and I've fallen out of practice. I miss being able to read Pablo Neruda in his native language.

I like the idea of picking up books and reading. I also think that watching movies/TV shows in the language you want to learn is helpful, particularly if you have seen that particular show or movie in English already. You can also watch with subtitles if you need them. That way, you're actually hearing the language being pronounced.

deh74 03-22-2013 08:32 PM

I speak English because I live in the us
I speak German because I'm a German immigrant and my parents taught it to me alongside English.
I speak pretty good Spanish because of 8 years of Spanish classes and a summer spent in Venezuela.
I'm currently taking French classes.

Haymez 03-22-2013 09:47 PM

I took two years of German, can carry on basic conversations, but not much else.

I live in New Mexico, and I'm pretty much surrounded by Spanish. I've picked up a few things here and there, but don't really know much.

I'd like to learn Spanish for the same reasons stated above, I just lack the motivation to try. Foreign languages aren't really too high on my list of priorities.

Tyranidos 03-22-2013 09:57 PM

Je peux parler un peu de français.

Amras.MG 03-22-2013 10:57 PM

I am currently learning Ancient Greek and Latin. This summer I am going to try to learn enough French to be able to have basic reading proficiency. I will also have to learn German at some point.

Also stupid schoolwork keeps getting in the way of my extracurricular Latin thread ;;

Celebii151 03-23-2013 04:32 AM

I speak English and I am semi-decent at French.

Mercutio 03-27-2013 08:20 AM

Yesterday a (clearly stoned) deaf guy was snooping around my house as I got hime near midnight. After getting his attention and firmly establishing between us that I do not in any way understand sign language, he wrote on his 'phone what he wanted (a person who lives in a road about a mile from where we were...).

Maybe I should learn sign language (and braille). Any speakers on the boards?

Talon87 03-27-2013 08:26 AM


Copygoo 03-27-2013 12:22 PM

I'm taking spanish as per the IB program at my high school. I'm currently in dual enrollment Spanish, and I can only speak/understand spoken Spanish at a slower speed, but I can understand written pretty well. I know a couple of words in Chinese and I'm trying to learn more. I would REALLY love to learn sign language but it's hard to do on your own.

KratosAurion 03-27-2013 03:09 PM

Spanish is my mother tongue, so needless to say I can provide useful and helpfun insight if you require assistance. I consider my English to be a cut above what is common in my homeland, and on par with most well educated native speakers, all thanks to the fact that I've been studying it ever since I was 5... Basic vocabulary and stuff back then, alongside my proper education in Spanish.

I'm currently learning French and Japanese. (Not too many Kanji, though, but I write and read in Katakana and Hiragana). I'm rather good at both, though I'm still a student and lacking advanced vocabulary. I'm really looking forward to picking up German and Russian in the future.

TL;DR For anything Spanish-related, hit me up.

Sneaze 03-27-2013 06:33 PM

I currently know quite a bit of Japanese (though holy god am I rusty, I should study up), a good bit of German, and am studying Italian, Spanish, and Latin currently, with Russian being my next project.

I'm planning on going to college for International Communications.

Jerichi 03-27-2013 09:06 PM

I have taken classes in Spanish, Latin, French, Japanese and Chinese. I am conversationally fluent (and can read and write) in Spanish, can carry a basic French conversation, and am at an intermediate level in Japanese (I can read about 400 or so kanji at this point and can have scattered conversation). My Latin is super rusty and I only learned enough Chinese to say "I like to drink beer".

I'm a Linguistics and Spanish major (and a Cognitive Science major; yay triple major!!!) so pretty much all my classes are language-related. My potential careers paths are pretty much all language-related, so I've basically spent college and high school learning language.

Spanish isn't my native language but I've tutored it in the past so I can answer grammar questions with confidence (if anyone wants help).

Talon87 04-09-2013 12:13 PM

I'm surprised an English thread hasn't been made by our ESL members. Well, since I don't want to be the one to create it but since I also think the following quote illustrates a quirky little English feature, I'll post this here.


I liked Maki's best but for the ugly gray background. Katie's was well drawn but looked like a Bratz doll on closer inspection. I quite liked Mac's drawing but not for a skateboard.
It occurred to me after the fact that my use of the phrase "but for" in the first sentence could be misconstrued by ESL speakers, and then I noticed that I used the words "but not for" later on, which implements "but for" in the way I think most ESL students would be inclined to read it at first. So let's take each sentence in turn.

Sentence 1. "I liked Maki's best but for the ugly gray background."

There are two ways you might read this sentence:
  1. Talon liked Maki's drawing best but only for the ugly gray background he drew. (The rest was crap. =P)
  2. Talon liked Maki's drawing best except for the ugly gray background (which was ugly).
But which of these ways is correct? Only one of them is in this context, and that answer is B. When you say that you like something "but for the [whatever]", you're saying that you liked everything about it except the [whatever it is that you disliked]. To give some examples:
  • But for the price they wanted, I'd have bought that house. (The speaker is suggesting that if only the sellers hadn't asked for so much, he'd have bought the house.)
  • I'd have married her but for her horrible attitude. (The speaker is suggesting he would have married her except her horrible attitude scared him off.)
  • I'd have watched that show but for the flashing lights. (The speaker is suggesting that the flashing lights made it impossible for him to watch the program.)
  • I'd do it but for this broken foot. (The speaker is implying that his broken foot prevents him from helping out.)
I can see how this construction could easily be misinterpreted by people who speak English as their second language. I can see how you might think it's saying "He liked {A} [not for anything else about A] but for {some other thing about it}." But that's not what it means. ^^;

Sentence 2. "I quite liked Mac's drawing but not for a skateboard."

This sentence means that Talon liked Mac's drawing but that he didn't think it was a good fit for a skateboard design. Which ... is pretty much how I think any ESL student would read the sentence to begin with. ^^; It's not difficult. What's interesting is that the sentence would become quasi-nonsensical if we took the "not" out. Make the sentence "I quite liked Mac's drawing but for a skateboard" and it splits us between:
  • a return to the grammatical construction above but one which makes no sense in this context. (I liked his drawing ... except for a skateboard that ruined it for me? ^^; There was no skateboard in his drawing! And why "a" skateboard anyway? Why not "the" skateboard?)
  • interpreting the sentence as "I quite liked Mac's drawing but only for a skateboard", which is the correct inversion of what was stated when the word "not" was present ... but which is inserting a word that wasn't there
It's kind of like an optical illusion in that sense: the brain feels it "knows" what it's supposed to be seeing so it inserts something that isn't really there. Anyway.

One thing I do want to point out, though, is that this "but for" thing isn't a 100% rule. There are plenty of constructions where "but for" would work the way I think you'd ordinarily expect. For example ...
  • I'll give you it but for $1,000,000. (The sentence means what it says: I'll give you the item but in exchange you have to give me one million dollars. It does not mean I'll give you some item ... or I would except there's some $1,000,000 getting in my way preventing me from doing so. :lol:)
  • Would you do that but for Kathy and not for me? (The but and the for are grammatically isolated in this construction. That is to say, "for Kathy" is one phrase which is a discrete entity separate from "but".)

Talon87 07-23-2013 09:18 AM

In the absence of a Spanish or Portuguese thread (I assume it's Spanish but honestly don't know), I'll share this here. A user comment from someone who visited my YouTube video of Misdreavus being caught under a tree during the Johto saga. You don't have to be able to speak Spanish or Portuguese though to figure this one out. =P :lol:


mierda es un jodido fantasma !!! por que no atravesó el árbol :v

Jerichi 07-23-2013 09:29 AM

It is Spanish.

For those without the linguistic knowledge, a rough translation:


like shit it's a fucking ghost !!! why didn't it go through the tree :v

Mercutio 07-27-2013 11:28 AM

Oh, animé.

Amras.MG 09-22-2013 04:02 PM

Anybody here doing Duolingo? I've started doing French there.

OkikuMew 09-22-2013 04:20 PM

Got a strange language situaion here, because I cannot choose for the life of me which language is my native one between French and English, as I learned both at the same time as my first language XD In consequence I'm very fluent in both, but also have little problems in both that would make linguists cringe ^^; It ain't too bad though. So feel free to PM me or whatever for your French-related needs, I love helping out with that kind of stuff :3

I'm trying to learn Japanese, but I haven't found anything that's just right for me, that hooks me up and goes at my pace; either it's too boring that I give up, too slow that I get bored (and then refer to reason #1), or goes too fast and gets me confused more than anything.

Tyranidos 09-22-2013 04:26 PM


Originally Posted by Amras.MG (Post 495023)
Anybody here doing Duolingo? I've started doing French there.

I've done some of the Duolingo French. I took French in high school so I was able to get through the easy stuff pretty quickly. It seems like a good website to start, though. Wish I had more time to get to the more advanced stuff.

Jerichi 09-22-2013 04:30 PM

You're a native bilingual then; you can be native in multiple languages without any problem, though what you're experiencing is probably a little bit of negative transfer (which is totally normal and fine).

Duolingo is supposed to be a pretty good study tool but from what I've heard it's only really good for basics. Most language tools on the Internet tend to be though.


I know there's a thread for this but...

If you want to start learning Japanese, I suggest you start by learning the kana before even picking up a real textbook. That'll be the most invaluable skill you need to learn anything at all, so learn it early and master both hiragana and katakana (most people neglect katakana and it ends up being a problem later on when they have to re-learn it). Then, I'd suggest picking up Genki I or a comparable book. Genki is only okay and has some organizational issues, as well as being really light on Kanji, only getting through like 400 by the end of book 2. But it's pretty well paced and a good starting place. Doing both of the books and the associated workbook should get you up to the edge of Intermediate, and then you can start some more self-study from there.

My Japanese program at my university uses Tobira for the upper level book; it's pretty good but it's really highly reading-oriented and the grammar sections are all over the place. However, its vocabulary is fabulous and the way the reading works it forces you to learn the kanji and learn it fast.

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