T Nation

Learning A New Language As An Adult


#1

I specified “as an adult” because it’s different to when you’re a kid learning that shit at school.

So who’s done it, how did you do it, and how long did it take you?


#2

I learned Russian from age 26-27. Overall it took me 1.5 years.

I can speak it fluently and understand I would say 85% of it. It’s hard for me when people’s accents are extremely thick, or they are speaking too fast, or if someone is using more slang or words that you can’t learn by traditional methods.

I used Rosetta Stone to set a basic foundation. Then I started trying to have basic conversations with Russian friends in Russian. Watched some shows. Tried to say as many things as I could in Russian.

For me it helped to learn the basic verbiage, nouns, etc. And then just try to come up with as many sentences and learn how to say them and as I did that and spoke to people in Russian I was able to structure sentences myself.

I’m already bilingual, so I think it helps if you already know a second language. It doesn’t make it easier, but I think your brain is already wired to translate multiple languages.

I would say the #1 key is having someone to speak to in that language consistently. That back and forth feedback in live time can’t be simulated in any other way. And #2 you absolutely need to practice it everyday or at the minimum every other day. The more you do it, the easier it’ll be able to respond and talk more naturally in that other language.

On why I picked Russian. My great grandfather was able to speak something like 8 or 12 languages. So just wanted to challenge myself to something that takes a lot of mental exercising. Plus at the time in my life I was single and going out to the bars and being able to speak Russian in a city that had a lot of Russians and Romanians had it’s perks and icebreakers lol.


#3

great reply there, mate. Thanks for that.

I’m leaning towards the Michel Thomas books as they seem to be pretty well regarded. Going to download it as an audiobook and listen to it when commuting and maybe even when doing cardio.

My girlfriend is Spanish so there’s no problem with having someone to speak it to in theory, but for the most part she just laughs because she thinks it’s cute when I try and speak Spanish.

That’s pretty much how I feel about it. It’s been fucking years since I actually made the effort to learn something


#4

Yup, it starts with just doing something simple like that. Once your a few weeks in or complete the audio books you’ll know if it’s something you’ll want to continue or not. The first 6-8 months was so horrible trying to learn. But after that 8/9 month mark idk what happens, but learning it becomes really accelerated.

Yeah man, I’m in the same boat now. Trying to learn the “business language” as we speak.


#5

Yeah I tried to speak Spanish for a girl to…

Dualingo is a decent app for easy learning. You just have to be more committed than I was.

Como estas?


#6

I keep meaning to finish where I left off in school and learn Spanish fluently. I was going to recommend Duolingo too and speaking to people in that language. Sitting here I hardly remember any Spanish but everytime I go to a Spanish speaking country on holiday it comes flooding back after a couple of days.


#7

I have learned German but that was from 13 years old. I would recommend a comprehensive word list and short grammar for learning any language quickly. That and reading . You can talk but you just repeat the few things you have learned. Obviously this is necessary, but read a lot first. If you read the list they may not in your active vocabulary but you will recognise them. Your passive vocabulary is always much better in any language than you active vocabulary.


#8

Here’s my two cents - Michel Thomas is great as an introductory course for French. His audio course draws on many shared words in French and English (those ending with -able, -ion and so forth) and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

His Spanish course is not so great, partly due to atrocious pupis on the original audio tapes and you can sense that the late Michel felt much more at ease with French.

If you’re trying to learn Spanish I would suggest Duolingo - especially if you have some previous experience with the language. Don’t skip lessons and start from scratch.

Also, put an strong emphasis on reading, especially newspapers. Pick a newspaper online and read it each morning. Start with international politics and read about the events you’ve already read about in English.

First start with headlines and don’t be afraid to check Google Translate for the meaning of every word. After you’ve checked the translation of each word, jot it down old school on a piece of paper or use one of those flashcard apps.

In the course of this, you may find yourself writing down words like “nuclear”, “threat”, “emphasize” which aren’t frequently used in conversations but don’t let that discourage you. Stick to international politics and events that are familiar to you.

Quick progression from headlines to summaries and finally full articles will provide a morale boost when you’re stuck with Duolingo.

Remember, you only need to know around 500 words to be able to read a newspaper. Once you’ve mastered that, proceed to videos - again, politics and then to regular TV shows.

In parallel to these activities, if possible try to speak with a native speaker of the language. Not much at first - try to convey a simple statement “I’m hungry. I want to eat” and force your mind to look up the appropriate words and string them all together. Ask basic questions and try to get as much feedback as possible.


#9

i speak three languages somewhat fluently…Norwegian, Finnish and English…
Due to the norwegian, i can also understand swedish and danish…in written form it is very, very close…but especially danish people sound like they have hot oatmeal in their mouths, making them close to impossible to understand to non-danish humans…

As you get older, the ability to learn something like a new language diminishes…

So, learning a new language as an adult is almost close to impossible, if you want to be fluent…

It has to do with the language center in the brain…you learn language the same way you learn how to walk… learning a new language as an adult may, or may not be, like learning how to walk in a new way…pretty tricky.

And a little tip; if you don’t use it, you lose it…
Obviously, not all of it, but you will be searching for words the less you use it…


#10

Try learning a musical instrument past your teens…

It’s pretty likely that you will fail.


#11

Challenge accepted


#12

J’aime beaucoup le pounanay su vous plait. Quest ce que tu fait aujourdui mon ami, collest tabernaq


#13

You can do anything, whether you believe you can or can’t, you are right


#14

54 here and I just started guitar a couple years ago. Not great (or really all that good) but it certainly isn’t impossible to learn an instrument as an adult.

Also learned Spanish from pimsluer, certainly not fluent but I can muddle my way through spanglish.

If you don’t challenge your brain it atrophies like anything else.


#15

It is difficult but not impossible.


#16

Yes. Of course it can be done, but you’re not going to be a virtuouso.
And you’re not going to be fluent in a new language.


#17

Of course you can become fluent in a foreign language even as an adult if you apply yourself and have at least some talent. What almost everyone can’t achieve if they start as an adult is 100% nativelike pronounciation, but I don’t think Yogi is looking to pass for Spanish among Spaniards. Fluency is definately doable, provided you have (a) native speaker(s) to talk to.


#18

It take time, but better to learn during school days.


#19

Nothing is Impossible in this world.


#20

GO YOGI1! You can do it! I, for one, have great faith in you.