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I was cruising the main section of expatforum, and came across a really excellent post on the Greece forum about how to learn another language, which I'd like to share, with its author's permission -- it is a comprehensive strategy which will be very useful for both expats and expats-to-be who are anxious to improve their Spanish skills -- just substitute "Spanish" for "Greek" and the lessons are universal. The author is wka, moderator of the Greece forum:

>>When I was 18, I'd never heard Greek spoken. Ten years later, I was completely fluent and credentialed - it was a lot of work but COMPLETELY worth it. Some things that helped me (I don't know how many of these will help you, but maybe they will).

- Listen to Greek music all the time. Even if you don't think you like it, there are LOTS of genres. Find something you like. Look up all the words you don't know and learn what they mean - the language of song is the language of daily life. Sing along outloud, it will help with natural pronunciation.

- Watch Greek TV - this will be easy if you're living in Greece. I learned Greek in the US before moving here, and I had to pay ridiculous money to get Greek channels at home. Some kinds of shows are better than others. The news will probably be one of the last things you understand - it moves a little quicker than regular speech, and uses a lot of technical terms. Go for soap operas, sitcoms, that kind of thing.

- Use the Greek internet. Find a forum about something you're interested in, like this one, but in Greek, and start posting and reading. Learn to use Greek Windows and learn to type in Greek - you'll need this.

- Read Greek books. Start with children's books. Heck, start with baby board books if you have too! My first Greek book that I bought was "Sta palatia tis Knossou" (In the palaces of Knossos) by Nikos Kazantzakis. It's written for kids so it was a lot easier! I also found Greek poetry HUGE in learning Greek - short poems are easy to handle, have lovely vocabulary, can be memorized, and are a pleasure to read. Don't start with Cavafy - his spelling is horrendous. Seferis is a good choice because he's not too wacky.

- Talk to Greek people in Greek. Even if they speak to you in English, just persist. You'll have a lot of conversations where you're speaking Greek and they're speaking English, just don't give up. Don't ever be shy or afraid to make mistakes. Just jump in.

- Take formal lessons. I don't actually know if it's possible for an adult to learn proper Greek without formal instruction. I had formal instruction for about 4 years and it was absolutely essential I think. But it was by NO MEANS enough on its own.

- Take exams. The Greek government gives exams in Greek, I've posted about them at length on here but there are probably other exams out there. It is helpful to set goals for yourself like to take (and pass) a certain exam by a certain date. If you don't have any specific goals you may stagnate in your progress.

- Use flashcards. I find them really helpful - not just quizzing myself, but actually sitting down and making them.

- Speak to your fiance in Greek. My husband is Greek and we speak Greek ONLY together (his English is not really conversational), so our home is 99% Greek language zone! This is a big help.

- Talk to yourself in Greek. Read aloud from Greek books when you're alone!

- Make friends with Greeks. Add them on Facebook. Comment on their stuff in Greek. In other words, initiate Greek language interaction that is not Greek-language related. Not every conversation should be about how you are learning Greek or where you're from etc. Branch out and talk about politics, fashion, your childhood, favorite recipes, whatever.

- Keep a small notebook in your purse and write down words you see on signs that you want to look up later. I learned a lot of Greek from signs and billboards!

- Don't get down on yourself. It's a difficult language. Old people and people who live in more remote areas speak very differently and you may not be able to understand them. TV news goes quickly, and classic Greek movies have poor audio - both may be hard to understand. You will hear Greeks making mistakes and you may be unsure about what is right. You will interact with expats who will downplay the need and likelihood of learning the language. You will run into many people who will prefer to speak in English as it's faster and simpler. But you will be learning the language IN Greece, it is so much easier, you will probably learn it much faster than the TEN years I spent doing it (though to be honest I could hold a decent conversation after 1 year of lessons - the other 9 years was just steady improvement. You'll probably experience something similar - the first few months you'll struggle to put together a sentence, and then it will start to come together.)

Good luck!<<
 

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Use software to look up words. Easier the better.. I have one that you can right click and it will translate it right away. I saw online CSR's in china doing this.

I dont know why it takes so long to learn a foreign language but it does. Lessons that claims you can be fluent in a year or something like that, I think they have a very liberal definition of the word 'fluent'.
 

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I dont know why it takes so long to learn a foreign language but it does. Lessons that claims you can be fluent in a year or something like that, I think they have a very liberal definition of the word 'fluent'.
When friends in Mexico ask how long it has taken me to be able to speak Spanish so well, I tell them, "All my life" :) ! Schools that promise to make you "bilingual" in six months or a year are guilty of false advertising, and they d__n well know it!
 

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When friends in Mexico ask how long it has taken me to be able to speak Spanish so well, I tell them, "All my life" :) ! Schools that promise to make you "bilingual" in six months or a year are guilty of false advertising, and they d__n well know it!
Because my daughter will be, eventually, raising my grandchildren in Italy, I have worked on getting at least a little familiar with the language. It's close enough to Spanish to help with that, too.

I've spent hours listening to conversational Italian CDs, and have gotten to the point where I can follow and "participate" in the conversations, although the speed of the conversations is much slower than actual speakers.

Last summer, when they were here visiting, my son in law to be commented (he's a teacher) that my "pronunciation was good, but (my) grammar was not so good."

The upside of those all conversation courses is that you learn how a language is supposed to sound. The downside is that all those grammar rules that we pick up by our parents gently correcting us when we're three are missing.

I really love the suggestions here, because you really need to engage as many of your senses into learning as possible; and following the ideas here, you can do that.
 

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The upside of those all conversation courses is that you learn how a language is supposed to sound. The downside is that all those grammar rules that we pick up by our parents gently correcting us when we're three are missing.
That's why I've always felt that for adult language learners, immersion is not enough. You also need to take classes that include formal grammar instruction, so you have a structure in which to fit the language you pick up on the street, in the market, at social gatherings and so on.
 

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Does anyone have any feedback about the language immersion schools in Antigua. We are thinking about going to Guatemala this summer for two weeks to learn. Our kids are at a bilingual school and doing okay, but still not close to being fluent (2 grade, living in Mexico for 10 months). Will this help or is it not worth the money/time?
 

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That's why I've always felt that for adult language learners, immersion is not enough. You also need to take classes that include formal grammar instruction, so you have a structure in which to fit the language you pick up on the street, in the market, at social gatherings and so on.
I agree wholeheartedly. I am most certainly immersed but there's just so far I can go with it. I've been begging my husband for formal classes. He thinks they're unnecessary. I'm going to show him your posts!
 

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I agree wholeheartedly. I am most certainly immersed but there's just so far I can go with it. I've been begging my husband for formal classes. He thinks they're unnecessary. I'm going to show him your posts!
Don't ask your husband for formal classes unless he's a trained Spanish teacher. Even if he is, it may be a better idea to take classes with someone else or at a school. Taking classes with your husband would like having him teach you how to drive ;) ! Tell you him I'm a trained language teacher (of both Spanish and English), so I know what I'm talking about.
 

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Don't ask your husband for formal classes unless he's a trained Spanish teacher. Even if he is, it may be a better idea to take classes with someone else or at a school. Taking classes with your husband would like having him teach you how to drive ;) ! Tell you him I'm a trained language teacher (of both Spanish and English), so I know what I'm talking about.
oops, hahaha... poor grammar on my part. I have been trying to convince my husband that I should take formal spanish classes, but OMG not from him! He'd rather speak English for one, and he loves to play games with Spanish words, end result with my being befuddled, to his amusement. And this is from a man who took classes to learn to speak English, which he does very well! Interesting though, as proficient as his English skills are, when I ask him to translate something that someone has said in conversation, he has a very difficult time doing so. I get only a inkling of whatever the conversation is about.

In the meantime I have a raft of books that I am using on my own. Not the best, but it's what I have for the moment.

And just for the record, I taught my husband to drive just this past year (he's 45). It was awful. He can drive now, but hates driving and is the WORST backseat driver I have ever known. I drive everywhere and have to put on a bubble of tolerance when he's in the truck with me, so I don't reach over and pull his tongue out!!:D And I'm a very good driver! La Senora Chofera!
 

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oops, hahaha... poor grammar on my part. I have been trying to convince my husband that I should take formal spanish classes, but OMG not from him! He'd rather speak English for one, and he loves to play games with Spanish words, end result with my being befuddled, to his amusement. And this is from a man who took classes to learn to speak English, which he does very well! Interesting though, as proficient as his English skills are, when I ask him to translate something that someone has said in conversation, he has a very difficult time doing so. I get only a inkling of whatever the conversation is about.
Mexicans love to speak in puns, which can be almost impossible for non-Mexicans to understand. Ask your husband why it was just fine for him to take English classes but it's not a good idea for you to take Spanish classes. Interpreting conversations on the spot (translating refers to the written word) is a difficult skill, so it's not surprising that your husband has trouble doing it. It requires a lot of mental gymnastics and and a real overt grasp of the languages involved.
 

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Mexicans love to speak in puns, which can be almost impossible for non-Mexicans to understand. Ask your husband why it was just fine for him to take English classes but it's not a good idea for you to take Spanish classes. Interpreting conversations on the spot (translating refers to the written word) is a difficult skill, so it's not surprising that your husband has trouble doing it. It requires a lot of mental gymnastics and and a real overt grasp of the languages involved.
I did ask him once. Didn't get a reply. Hmmm. Nonetheless at some point, I am going to take classes with or without his blessing. He'll just have to get over it. :) He likes to believe he rules the roost...
 

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I know I'll probably tick some people off...

The fact that this post even has to be created and displayed speaks volumes about English speakers. Could you imagine this post being written by a Dutch, German or Dannish to their own citizens?? The lady who has to beg her husband to let her take classes... why even ask him? Just do it! Why do you need permission to gain confidence or respect the people you're living among?

Learning a language (if you live in the country of the language) should take you 6-8 months IF you don't speak your language. It also of course depends upon age. The older you are (not an excuse to skip learning another language), the longer it'll take. However, the more languages you know and the younger you started learning them, the easier it is to learn a new one. This ideology that it'll take forever or that a language is "difficult" or impossible to learn is absurd. I tell my students: English isn't "difficult". It's just different. And it's the truth. If you change your mentality (and the mentality brainwashed into you by the culture you grew up in), you'll find that Spanish and most languages aren't "difficult"; they're just different.

Another thing that most of you miss, is that everyone learns differently. There are 6 or 7 ways to learn something. Some people are visual learners, some need to hear what they're learning (auditory learners), some learn better through writing, reading, touching, etc. Schools purposely miss the mark on this because it's a business and all about money - they make potential customers believe everyone learns the same. Then they take their money, (in Mexico, knowing that most students will miss many classes and/or drop out long before the end of the term), pay the teacher squat and the bigwig, who can't even speak the language the school is teaching, makes all the money. Yes, there are some good language schools out there, but in general, it's more about the money.

While there weren't really any responses from such people, one of the biggest mistakes language learners make is that they don't study or practice EVERY DAY. What's the point if you're going to read once a week or watch the news twice a week? In the opposite direction, if you watch or read for too long, you're brain will shut down and you'll forget what you learned.

That's all I have to say for now.
 

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I agree wholeheartedly. I am most certainly immersed but there's just so far I can go with it. I've been begging my husband for formal classes. He thinks they're unnecessary. I'm going to show him your posts!
I tend to agree with the poster who said that you don't need anyone's permission to learn something.

just sign up, and do it. Your willingness to continue learning, especially when it's the language of the place where you live, will help you live a longer and better life, on top of all the other benefits!
 

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Learning a language (if you live in the country of the language) should take you 6-8 months IF you don't speak your language. It also of course depends upon age. The older you are (not an excuse to skip learning another language), the longer it'll take.
What exactly do you mean by "learn" a language? I can't conceive of a situation in which an adult can achieve any degree of mastery of a language in 6 to 8 months, though he or she can surely make a good start.
 

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Daily, I use some of the suggestions the OP suggested.

We all have different learning styles, and each individual needs to find what works for them, as was mentioned previously.

I have tried many ways to help me learn the beautiful language of Spanish and have found, for myself, the simpler, the better.

I think of myself as a child learning a language and not being inhibited by my fear of sounding foolish. Speak loud and proud and enjoy all the smiles, laughs and positive feedback you will receive.

I find that as I speak more in Spanish, with happy difficulty, I am learning so much and also understand a lot more than I knew, I knew. :)
 

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Daily, I use some of the suggestions the OP suggested.

We all have different learning styles, and each individual needs to find what works for them, as was mentioned previously.

I have tried many ways to help me learn the beautiful language of Spanish and have found, for myself, the simpler, the better.

I think of myself as a child learning a language and not being inhibited by my fear of sounding foolish. Speak loud and proud and enjoy all the smiles, laughs and positive feedback you will receive.

I find that as I speak more in Spanish, with happy difficulty, I am learning so much and also understand a lot more than I knew, I knew. :)
I can so relate to feeling like a child. When my daughter and her fiancé are talking, I say that I'm like a two year old--I can pick up some of what the "grown ups" are saying. "Tomorrow--she said tomorrow! What's happening tomorrow?"
 

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After your basic grammar classes, the real work is vocabulary. Everyone down plays this, but the myth of needing 3000 words to be 'fluent' is bs. You need mountains of vocabulary to be fluent. And this takes years, plain and simple.

If you bite the bullet and rigorously look up words everytime you hear them, you will learn much much faster.

Contextual learning is glorified, but it only works when you know most of the words of the sentence, and can infer the meaning of the one you dont. And you dont really infer the precise meaning either. Many people dont really even know what alot of words mean in their native tongue, and they have fuzzy understandings of newspapers, movies, books, they just dont like to acknowlege it.

Still contextual learning goes on every day in immersion, so it overwhelms formal learning due to sheer volume. This is why immersion is so powerful and effective. And of course this leads people to dismiss formal learning and looking up vocabulary. But nothing beats it, hour for hour.

There's nothing magic about learning a language, imho it's just getting the info into your brain any way you can.
 

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After your basic grammar classes, the real work is vocabulary. Everyone down plays this, but the myth of needing 3000 words to be 'fluent' is bs. You need mountains of vocabulary to be fluent. And this takes years, plain and simple.

If you bite the bullet and rigorously look up words everytime you hear them, you will learn much much faster.

Contextual learning is glorified, but it only works when you know most of the words of the sentence, and can infer the meaning of the one you dont. And you dont really infer the precise meaning either. Many people dont really even know what alot of words mean in their native tongue, and they have fuzzy understandings of newspapers, movies, books, they just dont like to acknowlege it.

Still contextual learning goes on every day in immersion, so it overwhelms formal learning due to sheer volume. This is why immersion is so powerful and effective. And of course this leads people to dismiss formal learning and looking up vocabulary. But nothing beats it, hour for hour.

There's nothing magic about learning a language, imho it's just getting the info into your brain any way you can.

Getting the info in anyway I can has been quite a hoot! Immersion, which is about all I have right now is great... except when,

... my brother in-law called on the phone to tell me that he had food scraps for our pigs... and somehow I heard that my brother in-law had a pig for us to eat! Got the words, just got them all mixed up. (And I just couldn't figure out where he was keeping a pig in that small apartment!!)
...or how about the time when the little boy across the road said we were all going to Las Adelitas to buy the pulque store... (I asked my husband was he really thinking of buying the store? we were looking at real estate at the time) when actually, the little boy wanted me to go with him to buy a snack at the store that sells the pulque. Sheesh :eek:

That's why formal lessons can be SO important. My vocabulary is weird... I know things like macaturu, tuturushi, bado, mescla, milpa, grunion, borracho, (of course)... my husband loves to teach me new words. But, I can take all kinds of conversations and turn them into something completely different with very little effort, much to my husband's amusement. I've got to be really careful, as I can get things mixed up so easily.
 

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Mental attitude is everything

What exactly do you mean by "learn" a language? I can't conceive of a situation in which an adult can achieve any degree of mastery of a language in 6 to 8 months, though he or she can surely make a good start.
I don't even know how to respond to this, so I won't.
 
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