In a slightly different blog format than my usual, I’m going to answer some questions about my language learning. Thanks to Charlotte for tagging me! And be sure to check out her amazing blog if you haven’t already.
With the introductions out of the way, here we go!!
What would you consider your native language?
English – although I’m from the south-west of England and my parents were born in Scotland so I’ve got some other interesting words in my vocabulary!!
What was your first language learning experience?
Probably a combination between primary school and home. Although I was born in that middle area when languages went out of fashion, when I had my taster days at secondary school, we were always sent to a French lesson – so obviously I got picked to make German when I eventually went into Year 7!
And my Mum learnt French at school, and lived in France, Spain and Portugal so she’d use some of the words she’d learnt, at home.
What languages have you studied and why did you learn them?
German – compulsory for 3 years, learned for 11 years , from secondary school through GCSE and A level and through university. It’s the language that makes most sense to me. I just get it and I like learning it.
French – for two years at school, optional subject, for one lesson a week and through reading Agatha Christie’s Poirot books! (Murder on the Orient Express is brilliant – I’ve read it in German too!) Surprisingly I can work out a lot of words and phrases, even if I can’t reply. I’ve been doing some duolingo on my iPod too when I get the chance.
Spanish – two years beginner’s course at uni which didn’t go so well. I found the structure of the teaching disjointed and tough, though I think I learned a lot along the way. I’m now working in a school helping students in Spanish lessons so through osmosis I’ve learned a lot. I’m currently sitting a GCSE in Spanish as an external candidate through the school I work at. I hope that I can do an A level in it one day.
Dutch – got told in a lecture in final year translation that German was not worth much on its own without a minority language like Dutch. Since I like German and am a native English speaker I thought I could work it out. Trying not to get it confused with German is a little tricky though!
How does your personality affect your language learning?
I’m quite reserved so I don’t speak out a lot normally but oddly in German I act differently – on the school exchange I won an award for saying yes to everything – I’m also quite methodical and patient which I think helps too. You’ll never pick up a language overnight.
Do you prefer learning a language in a class or on your own?
I think you need a little of both. At A level I was the only German student which meant I got a lot of concentrated learning, even though it was quite pressured. It was nice to go to uni and realise that other people were learning German too. Sharing ideas and problems is nice too.
With apps and the internet, there’s a happy medium of learning from your own home in your own time which I think works well. Sites like
Students of the World are good for contacting people on a secure network.
What are your favourite language learning materials?
Books – Harry Potter in German and Spanish are great! Nele Neuhaus is a great German writer whose books are now translated into English. Leo Online Dictionary and Dict.cc are great too as well as Linguee, a translation comparison site. Watching YouTubers in Germany is a quick and easy way to practice listening skills and to learn common phrases and words. German music helped a lot in the early days and also films too.
I used to use ZickZack text books at school – I found one in a charity shop once and I had to buy it!
How much time do you spend learning a language per day?
In German, not as much as I should, a little YouTube here, tv and newspaper articles there. I’m working much more on Spanish at the moment – a few hours over a week. When I’m studying for an exam it goes up. I need to set a stricter timetable to include Dutch.
What are your short-term and long-term language goals?
Go to Germany for a year, to practice speaking more fluently. Learn and practice Spanish and to learn Dutch. To be able to translate out of these languages would be good for work. 🙂
What is your favourite language?
German hands down, but Spanish is growing on me. There’s a logic to Spanish which is strangely lacking in German. But the Spanish subjunctive is a killer!!
What is the next language you want to learn?
British Sign Language – I think it’s a useful skill to have. Sometimes I think that sign language gets left out when it’s a really important form of communication for lots of people, not just for the deaf.
What advice could you give new language learners?
To keep going. Not learning a language or at least trying is apparently one of most people’s regrets. It’s not about being fluent – it’s about passion and learning and being open minded.
Some languages work better for some people than others and there are hundereds of different ways to learn. Setting personal targets (learning some phrases for a holiday or saying something like ‘Happy Birthday’ to a foreign colleague) really do make all the difference.
As Nelson Mandela said, ” If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
Thanks so much for reading this post. If you have any questions or comments be sure to leave them below or contact me on Twitter @amjsc.