A few questions about language learning.

1) How well can one learn to speak a language in two months, starting from scratch? Let’s take the case of both a related language, and a non-related language. Examples from your own experience would be great. Of course it will depend on the time available. Let’s look at two scenarios; one hour a day, and full time study.

2) This leads to the second question. When you learn a language, how much time do you spend on it every day, on average?

3) Are you learning your language in the country where the language is spoken or not?

4) At what point can you say that you speak a language? How would you describe that state of language competence?

I will wait to hear from you out there, then I will give my own views.

We could even have a few skype conversations on this if you are interested. I would record them and post them as podcasts if the sound quality is good enough. We could do these interviews in the language of your choice, as long as I speak that language.

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One Response to A few questions about language learning.

  1. Xoco says:

    My backgroundSpanish in high school and collegeJapanese on my own after collegeSpanish on my own with occasional private tutoringMandarin on my own with occasional private tutoring1) In two months…I believe it’s possible for a person to pick up quite a few very useful phrases and terms. I think they’d be lacking in spontaneity of converation and listening to native speakers at a normal pace would still be difficult. I studied Japanese for about 1hr a day to start and I learned grammar and reading relatively well across a 2 month period…which makes sense because that’s what I was focusing on. The closest I’ve come to full time study is Spanish/Mandarin and I progressed about the same speed in both. However, by the time I started Mandarin, I had refined my personal language learning style quite a bit more, so while the language was more foreign and I had no background, I learned much more efficiently. The biggest difference is that I spent hours a day listening to both Spanish and Mandarin and spent significant time with speaking partners online and in person. I did neither with Japanese…pure text learning.On a side note, I find non-related languages easier in some ways…in that I can completely replace concepts and ideas. In Spanish, I still occasionally create my own cognates…that doesn’t happen in Chinese:)2) I’m studying Mandarin now and I spend about half an hour a day on focused study. I listen to conversations on CD during my commute (30 min) and radio all day at work (8 hrs). I’ve found that listening is more important with non-related languages than it is with related. 3) I’ve never studied a language in the country where it’s spoken, but I live in South Florida, which means I have pretty heavy exposure to Spanish. I’ve only visited Japan and China.4) Wow…Well, for me, I feel I can speak a language when I can have relaxed, uninterrupted conversations with people and when I can listen to the radio and comprehend. I say I "can speak Spanish, but not fluently" (even though I’ve been told by native speakers that I’m fluent, there are too many topics on which I can’t speak comfortably, and I still trip over conjugations), that I "speak some Mandarin" and that I "speak a little Japanese". I wouldn’t call myself fluent in any language but English. I’d be up for an interview in Spanish.

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