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Poll: At what age did you start to learn your first foreign language?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Apr 24, 2012

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "At what age did you start to learn your first foreign language?".

This poll was originally submitted by Monika Jakacka. View the poll results »



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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
Around 8 Apr 24, 2012

Longer ago than I care to recall, but I still remember Patapouf et Clicquot from the Parlons Francais TV course we used to look forward to once a week.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEdxhZM_LNI

I just realised that I still say ""ecoutez et repetez"...

[Edited at 2012-04-24 08:48 GMT]


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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 16:19
English to French
+ ...
Before I turned 3 Apr 24, 2012

... with my older brother, who was attending pre-school and "teaching" me so I would be ready to attend pre-school around the age of 3.
We spoke Dutch (not Flemish, but ABN as it was called in those days) at home but as we were living in the French speaking part of the country, school was in French.

[Modifié le 2012-04-24 13:26 GMT]


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Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:19
Member (2006)
German to English
between 3 and 4 Apr 24, 2012

as we moved to Swaziland and we were learning Siswati and Afrikaans as well

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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 16:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
Coquérico Apr 24, 2012

I could swear this was our French course at primary school, but horrified to see that it was first published in 1934! But I don't recognise the cover of a copy available today on e-bay, so maybe it was a later version. My French teacher with whom I was still in contact died a couple of years ago, so I shall have to ask old classmates - will see some this summer - about their memories.

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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
24 Apr 24, 2012

Not counting a dead foreign language (Latin) that I studied when about 15, I'd have to answer that I started learning Spanish when I was 24.

I never studied Spanish in school, but came to Spain in 1985 after having traveled a bit around Mexico and Central America. My original idea was to stay for a year and then head back to the US. First, however, I had to learn to communicate while in Spain.

My experience was what they call "immersion" but I prefer the image of swimming rather than sinking in the water. I never took any formal Spanish language classes, but I started asking questions from day one and kept my own personal study notes. I quickly learned who I should ask language related questions and who I shouldn't ask. (Years before becoming a translator, I had already figured out that not every native speaker of a language can explain the inner workings of their language or give accurate translations of it.) I also chose what I call "language models" i.e., people who spoke the language well and were worth imitating. I paid special attention to the way they spoke and how they expressed themselves. (I called this the “parrot method” i.e., listen and speak.)

The other prong to my language learning approach was to watch documentaries and "serious" news broadcasts on Spanish TV as well as reading all different types of printed material. Converting all that head knowledge into spoken language was, of course, the riskiest part of all. Being willing to be laughed at for saying something wrong in another language in front of native speakers is never a pleasant thought, but I quickly realized that being cowardly wasn’t going to get me anywhere. So, I adopted what I called the “Make a fool of yourself method”. It’s actually quite an effective learning tool. Trust me, you NEVER forget what you’ve said wrong when it becomes a source of hilarity among your listeners.

Those beginner days are long gone and I can happily say that these days I’m studying a second university degree, but this time in Spanish, and so continue learning, but more within an academic setting.


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 00:19
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
17 Apr 24, 2012

This is when I first started studying Japanese by myself from, well, a book aptly called "Teach Yourself Japanese."

John Cutler wrote:
Not counting a dead foreign language (Latin) that I studied when about 15,


Same here. With 7 years of Latin, 4 of Greek, 1 of Russian and the obligatory 5 of French, I took the advice of Monty Python - "And now for something completely different!" and started learning something no-one at school would ever think of and became the ridicule of the 6th form.

However, I remember that I enjoyed the attention at the time.

Edited typos + Just realized I should have read the question fully before answering the poll. Should not have stayed up working till 4 this morning. Aargh!



[Edited at 2012-04-24 09:52 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-04-24 11:52 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-04-24 13:20 GMT]


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Marjolein Snippe  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:19
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
10 Apr 24, 2012

We started learning English at school at the age of 10, although I had picked up enough English during a holiday in the US at the age of 5 for playtime and after school friendship with an American classmate who was only going to stay for a few months and whose parents didn't speak any Dutch.

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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:19
Hebrew to English
14 Apr 24, 2012

When I started learning my source language. ♥ Hebrew ♥ , which I had to beg my parents to pay for private tuition for.

(Perish the thought the school system would teach anything other than French or German, even Italian is considered quite "exotic").

I'd also done a year of Russian at about the same time (also outside the school system), and had been studying German at secondary school since 11. (Mrs Scholey - if you're out there, you were a legend! )

I do vaguely remember a very pitiful attempt at teaching us French at primary school (I would have been about 9)....I only remember having a handful of lessons, teaching us colours is the only one I remember well....

A very sad indictment of language teaching in England even then. Not much has changed (in fact I'm sure it's worse).


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Helen Hagon  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:19
Member (2011)
Russian to English
+ ...
10 Apr 24, 2012

I started French at 10 when I began middle school and Russian at 13 when I moved to upper school (although I had to do this at evening classes). Unfortunately, as I was the only pupil in my year who chose to study Russian up to A-level, they stopped offering it after I left.

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Chun Un  Identity Verified
Macau
Member (2007)
English to Chinese
+ ...
11 or 12 Apr 24, 2012

In China, English lessons only started in middle school in my days. Now some kindergartens claim to teach kids English. Things have changed quite a bit around here.

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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 17:19
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
9 Apr 24, 2012

Like the majority of Finnish pupils, I started learning English at the age of 9.

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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:19
Hebrew to English
Provision Apr 24, 2012

Helen Hagon wrote:
Unfortunately, as I was the only pupil in my year who chose to study Russian up to A-level, they stopped offering it after I left.


At least they ran it for you...I applied to do my A-Levels (Russian, German and English Language) which I was accepted for, when I enrolled I was told Russian was no longer offered (thanks for letting me know), I was left with little option other than to accept a situation whereby I stayed at college an extra year and did Spanish from scratch - up to A-Level in 3 years, which I begrudingly accepted (I had no other choice really). The icing on the cake was after my first year (there were two of us in my A-Level German class - the other girl being a year ahead of me - and I was told it would "be good for me" to try to match her level) anyway, after she left (and I still had a year to go) I was swiftly told they wouldn't run a class for one person and that I yes ME! I'd have to find another college to finish my A-Level. Eventually, after some "choice words" to them, they found me another college just for German for me, which was totally uncomfortable all round, and left me with a very bitter taste in my mouth about the state of language education and provision in English schools/colleges.


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DianeGM  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:19
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
0-3 Apr 24, 2012

Three languages at home (Greek, Dutch and English) - do they count as foreign languages?
Then Latin, Ancient Greek, French and German from primary school aged 9,10 and 11 respectively.
I picked up Spanish in High school and Italian some time later.
Nowadays I'm rusty at everything modern except my first three languages which are the ones I work in, though they come back with practice or spending time in the country or constantly with speakers of those lanaguages. Latin and Ancient Greek always seems to be on as background filters so they've never dissapeared.

[Edited at 2012-04-24 15:31 GMT]


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Wolfgang Vogt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:19
English to German
+ ...
10 Apr 24, 2012

At secondary school, first English and later, I was about 14, French.
I was pretty proud of my English when I graduated, an illusion which was destroyed by the moment I set foot in the first backpacker hostel in Australia...
My French is completely gone by now - actually there was never much of it.
By the time I started to learn my 3rd language I was about 21. Basically the same story as John's (some posts up) - I came to Argentina and was lucky to find people who couldn't speak too much English nor German. A couple of years have passed and I graduated from uni with a degree in English-Spanish translation. And I swear by my living and dead french teachers, I'll take classes in French sometime soon!


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