Do we ever finish learning...?
I am a native Spanish speaker, but English has been in my life since I was very young, so I am a "Bilingual person" (this is something I realized not long ago), but because I'm not a "native" English speaking person, I always have this "fear" of making mistakes while I speak or write in English, and even after years of watching movies in English, reading in English and listening music in English, sometimes I don't understand some words. Also, when a character has some sort of accent, like southern or they use weird compound words I have a hard time understanding... So this got me thinking; can a person that is not a native speaker ever be as good in a language as a native person?
This "thought" made me feel bad and demotivated towards learning a third language (I am currently aiming for German)... But after giving it a deeper thought, I realized there are words in Spanish that I don't know sometimes, even after knowing Spanish my whole life. I know this sounds silly, but it made me feel good, and this is the reason I decided to write this post here, for everyone to read.
You never stop learning a language, there's always new words, things you won't understand, you can't really say "oh I know 100% English and I talk like a native speaker" because even native speakers won't know some things sometimes.
I've always loved learning new languages, knowing new words, hearing so many different sounds coming out of my mouth that have different meanings... And I will try to keep that thought and, who knows, maybe in a few years I'll be watching German movies without fully understanding some words, and I'll be super happy about it haha.
Thanks if you took the time to read all this, hope you find this motivating or if you completely disagree with me, that's ok too.. I would like to know why.
If I have grammatical errors I'd appreciate the corrections. Le deseo un buen aprendizaje a todos!
Even native English speakers make mistakes in our own language (and I'm sure the same happens in others, too). I still have trouble spelling a common word like "restaurant" without spellcheck (oh thank God for it). It took me a long time before I was able to speak German or Japanese without fear of making a mistake... at least consciously afraid. Just get out there and practice!
I just got a question wrong the other day because I couldn't spell restaurant; native English speaker here as well haha
Haha it's typical that i have to search the word "engineer" everytime... Or "pregnant"... In Spanish it would be words like: "imbécil" that is not a word i write everyday and its actually an insult, but i always forget if it is with "s" or "c" hahah... I can't even insult people properly in my language!
That is what happens when I write telephono, when I meant to write teléfono (my brain thinks that the "ph" f sound in English is the correct way to write this, even though the Spanish way is easier and better).
And don't get me started on me putting the wrong accent mark or not putting it, and changing the meaning of the word I was trying to write.
This happens to me in both French and Spanish I might add.
Ok, now I'm going to tell you a secret, I may never learn to write correctly in any other language other than English. There may not be enough time...
"I may never learn to write correctly in any other language other than English."
I know that sounds a bit negative, but even though I went to college, even grad-school, and I had a wonderful career where I wrote business notes, memos, letters, tech manuals (etc.) I don't think I have mastered writing my native language English (I can write technical stuff, but I'm not very creative, like most Engineering types).
So I just realize that I probably will only ever get to the level of writing notes in Spanish and French. I've decided that while I focus on reading and listening in all my target languages, I'll definitely only ever be conversational in Japanese.
funnily enough i find writing in a foriegn language easier than speaking :) more time to think
IMHO, of the languages that I study, Spanish is probably the easiest to write. But because American English is my native language with its crazy spelling and pronunciation it makes it difficult for me to write Spanish.
French has too many silent letters, and the pronunciation is also crazy (LOL) which makes it difficult to write (for an American).
And Japanese has a completely different script, which makes it fun to try to write, but not something you can master in a short period of time.
Amusingly, duolingo's insistence on correct spelling and frequent use of "restaurant" coupled with the nearly identical spelling in Spanish (restaurante) is what caused me to finally get it down. I'm usually a very good speller, just one of the words that has tripped me up forever. I eventually started saying it in my head as rest-au-rant to get it right.
I'm not so sure whether spellcheck is really as helpful as it seems.
I used to be really good with spelling the whole way through school. However, after several years of regularly doing lots of typing in web browsers where spellcheck is automatically enabled by default, I began noticing I was no longer confident in spelling many words I would never have had any problem with in the past. I noticed I'd be doubting my spelling of almost everything and constantly waiting to see whether a red line would appear under the word I was typing. And I think "restaurant" (restaraunt?) was actually one of them--relatively simple words!
Sure, this wasn't really too much of a problem so long as spellcheck is always available. However, where I was really feeling the problem was in certain games that didn't have spellcheck and also the rare times in life where writing by hand is necessary (writing in a birthday or wedding card, filling in forms, writing on postal envelopes,...). I kept finding I was having more trouble than I used to.
So, a few years ago, I decided to always completely disable spellcheck in every program, app, and device I use. My spelling has now mostly recovered back to how it was before. I rarely have to look up any spellings now and simply type instinctively. It was a struggle to begin with, stressing out over words like weird (wierd?), receive (recieve?), every time (everytime?), etc. but it has definitely been worth it.
I can see for some people who might never have had any luck with spelling that spellcheck is hugely beneficial and a vital lifeline to them, as without it they might not have the confidence to write anything online. I'm certainly not suggesting everyone should disable spellcheck. But I'd highly recommend people who are (or were) good with spelling to consider disabling it before they for no reason end up becoming completely reliant on it. ^^
... I always have this "fear" of making mistakes while I speak or write in English, and even after years of watching movies in English, reading in English and listening music in English, sometimes I don't understand some words. Also, when a character has some sort of accent, like southern or they use weird compound words I have a hard time understanding... So this got me thinking; can a person that is not a native speaker ever be as good in a language as a native person?
I am a native speaker of English, and I feel the exact same way (someone will probably find a mistake I made writing this). As we all do. I learn new words almost every day. And forget how to spell others words. And mispronounce and misuse words all the time. I am one of those southerners that you might have a hard time understanding, LOL. But I might have a hard time understanding someone from Boston too.
The US is so big, and covers such a large area, that we have many regional dialects. So none of us really understands each other. Plus languages are living things, no one even speaks like we did twenty years ago. And yet we carry on.
So to answer your question, "No you can never stop learning."
It gets worst when listening to British accent haha... For example when trying to watch Sherlock Holmes without subtitles i can barely understand what he is saying... England's pronunciation is just so different, it's almost a different language!
British accent for sure! My in-laws are English and I swear half of the time they think I am stupid when I ask them to repeat, or they use a phrase that I have no clue what it means (ex. "I'm knackered!"). I have a harder time with a Scottish accent, or someone from rural Australia.
(ex. "I'm knackered!")
Made me laugh, so what does it mean. Tired perhaps? Or maybe drunk, LOL.
I think it means tired, however the in-laws are usually drunk and tired so maybe that could work
Thanks, and people don't believe me when I say, "I learn new words everyday."
Like many Americans, I find British English @Wiki both charming and confusing. LOL
But then again, I'm sure other non-native English speakers must think that English as a whole is a crazy language. With our crazy spellings, and even crazier pronunciations. I mean how else can you explain, "to", "too", and "two". LOL
And we complain about Chinese.
Such an inspiring comment, Kelvin :D Do you also stumble upon new words when you read novels? I think it's something to do with the vast vocabulary of English rather than the language itself. To be honest, I don't remember the last time when I learnt a new word in my native language, lol.
Thanks for your kind words.
The internet has made it very easy to learn new words. I like the Google feature that lets you highlight a word and then Google it.
Some times when I am speaking I like to have my phone handy, so that when I use a word that others may not understand, I can just say, "Hey Google define" the word in question.
And my favorite thing is not to fine new words, but to learn new meanings of old words. This cracks me up, because often I run into this when someone uses a word in a way that I have never heard before. Then I look it up, and learn a new use for an old word. Makes me smile every time this happens.
The US and the UK: two countries separated by a common language... As someone or other once said - and though I am paraphrasing, since I'm not sure how the original version of the quote went - or even who it should be attributed to.... It's been re-quoted so many times that there seems to be some confusion on who it might have been...
And it is as if Canada is stuck in the middle, UK spelling with US pronunciation (mostly)
It's been re-quoted since the Saxons raids in the 5 th century so many times. So there are Saxon English (Aka Danish),Then Norman (aka old normans, who spoked North France's "lange d'oïl") english in the 11 th.century, then was the middle english in 15 century, then later becomes the early modern english (Aka. the "Shakespear english") But, then, finally established only in the late 18 century in England, meanwhile this language continues growing and improving in America. This is the reason, why american english sounds more simple, than british traditional one.
Well, the british english aka "classical oxford english" sounds more natural (or it's just me ? ) But, if you hear it attentially, you will see, that differences are not so big, only the pronunciation changes. But, again, this is not the different language, rather likely different dialect in the same language, which is more archaic, more elegant, with a lot of slangs, besides there are a lot regions in England with the different accents and pronunces So, speaking about differences, haven`t you heard the Australian pronuncaition, now that one is really sound different, or even little bit strange.
Of course, the British accents (there are many) are the natural way to speak English.
American English is a dialect of English and does indeed have multiple differences to the mother tongue in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.
Yes, but it's extremely hard when the British people speak in a heavy London accent. They really overemphasize the words, like saying 'oiver' instead of 'over' or 'oikay' instead of 'okay', let alone the slangs they use...
As well as using Duolingo, I also take classes in German. One of the people in my class was afraid of speaking in class because she thought she would make a fool of herself if she got things wrong. I used this very principle to help her get over her fear by pointing out that our native German teacher who lives in England still makes mistakes, and we spent one lesson listening out for them - not to undermine the teacher, but to make the point to my classmate that she will never be perfect in German, but it isn't a bar to trying. More importantly, she hadn't even noticed the teacher's English mistakes before, so making mistakes isn't a bar to making oneself understood.
Great topic, have a lingot
Way back there was a children's TV show for teaching German to English students which was filmed in Berlin. A segment showed English being taught to German students in a school. The teacher made grammatical errors one after another yet to the TV viewer she was understood. The point being we automatically correct what we hear so the 'imperfect' is noticed though unimportant in the scheme of things.
I am trying to learn German on my own (investigating concepts and things i don't understand through the internet) and with the help of Duolingo, but it has been very hard... How has your experience learning German with classes been? Is it any easier? Haha
Duolingo is a good way to learn a mass of vocab but not as good as class for actually learning a language. Conversations in class don't come out of a bank of pre-defined phrases, and are much more nuanced.
From personal experience my recommendation would be to join a class if you can.
Hi! My native languages are Azerbaijani and Turkish(very similar languages, some consider them dialects including me). I've been learning English for 4 years now and my level is low C1. Unfortunately, I also encounter unknown words and phrases after these years. I bought a book called 'Never let me go' by Kazuo Ishiguro a week ago, delved into it, finished two chapters and came across new 57 words and phrases! The book has 23 chapters and I realized that if I keep going at this rate, I will have known more than 600 new words and phrases by the time I finish the book. Funnily enough, I almost never learn new or more than roughly 5 words - which are most probably terms or obscure loan words - when I read a normal adult-level novel book in my native language. As you said, we never stop learning. However, I believe that if someone goes to an English speaking country and lives there for years, he or she will reach the native level in the end. I wish every language learner good luck :)
Well said, (and more impressive, well written) but it is true there are many words that you really don't need to know. Sometimes I focus on the way children learn languages, but then I realize that some of the words that children learn are useless to me. Like all the onomatopoeia words for the sounds that animals make, like, "a pig goes oink." You may are may not know the English word "oink" but do you really need to?
I don't think we need to learn every word that a native speakers knows, as I mentioned above, I'm a native English speaker, and I don't even know all the words that I once knew. LOL
I hope you enjoy your book, and remember all the words that you need to.
Thank you very much for your answer! :) I have discovered that I picked up a significant amount of vocabulary by merely reading in and listening to English, without having to look up their meanings. It's enough to see a word for more than 4 or 5 times in meaningful contexts, and voila - you know the word! For example, I learnt the word 'gusp(on the gusp of ...)' yesterday by just coincidentally encountering it in 3 different articles, and I registered that I'd developed a kind of feeling this word. I looked up its meaning to verify myself and I was right! I can't express the satisfaction I get when I acquire(rather than learn) words in this way lol
LOL! There are so many words in English that I come across that I don't know. I'm a senior, a librarian and taught ESL for 30 years. Many English speaking people use poor grammar, and have a poor vocabulary. You already have two languages. You are a cut above already. You go Cemhta! All the more power to you. We never stop learning. Always progressing.
We learn new things everyday. Sometimes I admit it does get a bit frustrated for there are so many things out there. But I've come to accept the fact successes are not overnight. You learn things as you go, one thing at the time. Learning is a process. So, you know, enjoy the process. Have fun!
I'm currently learning Italian. I chose it because like the Italian culture and the Italian people. It overwhelms me sometimes that there are so much to learn. But look at the bigger picture, I get to dig deeper into the culture of Italy and I get to meet new people with the same goal as mine. I discover a lot things that were never there for me if I hadn't made the choice in the first place.
And you will make mistakes regardless of how careful you try not to. Even so, learning languages is magical. Enjoy the fun of it!
Personally, I cannot keep up just with the verbing. Guess I am just going to potato on the couch all day and table this discussion...
I've been speaking English that spans millenniums. Studying Vietnamese I have learned I have somehow unlearned a lot of grammar. Over the years one tends to take everything for granted.
"English that spans millenniums"
English 600 years ago...
A cook they hadde with hem for the nones To boille the chiknes with the marybones, And poudre-marchant tart and galyngale. Wel koude he knowe a draughte of londoun ale. He koude rooste, and sethe, and broille, and frye, Maken mortreux, and wel bake a pye. But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me, That on his shyne a mormal hadde he. For blankmanger, that made he with the beste.
I used to ve very good in French (to the point of being able to make sentences on my own about things i wanted to communicate with ease) because in my country it was mandatory to pick a third language during highschool and i picked French. It was so cool, i was so happy to be -almost- trilingual... But then years passed and i never practiced French again and now i can barely remember basic words... Languages are very easy to forget
Languages are very easy to forget
Veryyyy true. I did French in one of my first years in high school, and four years later all I remember is "je mange une pomme."
Hahaha all i can remember of French are things like: "sur le table" or very little things like the days of the week, some numbers... I feel a little sad about that.
I don't think even Natives master their own language (unless you're a professor and study grammar maybe!). Don's sweat it!
"I don't think even Natives master their own language"
I know they don't. In learning a foreign language we become more sensitive to language errors both in home and target language. Just listen to other people talking on the bus.
I'm in the same boat as you; I consider myself a bilingual person (English being my second). I use English with my friends, in university, online, at work, to watch tv shows, read, etc. I am completely immersed in english every day. Yet, I still fear making mistakes (and do make them) and I have a hard time understanding different English accents. I don't think anyone would say I am not fluent in English, yet I question it. However, I make mistakes while speaking my native language and sometimes don't understand other french accents. I think that no one is perfect at a language and that should not stop you from learning more and enjoying other languages.
"I have a hard time understanding different English accents."
I once worked with a Glaswegian. It was impossible for me to understand them unless they deliberately toned down their accent.
I 100% agree. the learning never stops with any language.
"If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room." -Confucius.
I've always liked this quote, it motivates me to keep looking for new challenges and explore new things.
Yeah, i have the same complicated problems,but not with german. I am trying to learn Danish language, to fulfill the dream of my whole life and become the citizen of Danmark. When i've started to learn it, i thought "pff, it will be easy like 3-4 months to go ( like i did it to english, which i did not know how to write, cause it's not my mother tongue language, and the most difficult for non-english speaker is writing some strange latin letters and correctly . So i started to work on my grammar intensively hard, and voila, i hope that was worth it.) I do not to boast myself, unfortunately there is a lot more to learn, but let's get back to our "Danske probleme". So i thought : "oh it will be as easy as learning english". I was mistaken.... The main problem with the danish language is that unfit "separation" between pronunciation and spelling. And it's neither like english, nor like french or even german. The 75 percent of spelling words sounds extremely different, with make me a little bit dissapointed due that fact. But, perhaps, i must to learn it through the movies or games, or at least i should try some audio books, who knows... If here are someone from Danmark, let me know, if is there any movie in Danish at all ?
OP -- Your English is very good. If you hadn't said that you weren't a native speaker, I wouldn't have known. Muy bien! Signed, a former English teacher :)
Native English people make more mistakes because they aren't concerned with making mistakes.
Yes they make mistakes though the point I always keep in mind is that without 'mistakes' a language will not evolve.
Great post! I am trying to learn german as well, and I've had similar thoughts, tiny correction, I don't know if it is a typo, but it's listening 'to' music, which can be a hard distinction to make, because you don't watch 'to' movies, come to think of it I don't really know why it is haha. Good luck :)
Haha thanks for the correction, yes I know it is "listening to" when it comes to music but I must have forgotten it xD
Good luck with German, it has been very challenging, but it is always fun in the end. Tschüss!
Lucky you that there are words that you don't understand in the english movies that you watch! Otherwise you wouldn't have anything to look up in the dictionary and nothing more to learn.
Me myself as a non-native english speaker has gotten quite used to watching all my movies in english. But now I also notice that I want to do that as it is easier than watching something in german cuz I wouldn't quite grasp it then.
So my aim is to keep challenging myself with choosing german instead of english. And even though I don't understand it, I snap up some words.
I have been speaking German as a 2nd language for over half my life in the meantime, and even though I'm fluent in German and have an enormous vocabulary, I still make mistakes with noun genders and all sorts of things that change around due to noun genders (a hard concept for native English-speakers the first time they learn a foreign language). I am extremely comfortable speaking German - in spite of occasional mistakes, but still don't enjoy writing in German. So, in spite of the fact that I originally joined DuoLingo to finally get around to sticking with learning French, I've begun doing exercises in German as well, to get more comfortable writing, and to perfect all those noun-gender issues. So, yes, it's true. You never really stop learning. And, as you said, no one knows everything about a language - even in their mother tongue. That's what dictionaries and reference books are for! :D
A great many native English speakers are barely literate. I imagine your English is better than most English teenagers!
Haha, well I think teenagers from all over the world will always know very little of their native language... At least that happens in Latin America too!
I am an English teacher, and am still learning. I google English grammar and like to follow Grammar podcasts.
what is the point in learning a language if one day you won't be able to use it anyway?
While I do try to focus on languages that I can use and that are in my environment. I have found that to really understand a person, it helps to understand their language.
For example, because some of my family members speak Japanese, learning Japanese helps me to truly understand that side of my family. The language explains a lot about them. How and why they do certain things, are rooted in how they speak, read, and write.
Well, to me, learning a language means understanding a new world you didn't know before and that really makes me happy. For example, I don't "need" to learn German right now, but I thought it would be a nice start towards a third language because it is "difficult" enough so it is a challenge, but not as difficult or intimidating as Chinese, which is one of my dreams to learn someday.
All the Roman Languages are not that hard for me because of Spanish, I usually at least understand what is written or have a general idea of what it is saying.
But for example German, Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, Russian, etc... Are all languages that I would love to learn someday because it is very frustrating reading some symbols and having no idea what it says. And I know translators are really easy to get now a days, but it's just not the same as actually knowing what it says by yourself...
No they cant, but thats ok. There is a reason why people are usually employed to translate into their native language
But people that get hired to translate to other languages are not necessarily native speakers of any of the languages involved. I know many people that work in Call Centers, that translate English calls to other languages and their native language is Spanish.
It is heartwarming to see so much encouragement and positive feedback to a post like this. With regard to your comment,
"So this got me thinking; can a person that is not a native speaker ever be as good in a language as a native person?"
My advice is to strive to not let such thoughts ever again cross your mind. No one would have guessed you were not a native English speaker had you not pointed it out. Also, I can assure you that many native speakers will always surpass your own English abilities, but why should that be a problem? I wouldn't be surprised if the number you outshine is in the tens of millions. Your observation that the learning process is continuous is spot on, and you communicated it beautifully.
Thank you, I am really glad that a post like this makes you feel good. I am surprised too with the ammount of support and kindness of all the comments.
I will try to keep all the negative thoughts out of my head as you said, and just keep learning a new language, which is always fascinating!
I'm always contemplating what I'm doing in life and it comes down to that arbitrary philosophical idea of what you want to achieve in life. For me it comes down to the purpose and fit the language has for you.
Why should you learn a language that you don't think you'll ever need. For me personally I have a Vietnamese girlfriend and her family doesn't speak a word of English, but I also want to understand her vietnamese shows or when her friends message us. It feels like theres always little pieces I'm missing. I'm always very confused by what she will do with her English speaking course will offer her in her home country when its heavily based in medical terminology and jargon I'm sure has other words or meanings for.
But... There is a reason why in high school I would go to french class and jump out the window. I never wanted to go to France, there is simply too many countries in the world and you cannot visit them all. If I was to spend 2 weeks in France, would it make learning the language worth while for me if it took me 3 months to learn? Probably not either. But if your dream is to marry a French woman or work there then go for it.
Same story, when i was about 6 years old, my parents has forced me to learn french and russian languages, just because all my maternal ancestors spoke it through 3 or 4 generations, but i really didn't wanted to learn those both, simply because i was never interested in them. "We have Hungarian, and we have Ukrainian laguages, at least, we able to learn some English, to understand the foreigners better" that was i always told to them. But they always answered to me like "How dare you to deny our old traditions ? Which language do you like then ?" Danish, Norsk bokmål and Dutch are my favorite, i feel some really close connection to them. Even if my parents still disregarding my opinions, even if they try to impose me their vision of my life, which is appareantly obvious,but foolish, so what did i try to say that post ? Is if you love doing something, no matter what it will cost, agains all the odds, just keep doing that, don't listen to to all jealous people around, even if they are your parents or sibilings, just keep duind, what you think it's right,at the end it will worth it.
Well I'm Australian so I'm quite a mix of european, but if I had kids they'd be even more mix and so forth, my parents never really had those expectations and for me traditions are non existant. It's just what we are offered here is italian, french and japanese and I would have chosen to learn japanese but the course was full. But I do have distant family in the netherlands and germany so to speak. But so detached I don't really know any of them, so there is really no pressure to know anything about them. But Australia is also so far from everyone, but you being from Europe could hop on a flight or speed train and be half way around Europe in the time it would take me to fly to another country.
As a native English speaker, there are many times that I don't know what an English word means (and I have a college degree). Also, Some English speakers' accents can be very challenging to understand. In the USA, we have WIDELY varying accents from California to Maine, Boston, Chicago, Texas, and the deep South, not to mention how hard it is to understand someone from England, India, or Australia. Don't take it so hard. You are probably a much better English speaker with higher comprehension than you've given yourself credit for. That said, do not "fear" making mistakes, but expect them and embrace them. We LEARN from our mistakes. Never stop learning! Where is the fun in being perfect at anything?
*With a little help from Google Translate, and who says it is always wrong?
Wow, thank you all for your kind replies and comments, I didn't think there would be so many!
It is very nice to read all of you and to know that I am not alone and that we are all here learning together!