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How long does it take to learn a language?

[deactivated user]

    I have been learning Spanish for over two years now and I still don't feel like I can start a conversation. I have used Fluenz, Livemocha, Rocket Spanish, Busuu and now DuoLingo, and I have studied every day. Whilst I can do quite well at reading the language, I cannot seem to think in the language. When people speak to me in Spanish, it's almost like my ears close and say "too hard"! Any advice given would be great. By the way, I have started watching "Destinos" and "Extr@" to help improve my listening. I have also registered with "italkI" although I've been too nervous to talk to anyone online yet!

    August 12, 2013



    Best advise listen to michel thomas method. Greatest teacher i have ever come across and i usually dont recommend anyone.


    I hear ya. But it may be more a nervousness issue than a language issue. You simply must get out and talk to people. Spend time rehearsing conversations in your head, and try to ask spele specific questions How long have you been a taxi driver? Do you have a family? Do like this job? Rather than just asking How are you doing? So you have a context for their answers. The most common phrases I use in Mexico are 'slower, please' and 'shorter phrases, please.' :)


    Yes, I have a similar problem with German, which I have been studying for 6 months. I am living in Switzerland, however, as my work colleagues speak Schweizerdeutsch, I find I am not getting conversational practice. One solution I have found is tandem language partners where I swap my English for their German. Once a week with each partner we speak one hour German and one hour English. I also try to create as many opportunities for talking to people as possible on the train or boat, and I nip across the border to Germany to do my shopping and spend the day sitting in outdoor cafes striking up conversations with as many people as I can. I listen to German tv and read the German newspapers, but still feel hopeless in conversation as I am still thinking in English. If anyone has any other ideas for improving conversation skills please help.


    I took the liberty of looking at your profile where it says that you live in Australia. If that is correct, I'd guess(but I am not sure since I've never been there) it's not super easy to find spanish-talking people to converse with out and about so to say. I am struggling with the same thing with my German, since I live in Sweden, but one thing I try to do is to look(/listen) to German shows/movies with english subtitles. I don't understand everything, not even very much, but I feel it helps me to get a "feel" for the language and it's quite enjoyable as well. As I improve I will try without subtitles, but at the moment I think they do help quite a lot.


    You should follow this site: http://www.fluentin3months.com and watch this TED talk: http://speakfromday1.com/tedx/ (it's brilliant and very recognizable)


    The marketing there seems very agressive. Have you actually tried it?


    Yea I don't understand how listening to this guy really helps you learn the method of acquiring a second language he's more like a motivational speaker, it is a great party trick hearing him speak multiple languages, but it doesn't help people that much, I guess being a traveller he needs money to travel with.


    I think it does. A friend of mine actually did the same thing long before this video and he could fluently speak Spanish in a year. And believe me when I say that he had not a better memory than I had, that he was not a better speaker than I am. The whole point is to really immerse yourself in the language. He clearly states that you don't have to travel around the world to learn speaking fluently because today we have fast internet access, Skype, thousands of learning tools, etc... actually he says that just go to another country does not help.


    I've found a couple of blogs which gives you many tips and are totally devoted to learning languages. Additionally they sometimes sell a product as well, but you could completely ignore it since they share so much invaluable information apart from this product. The product in question he sells is the answer to his TED talk and I have not tried it.


    I also have this problem. I live in Germany and I struggle with the language, especially since I moved to where they speak the Schwabish dialect. 2 things: you have t go out and just speak. Use what you know. my husband and I piece together conversations with people. sure, we confuse things, but we try. And don't worry about your accent. This used to concern me, but I realized that the Germans speak English which is not only flawed, but also without an Englsh or American accent. I'm now taking a break and learning French which seems easier and more enjoyable for me. Hopefully I'll feel confident enough to tackle German again once I get through French.


    German is quite difficult, I am currently getting through it now after 5 years of not studying it and i'm actually quite enjoying it but it was the best decision i made at school to swap back to French :P

    [deactivated user]

      Thanks for all the ideas! respreng you are correct - it is more of a nervousness issue than a language issue. No-one wants to look like a fool, so we are naturally nervous about giving language a go! That's quite interesting because I am a moderately confident person otherwise. I will definitely give italki a try soon - even if I purchase some lessons with a teacher just to get used to talking on Skype. hd212 - thanks for recommending Michel Thomas. I am currently listening to Paul Noble and had planned to try his method next. Zorzmeister - I am also trying your method of watching foreign language programs, although I prefer to watch Spanish shows with Spanish subtitles, instead of English ones. My housemate who is Dutch, said she learned English better when the subtitles were in the same language as the program so you could learn to think more about the foreign word as opposed to the translation (you can always pause the show and check the translation too). timvs - thanks for the recommendation, I do like that website! I also recommend making flashcards with Anki - I always balked at the idea of flashcards as they can be boring, so I added a relevant picture from Google Images to each of my cards - remembering the picture also helps you to remember the word!


      I love iTalki. I've used it for 7 months together with Duolingo. Also, try to find meet-ups or language-exchanges in the city you live. Those are truly great. I am blessed to have a great one here in Stockholm. Otherwise try to get speaking practice in, especially with natives, that helps a lot. For example, you can find plenty of people online to do online language-exchange via Skype with. Keep at it, bit by bit you will get there.


      Best advice: If you can spare the time, go to a Spanish speaking country and enroll in an intensive course (4 hours per day) while living with a local family. With your background, a few months should bring you up to functional fluency, although you would still have problems understanding conversations between native speakers using local idioms and speaking at their normal speed.

      [deactivated user]

        I have now! Thanks for the advice - it helped a lot!


        it's different for everyone, but learning a language is a continuous thing, you will never know everything so you learn new things each time you study it that's the beauty of it, and some people take longer to click with the language, just keep on going and one day you'll find you are thinking in spanish, that is a skill that takes a lot of time, i studied french for 5+ years before i could do it without thinking anything in english, but it will come :)

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