What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

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thirdcrank
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby thirdcrank » 16 Dec 2020, 10:35pm

Another point for the OP to consider.

Learning a conversational form of a language can be almost passive, at least to begin with. Listen to a course etc., or better still go and live for a while in the relevant country. You could expect to pick up the spoken lingo quickly (but beware of people trying to make it easier with baby talk.) Also you will learn current idioms but make sure you know what's appropriate in different circumstances.

However, if you never bothered with English grammar at school eg if expressions like "first person plural" seem like double Dutch, then formal study of a foreign language won't be any easier, and probably harder. English probably has more exceptions to rules than most other languages but even somebody saying "I wented" or "I have beened" will get their meaning across. You need the vocabulary of grammar to learn foreign grammar in a formal way.

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al_yrpal
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby al_yrpal » 16 Dec 2020, 10:40pm

Oi Mick! A l'eau, c'est l'heure." :lol: :lol: :lol:

Thanks for that! Hilarious :lol:

Al
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. Make a difference...

Carlton green
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Carlton green » 16 Dec 2020, 11:38pm

thirdcrank wrote:
However, if you never bothered with English grammar at school eg if expressions like "first person plural" seem like double Dutch, then formal study of a foreign language won't be any easier, and probably harder. English probably has more exceptions to rules than most other languages but even somebody saying "I wented" or "I have beened" will get their meaning across. You need the vocabulary of grammar to learn foreign grammar in a formal way.


To my mind that’s a very interesting point in that language has a structure and that formal familiarity with structures (in an analytical sense) will assist in the understanding and learning of new languages. Of course, turning that on it’s head, if you learn the structures of the new language then you might well be better positioned to understand the structure of your first language.

I wouldn’t claim to be a great Scholar and hence would likely fall into the second group of people, those that learn something about their first language by studying a second - so there’s a plus there. My guess is that the majority of folk fall into that second group. Thinking harder about this I’m more interested in functionality rather than perfection so, so long as what I say or write is not too far wrong, I’m happy to run with what I can do. Yep, mistakes will be made but if the receivers of my foreign language skills are happy enough with my efforts then in practical terms failing to get some punctuation and parts of speech correct, etc. isn’t normally going to be important. It’s a good point though and thank you for raising it.

drossall
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby drossall » 17 Dec 2020, 12:23am

I had a debate at a parents' evening with one of my childrens' language teachers. I forget the details, but I was talking about the grammar of the language, and the teacher admitted that the children had simply not been equipped, by the teaching methods then current, to talk in those terms. So when I was saying to them that they needed to think about such-and-such a point of grammar in their language work, they had no means to understand my point. I think it was something as simple as learning basic conjugations by rote - they couldn't work that way because they didn't have the means to understand the different subjects.

I couldn't really comprehend how they were expected to learn a language without being able to sit down and learn a few basic verbs.

thirdcrank
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby thirdcrank » 17 Dec 2020, 7:15am

Whatever you decide to do, I wish you success. I may have sounded negative, but that wasn't intended; it's important to be realistic.

I've been trying to think of routes to getting started. Unfortunately, local government cutbacks seem to have reduced the traditional evening classes in what are considered recreational subjects and conversational French is classed with flower arranging and so either discontinued or only available at a price. Some study provision seems targeted at school leavers who are repeating exams and so assume an existing level of knowledge. The rather grandiosely named University of the Third Age is for us oldies and I've no idea how old you are. I think that's patchy, depending on where you live.

There are what used to be called correspondence courses and are now distance learning. This can be ideal for people with other commitments like a job. I've benefited from Open University study, although not in modern languages. Somebody else may come up with recommendations. I can imagine that modern IT can make it much more interactive than listening to Linguaphone gramophone records.

I have known people who shelled out quite a bit of money on courses like Rosetta Stone. The learning materials seem good but they don't perform magic. I fancy a lot are bought in a burst of optimism but soon dropped. I imagine learning a foreign language may benefit from group learning more than some other subjects but I'm no expert.

https://www.rosettastone.co.uk/lp/s1rsu ... su-sw&tt=0

Cyril Haearn
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Cyril Haearn » 17 Dec 2020, 7:38am

I used cycling and railway magazines to learn a foreign language, one acquires a good vocabulary and may learn pronunciation later :wink:
Kiddies books are fun too
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Ben@Forest
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Ben@Forest » 17 Dec 2020, 7:52am

thirdcrank wrote:Whatever you decide to do, I wish you success. I may have sounded negative, but that wasn't intended; it's important to be realistic.

I've been trying to think of routes to getting started. Unfortunately, local government cutbacks seem to have reduced the traditional evening classes in what are considered recreational subjects and conversational French is classed with flower arranging and so either discontinued or only available at a price. Some study provision seems targeted at school leavers who are repeating exams and so assume an existing level of knowledge. The rather grandiosely named University of the Third Age is for us oldies and I've no idea how old you are. I think that's patchy, depending on where you live.

There are what used to be called correspondence courses and are now distance learning. This can be ideal for people with other commitments like a job. I've benefited from Open University study, although not in modern languages. Somebody else may come up with recommendations...


1. Go on real courses where the instructor is preferably a native speaker.

2. When in the language room only speak the language you are learning.

3. There are loads of courses for adult learners, especially if you live near a half decent university.

4. Go and learn the language at a language school in the country where it is spoken (they run courses which last as little as a week and you will improve your skills more quickly than learning once a week).

Unfortunately much of the above is impossible at moment but I've done all of the above at one time or another. One of my first German teachers came in and said, 'My name is **** ****** and this is the last English we will speak in this room.' You can ask any word or phrase in German simply by asking 'Wie sagt man ***** auf Deutsch? And that principle goes for any other language.

Grammar is obviously essential if you need to read, and certainly write, a language. But I've met people who can converse very well in Geman without understanding the intricacies of grammar - all German 9-year olds for a start.

Carlton green
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Carlton green » 17 Dec 2020, 8:45am

Ben@Forest wrote:Grammar is obviously essential if you need to read, and certainly write, a language. But I've met people who can converse very well in Geman without understanding the intricacies of grammar - all German 9-year olds for a start.


I’ve been reflecting among those lines overnight and was considering editing my response above to reflect the concept that you highlight. The reading, writing and comprehension skills of quite young children are both limited and sufficient for them to get by with limited adult input, and (outside of the classroom) when input is needed by adults it’s rarely much to do with the finer details of parts of speech and typically ‘parental guidance’. Despite lack of mental maturity the little ones, using what small command of the language they have, make themselves understood and comprehend quite well. So for personal use an adult with a small command of a language (say similar to that of quite a young child) should be able to achieve quite a lot.

francovendee
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby francovendee » 17 Dec 2020, 8:47am

I can only speak French in a very basic way. Dining with French friends becomes quite tiring as I have to listen and formulate my reply for hours on end. If I get frustrated and slip into English the conversation continues without a hitch. :)
The French initially like to show you they can speak English but revert to French very quickly. The odd thing is that if I make an error on the pronunciation of a French word then a blank look can be the only response. I find the opposite if an English word is truly mangled I manage to work out what they're trying to say. I wonder if this is because my ears have been trained to bad English after hearing so many foreign people speaking it in the UK.

Tangled Metal
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Tangled Metal » 17 Dec 2020, 8:55am

Most countries have English speakers so possibly not learning for pure practicality reasons. Doesn't that open up learning a language purely for interest?

I grew up learning Greek mythology, a complete fascination in that. So at high school I did Latin in first two years and ancient Greek from year 3 or 4 in high school until GCSE in it. Out of the two I'd heartily recommend ancient Greek. The Greeks had better literature and the romans pretty much copied others anyway.

Modern languages I'd just pick one for interest or where you're planning on visiting the most. I'm fortunate in that our family holidays involve my partner who is fluent in Spanish and fluent if rusty in German. Also has reasonable French too. Sweden and Norway speak English too commonly to bother with their languages. Dutch language is not widely spoken and English is too common there too so learning their language is pointless on a practical level.

China for business certainly but its hard. My partner travelled there a few times back when westerners were rare where she went. Her Chinese was very minimal but she got by without issues. I've worked for a couple of companies dealing direct with Chinese companies. English language is now quite a common thing in industry. My former boss went out there and got into conversation with a Chinese student on a train. Ended up becoming our informal agent out there hiring our own workers and warehouse. All business was carried out with Chinese people who had very good English. One was an elderly Chinese professor and businessman. Being in his 60s his English wasn't great. Understood everything just couldn't converse in English back to us. Not a problem because he had plenty of translators working for him from shopfloor to head office. He learnt Chinese can drink too. That's a whole different story!

Tldr

Learn the language that interests you or for where you travel most as mostly everywhere has English speakers these days. If you like reading Norse sagas translated into English then learn the language they're written in to read and understand the source literature. Or just learn what your have a smattering of but to a higher level. It's what your interests and reasons for learning are not what is best to learn.

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al_yrpal
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby al_yrpal » 17 Dec 2020, 8:57am

Learning French or other languages?

Duolingo! All online, free and very effective

Duolingo.com

Al
Touring on a bicycle is a great way to explore and appreciate the countryside and towns you pass through. Make a difference...

drossall
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby drossall » 17 Dec 2020, 9:06am

Tangled Metal wrote:I grew up learning Greek mythology, a complete fascination in that. So at high school I did Latin in first two years and ancient Greek from year 3 or 4 in high school until GCSE in it. Out of the two I'd heartily recommend ancient Greek. The Greeks had better literature and the romans pretty much copied others anyway.

I'm part of a New Testament Greek reading group, after doing an initial course. I'd like to go on to read Greek literature (as you'll probably know, the Greek is similar but the literature is more formal), but I'm not getting competent as fast as I'd like. Something to do with not working hard enough to learn those conjugations and so on :oops:

Elizabeth_S
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Elizabeth_S » 17 Dec 2020, 9:22am

duo lingo
FutureLearn https://www.futurelearn.com/
BBC languages http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/
norwegian has the excellent NTNU site https://www.ntnu.edu/now
Lots of free resources are available to practice and supplement classes, but classes are best

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Mick F
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Mick F » 17 Dec 2020, 9:32am

I speak Border Collie ......... or at least I understand it! :lol:
Mick F. Cornwall

Oldjohnw
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Oldjohnw » 17 Dec 2020, 10:08am

My wife used to teach French, German, Spanish, Italian and Latin. She had a working knowledge of Greek, Welsh and Russian.

A former colleague recently told her that she was amazed when some parents were saying that there was no longer a need to learn foreign languages now that we were leaving the EU.
John