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Difficulty of Learning Languages

  Tags: Talent | Difficulty
 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
25 messages over 4 pages: 13 4  Next >>
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4725 days ago

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Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: German, Arabic (classical)

 Message 9 of 25
17 April 2009 at 8:46am | IP Logged 
I am convinced that the key to being proficient in multiple foreign languages is lifestyle, not intelligence or even learning technique. If you grow up in a place where most people speak five or six languages, you probably will too. If you have a lifestyle that is very monolingual then being proficiently bilingual will probably be fairly challenging.

If you are trying to learn a language then make it part of your life. I've met Mexicans who have lived most of their lives in the USA and know little English. That's because they work with Spanish speakers, watch TV in Spanish, only shop at stores where there are Spanish speakers, their doctor and lawyer both speak Spanish, etc. I've seen Americans do the same thing in Chile and Brazil.

Conversely, if you want to learn Russian in the USA then tap into the nearest Russian community; find a church that has services/classes in Russian, go to stores that cater to Russians, etc. Then buy Russian movies, magazines and books. Watch Russian TV programs online. You'll soon find that learning Russian will become easy and natural.

It's about lifestyle guys. Otherwise, you have to have an amazing memory because if you never interact with French people/culture (like most of us in the USA) then even an important language like French might as well be a dead language like Latin. At that point intelligence becomes more of a factor because learning a language turns into a memory game which does require a higher level of intelligence.

Edited by portunhol on 17 April 2009 at 6:17pm

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United States
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 Message 10 of 25
17 April 2009 at 8:53am | IP Logged 
It's not hard. It's time-consuming. There is a difference. Just about everybody has the ability to learn a language, but not everybody has time for it.
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Super Polyglot
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 Message 11 of 25
17 April 2009 at 10:48am | IP Logged 
qklilx wrote:
It's not hard. It's time-consuming. There is a difference. Just about everybody has the ability to learn a language, but not everybody has time for it.

The hard part is to find time. And if you can't find enough time and automatically get enough exposure (contrary to those who live in a multilingual environment) then you can compensate for this by using study methods which may imply a bit of hard work. And hard work here is not limited to the use of flash cards, wordlists, grammars and such things, - it is also hard work to keep reading 'comprehensible input' that is slightly above your level. The solution to this is to stop whining about having to study and instead enjoy what you are doing.

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Senior Member
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Speaks: English*, Japanese
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 Message 12 of 25
17 April 2009 at 1:04pm | IP Logged 
will72694 wrote:
I have a friend who recently moved from Rajasthan in India who speaks five languages more or less at a native ability; he is fifteen...He says that language learning is not hard and that many people in India (and presumably other multi linguistic and multi cultural countries) speak up to 5-10 languages.

It wasn't hard or he doesn't remember it being hard? Just because children learn languages well doesn't mean it poses no difficulty for them - rather, they have little choice in the matter (the consequences of failing are dire) and little to compare it to.

Even after less than three years of study I have difficulty relating to the difficulty of learning Japanese; what I use so easily now must have been hard to learn, but my memory of just how hard it was exactly is foggy at best. Just today, I was asked what was the hardest part of learning Japanese. "Aren't verb endings (inflections and auxiliary verbs) hard?" they asked. My only answer was, "I don't remember. I'm used to them now."

will72694 wrote:
How did this idea that you must be gifted to learn languages come about?

It probably came from the same place that the idea that mathematics, science, or writing are difficult. You hear people complain about learning languages for the same reasons people complain that algebra or trigonometry are a waste of time and will never come in handy. Go to a multilingual community and you'll probably hear about as many people complain about learning additional languages as you will hear engineering students cursing their knowledge of elementary mathematics.
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United StatesRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 4177 days ago

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 Message 13 of 25
17 April 2009 at 2:19pm | IP Logged 
icing_death wrote:
will72694 wrote:
This tread is about the thought that it is a monumental task become in a
Sorry, but this sentence is just painful.

Back on topic, it might come from the fact that it's hard work for many of us to learn a foreign language.

Thanks for quoting my stupidity. I didn't realize that I had written that sentence over the old one. And also, I am
not talking about hard work; I am talking about the attitude of some -- if not most -- language learners taught in
the "traditional" way (school, class, grammar books, more boring class, etc...). They seem to believe it is
impossible. Not that it requires hard work, but that it is impossible to speak a fluent language.

At least it is so in North America.
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Senior Member
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 Message 14 of 25
17 April 2009 at 3:40pm | IP Logged 
I think a small part of it is the fact that English speakers often don't understand how similar languages can be. No language is really very close to English, so for your average monolingual English speaker, it's impossible to understand or pick some of another language. On the other hand, a Spanish speaker, for example, might not think language learning is so hard, because they can understand some of other languages without ever having heard them.
That, and the fact that it's not as common, at least in the US, so people who can speak various languages are rare, and thus, people assume that it must be hard.
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Senior Member
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 Message 15 of 25
17 April 2009 at 4:03pm | IP Logged 
Aren't a lot of Indian languages very closely related?
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Senior Member
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 Message 16 of 25
17 April 2009 at 4:45pm | IP Logged 
There's definitely a dialectal continuum within Indo-Aryan languages and would help a native speaker in any of these languages to pick up another via simple exposure. Going from Marathi to Gujarati to Hindustani to Panjabi would be somewhat similar to moving from Danish to German to Dutch to English.

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