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    (Original post by generalebriety)
    4. I'm learning two languages. How do I make sure I don't get confused?

    It's tricky, isn't it? You sit there learning French for 12 years, then spend 10 days in Germany and suddenly can't speak a word of French (or English, for that matter). Happened to me. It is inevitable, when you learn two languages simultaneously, no matter what they are, that you'll get confused. This is almost invariably a one-way process, though; the language you're better at (or, more precisely, more fluent in - see 2(v)) will take over the language you're not so good at. The exception is if you're trying to learn two languages from scratch, where you will scrabble around and not really get anywhere with either for a while, and then eventually one of them will settle down and the other won't.

    So why did this happen to me? Well, for all my 12 years of French, I'd never been to France. I was just a ridiculously interested, not to mention hugely irritating, kid; my parents aren't French, my relatives aren't French, I knew no French people till the age of 14 and to this day I still haven't been to France. My German was awful before I went, you might even say non-existent... but when I came back I'd spent 10 days speaking German constantly. I did better in my German GCSE mock than in my French GCSE mock, and not because I was better at German, but because I was more fluent. This is why I've put so much emphasis on fluency throughout this entire thread; it's absolutely central to all language learning. My 12 years of French learnt from books and cassettes and the odd lesson in school fell over and almost died in the face of 10 days' worth of raw exposure to the German language. To this day my German is better than my French.

    Anecdote over; having passed my French A-level, I'd like to think I now had more of a clue of why that happened than I did back then. Not only was it down to my fluency, it was also down to my accent (see 2(iv)). Think about it; even if you're not really listening to what they're saying, you can always tell if someone's speaking English or not. I recently heard a French song on the radio. I didn't catch a single word of it because this particular radio was in the corner of a shop behind a load of boxes, but I know it was French, because I know what French sounds like. In the same way, there is no way I should ever be tempted to construct a French sentence and accidentally slip a Spanish word; training your accent to hear the Spanish word intercambio in a Spanish accent, and not in a French one, will ensure that you'll never slip it into a French sentence no matter how tired you are, because it simply won't sound right. Saying "j'ai fait un intercambio" will sound as wrong as saying "I went on a Schüleraustausch", because the sounds and the expression of those sounds are entirely different.

    If you're learning two languages in parallel, you might find it helpful to attempt to separate the two languages more physically. Maybe you'll only learn Spanish at night in your underwear and only learn Portuguese in the morning while drinking tea with your hair in a pony tail. Maybe you'll make your German notes on pink paper and your French notes on turquoise paper. It's equivalent to a circadian rhythm; if you drink Horlicks before going to bed every night for a year, and then you drink Horlicks again the day after that, you'll feel tired and want to go to bed, because that's what you're used to doing. Similarly if you make sure you always talk French to one person and Arabic to another, or talk French in the evenings and Arabic in the mornings, or write French in blue ink and Arabic in black, it'll just feel wrong to do it the other way round. This is, of course, only a temporary measure, and simply wouldn't be practical in real life (you can't go to France and refuse to leave your hotel until the evening ), but it's very good for getting you started with two languages.

    If you have a more visual memory, you might find it helpful to learn vocab for both languages at the same time. Maybe keeping the vocab in a table - English, German, Russian - again with different coloured inks, or different coloured columns of the table, not to mention the different alphabets, just to make it stick in your mind that tiny bit more.

    Oh yeah, and everything I said in 2(v).

    5. Ok, I'm doing all this. How long should I expect it to take?

    Well, this all depends on how good you are at languages, not to mention how good your technique is and how much exposure you're getting. It's possible to learn an entire language GCSE from scratch in a week if you're in the country and you're amazing at languages, or a few weeks if you're amazing at languages but can't get to the country, but if you're not quite so good and you're trying to get up to A-level standard, you might want to set aside a year or so. I learnt GCSE Spanish in a few weeks, but then I already knew Latin and French very well... Russian will be a lot harder for me because it's not connected. If you know German very well, don't expect Dutch to take too long. But don't rush it, it'll come in its own time.

    6. I'm still not sure. What if I get stuck? What if I have further questions?

    If you get stuck on anything, come and ask us. We don't bite. We understand that learning languages is difficult, and some of us might be very good at one language and absolute beginners in other languages - and who knows, if you already know Dutch but are trying to learn Italian, maybe you can help us out too. But if not, don't worry about it... that's what we're here for.

    7. I have comments, suggestions, threats, and other general blah about this thread!

    Post in this thread and I'll do my best. Please note that this thread isn't for language questions - go and create your own thread or ask in the translations thread if you want to ask language questions.


    ---


    Thank you for reading (if you got this far!), good luck, and most important of all - enjoy it!
    :eek: Wow....another brilliant post
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    (Original post by gooner1592)
    :eek: Wow....another brilliant post
    :ditto:

    You continue to amaze me, Watson.:p:
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    There are a few things I'm going to add to this, because I'm partly bored and have nothing better to do. This comes from the perspective of learning Japanese and having learned French and lived in France. This is less to do with the actual learning side, but more a general overview of learning a foreign language.

    1. Fluency. Speaking well like a foreigner takes seconds, but speaking like a native takes a life-time. Lesson no1. It takes years to become fluent. Unless you live in the country of your desired language, you'll find it hard to fit into your ideal of how well you should be doing. Be realistic about your aims, your objectives and progress. For some, languages come naturally whereas for others it takes time. Understand your ability and how much effort you have to put in to learning.

    The key to success is as follows;

    * Persistence
    * Patience
    * Practicality.

    2. "I don't know the word." This is fine. Nobody expects you to reach the desired standards of knowing every single word in your TL. It is possible to understand people and speak to people without knowing and reciting every single word in the dictionary. Some people can live in that country fine, without having an advanced vocabulary.

    3. Therefore, don't attempt to go above your means. Its therefore not always wonderful, delightful, quixotic, ineffable or ambrosial - it can simply be good. Often the most complex element to learning is the most rudimentary of explanations. Say what you feel, rather than what you know.

    4. Don't be scared to make a fool of yourself. Yes, we've all been there. Using arimasu instead of imasu to that hot young waitress, suggesting that;

    カレはありますか kare wa arimasu ka? (do you have curry?)
    カレはいますか  kare wa imasu ka? (do you have a boyfriend?)

    We learn from our mistakes, and its only natural that you will get things wrong from time to time. Use this as a lesson to question, explore and above all understand. Therefore don't be scared to make a complete tit out of yourself in front of other people.

    5. Live the language. Don't just stop at the classroom. Learn everything you can about the culture, the environment, the politics, the history, the new slang, the music, the fashion and everything else that is currently hot-topic in the language of your choice. You'll be more clued up about things when speaking to natives and feel more worthy that you understand their culture and environment. It also helps to numb culture-shock a lot!

    6. Know your strengths and patch up your weaknesses. For some, absorbing kanji and new words may come like a duck to water. Find out what you see as difficult in learning a language and work about means to address them. If you grammar sucks, do some exercises. Scared about speaking? Find someone to chat with. Know yourself and your ability inside and out.

    7. Question everything, suspect everyone. Ask. Ask. And.... ASK. If you have a native speaker teaching you, then grill them on everything, get their help when you need it and above all discuss and talk about topics.

    8. Be open-minded. Self-explanatory.

    9. Don't get frustrated. Enjoy your time when studying. It should be an enjoyable experience and not a labourious chore. No-one expects miracles right away and often language learning is a long, lengthy process that takes years to fully master. See yourself in a few years and commit yourself to do what you want to do with this language. Be realistic, but above all be confident enough to succeed.

    10. Don't listen to your peers. Ah, yes. Language grads are the only people in the student-sphere who are regularly probed and examined. For instance;

    Student 1: What do you study?
    Student 2: Erm.... Spanish.
    Student 1: Wow, Spanish. Well, do you know, like... erm speak any Spanish?
    Student 2: Well, yeah kinda.
    Student 1: Well speak some then.

    These type of people should be preferably shot out of a cannon straight into the sea. Nobody ever asks Literature students to recite Shakespeare or T.S. Eliot. Therefore take on board point number 8 and shrug off any notion that your degree is worthless, you are wasting your money and put up with the bullshit for a while longer.

    Just think that you you will be learning an actual transferable skill that anybody can see, and that you will learn more things and absorb more knowledge and culture than any other student on the planet.

    Above all, I say good luck. Because you're friggin gonna need it.
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    I'm normally good at learning vocab - but recently it just seems to go in one ear and out of the other. What's the most effective way of learning vocab in the long term? Just reviewing constantly?
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    (Original post by friendsfanatic)
    I'm normally good at learning vocab - but recently it just seems to go in one ear and out of the other. What's the most effective way of learning vocab in the long term? Just reviewing constantly?
    Hmm. Vocab learning seems to be a foreign concept for most people. I've seen people sitting there with vocab books writing things down, speaking things out loud, covering the German or the English and trying to reproduce it, and personally I think it's a really weird way of learning. You didn't say how you were learning, but I'm guessing it's similar to this?

    Vocab isn't just some static thing you can learn by rote. The whole point of vocab is to enable you to speak and read with more precision and fluency. If we see a word we don't know in a newspaper or a book, then we look it up and maybe use it a few times or read it a few times and learn it. We don't sit there with little books of quite hard English words and their meanings, but this is equivalent to how most people learn vocab. This bores the brain very easily - it doesn't want stacks of new words, it wants the ability to communicate better. Vocab should be learnt on demand - when you come across a word you don't know, add it to your vocab book (and if you don't have one, get one), use it in sentences, write it, speak it out loud, but the important thing is that you don't just learn the word, you learn how natives of that language use that word and how you can use it while talking to them.

    Some people find it helpful to memorise sentences. (Since you're doing German, I'll give some German examples.) Say, for instance, you want to learn the word "um", meaning "around". Some sentences you might want to learn are:
    "Er läuft um den Tisch." (showing you straight away that 'um' takes the accusative, without you actually having to remember "um takes the accusative", which will obviously stick a lot less easily)
    "Ich gehe um 7 Uhr nach Hause." (showing you that, with times, 'um' doesn't mean 'around', it means 'at')
    "Wir haben nicht genug Geld, um ein neues Auto zu kaufen." (showing the um... zu construction)

    And straight away you've simplified the whole process. You've learnt the word "um" (if after making a few sentences with it in you haven't, I'd be surprised), you've learnt how it fits in sentences (takes the accusative, also used with 'zu' in purpose clauses...), you've seen exceptions to what it means (can mean 'at'). Now compare this to the standard 'flashcard' method that most people swear by - just learning that "um" means "around". Firstly it makes it much more difficult to put it into a sentence (as you may accidentally anglicise everything in your head); secondly you don't learn how it actually works, you just learn it as a standalone word. But words don't stand alone.

    Final point I suppose would be to try not to overload yourself. Learning 50 words a day is all very wonderful, but you'll forget them. Try and see it as you'd see English. If I read a newspaper and it had 50 words I didn't understand in it, I'd stop reading.

    Here's a word for you to try: "kundtun". It's separable, irregular, takes both dative and accusative objects. Look it up, then try and make 2 or 3 sentences out of it. Say them out loud a couple of times, maybe even write them down a couple of times, but somehow commit them to memory, and I guarantee you won't forget that word or how it works easily.
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    Thanks - that's really helpful.

    Currently, I haven't been doing any 'active' vocab learning - but normally, I have a book in which I write unknown words and any related words/idioms and I take it everywhere with me - I cover up the English and see if I can remember the German, if not, I write the word out a few times and make a list of all the others I have forgotten and then re-test myself.
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    (Original post by friendsfanatic)
    Thanks - that's really helpful.

    Currently, I haven't been doing any 'active' vocab learning - but normally, I have a book in which I write unknown words and any related words/idioms and I take it everywhere with me - I cover up the English and see if I can remember the German, if not, I write the word out a few times and make a list of all the others I have forgotten and then re-test myself.
    That's great, you just have to make sure you're not specifically learning that word on its own though. As I said, no word stands alone in conversation or literature, so no word should stand alone in your learning. Actually using it in a potential real-life situation (even a silly one) will help you commit it to memory much more easily.
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    I have the same problem when trying to remember vocabulary. My brain just doesn't allow me to learn new words I have to spend like, an hour trying to learn a word It's so crap. Weirdly enough though, I remembered all the GCSE stuff from the big CGP book in 7 weeks or so. I don't understand how I can be good one minute at learning vocab, and then be crap the other, like now:confused:
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    generalebriety - sooo good. especially number 4. when i saw it, i was like 'this is LONG' (i have short attention span) but then i actually read it and it is pleasantly entertaining.

    Can I just add a few suggestions? These are what works for me. Someone might find them useful.

    1. If you learn French and you can mildly understand spoken french, I highly recommend listening to French radio on the web, if you have high enough broadband. You can get programs as podcast or as realplayer (second is better imo). I listen to the history program and panique au mangin palace. This latter one is lighter with music and stuff, but they're both ok. It's interesting to hear a french perspective on mary queen of scots, for instance, or on the enigma machine. Listening to a language is soooo important.

    2. Fanfiction. eg. harry potter fanfiction from fanfiction.net.... if you get a fic translated from english into german - there are lot - it's easier than having to look up the words you don't know. fanfics have the advantage of being free, little slang (hard for beginners like me), and not too literary. (come on, downloading a free online books copy of 'the troubles of young werther' is not going to help you learn german unless you are a genius. it's like reading jane austen to learn english.

    3. Get a penpal. Human interaction is so nice. There are tons of sites (good french one - correspondance.org). You can write letters or talk on skype, or chat on msn. This is a lot of fun.

    4. Learning vocab: (In my experience) lists don't work. It's best instead to read a lot of texts/listen to a lot of things. That way you hear the word in context. I think it helps you remember it better that way (i mean, that's how little kids learn, right?). For me, I will encounter a word, not know it, look it up, try to remember. Then i will forget it, encounter it again, think 'that looks familiar' but still not remember what it means, so i will look it up again. Usually i have to encounter a word two or three times, and have to look it up, before it finally sticks in my memory.

    5. Oh i almost forget. Listening to songs. Don't know if it helps, but it's fun. I quite like MC Solaar (anyone heard da vinci claude?). And the old french songs (eg. Je chante by Charles Trenet) are great too... ooh, and dj lhasa's remix of 'Giulia' is fantastic, though i don't actually know italian.
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    (Original post by gooner1592)
    I have the same problem when trying to remember vocabulary. My brain just doesn't allow me to learn new words I have to spend like, an hour trying to learn a word It's so crap. Weirdly enough though, I remembered all the GCSE stuff from the big CGP book in 7 weeks or so. I don't understand how I can be good one minute at learning vocab, and then be crap the other, like now:confused:
    Are you getting a good night's sleep at the moment? That could be it.

    off topic, i know. feel free to delete
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    (Original post by milady)
    Are you getting a good night's sleep at the moment? That could be it.

    off topic, i know. feel free to delete
    Nowadays, I am;yes;, But during term time, I have to be up at 7 in the morning and go to bed at about 1 in the morning, so probably not There just haven't been enough hours in the day this year for me to go to school, do school work, hand in coursework, revise and actually have a life at the same time:confused:
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    Awesome stuff generalebriety!! Really uesful Thanks

    Wikipedia has articles in loads of languages, and these can be fun to browse, and quite userfriendly too
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    I just read through this thread properly (as opposed to just skimming through and saying to myself "what a useful looking thread"), and some of it was helpful to me, even though I've been into languages for about 12 years

    Especially the bit about not switching your languages - admittedly I don't expect to have as much of a problem keeping German apart from French as I do Spanish from French or French from English (yes, I've started thinking in French, it's quite scary In fact, since I'm listening to French radio atm and singing along, I'm having to fight a very strong urge to write this in French). But I do have problems with code switching at inappropriate moments, and coming out with either the wrong structure, wrong words, or both, and I expect this to get worse once I get into German properly.

    So I think I might try the coloured-paper thing And if it works, I might try and revive my Spanish, Latin and Italian (I just wanna be able to say I speak 6 languages :flute:)
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    (Original post by gooner1592)
    Nowadays, I am;yes;, But during term time, I have to be up at 7 in the morning and go to bed at about 1 in the morning, so probably not There just haven't been enough hours in the day this year for me to go to school, do school work, hand in coursework, revise and actually have a life at the same time:confused:
    Oh tell me about it - I remember that feeling! :rolleyes:

    Like Ana I've just read this thread through properly - it's so useful! Thanks to everybody for all the useful info and generalebriety for starting the thread.
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    (Original post by xxx Anneka xxx)
    Ditto, I'm doing maths too. My choices are probably either an MMath with the third year studying in Germany or a BSc with the third year getting paid in a work placement. Hmmm... money constraints may well play a part, methinks.

    And, damnit, you need to be a motivational speaker or a life coach or something! :p:
    If you spend the third year in Germany are you allowed to do a work placement there or work as an assistant in a school? Because I think that way you get paid a bit for the work you're doing, so you wouldn't have to worry about the money. Also you get a grant of some kind for the year abroad too. Just a thought, don't know if that's any help
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    (Original post by gooner1592)
    Nowadays, I am;yes;, But during term time, I have to be up at 7 in the morning and go to bed at about 1 in the morning, so probably not There just haven't been enough hours in the day this year for me to go to school, do school work, hand in coursework, revise and actually have a life at the same time:confused:
    No wonder you're having trouble remembering things. That's awful. Maybe you could try taking naps during the day. There's a girl in my chemistry class who just dozes through the (admittedly unproductive) lessons and still does well in the exams. She probably works like crazy at home, though.
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    I enjoy learning languages. My only problem is I can understand them- just never speak them. It makes absolutely no sense at all.

    My friend and I spent 50 minutes with this French helper a few years ago and she kept asking us things. I was telling my friend what she was saying and she answered as best she could. I could not really answer at all.

    I am afraid I'll have the same problem now that I'm doing Spanish because my friend was reading the Spanish phrases we had to learn out to me and I could say the English but when she said the English I had no idea what the Spanish was.

    Is there anything I can do to get round this?
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    (Original post by Rennie)
    I enjoy learning languages. My only problem is I can understand them- just never speak them. It makes absolutely no sense at all.

    My friend and I spent 50 minutes with this French helper a few years ago and she kept asking us things. I was telling my friend what she was saying and she answered as best she could. I could not really answer at all.

    I am afraid I'll have the same problem now that I'm doing Spanish because my friend was reading the Spanish phrases we had to learn out to me and I could say the English but when she said the English I had no idea what the Spanish was.

    Is there anything I can do to get round this?
    What level are/were you at? It could simply be your teaching. The "active" skills (i.e. going from something you understand to Spanish, so writing and speaking) are obviously much harder to grasp than the "passive" skills (going from Spanish to something you understand, so reading and listening), and it could simply be that you were underpractised. There's one fairly obvious route to go down if this is the case: just increase the amount that you speak Spanish. If there's anything you don't know - vocab, grammar, whatever - look it up. Meanwhile, talk as much as you can. Preferably to Spanish people, or in the Spanish soc on TSR (I assume we have one I've never been in it), but if you can't find any of those lying around, talking to yourself will do the trick, and has the advantage of taking off the pressure of getting everything right.

    Is it that you literally cannot form sentences in Spanish or that you're scared of getting it wrong and sounding stupid?
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    Well, Spanish I've only just started so I'm trying to avoid doing what I did in French.

    In French I could just about speak French on my own (and kept accidently speaking it in Spanish today) but I could never form good sentences. In writing it was fine... my understanding was pretty good (in fact-I basically understood all of what was said to me in Spanish today and I've never learned it before)... I just am never good when it comes to having actual conversations. Even when I practice.
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    (Original post by Rennie)
    Well, Spanish I've only just started so I'm trying to avoid doing what I did in French.

    In French I could just about speak French on my own (and kept accidently speaking it in Spanish today) but I could never form good sentences. In writing it was fine... my understanding was pretty good (in fact-I basically understood all of what was said to me in Spanish today and I've never learned it before)... I just am never good when it comes to having actual conversations. Even when I practice.
    How do you practise?
 
 
 
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