Friday Question 259

By , October 10, 2014 7:56 am

Have you ever tried to learn (or re-learn) a foreign language as an adult? Which one? What worked for you?

Like many people, I took four years of español in high school. I enjoyed it so much that I took a semester of it in college, but didn’t keep it up once I got in to the architecture program and had to focus on design work. I did have two friends from Puerto Rico who would let me translate letters they received from family, for practice though. I have maintained some capability to read the language!

When I lived in Rome, we had to take a crash course in Italian. I was the one always getting scolded in class “no español, Kim!” Hee hee. The languages are similar enough that it was helpful and a hindrance at the same time. 

I picked up enough Italian to get by there for eight months, but was never able to read it – I learned it mostly by ear. I can’t recall much of what I learned. 

And… that has been the extent of my foreign language use since then (sigh, despite this 2011 gift* we still haven’t used). Except the words I use all the time at home – sí, puta, gracias, grazie, ciao, hola, no me gusta…

Well, xaarlin told me about the (free) Duolingo app (and desktop site, too) that allows you to learn many different languages, so I have been using that for about 26 days with spanish and have been really enjoying it! I feel like the language is easily coming back to me, and I like how it challenges you in many different ways – listening and repeating, translating (both ways), speaking, flash cards, quizzes, and so on. I hope I stick with it! 


*After clicking on that link I realized I was asking the exact same question in this post. Oops. I know a lot of my content is not new, for me. But seriously, there is a post I have been thinking about writing and I found that I already wrote it a few years ago. Sigh. At least I am consistent in some of my thoughts?!

30 Responses to “Friday Question 259”

  1. Anne says:

    I took Spanish for 4 years in high school and then 2 in college, and had the same thing happen when I switched to French for a semester (I had credit hours to burn before graduating). We weren’t allowed to speak English, so I’d speak Spanish when I didn’t know what else to say 🙂 I can still understand a fair amount of Spanish, but haven’t really had much use for it since I was in school, so I’ve probably lost most of it.

    • kilax says:

      Ha ha ha. I like your sneaky little trick in French class. Did you find learning that easier, since you knew Spanish?

      • Anne says:

        Definitely! If I had kept going with French, I probably would have gotten a lot of it down. I think that’s true of any of the romance languages (as you found with Spanish and Italian).

  2. Tiina says:

    I took Spanish all through high school and college. While I’m crazy rusty, I can still get by and it even come sin useful at work sometimes!

  3. Xaarlin says:

    I’m so glad you like it! I’ve been slacking this week (as you can probably tell by the leader board) 🙁

    I took French in HS- so stupid. Who speaks French outside of a few countries?

    I learned Spanish while living in Mexico. I sat down with a dictionary and 502 Spanish verbs, and after making a fool of myself speaking to my students, it eventually clicked and I became near fluent. That actually worked the best- writing the words and conjugations down, and being forced to speak to people.

    With Portuguese the duo lingo app is really helpful- but I need to add in the written element- which helps me retain the vocab. Plus I need to use my verb book and dictionary so I can add more words. I don’t speak Portuguese much at home. But I send L paragraphs involving CB talking to sharks, CB eating bread and CB wearing dresses… Which helps a lot. Ha

    • kilax says:

      I am so happy you told me about it! And I Know why you’ve been slacking. It’s been a nutso few weeks for you!

      Ha ha. Someone else recently said that to me about French. You could move to one of those French island. Oooo la la.

      Did you enjoy the challenge of doing that when you lived there, once you got over the frustration of not knowing the language?

      Ha ha. Does CB rarely drink beer, get off the horse, and look under the bed? Ha ha ha.

      So happy for the verb book rec too. You’ve been a huge help!

  4. diane says:

    I minored in Russian in college–I always put it on my resume b/c it makes me look smart and then people ask me if I can speak it and the answer is “no.” It’s a lot to relearn, but I hate that I’ve lost so much of it.
    I tried joining a Russian speakers meetup, but was too shy to go. I have all my textbooks but just don’t make the time.
    However, my Mom introduced me to a Russian cartoon called Masha and the Bear, and I ADORE IT!! Not only is it so cute, it also helps refresh my vocabulary…at a very basic level.
    Here’s an episode if you are curious. 🙂

    I’ll have to see if Duolingo has Russian!

    • diane says:

      Also, I clicked through the link to see if I answered similarly the last time you posed the question–I didn’t comment on that one. Phew!

    • kilax says:

      Aww, that is super cute. That would be a great way for me to try to learn too. I didn’t see Russian on the desktop version. I wonder if the app has it 🙁

  5. Kiersten says:

    I have been trying to keep up my Italian. I took 4 years of it in college, plus I lived there for a full year so I was pretty fluent. i try to read books and listen to podcasts but I am not consistent about it so I have forgotten so much!

  6. Marcia says:

    I took French in grades 1-9 and it’s totally in there. Whenever we go to France/Belgium, people seem to understand me just fine.
    I tried to teach myself Italian about 10 years ago but meh, it never really stuck.
    My oldest takes Spanish in middle school now and I’m amazed how much I know without ever studying it. Osmosis I guess.

  7. I took Spanish for a couple of years in high school, but I’m much better at reading it than speaking it. My goal for next year is actually to learn a new language, but I’m choosing French so that I don’t have to call Puerto Rico stores at work and have people curse at me in Spanish, haha.

  8. Melissa says:

    I studied Spanish in high school for 3 years and was always much better at understanding/reading than being “quick on my feet” to speak it. When we went to Argentina a few years ago, after a few days of being in the country (and watching some American sitcoms dubbed over in Spanish but with English subtitles! when back at the hotel) a lot of it came back to me. The TV-thing was actually very helpful since I already had a “base” because if you think about it—it’s a lot of simple/day-to-day conversations that happen in those kind of shows…not off the wall academic stuff that you never use.

    For our most recent trip, I started studying Italian using the “Rocket Italian” program. It had a small fee but I liked that it used multiple modalities for learning (speaking, listening, writing, games) and that it was web-based—and I could listen to it while running! I actually felt very well prepared on my trip and did pretty well with the listening and reading. Speaking a few key phrases OK–but I have a lot to learn!

    Matt handled learning (and attempting to teach me) the “survival French” for that part of the trip and it was really difficult for me. Reading OK–but listening/understanding was almost impossible and speaking happened very little outside of basic greetings and ordering at meal time!

    • kilax says:

      That is great that so much of it came back to you in Argentina! And I have heard the tip to listen to soap operas, but never thought about why it would help so much – duh, mostly normal conversation (minus people killing each other, sleeping around, dying and being reborn, etc.)!

      I haven’t heard of the Rocket program. I wonder if that is out there for all languages? I would love something I could listen to while running 🙂

      And that is great you tried with French and were with someone who kind of knew it! I was so frustrated in France, as the girl I went with was supposed to know it, and kept asking ME to translate things. HUH? LOL

  9. Margaret says:

    I took Spanish in high school, but didn’t do any language in college and have lost probably 90% of what I knew. I actually have that app on my phone, though, and have been meaning to try it out, maybe re-learn Spanish or maybe a new language.

  10. ChezJulie says:

    I studied three years of French in high school (similar to your experience with Spanish), and then I took two college courses online when I thought I might be going to grad school. It was pretty hard! I was only able to place out of the introductory semester.

    I’ve probably forgotten all of my French from my second rendezvous with the language by now, although I really loved taking that course and getting reintroduced to French culture. That Duolingo program sounds cool.

  11. Amy says:

    Ok, I did comment on the first post about the languages (but would have totally forgotten it had you not reminded me with your link)…
    My personal take on learning languages is that even if you’re older, the more languages you learn the easier it goes. I think the brain gets better at it. I’d love to get better at German so I’ll have to look into that app – thanks for the tip!

    • kilax says:

      Such a good point. I remember there was this girl in the architecture studio I worked in in Italy from Switzerland, and she knew so many languages and picked them up so quick!

      Have fun with German! 🙂

  12. jan says:

    That sounds fun! I had a Spanish minor in college for awhile and I barely remember anything. It would be fun to brush up, especially since I have Spanish-speaking students every now and then.

  13. Pam says:

    Girl, WHY haven’t you used the Rosetta Stone?! I loved it. I used it for a few months before we went to Cabo San Lucas, and I was amazed at how well I was able to communicate in Spanish. It’s a great program. Now you’re making me want to bust it back out. haha

    • kilax says:

      You should bust it back out!

      I think we were too lazy to do it together (that was the plan) but I think we should give it a go… 🙂

  14. Kristina says:

    I really really wish that I had time to learn French. I took it in college and loved the language and loved studying it, but it’s hard to find the time. Maybe when I’m done with running/triathlon?
    There are so many great resources out there now, though, that I do think it’s easier to improve your language skills or stay more in contact with the language. Sounds like duolingo is a great way to brush up your español!

  15. kapgar says:

    I’d like to relearn Spanish. I have a degree in it and it’s gone completely unused.

  16. I took German seven years, and I could probably get by in Germany if needed (for basic things), but basically everyone who speaks German also speaks English. This is especially true for anyone who lives in the US. I really enjoyed learning German and even visited Germany a couple times as a result, but if 30 year old Susan could talk to 7th grade Susan, she would tell her to take Spanish. It would be infinitely more useful, especially working in health care. I started using Duolingo last year for a bit and stopped – it’s a great app!

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