Go Back   English Forum Switzerland > Help & tips > Language corner  
Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 27.05.2009, 14:43
TheSpouse's Avatar
Forum Veteran
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Saussignac, France
Posts: 1,697
Groaned at 26 Times in 20 Posts
Thanked 2,924 Times in 925 Posts
TheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond repute
Language proficiency question

This question is for those of you who learned a foreign language from scratch as an adult. Even more specifically, for those who did it while living with another person who only spoke your native tongue and you had no children in school who were also learning the language.

How long did it take you to progress beyond what I call "baby talk" or "small talk" to where you could truly express yourself, convey complex thoughts, understand and produce subtleties like sarcasm, humor, nuance, etc?

Here is why I am asking. I'm learning French. I can make myself understood to shop clerks, waiters, etc. My ultimate goal is to try to meet and make French-speaking friends while we are here. But to be able to do that, I feel like I need a certain level of proficiency in their language so that they can get the gist of who I am beyond "I am from America. I am married. I have three children. Switzerland is beautiful," yadda, yadda, yadda.

Did it take you one year, three years, five years, never? Was it unbelievably frustrating and did you feel like quitting all of the time? For me, this is so much more difficult than I ever thought it was going to be. It's actually painful sometimes. Any input is appreciated. Thanks.
Reply With Quote
The following 2 users would like to thank TheSpouse for this useful post:
  #2  
Old 27.05.2009, 14:49
Banned
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: CH
Posts: 944
Groaned at 26 Times in 21 Posts
Thanked 433 Times in 275 Posts
raincookie has a reputation beyond reputeraincookie has a reputation beyond reputeraincookie has a reputation beyond reputeraincookie has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language proficiency question

It's a forever ongoing process.

The basics can be learned rather quickly (if you are willing!) but the subtler nuances take years - in my own experience about 5 - 10.
I know it took me a long time until I could competently discuss politics, or even be sarcastic or humorous in Swiss German.
Once it happens, though, it can be so rewarding.
Be patient and believe in yourself!
Reply With Quote
The following 4 users would like to thank raincookie for this useful post:
  #3  
Old 27.05.2009, 15:01
Eire's Avatar
Forum Legend
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Tir na ng
Posts: 3,645
Groaned at 55 Times in 36 Posts
Thanked 2,386 Times in 1,207 Posts
Eire has a reputation beyond reputeEire has a reputation beyond reputeEire has a reputation beyond reputeEire has a reputation beyond reputeEire has a reputation beyond reputeEire has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language proficiency question

I think the biggest part comes from you. It depends on how much you get hung up on making mistakes. My attitude is that language is for communication so if you can get your point accross and make yourself understood what does it matter if you make some mistakes here and there. If you are willing to go out there and persevere in full immersion situations then it will improve quicker. But as Raincookie said it is an ongoing process and will take years to be fluent.

Put yourself into situations where you need to use French, don't get hung up and self-conscious, you will quite quickly feel more confident.
__________________
This message is a natural product. The variations in spelling and grammar enhance it's individual character.

Interested in skiing, Snowboarding or Mountain Biking in Switzerland? Information in English available
here.


Reply With Quote
The following 2 users would like to thank Eire for this useful post:
  #4  
Old 27.05.2009, 15:05
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Re: Language proficiency question

I came to Switzerland with a smattering of German, knowing I would have to make a marked improvement to get to the "chatting comfortably at a party" stage.

All these years later I still feel stilted and unnatural even though most people consider me fluent.

The biggest hurdle is getting over the "oh, I won't bother saying what just popped into my head because it will sound silly in French/German/Italian/whatever I am learning".

The best thing is just to talk and don't think too hard about how it sounds. If the person you are speaking with understands - who cares? You can work on the polish later.

I found that practising sentences I had heard over and over again helped, rather than looking up words. Alternatively, learn a word and work out how many phrases you can fit it into.
Reply With Quote
The following 2 users would like to thank for this useful post:
  #5  
Old 27.05.2009, 15:08
Goldtop's Avatar
Forum Legend
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Zurich
Posts: 2,857
Groaned at 11 Times in 11 Posts
Thanked 905 Times in 625 Posts
Goldtop has a reputation beyond reputeGoldtop has a reputation beyond reputeGoldtop has a reputation beyond reputeGoldtop has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language proficiency question

Quote:
View Post
This question is for those of you who learned a foreign language from scratch as an adult. Even more specifically, for those who did it while living with another person who only spoke your native tongue and you had no children in school who were also learning the language.

How long did it take you to progress beyond what I call "baby talk" or "small talk" to where you could truly express yourself, convey complex thoughts, understand and produce subtleties like sarcasm, humor, nuance, etc?

Here is why I am asking. I'm learning French. I can make myself understood to shop clerks, waiters, etc. My ultimate goal is to try to meet and make French-speaking friends while we are here. But to be able to do that, I feel like I need a certain level of proficiency in their language so that they can get the gist of who I am beyond "I am from America. I am married. I have three children. Switzerland is beautiful," yadda, yadda, yadda.

Did it take you one year, three years, five years, never? Was it unbelievably frustrating and did you feel like quitting all of the time? For me, this is so much more difficult than I ever thought it was going to be. It's actually painful sometimes. Any input is appreciated. Thanks.
Difficult to assess your linguistic talents.

My suggestion: Watch local TV and listen to local radio whenever you can. That immersion is a substitute for family speaking the local language at home.
Reply With Quote
This user would like to thank Goldtop for this useful post:
  #6  
Old 27.05.2009, 15:20
nigelr's Avatar
Forum Veteran
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Aargau
Posts: 1,714
Groaned at 118 Times in 59 Posts
Thanked 2,140 Times in 942 Posts
nigelr has a reputation beyond reputenigelr has a reputation beyond reputenigelr has a reputation beyond reputenigelr has a reputation beyond reputenigelr has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language proficiency question

My advice is similar to that from sandgrounder - just get out there and do it. I learn't Portuguese from books and talking to 2 friends to a reasonable level, but it wasn't until I went out and got talking to people that I didn't know that I really made good progress.

You have to overcome this fear of making mistakes, just try your best and you will be understood and for every sentance that you say wrong at least you get to hear the correct response - learning all the time.

Now I'm trying to do the same with German. If I wait until I don't make mistakes before trying a 'reasonable' conversation I'll be dead.

Read books, listen to music and talk to as many people as you can and don't wait. That's my advice. Good luck with the French!!
__________________
Life's what you make it, so let's make it better
Reply With Quote
The following 2 users would like to thank nigelr for this useful post:
  #7  
Old 27.05.2009, 17:11
Forum Legend
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: SZ
Posts: 10,609
Groaned at 33 Times in 29 Posts
Thanked 24,577 Times in 7,712 Posts
meloncollie has a reputation beyond reputemeloncollie has a reputation beyond reputemeloncollie has a reputation beyond reputemeloncollie has a reputation beyond reputemeloncollie has a reputation beyond reputemeloncollie has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language proficiency question

I was in a similar position, and understand your frustration. My husband and I are both English speakers, we don't have children in school and the opportunity for further exposure to the language that brings. It was kind of a vicious circle - I lacked the language skills to make contacts in the local community - but with no (meaningful) contact with native speakers, my language skills progressed far more slowly than I had expected.

I remember the frustration of bumping into neighbors at the Kino intermission, who politely asked what I thought of the film. Finally, a chance for an adult conversation! O, how I longed to dazzle them with pithy comments and brilliant insights - but the best I could manage was: "The film is good. I like it."

That was pretty much the tipping point for me - I decided to scrap the standard grammar-based German course, and concentrate on conversation classes. Instead of a text book, we read newspaper articles in class, and then (tried to) talk about what we had just read. We started with the 20 Minuten at first , then moved up to the Tagi, finally progressing to the NZZ. This helped me to pick up useful 'real life' vocabulary, as well as gave me insights into Swiss culture/current events that I might have missed otherwise. And that gave me the confidence to start speaking up.

And yes, my grammar is sloppier than it should be, but my vocabulary is pretty rich. So now when someone asks what I think of a film, I can toss out a few pithy comments - even if I do mumble my way through the case/gender agreement. But at least I can take part in an adult conversation.

(I really should go back and take a grammar course again... but I just can't seem to find the time...)

Perhaps finding another style of teaching, something more directed towards your immediate goals, might be helpful for you as well?

Wishing you all the best.
Reply With Quote
The following 3 users would like to thank meloncollie for this useful post:
  #8  
Old 27.05.2009, 17:55
Slaphead's Avatar
Forum Legend
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Zrich
Posts: 3,230
Groaned at 34 Times in 30 Posts
Thanked 9,408 Times in 2,870 Posts
Slaphead has a reputation beyond reputeSlaphead has a reputation beyond reputeSlaphead has a reputation beyond reputeSlaphead has a reputation beyond reputeSlaphead has a reputation beyond reputeSlaphead has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language proficiency question

I started with German just under 3 years ago, and I still think I'm rubbish. However I do work in a German speaking firm and have to speak and understand German with both colleges and customers, so I guess I've made some progress.

The funny thing for me about learning a language is that I didn't really notice that I was improving - but everybody else did. Especially those people that I only met occasionally. They'd notice massive improvements in my German, yet I'd still believe that I wasn't any better than when I stopped my German classes.

I suppose the best advice is to go out and use the language, and don't worry about making mistakes, or forgetting a word etc. I've found people are very forgiving of the mistakes I make.

Oh and don't worry if you think you're not improving, because you most definitely are.
Reply With Quote
The following 3 users would like to thank Slaphead for this useful post:
  #9  
Old 27.05.2009, 18:14
Tilia's Avatar
Forum Legend
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: ZH
Posts: 2,767
Groaned at 81 Times in 45 Posts
Thanked 2,649 Times in 1,194 Posts
Tilia has a reputation beyond reputeTilia has a reputation beyond reputeTilia has a reputation beyond reputeTilia has a reputation beyond reputeTilia has a reputation beyond reputeTilia has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language proficiency question

Seem to be very individual. I usually learn a new language in about 4-5 years while I know others that still haven't learned it after 10.
Reply With Quote
This user would like to thank Tilia for this useful post:
  #10  
Old 27.05.2009, 18:26
Junior Member
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: UK
Posts: 35
Groaned at 1 Time in 1 Post
Thanked 23 Times in 9 Posts
nm123 has made some interesting contributions
Re: Language proficiency question

Interesting topic! I agree with the others saying "just get out there and speak". I'd learnt French for 10 years at school/college and never needed to speak it with any real French people (ie chickened out when we went to France, didn't have the opportunity to do an exchange, etc) and felt that whilst I could probably read a fair amount, the speaking part was just abismal.

When I spent 3 months travelling in South America I had a couple of afternoons learning some real basics, listened to that Michel bloke (can't remember his name) and just got out there and spoke it (except for Brazil of course). Come the end of the 3 months I didn't feel like I knew more Spanish than French, but I felt more confident in just giving it a go. I guess the fact that in some places people just didn't speak English actually helped, so I had to bite the bullet and just mumble some Spanish sounding words together to be understood. The thing I realised most of all is that it really didn't matter - as long as I got most of my point across, people were kind enough to respond and would repeat themselves slower and more loudly if necessary!

I would love love love to be fluent in French but I think years of practising in a classroom from a textbook has really affected my confidence in this subject.
Reply With Quote
The following 2 users would like to thank nm123 for this useful post:
  #11  
Old 27.05.2009, 18:36
tantrum's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Basel
Posts: 210
Groaned at 1 Time in 1 Post
Thanked 144 Times in 74 Posts
tantrum has earned some respecttantrum has earned some respect
Re: Language proficiency question

Quote:
View Post
How long did it take you to progress beyond what I call "baby talk" or "small talk" to where you could truly express yourself, convey complex thoughts, understand and produce subtleties like sarcasm, humor, nuance, etc?

Did it take you one year, three years, five years, never?
It's taken me about three years to be able to have a reasonable conversation in German. I wouldn't say it's quite using nuance and sarcasm, but it's satisfactory.

I think there's a big leap from small/baby talk to talking in subtleties. I might never reach the latter. I think I'd rather be moderate in 3 languages, than expert in 1.

I never once wanted to give up though, and I like grammar.
Reply With Quote
The following 2 users would like to thank tantrum for this useful post:
  #12  
Old 27.05.2009, 20:02
Nev
 
Posts: n/a
Re: Language proficiency question

Quote:
View Post
How long did it take you to progress.... to where you could truly express yourself, convey complex thoughts
That's all about learning the rules of grammar and vocabulary. Then practice, practice, practice. Five to ten years depending on your aptitude (ear for languages), effort and level of immersion - longer if you don't put your heart and soul into it. My own experience is six years (say five hours a week) at school gave me all the necessary basics to do basic conversation and read a book with the aid of a dictionary. On top of that, three years total immersion working in the country and speaking French daily to native speakers got me to the point where I could say anything I wanted, understand everything said to me, understand TV and radio and read a bok or magazine without a dictionary.

Quote:
View Post
How long did it take you to progress.... to where you could... truly produce subtleties like sarcasm, humor, nuance, etc?
This has less to do with learning the language and more about understanding people, their sense of humour and the way they express themselves idiomatically. You can't learn this from books or at school. I could only pick this up by joining in daily conversation with native speakers as they they mix among themselves. And I'm still learning.
Reply With Quote
The following 3 users would like to thank for this useful post:
  #13  
Old 27.05.2009, 20:05
TheSpouse's Avatar
Forum Veteran
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Saussignac, France
Posts: 1,697
Groaned at 26 Times in 20 Posts
Thanked 2,924 Times in 925 Posts
TheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language proficiency question

Thank you all for your input. I'm hearing anywhere from 3 to 10 years to be completely comfortable in the language. That is sooooo depressing! I guess I am an idiot, but I thought that I would be able to sound Lausannoise (that's probably not even the correct spelling or even the correct word) in like ONE year. We are only going to be here for three years, so is it even worth it?

Anyway, you have encouraged me to keep trying. I must say that my teacher says that I am doing really well, but sometimes I think he is just saying that so that I keep coming (and paying!). This is only my third week of formal classes and I swear I need a Valium before, during and after class.
Reply With Quote
This user would like to thank TheSpouse for this useful post:
  #14  
Old 27.05.2009, 20:11
Nev
 
Posts: n/a
Re: Language proficiency question

Quote:
View Post
Thank you all for your input. I'm hearing anywhere from 3 to 10 years to be completely comfortable in the language. That is sooooo depressing! I guess I am an idiot, but I thought that I would be able to sound Lausannoise (that's probably not even the correct spelling or even the correct word) in like ONE year. We are only going to be here for three years, so is it even worth it?
Hey, absolutely it's worth it. Even survival standard makes a huge difference to your self esteem and quality of life. Whatever you do keep going. Just focus on one step at a time and you'll be surprised what a difference it makes. Setting unrealistic goals is what turns people off. Just put one foot in front of the other and practice it wherever, whenever you can.
Reply With Quote
This user would like to thank for this useful post:
  #15  
Old 27.05.2009, 20:11
Corbets's Avatar
Forum Legend
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: DK - previously Zug
Posts: 3,327
Groaned at 169 Times in 123 Posts
Thanked 6,699 Times in 2,236 Posts
Corbets has a reputation beyond reputeCorbets has a reputation beyond reputeCorbets has a reputation beyond reputeCorbets has a reputation beyond reputeCorbets has a reputation beyond reputeCorbets has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language proficiency question

Quote:
View Post
Thank you all for your input. I'm hearing anywhere from 3 to 10 years to be completely comfortable in the language. That is sooooo depressing! I guess I am an idiot, but I thought that I would be able to sound Lausannoise (that's probably not even the correct spelling or even the correct word) in like ONE year. We are only going to be here for three years, so is it even worth it?
It's worth it. You'll look back at it at some point in the future and realize how learning the language changed you; you look at and understand cultures in a different way after going through the difficulties of learning another language.

But the speed is entirely dependent on you; for myself, I was able to express myself well enough to enjoy conversations in German after about 2 years, though I'm still very very far from an expert.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 27.05.2009, 20:16
TheSpouse's Avatar
Forum Veteran
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Saussignac, France
Posts: 1,697
Groaned at 26 Times in 20 Posts
Thanked 2,924 Times in 925 Posts
TheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language proficiency question

Nev, I think we were typing at the same time. Your post was completely helpful. What would you do if you were in my situation regarding immersion? My husband does not speak French. Our TV is our Slingbox which imports our TV signal directly from the US, i.e. no French stations. We've got no kids here. My husband travels from Monday to Friday and I am here by myself. Literally, the only people that I speak to every day are the clerk at the Manor and my French teacher for one hour, Monday through Friday.

I have 3 How-To-Speak French CD's that I listen to. I've got my 3 or 4 How-To-Speak French books that I study, but that's it.

Should I just sit in parks or restaurants and eavesdrop? That is so like Crazy-Cat-Lady, I just can't stand it.
Reply With Quote
This user would like to thank TheSpouse for this useful post:
  #17  
Old 27.05.2009, 20:16
Nev
 
Posts: n/a
Re: Language proficiency question

I think the key is don't let it become a chore. If you put yourself under too much pressure it will be counter productive and you'll lose heart. Enjoy it, go at your own speed and be proud of every little milestone you pass.
Reply With Quote
This user would like to thank for this useful post:
  #18  
Old 27.05.2009, 20:33
Nev
 
Posts: n/a
Re: Language proficiency question

Quote:
View Post
Nev, I think we were typing at the same time. Your post was completely helpful. What would you do if you were in my situation regarding immersion? My husband does not speak French. Our TV is our Slingbox which imports our TV signal directly from the US, i.e. no French stations. We've got no kids here. My husband travels from Monday to Friday and I am here by myself. Literally, the only people that I speak to every day are the clerk at the Manor and my French teacher for one hour, Monday through Friday.

I have 3 How-To-Speak French CD's that I listen to. I've got my 3 or 4 How-To-Speak French books that I study, but that's it.

Should I just sit in parks or restaurants and eavesdrop? That is so like Crazy-Cat-Lady, I just can't stand it.
Actually evesdropping is a way to develop the ear for a language. If you're starting from scratch listening to native speakers is how you pick up the rhythm and begin to be able to separate one word from the next. It's a pity about the TV but why not buy a radio and tune in to local stations. It's evesdropping but less likely to draw attention to yourself.
The problem is that if you're starting from scratch you need a certain level to progress from passive to active. So don't set your sights too high. Be realistic. Focus on the basics and revise everything you learn from your teacher so that when you go for the next lesson you've absorbed what you went through last lesson. As for learning the basics one thing I can recommend is the Michel Thomas DVD set.
http://www.amazon.com/Michel-Thomas-...3445253&sr=8-1
Reply With Quote
The following 2 users would like to thank for this useful post:
  #19  
Old 27.05.2009, 21:24
TheSpouse's Avatar
Forum Veteran
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Saussignac, France
Posts: 1,697
Groaned at 26 Times in 20 Posts
Thanked 2,924 Times in 925 Posts
TheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond reputeTheSpouse has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language proficiency question

Done and purchased right this very second off Amazon.com. Hopefully, it will be the best 58 dollars and 35 cents I have ever spent. Thanks so much for the recommendation.

BTW, now that I have had a few glasses of wine, the situation does not appear to be as dire and suicidal as it did a few hours ago during the actual class.

It seems that I am reluctant to even open my mouth to speak unless I am absolutely sure that what it going to come out will make sense. Has this ever happened to anyone else? It's like I'm so terrified of sounding stupid that I don't want to say anything out loud. What is up with this?!! I say stupid things all of the time in English!
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 27.05.2009, 21:46
Goldtop's Avatar
Forum Legend
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Zurich
Posts: 2,857
Groaned at 11 Times in 11 Posts
Thanked 905 Times in 625 Posts
Goldtop has a reputation beyond reputeGoldtop has a reputation beyond reputeGoldtop has a reputation beyond reputeGoldtop has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language proficiency question

You say you are only here for 3 years. I suggest you forget the grammar. Learn the language like a child. Listen to it incessantly. And speak it whenever possible without bothering whether it is correct.

Do you have a hobby or skill? Then join an association or club to meet others and converse.
Reply With Quote
Reply




Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Language and table manners, or Language Integration in Switzerland is Painful sonnyk Language corner 70 14.11.2011 00:08
German Language Book - Pimsleur Language, Good??? Mavis Language corner 7 18.11.2010 15:04
General Language Question atencorps Language corner 9 08.03.2009 12:02
QUESTION for English Language teachers to adults (Lausanne, Deductions?) Frank101 Employment 4 25.11.2008 12:53
Language course question (English in English speaking country) 5AVeci Other/general 0 25.08.2008 10:22


All times are GMT +2. The time now is 05:43.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.4
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
LinkBacks Enabled by vBSEO 3.1.0