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Senior Member
Joined 5043 days ago

3335 posts - 4349 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 Message 17 of 49
15 January 2015 at 9:02pm | IP Logged 
January Challenge - Expugnator

I started English at school, but one doesn't really learn English at school here in Brazil. You learn some specific grammar topics and how to interpret some texts so you can pass exams. In fact, if you go well at school you might be able to read English in an academic context at the university, but by no means will you be able to speak or understand English only with that.

So, in order to learn proper English, I signed up for private classes at a language school at the age of 11. Even at language schools, as expensive as some fancy ones may be (not my case) one still doesn't learn enough. The idea behind them is to make the student stay the longest there. It wasn't before the age of 16, when the owner of that unity came back from London, that I started having a better command of English and learned how to pronounced it properly.

It only lasted for a year, though, and the real path to fluency started when I joined chatrooms and forums, around the same time. I still found it hard to follow conversations between other people at the chatroom and also to write more complex lines of reasoning, but after a couple of years I can say I became fluent at writing about the topics being discussed at language-related chatrooms and forums. I didn't go back to language schools, so I lack the specific, localized work on grammar topics that are a constant source of mistakes.

Alright, I could write and read English, but what now? I still couldn't watch films without subtitles and had trouble with a lot of accents. So, when I resumed studying languages fiercely in 2012, I decided it was time to do something about my English, too. I started watching TV series one after another, without subtitles, and now I can say I understand spoken English fine in calmer contexts.
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Senior Member
Joined 5224 days ago

980 posts - 1594 votes 
Speaks: Italian*, English, German
Studies: Russian, Swedish, French

 Message 18 of 49
20 January 2015 at 6:03pm | IP Logged 
Even though it’s a bit late I wanted to wish you all the best for a great TAC’15.

I’m not officially part of this team, but I’ll try to follow your progress and drop by from time to time to catch up with you guys.

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Via Diva
Senior Member
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1109 posts - 1427 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, English
Studies: German, Italian, French, Swedish, Esperanto, Czech, Greek

 Message 19 of 49
30 January 2015 at 2:50pm | IP Logged 
January challenge

English wasn’t always a part of my life. I think I lived happily without any English before I had to switch
elementary schools. The one I got into had so-called “advanced studying of English”, which meant to start
dealing with the language in second grade. But I switched schools right in the beginning of a third grade,
and our textbook was for second grade students. So the studies weren’t really structured. We were stuck
with one book for two years. Eventually we changed our program to the average one (starting in 5th grade)
by 10-11th grades.
However, the lack of structure wasn’t the biggest problem with English that I had. It was more stressful to
cope with different teachers and lack of motivation. Only a few people in my class were actually thinking
about advancing their English from the very beginning, and I wasn’t among them.
I did have a point where I was pretty strong – I had no problems translating texts. Everything else was tricky
– my pronunciation still isn’t anything special, we had no practice in writing and speaking, and listening was
(and is, I guess) a matter of luck. The only thing that has changed now is that I have literally no strong
points. My writing is bad (let’s face it), I don’t practice speaking (if you don’t count conversations between
me and me), translation has gotten worse with time and listening is just bloody awful. I might be watching
a lot of series (7,5 seasons of “The Big Bang Theory” in 5 days. No kidding), but being subtitles-addicted
never helps.
With all that in mind I think I can say that English is merely a tool to explore. First time I actually wanted to
know some of it was when I faced some songs of the band called Breaking Benjamin. Since that music has
become a huge part of my life and my view that lyrics are extremely important demanded some action.
Then I start to watch movies in English, then series. Now I can also read and use English to study another
Unfortunately my level isn’t any special. I don’t feel comfortable when reading or writing, I often forget
even the simplest words when I am asked to translate something and I don’t think I would cope with living
in English-speaking environment.
And I really, really want to fix that. Even being nothing special English plays a big role in my life, and
improving the language isn’t just about getting it better, but helping with a bunch of other things I want to

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Senior Member
Joined 6101 days ago

267 posts - 323 votes 
Speaks: German*
Studies: English, Swedish

 Message 20 of 49
31 January 2015 at 4:16pm | IP Logged 
January Challenge

I’ve started to learn English in school. Okay, that’s not completely true. I had English classes in school and I tried to pass the classes with a minimum effort. It worked out; I finished school with a basic knowledge in English and went to university. At university I thought it would be a good idea to improve my English. I did a few English courses at university and the local adult education center. I’ve started to repeat the grammar and to read books. Somehow I managed to get to a level where I am able to use my English. Last year I was in Ireland, where I realized that I can communicate with natives. That experience helped me to overcome my inhibitions to speak English. On the other side I cared less about grammar.

Now I am living in Germany and I mainly use English for reading. I don’t use English in my Job nor have English-speaking friends. I use it on an irregular base for Skype tandems or writings texts on lang-8 or HTLAL. That’s why my English is still not on the level I want to be. I realize that I can’t speak and write like I would do it German. I know it is a long way to get a foreign language on a level close to you mother tongue, but I will face the challenge.

Edited by Mareike on 31 January 2015 at 4:17pm

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Joined 5401 days ago

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Speaks: Polish*, English
Studies: German, Italian

 Message 21 of 49
31 January 2015 at 8:26pm | IP Logged 
January Challange
I've been learning English for about 20 years right now. I started at school, then I
also participated some C1 English courses. I've never tried to take CAE exam but
passed the mock test organised in my English school.
That's how it started but for the last 4 years I haven't been attending any classes.
My job enables me to practice my English almost every day. Not only do I get most
emails in English, but also I need to participate in various meetings where people
speak English only. What's more, I like reading and try to read a lot in English.
In these circumstances I assumed that my skills may get only better and better. But is
that true? Imagine my surprise when I realized that I started making simple grammar
mistakes. It seems that a lot of input and output is not enough for me to maintain my
level. Having finished my last English course, I stopped reviewing grammar rules and
most probably that's the reason. If I wanted my English to become as flawless as
possible, I need to grab a grammar book from time to time.
That's why I decided that English needs to play a bigger part in my life and joined
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 3959 days ago

818 posts - 1189 votes 
Speaks: English
Studies: German

 Message 22 of 49
31 January 2015 at 10:43pm | IP Logged 
My composition:

I have been operating in English for a while. Having a work environment that is English, being a fan of English literature and of many American shows, and having colleagues and friends whose only common language is English, have all led me to adopt English as my main language.

I used to think my English was good, after all, I had spent several years in the US, and had been operating, and had been immersed in English for quite a while. And then I started taking German classes. Even at very basic A2/B1 levels, I was made aware of various connectives and sentence structures, and how more complex usage is expected of students as they advance through the ranks. A side effect of this process was that I started paying attention to my English usage (and that of others around me). I was horrified -- my past forums posts read like that of a 10 year old boy.

I also noticed, online and in real life, that language matters. Style matters. Professionally, you are rated higher if you can manipulate language well, even in domains which have nothing to do with language. And this boost has deep reaching consequences. It kills me at times that I cannot write elegant text. I see how people like EMK effortlessly write beautiful moving text, and I become acutely aware of my shortcomings; and how I am being hampered by them in my professional life.

Edited by Gemuse on 31 January 2015 at 10:47pm

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Senior Member
Joined 4479 days ago

186 posts - 254 votes 
Speaks: Italian*, English, Spanish
Studies: German, French, Swedish, Japanese

 Message 23 of 49
31 January 2015 at 11:59pm | IP Logged 
January Challenge
I wish I could have written longer, but I had to catch up on all the other challenges plus some unfinished work stuff now that I got my computers back.

My adventure with English goes a long way back since I began studying it at primary school, when I was 6 years old. I had a great teacher, who always proposed us different games and activities to make us learn in a fun way. I immediately fell in love with the language and never stopped learning it ever since. English has been my first and only foreign language for many years. Although I wanted to study other languages during both middle and high school, I was never able to. Over the years I had the chance to go on those study/holiday trips in the UK, but unfortunately they were always rather short, around 2/3 weeks. Despite not being particularly useful to make progress with the language, I always enjoyed them and liked the possibility of speaking with students from other countries and with my English teachers.

Before having internet at home, most of my English material were books bought during holidays in the UK or, more rarely, found in local libraries. With the arrival of both Internet and cable TV my chances to access native material steadily increased and I slowly began to watch films and TV shows. I obviously had to rely on subtitles for a while since I wasn't much used to hear natives speaking, now I no longer need them unless I tackle jargon-heavy series/films like CSI or certain documentaries. My main hobbies, video games and web design, greatly helped me to meet many English-speaking friends throughout the years. I'm lucky to get the chance to exchange emails and messages with them on a daily basis. Another thing that boosted my English abilities was attending the university of Foreign Languages. We had several classes; mainly grammar, translation, and linguistics, along with literature and culture classes, which were definitely my favourites along with the spoken classes. Both my thesis dissertations were dedicated to English works, although I wasn't able to actually make the presentation in English.

Even though I have been studying this language for many years (more than 20 now!) I believe there is still lots of room for improvement. Since my level is now advanced I cannot spend as many hours as I'd like studying it, but I always make sure to dedicate some time to English every day. I simply cannot imagine myself not using it!

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Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
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Speaks: Spanish*, EnglishC2
Studies: German, Russian, Japanese

 Message 24 of 49
02 February 2015 at 10:37pm | IP Logged 
Hi guys!,
now that I am down with the flu I finally found time to catch up and do a proper TAC start ;(

First, thank you for the welcome to the team.
Second, I have put some real content, goals, etc. in my log to replace the empty placeholders at last, if you want to have a look. Will be catching up with all your logs soon too.
Third, if you don't mind I'm late (this might be a good complement to what I wrote about me in my log):

----8<--------8<--------8<--------8<---- ----8<--------8<--------8<--------8<----
January Challenge -- English in my life

Tough one, I'm not really sure where to start...

I falsely started with English at the tender age of 6, when there was some experimentation going on with foreign languages in primary school. I clearly remember the first class when I learned to say "hello, mummy", but nothing else about the three months it lasted, so I'm pretty sure this doesn't really count, but I guess it's kind of a starting point.

Skip six years forward, and I had three [more] years of English classes before ending primary school, which were followed by another four years in high school. This may sound like a whole lot of study, but in high school languages started all over again, so those who had studied other or no languages in primary school could jump in. I was a disciplined student and strove to do everything as well as I could, which generally made me ace my classes in primary school. I didn't do this solely out of competitiveness, mind you, but rather out of the desire to get ready for the real world we'd meet later. However, although my parents cultivated in me the joy of learning for its own sake, I don't really know how my English would have survived the first years of utter boredom at high school hadn't it been for my English teacher there. (She wasn't the only one I had, but she is the only one I remember with love and respect.)

This lovely lady, a long time friend of my family, really went the extra mile to keep me interested in English, for she knew exactly how boring the classes were for me, and she'd constantly give me interesting books and extra tasks to keep me busy, for years! This put English on par with other subjects in my mind by giving it immediate applicability, and the need to do so --I had stuff to do that required the skills, and it was stuff I really wanted to do-- just like I was interested in solving all sorts of mathematical problems, for example, and learning new maths came in increasingly handy. So, when the time came to embark in exchange programs with the UK (organized mainly by my teacher) I was more than ready to go, and make the most out of it. I went there for a month two consecutive years and, unsurprisingly, I was one of the very few students who could get by using just English. I was also constantly required to translate for everyone else when I couldn't get away on my own, which I did as much as I could. Fun times, eh.

By the time I started college, computing (programming and gaming) and the ability to access all kinds of cool materials that weren't available in Spanish (untranslated novels, VHS tapes of old shows or new Red Dwarf seasons!!) made English as much of an integral part of my life as it could be, me not being in the country. But although it continued being useful to read 'advanced' reference material for college, and I was even 'hired' as an interpreter for a Spanish team of teachers in the UK for a week (a funny story I told somewhere in the forum before, I think), for a few years English was pretty much something I took for granted. I mean, I don't know why, I thought everybody in college was as good at English as I was. Boy, was I wrong!

After the first years of college I had become part of a close group of friends in which we all tutored the others in subjects we were good at, whether part of our studies or not. I imparted a seminar about network computing, a hot subject back then, and a suspicion that had been growing on me for some time was confirmed when my friends said they couldn't read the documentation I had passed on to them as part of the seminar -- it was in English, and they really sucked at it! Determined to do something about the situation, I contacted my English teacher to ask her how I could teach English to my friends. She, helpful as always, condensed all that I needed to know (besides, well, English) on a single sheet of paper (!) and off I went, that was the first time I ever taught English.

From that moment on, and because over time I made a few English-speaking friends who also taught it while staying in Spain, I almost always had one or two high school level students under my wing. Mind you, by that time I had gotten considerable praise about my English, but I never had had the need to get any official qualifications, so even if I knew I was better than most people I had met, I didn't know exactly how good that was. When I thought I might need to say something about languages in my CV, I enrolled in English classes at the Languages School of my university, where I was placed straight at the top and I wasted two months and quite a bit of money. Right after that I started investigating about CEFR levels, exams, etc. for I felt I was more than ready to get some certification.

All of the official exams looked too easy, and somebody suggested that if I was so f***ing good maybe I'd like to get an official qualification as an English teacher. Given how little content my 'highest level' classes had had, it actually didn't seem out of reach at all, and having a B plan for a career is always a good idea, so after a couple of months I landed my CELTA degree, the most difficult part of which actually was bowing to highly illogical approaches and unfruitful methodologies. Then I applied for some English teaching job offers, thinking my new shiny title would set me on par with any natives applying for the same position. To my surprise, a title officially sanctioning me as good teacher material, issued by Cambridge no less, wasn't good enough because I "hadn't received a qualification as a student." Indignant, I applied for a C2 CPE exam, which I got right away, and *after that* I got a B2 title too at another languages school -- one dependent from the local government, because apparently a C2 certificate issued by Cambridge (who?) isn't good enough either in certain places. Oh well, you live and learn.

Certification adventures and teaching aside, English is still a permanent and important part of my life, to the point that I even do most internet look-ups in English because it still gives me access to a wider range of materials in addition to anything I can find in Spanish, but times have changed. All of my English speaking friends are long gone home, so if we communicate it's usually by email or instant messaging. My interest in films, series and all things TV has dwindled quite a bit over the years, which means I only consume *written* English media. Well, if I actually sit to watch something nowadays it's usually years later after release when it's being aired on Spanish TV, where everything is dubbed -- i.e. watching anything in the original English is an extra effort every time. OK, maybe I just have to switch languages on the remote in this time and age, but with my non-English speaking family around as of today that's a no-no most of the time, anyway. In short, spoken English has been steadily disappearing from my life.

Since I have experience in getting other useful skills to a quite good level just to watch them go down the drain due to lack of practice, I am determined not to let this happen to my English. Which is why I am here...

----8<--------8<--------8<--------8<---- ----8<--------8<--------8<--------8<----

Fourth, I have been thinking of posting an entry about English sibilant pronunciation patterns, but I'm not sure if it would be better to post it under the 'Questions about your target languages' section, or keep it here in our 'Advanced English' team thread, because of the 'advanced' bit. What do you think?

Regards everyone,

Edited by mrwarper on 03 February 2015 at 2:22am

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