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Poll: Which is the best way to learn a new language?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Oct 13, 2016

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Which is the best way to learn a new language?".

This poll was originally submitted by Montserrat S.. View the poll results »



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Edith van der Have-Raats  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:38
Member (2016)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Speaking from my own experience with Swedish ... Oct 13, 2016

... I would say a combination of living abroad and thorough courses. Living abroad only doesn't necessarily do the trick, especially with a country where many people speak English as a second language - they keep on trying to switch to English because it's quicker and easier, and without a background from formal education in the language of the country, it's hard to break through this barrier.

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2011)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Depends Oct 13, 2016

To speak it well, you just need to live there.
To write it well, you probably need to have lessons as well.
But you can certainly teach yourself to read (and translate) it without ever going there.

Edith van der Have-Raats wrote:

Living abroad only doesn't necessarily do the trick, especially with a country where many people speak English as a second language - they keep on trying to switch to English because it's quicker and easier


Vägra! When I lived in Sweden I refused to speak English. People soon got the message, and my Swedish was fluent enough in no time.





[Edited at 2016-10-13 08:26 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
Living abroad Oct 13, 2016

Was my first option, as my own language acquisition improved in leaps and bounds after a stay in the country where the language/s are spoken.

However, not everyone can soak up language like a sponge and some effort needs to be made. From my own experience, I can cite the example of English-speaking expats living in Spain for decades who can barely string a coherent sentence together in Spanish, which never ceases to amaze me...


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Chie. I  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 01:38
Partial member (2013)
English to Japanese
+ ...
depends on how far you go Oct 13, 2016

it depends on what you do while living abroad. Actually it does not take much vocabulary in order to do grocery, do laundry, take train to go to work. If the language is new you are not likely to work, but even talking to the same people with limited language and do the same work with limited scope, it is a good beginning but you are not likely to go too far.

TV programs and texts are available and you can listen to the word pronounced on the web- If you are patient enough I recommend self teaching.


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 01:38
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Language school/institute Oct 13, 2016

First to get a grasp of the basics - which is really necessary with Japanese because you need to be very self-disciplined or motivated to learn Chinese characters which form an integral part of Japanese language study and learning.

Then, immersion for at least a couple of years to make all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fit into place. Japanese is quite unlike any European language where you can hop on a ferry from the UK and be in the country of your second language within a day.

I remember I started teaching myself Japanese at grammar school when I was a young lad of 17 from a book aptly called 'Teach Yourself Japanese.' What else!

My interview at London University to study Japanese went something like this.

Professor: "So, you want to study Japanese, do you? Have you ever studied it before?"
Me: "Well, yes, actually. I'm learning it by this book here." says me taking 'Teach Yourself Japanese' out of my army surplus satchel.
Professor: "So, you're reading my book, are you. You won't learn much from that! I wrote that book during the war for the war effort in a month, you know." my soon-to-be teacher of Japanese says with a big grin on his face.


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Edith van der Have-Raats  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:38
Member (2016)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Precis! Oct 13, 2016

Chris S wrote:
Edith van der Have-Raats wrote:

Living abroad only doesn't necessarily do the trick, especially with a country where many people speak English as a second language - they keep on trying to switch to English because it's quicker and easier


Vägra! When I lived in Sweden I refused to speak English. People soon got the message, and my Swedish was fluent enough in no time.

Exactly what I did as well, Chris! "Jag förstår dig inte, skulle du kunna tala svenska i stället?" But in order to do that, I needed some basic knowledge of the language first, so I made sure that I had A1 to A2 level before I moved to Sweden for my studies and over there, I started out with an intensive summer course. Never regretted one moment of it, and within a year, I passed TISUS (C1)


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Linda Miranda  Identity Verified
Portugal
Member (2013)
French to Portuguese
+ ...
Almost all of the above Oct 13, 2016

I would say private lessons are not important if you have the opportunity to combine all the other strategies. In my case, self-teaching played the most important role when I started learning Italian, and it still does, and was also very important in the early years of Spanish learning. Of course, this wouldn't be enough for French, which is my foreign language number one!

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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:38
Member (2003)
French to Italian
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Yes, yes there are many Oct 13, 2016

neilmac wrote:

Was my first option, as my own language acquisition improved in leaps and bounds after a stay in the country where the language/s are spoken.

I can cite the example of English-speaking expats living in Spain for decades who can barely string a coherent sentence together in Spanish, which never ceases to amaze me...

Most of them are in fact English native but also a few German


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Khaldun Alqaisi
United Arab Emirates
Local time: 20:38
Member (2013)
English to Arabic
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Living abroad Oct 13, 2016

This is the best option in general but some other people can learn well by the other means definetly.

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Elena Mordenti  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:38
German to Italian
+ ...
Self-teaching Oct 13, 2016

My self-teaching is related to German language. When I was a child my father taught me numbers in German because during the last World War his family took care of an injured german soldier and then I started being interested in.
Later on this way my mum provided me with dictionary and a recorded course for grammar and pronunciation.
I've never been abroad actually but I'd like to! In the meantime I think that web videos are a great opportunity to continue learning!


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 17:38
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other (language institute + living abroad) Oct 13, 2016

When 30 years ago I was recruited to work in Brussels, I thought I had a very good knowledge of French (backed by a diploma), but as soon as I was confronted by everyday language I realized how “literary” my knowledge was. So, according to my experience, nothing beats living in a foreign country to become proficient in a language (though you don’t need to live there for 30 years like I did…).

[Edited at 2016-10-13 10:46 GMT]


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xxxIlan Rubin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 19:38
Russian to English
It's a combination Oct 13, 2016

You need to do all of these things ideally.

And having a significant other who is a native speaker of that language and that being the language the two of you communicate in is a huge advantage.

Making the effort to read loads - novels, newspapers, academic works, etc - also helps massively. When I was at uni studying Russian and French I insisted not just on reading only the originals of all the set texts, but also on looking up every word I didn't know and penciling it in on top the original text, so that when I came to reread the book the translation was there for me. And rather than rely on a dictionary I found it much more efficient to find a translation of the book (where available) and use that to look up the words, so I would turn the pages of the translation alongside turning the pages of the original.


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Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:38
Romanian to English
+ ...
Immersion + reading Oct 13, 2016

Immersion is absolutely necessary to be (more) fluent and learn the little details the study books won't tell you and to keep up with the ever-changing richness of a language.

As important as immersion is, I must say that my greatest help were the books (novels) I read. A well-written novel is the best source of vocabulary.

Of course, that depends on what kind of vocabulary you want to want to have. You can't learn colloquial language without living in the country of that language, but you can acquire a very rich literary vocabulary from books alone.


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matt robinson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:38
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Living abroad is not enough Oct 13, 2016

Although providing (possible) immersion in the target language, and daily motivation, I think it is useful to simultaneously study the language, in order to obtain a solid grounding in its grammar. Otherwise, you may find that your grammatical accuracy when speaking and writing leaves a lot to be desired.

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