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Native fluency possible for asian langs

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17 messages over 3 pages: 1 2 3  Next >>
drp9341
Pentaglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 2934 days ago

115 posts - 217 votes 
Speaks: Italian, English*, Spanish, Portuguese, French
Studies: Japanese

 
 Message 1 of 17
09 February 2016 at 6:44am | IP Logged 
Hello!


for those that don't wanna read that wall of text, here's the main question...
Is it possible for an American to learn Japanese or Chinese or Korean to near native fluency? I am not
talking about accent, I am talking about a command of the language on par with that of an educated native.

Do you think it's possible without spending massive amounts of time in east asian countries?



So I have been working on Japanese for the past 3 months, I have put in roughly 1-2hrs a day of actual study,
(sometimes up to 5!) learning grammar / writing out sentences / reviewing verbs and expressions etc. Then,
throughout the day, I try to focus hard on memorizing another 15 words from an app on my phone. Then I look
over the other 15 for the next day, but don't try to memorize those, just familiarize myself so that I can learn
them better the next day.

I have put in lot of hours, I've come a long way since I started just 3 months ago, and I am 100% making
progress. Due to the fact that I am making progress, (albeit the progress is slow) I am not getting discouraged.

Despite of what I said above, I am starting to think that it would be nearly impossible to achieve near native
fluency in Japanese.

I often see Asians who spend large amounts of time in the US, and even the Asians who moved here as adults
and can communicate fluently, none of them seem to have a native like command of the language.

I have a few Brazilian friends who speak English near natively, one of them has only been here for a year and
half and he undoubtedly speaks English more eloquently and with a more diverse range of vocal than 95% of
Americans, despite having still a touch of an accent.

Comparing the level of English between the Brazilian and Chinese students, I can say that for them it is
definitely possible to achieve near native fluency if they work at it hard enough. Unfortunately, I cannot say the
same for the Chinese exchange students who try equally hard, and who spend just as much time with
Americans.

Is it possible for an American to learn Japanese or Chinese or Korean to near native fluency? I am not
talking about accent, I am talking about a command of the language on par with that of an educated native.

Do you think it's possible without spending massive amounts of time in east asian countries?

1 person has voted this message useful



vell
Newbie
United States
Joined 1815 days ago

17 posts - 44 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 2 of 17
09 February 2016 at 11:45am | IP Logged 
It's really hard for an adult to reach near native fluency in any language. Even achieving
this level of fluency in something that would be considered easier for an English speaker,
like Swedish or Spanish, is something that only a very small number of adult learners could
do. When you swap Spanish for Japanese, the number of learners who have both the talent and
dedication to reach this level drops even lower.

Of course it depends on how you want to define near native fluency too. Everyone here seems
to disagree with this, but it's impossible to ever "know" what a native speaker "knows" or
to be as good as them at their own language. If we say being near native is making very few
mistakes when dealing with really complicated language, I would say it's possible, but not
very likely. If we say it means never making mistakes, it's impossible.

It would take years of immersion with an active focus on language acquisition to reach near
native proficiency, probably 5+.

At my university, few Asian students majored in things outside of the sciences, which
required less English proficiency. They also made up the largest minority groups by far and
tended to stick together. Whenever I saw a group of Asian students in the library, they
were speaking their native language. The other international students were less cliquey
because there were fewer of them and they were more forced to speak English all the time.
Whether or not this generally holds true I don't know, but maybe something to consider.
5 persons have voted this message useful



Snowflake
Senior Member
United States
Joined 3981 days ago

1032 posts - 1233 votes 
Studies: Mandarin

 
 Message 3 of 17
09 February 2016 at 4:53pm | IP Logged 
Your other thread touches on the idea of shared experiences and knowledge...I don't know about
Japanese or Korean, but native command of the Chinese language includes understanding the
culture and knowing cultural references. Understanding the culture and knowing cultural
references is a bigger hurdle than what people usually associate with 听说读写/聽說讀寫
(listening, speaking, reading, writing). From my perspective, a westerner pretty much has to
spend his/her entire adult life in the mainland or Taiwan to know Chinese culture to that
degree. That aside, I think if someone truly understands 关系/關係 (guānxi) and executes that
well, knowing Chinese culture and cultural references becomes less of a concern.

Edited by Snowflake on 09 February 2016 at 5:01pm

1 person has voted this message useful



cathrynm
Senior Member
United States
junglevision.co
Joined 4147 days ago

910 posts - 1232 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Japanese, Finnish

 
 Message 4 of 17
09 February 2016 at 6:18pm | IP Logged 
If you're talking about native level literacy, being able to read and enjoy books like a college educated native speaker, this is a pretty deep well of stuff. Chinese have had 5000 years to come up with new words and idioms. I don't know, but I suspect Chinese is deeper than Japanese for this, and it never ceases to amaze me how much stuff Japanese has.

I'm not quite sure why you couldn't do this abroad -- AJATT style with a stack of novels and a whole lot of free time.   I think it'd be a lot less lonely in China though.
1 person has voted this message useful



shk00design
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 2466 days ago

747 posts - 1121 votes 
Speaks: Cantonese*, English, Mandarin
Studies: French

 
 Message 5 of 17
09 February 2016 at 6:38pm | IP Logged 
You have to be careful putting Chinese, Japanese & Korean together. The 3 are similar culturally but their languages are different. Although Japanese & Korean use a certain number of Chinese characters in their writing, the 2 languages have an alphabet and they are non-tonal like European languages. Chinese like Thai & Vietnamese is a tonal language. Every word has a precise tone. If you mispronounce a word, it can mean something totally different.

It is not impossible for older adults to master an Asian language. Nowadays there are videos you can get even if you don't live in a specific country. Drama series in Korean, Japanese & Chinese is common. You can get entire TV series on DVDs or off specific sites online with English subtitles.

For conversation, there is the Skype option for connecting to native speakers in other countries. I know someone who lives in Hong Kong with a Chinese background. He started learning Japanese over 10 years ago and travels to Japan at least once a year. He has enough fluency to do shopping, order from restaurants and watch TV shows. He is keeping up with a private tutor.

If you want to learn a language like Chinese, Japanese or Korean, you have to consider whether you would use the language to communicate to native speakers and travel to specific countries. A few years ago came across Carlos Douh from Vancouver, Canada. He started learning Cantonese when he was 19. He went on a trip to Hong Kong as a teen with his church on a mission for 2 years. The trip was not intended for language learning but he made every effort to communicate with the locals. He came back to Canada to finish his studies. He was able to use his Cantonese in Chinese restaurants in Vancouver. Then he became popular on YouTube after posting a series of short videos teaching people how to speak Cantonese. His focus is not on reading & writing but on speaking the language. He eventually moved to Hong Kong. You don't have to move to a country where a language is spoken but you need to keep up with native speakers.

Edited by shk00design on 09 February 2016 at 6:51pm

1 person has voted this message useful



dampingwire
Bilingual Triglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 2687 days ago

1185 posts - 1513 votes 
Speaks: English*, Italian*, French
Studies: Japanese

 
 Message 6 of 17
13 February 2016 at 6:13pm | IP Logged 
drp9341 wrote:
So I have been working on Japanese for the past 3 months, I have put in roughly 1-2hrs a day of actual study,
(sometimes up to 5!) learning grammar / writing out sentences / reviewing verbs and expressions etc. Then,
throughout the day,


drp9341 wrote:
I have put in lot of hours,I've come a long way since I started just 3 months ago, and I am 100% making
progress. Due to the fact that I am making progress, (albeit the progress is slow) I am not getting discouraged.


Firstly, congratulations on beginning your Japanese journey.

Please don't take this in a negative way, but, assuming you've averaged 2 hours per day, then you are 90 hours
into your journey. You probably managed a minimum of 8 hours English instruction most days as a child. So,
to put it into perspective, you've been studying for 10 native days or so!

drp9341 wrote:
Despite of what I said above, I am starting to think that it would be nearly impossible to achieve near native
fluency in Japanese.


It's certainly not impossible as other people have managed it. It's just likely to take you longer than you had
perhaps envisioned.

Maybe you just need to evaluate your study goals in a different way. At 3 months into my Japanese studying I could
not put together a sensible conversation, I couldn't read NHK News or understand
any of the news clips. I couldn't even understand NHK Easy News.

Four years in, I can watch a drama but I miss quite a lot of detail (although I can follow along because I can see
the action and that fills in quite a lot of the missing words). I can read NHK News but I still miss quite a bit
(unless I look up words and then it's much better). My comprehension is nowhere near where it needs to be for me to
watch native media with no problems, but it will get there if I keep going.

Is it possible for an American to learn Japanese or Chinese or Korean to near native fluency? I am not
talking about accent, I am talking about a command of the language on par with that of an educated native.

Do you think it's possible without spending massive amounts of time in east asian countries?
[/QUOTE]

I'm nowhere near that level yet, but I'm not going to stop now.

Aiming for near-native fluency is a tough target, but as long as it keeps you working and motivated then it's a good target.
If you see the amount of work required like Mt. Fuji and all you can think is that you'll never get to the top, then
you may need to think again about what you want or need out of your studying. Wouldn't it be enough for your Japanese to
be good enough to get around Japan, have straightforward conversations with the locals and understand the news on TV? If
so, aim for that. Maybe when you get there you'll decide that, as you are now halfway up that darn mountain, maybe you'll
keep going for a bit longer ...

3 persons have voted this message useful



Stolan
Senior Member
United States
Joined 2054 days ago

274 posts - 368 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Thai, Lowland Scots
Studies: Arabic (classical), Cantonese

 
 Message 7 of 17
19 February 2016 at 6:08pm | IP Logged 
Yes, 6 months to be conversational, 1-2 years to be fluent, and 15-20 years to speak
completely like an adult native with absolutely no single shred of possibility of being
recognized as a non-native in any language, even Indonesian.

Edited by Stolan on 19 February 2016 at 6:09pm

1 person has voted this message useful



daristani
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5166 days ago

738 posts - 1635 votes 
Studies: Uzbek

 
 Message 8 of 17
20 February 2016 at 11:36pm | IP Logged 
Here's an inspiring (or cautionary, depending on your point of view) account of someone who "forced" his way to fluency (not merely linguistic but cultural as well) in Japanese:

http://thelanguagedojo.com/2016/01/guest-post-from-our-hands ome-rich-totally-ripped-friend-danchanman/


3 persons have voted this message useful



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