Poll: How long had you been learning your 2nd language before you could think freely in it?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 20:34
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Jul 9, 2016

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How long had you been learning your 2nd language before you could think freely in it?".

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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:34
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I had a slow start Jul 9, 2016

I'm thinking of Portuguese, since I started studying Spanish in grade school.

I studied Portuguese intensively in school for several years, but I did not start "thinking freely" in it until I married a Brazilian. We spoke only Portuguese at home and the language quickly became part of me.


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 04:34
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other Jul 9, 2016

I’m probably a very slow learner, as I only could think FREELY (as freely as in my native language) in my second language (French) after 3 or 4 months of total immersion and that happened a good 20 years after starting learning…

 

Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 12:34
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Other Jul 9, 2016

Where is the "> a couple of years" option?

The poll question presumes that you can get really proficient in a second language in a couple of years. Wishful thinking!

For Japanese - not a language for the faint of heart - I would say it takes a good five years or so for all the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle to start fitting together well.

[Edited at 2016-07-10 07:52 GMT]


 

Helen Hagon  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:34
Member (2011)
Russian to English
+ ...
When I went there Jul 9, 2016

I learned Russian for several years at school before I went to Russia. When I came back, I found myself thinking in Russian. My last trip was quite a while ago, though, so it's about time I went there again to recharge my batteries.

 

Yetta J Bogarde  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 05:34
Member (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
Other Jul 9, 2016

No idea, so long ago, I must have been about 20.

 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:34
Russian to English
+ ...
It is a very imprecise poll Jul 9, 2016

what do you mean by a second language? The language you learned second, like my English, in childhood though, starting around three or earlier and having spoken it most of my life as my dominant, primary language, or a language like my Spanish—two semesters in college plus some immersion. In New York you are constantly immersed in Spanish. Yes, it is very imprecise. And then, thinking is not all in language, so, yes, this relationship is slightly vague, too.

To learn a language well, meaning to a university level, takes years, plus university education in that language. Ten years or more. To think in a language a little bit, a few weeks.

[Edited at 2016-07-09 12:00 GMT]


 

Kristina Cosumano  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:34
Member (2015)
German to English
Typo Jul 9, 2016

Julian Holmes wrote:

Where is the "> a couple of years" option?

The poll question presumes that you can get really proficient in a second language in a couple of years. Wishful thinking!

For Japanese - not a language for the faint of heart - I would say it takes a good five years or so for all the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle to start fitting together well.

[Edited at 2016-07-09 12:53 GMT]


I think "< a couple of years" is a typo, and should be >.


 

Ana Florencia Fernandez
Argentina
Local time: 00:34
Member (2011)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I agree. < should be >. Jul 9, 2016

Kristina Cosumano wrote:

Julian Holmes wrote:

Where is the "> a couple of years" option?

The poll question presumes that you can get really proficient in a second language in a couple of years. Wishful thinking!

For Japanese - not a language for the faint of heart - I would say it takes a good five years or so for all the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle to start fitting together well.

[Edited at 2016-07-09 12:53 GMT]


I think "< a couple of years" is a typo, and should be >.


 

Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 05:34
English to German
+ ...
Other Jul 9, 2016

I have two 2nd souce languages.

 

telefpro
Local time: 09:04
Portuguese to English
+ ...
this is how it is Jul 9, 2016

Portuguese is my first mother tongue followed by English( Higher education in Portuguese and English). Spanish as a sister language came with much ease and without hiccups. It took some years to begin thinking in French and speak pretty fluently.

 

Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 05:34
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
Confused Jul 9, 2016

LilianNekipelov wrote:

what do you mean by a second language?


Well, everyone else seems to understand what is meant by "second language", so I'm a bit confused why the question is necessary.


To learn a language well, meaning to a university level, takes years, plus university education in that language. Ten years or more. To think in a language a little bit, a few weeks.

[Edited at 2016-07-09 12:00 GMT]


So to learn a language well....."ten years or more"
To think in a language...a few weeks"

So now I'm more confused.

Enlightenment?


 

Erzsébet Czopyk  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 05:34
Member (2006)
Russian to Hungarian
+ ...
The story how I learned the difference between the floorcloth and the intercourse in Russian Jul 10, 2016

Helen Hagon wrote:

I learned Russian for several years at school before I went to Russia. When I came back, I found myself thinking in Russian. My last trip was quite a while ago, though, so it's about time I went there again to recharge my batteries.


same here, let's go togethericon_smile.gif

That time when I was young, to learn Russian was obligatory in all Hungarian schools.
Of course we were not able to speak but we learned something "Мы все учились понемногу, / Чему-нибудь и как-нибудь"icon_smile.gif

Finally I went to Soviet Union in summer 1986 but begun my studies in Kiev. It was less than 2 months after Chenobyl but we were forced to stay there. I remember how our leaders collected the passports: there was no other option. And I had severe consequences because it heavily affected my kidneys.

But let me share one of the funniest (?) moments and conversations.
It all started with the loss of my hair and on a morning I woke up that I am literally bleeding. But bleeding heavily. i was in shock. I felt no pain just weakness and dizzyness. Our group leader called an emergency and we rushed to the hospital. I was literally in shock.
I was transported to the Kiev Main Hospital. The doctor, first of all, wanted to present me a gynecologist and the urologist after. (now I know this is the protocol, to exclude pregnancy but that time I was 18 and had no idea just a shock what will happen.)

The doctors asked:
- Девушка, вы жили половую жинь? (Young lady, did you have sex?)

From this sentence I understood only "Девушка" and "пол". ( Yeah, I did not know tthat the word "пол" means not just floor but sex and also (gender).

But the initial meaning of "пол" is a floor in Russian so I though he wants to know where I slept (on the floor so I cathched a flu or something). I knew the word "половая тряпка" (which is floor-cloth to clean the floor) so I definitely was focused on the floor, therefore, I answered:

- Нет, я не спала на полу. (No, I did not sleep on the floor.)

He repeated slowly (usual effect...)
- Деee- вуууш- каaa, вы жи-ли поoo-лоoo-вууу-ю жинь? (Young lady, did you have sex?)

I became frustrated why he asks me such stupid question, so I answered:

- Я Вам говорю, я не спала на полу, у меня в общежитии кровать есть! (I am telling you, I did not slept on the floor, I have a bed in the student home!)

He made a strange drawings, some circulars with dots and showed me. They looked like a letter Q. I had no idea what he wants to explain. He repeated, pointing on the drawings:
- Деee- вуууш- каaa, вы жи-ли поoo-лоoo-вууу-ю жинь? (Young lady, did you have sex?)

I looked at the drawings and made wide eyes:
- А это что такое? (What is this?)

- Подождите. (Wait a second.) O-o-o.

- Секс!!! Был или нет? (Sex!!! Did you have or not?)

I said no, finally understood what he wanted to know.

This is the story how I learned the difference between the "половая тряпка" (floor-cloth) and the "половая жинь" (sex life, in this context: intercourse).

Be careful, Russian is a tricky languageicon_smile.gif)))

(sad end: the bleeding came from my kidney, so within an hour two kidney stents were placed, one of the most painful experiences...)

[Edited at 2016-07-10 02:59 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-07-10 03:01 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-07-10 03:01 GMT]


 

Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:34
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
All options are undue Jul 10, 2016

One of the big problems we face in the world of translations is that people really think they will be fluent in a second language within two years. And the longest choice among the options was "a couple of years".

Within a couple of years, if you study a lot, I mean every day, and if you are in the country where that language is spoken and not in your country, speaking your first language 90% of the time, you may be able to understand that second language well. But in order to be able to translate into and from that second language, it necessarily takes a lot more than a couple of years, and a whole lot more than simply "learning" it.

"A couple of years" would be the first (lowest) choice in my list, if I had posted this question.


 


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