Learning a language?

How would one best approach learning another language? I’ve got two in mind.

I took six years of French (four in High School and two more in college - even got a Diplôme d’honneur from the French consul for being the best French student at UT that year). I think I was at least close to fluent, but I haven’t even tried to speak it in 25 years and can only summon bits.

Having grown up, and remained, in Texas, I’ve accumulated Spanish vocabulary and phraseology, but I’ve never studied the language and definitely don’t speak it. At best I can sometimes, between my smattering of words and phrases and his occasional English bit, help one of my neighbors find a street. And recognize an insult.

I know untold numbers of folks who have satisfied their foreign language requirements in college by gaining credit for two years of one of the big three (French, German and Spanish) and have retained little of it.

So I somehow doubt that enrolling in a night class at the local junior college is a route that will actually get me to the point of speaking the language.

I think I left French behind because there is really very little opportunity to use it in my environment. Spanish is another matter - and I recognize that Castillian Spanish is not Mexican Spanish - what I would hope to learn is what I’d be able to use around here.

So, what do y’all think would be an effective approach to either learning to speak (Mexican) Spanish or recapturing conversational French?

You might be surprised with a beginning conversation class in French or Spanish. There are many tapes or CDs in bookstores for beginning languages. And there is nothing like immersion: visiting a country like France or French-speaking Canada to refresh your prior studies. I studied French before studying Spanish. Many similarities with respect to grammar. I’d opt for the night classes. They should be fun! :slight_smile:

Well, the way I learned Portuguese was by living in Salvador, Brazil for two years. :slight_smile: That’s really the fastest, most effecient way to become fluent in a language. You have to hear it and speak it all the time.

Something else that helped me was I started buying Brazilian comic books. The stories were simple and easy to follow and the pictures helped you along, so it was a great way to learn new words and, especially, slang phrases.

Also, even though I watched the only English-language TV channel on cable (:)) the shows were subtitled, and reading the subtitles while watching were another great way to learn new words and phrases.

So basically, you have to expose yourself to the language as much as possible. Once you have a good grasp of basic vocabulary and grammar, definately get some comic books in that language. Be prepared to flip through the dictionary a lot and learn as you go. Speak and listen to the language whenever you have the chance (watch the Spanish channel, if all else fails). Finally, start trying to think in that language. Whenever you have an English thought, stop and think about how you would say that in the language you’re learning.

I hope I was helpful, and good luck.


Some good thoughts, there, Loopus; thanks.

I find a good method is thinking of starting a conversation with a friend, then translate it and say it aloud.

If you have sound on your computer, search some radio stations from the countries whose language you want to study, and listen to that often.
And also try chat on ICQ or Yahoo in sound. While there are a lot of boneheads out there, you can find decent people to talk to in many languages pretty easily. And everybody seems to be taking an English course in much of the non-English speaking world.

And seek out some people who speak the language you want to learn…maybe at the nearest university or even military base.

Through these methods I have more or less learned Portuguese (well I know Spanish so that may not count), and I have become intermediate in Russian and French.

Ringo, in some parts of Texas, is German still spoken - around the Hill Country? Here in El Paso, it’s not too shocking to hear people speak German - because we have a military base with a German army unit. They even have German news on the cable here.

You’re on the far end of Texas from me cuate. My experience has been that Germanic influences are very much still felt but the language itself is not “living” in its area of greatest penetration, that being the Hill Country (Central Texas).

A quite practical start-up solution is a nifty series of books I’ve used myself called “Teach Yourself”. I’ve used them for several languages, including Latin American Spanish. They come either as a book or a book with tapes, and they’re quite easily found - if you have a Borders or a Barnes & Noble nearby you’re all good. Failing that, you can definitely get ‘em online here at Mr. Bezos’ little website. From there start finding your friends and acquaintances who speak your language of choice and have at it.

You would be suprised how fast you can repick up a language that you were once fluent in.

Aprende lo que necesita. (Learn what you need.) If you live in Texas, Spanish is almost a must some places. I live in South Florida and Spanish is almost the first language here. I use it frequently. So, why would you need to study French again?