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    • #2581
      Manuel Flores Lasarte
      Moderator
        @manuel

        Let’s think a little more about your experience learning a language (if you have not learnt a foreign language you can think of someone you know who has learnt a foreign language). 

        1. Where, when and how did you start learning a second language?
        2. What did you find difficult about learning a second language? How did you try to overcome those difficulties?
        3. Did you learn the language successfully? Why/ why not?
      • #20871
        Jennifer Seeley
        Participant
          @jennifer-seeley

          Contrasting two experiences

          Where, when and how did you start learning a second language?

          German, at school, aged 11, through taught sessions

          French, on line, aged much older…, through activities like listening, speed checks, pronunciation checks

          What did you find difficult about learning a second language? How did you try to overcome those difficulties?

          German : not at all motivated, success seemed to bring more work, couldn’t see the practical application and didn’t make much effort to overcome these difficulties

          French: being able to give enough time to the task: overcoming by making sure it is the first thing I do each day

          Did you learn the language successfully? Why/ why not?

          German: up to a point, able to hold a short conversation, worked as an aupair in Austria

          French: work in progress… am better able to converse in a cafe

           

        • #20960
          YI-HSUAN SHIH
          Participant
            @ellashih

            1.Where, when and how did you start learning a second language?

            I tried to learn French when I was in my uni, is a program you can choose to learn the language you like for one semester. And after that, I felt like it’s not enough so I went to the after-school tutoring class for around three months. Technically, I learned French for around 6 months.

            2.What did you find difficult about learning a second language? How did you try to overcome those difficulties?

            I found it’s difficult is because of the pronunciation and also I sometimes confused French and English, for me they are too similar. Honestly, I did try to overcome it, but I can’t.  My French teacher said there is no standard and rule for you to know how to pronounce a French word.
            3.Did you learn the language successfully? Why/ why not?

            I did not keep learning French. I basically totally forgot about it. At first, I want to learn French is I feel this language beautiful. But when I really start to learn, is way more difficult than I think.

          • #21046
            Emma Maerz
            Participant
              @emma

              1.  Where, when and how did you start learning a second language?

              I started learning French when I was in the first year at secondary school. Italian when I was 16, also at school.  Finally, I started learning German in taught classes when I moved to Austria 17 years ago. German is my L2 now.

              2.  What did you find difficult about learning a second language?  How did you try to overcome those difficulties?

              After six months of intensive German lessons I felt a lot more confident.  However, my motivation started to wane.  I stopped taking the classes and tried to experience the language through more natural channels like listening to the radio etc and experiencing more of the Austrian culture.  Since then, my German has improved a lot.

              3.  Did you learn the language successfully?  Why? why not?

              I can speak German to B2, but I’m not yet fluent and still make mistakes.  We are a bilingual household and I only speak German when I interact with the locals. I feel I am at the point where I need to go back and focus on the language to improve this.

               

            • #21183
              liuyizhi wang
              Participant
                @charlotte-wang

                1. Where, when and how did you start learning a second language?

                I started learning English when I was 12 years old in junior middle school, which located in the Hunan province in China.

                2. What did you find difficult about learning a second language? How did you try to overcome those difficulties?

                It’s hard for me the remember new vocabulary and poor oral skills. I just reciting new words again and again. Besides, I often read some articles and watch English movies.

                3. Did you learn the language successfully? Why/ why not?

                I don’t think I learn English successfully as my oral and writing skills are not as fluent as the local people.

              • #21342
                Anna Paoli
                Participant
                  @anna

                  1.     Where, when and how did you start learning a second language?

                  Age 13, when I attended a private, strict Foreign Language specialized high school

                  2.     What did you find difficult about learning a second language? How did you try to overcome those difficulties?

                  My school largely relayed on the Grammar Translation method and I was thrown in at the deep end having studied only French up to then and I was literally rescued by a (German!) teacher who brought me up (linguistically) with the Audio-Lingual method. This given approach offered a model of language competence based on transformation drills and although it later suffered a severe blow in favour of more communicative approaches, it supplied me with extremely solid basis for both the First and the Proficiency exams, which I prepared and successfully sat in Cambridge (U.K.)

                   

                  3.     Did you learn the language successfully? Why/ why not?

                  From that time on my various teacher training courses which I took part in, being part of my academic training at University for my degree and my M.A, spanned several approaches, methods, techniques which all shared the same notion that “Language is Communication.

                  However, as I developed as a teacher, the way I related to methodology also evolved, I currently find myself rather eclectic in my choices of what to do in my classroom. I therefore tend to exclude one single method in favour of macro strategies which picking from various approaches and their related methods are to guarantee the maximation of learning opportunities, foster language awareness, promoting at the same time learner autonomy.

                  So I’d say Yes, It’s still a long but fascinating journey.

                • #21343
                  Manuel Flores Lasarte
                  Moderator
                    @manuel

                    Hello everybody,

                    Thanks a lot for getting this started. All the points you make regarding motivation, formal language learning VS exposure, different methods used, etc are very interesting and we will be developing all this during this week.

                    I just wanted to write to let you know that I’m reading your posts and making notes of them for future feedback. Please keep the discussion going and don’t hesitate to ask each other questions.

                     

                  • #21442
                    Angela Casado Castro
                    Participant
                      @angela

                      1. Where, when and how did you start learning a second language?

                      I started to learn English when I was in secondary school. It was in my village located in the South of Spain. I can remember that I started to learn the basic grammar doing exercises.

                      2.     What did you find difficult about learning a second language? How did you try to overcome those difficulties?

                      I found difficulties such a different pronunciation, different way to structure sentences and I did not understand any from listening records at the beginning. Everything was new and strange for me.

                      I tried to overcome it studying, practicing and taking extra English lessons.

                      3.     Did you learn the language successfully? Why/ why not?

                      I think I did not learn the language successfully because I learnt a lot of grammar but I did not learn how to speak. I didn´t speak in class, I didn´t have a talk with my classmates, I had not many records to practice and as result I´ve got good skills to write and read but I don´t have a good reading, understanding and speaking skills.

                    • #21518
                      Manuel Flores Lasarte
                      Moderator
                        @manuel

                        Many thanks for your contributions here so far. Lots of interesting points that I’d like to draw your attention to:

                        Your experience seems to be quite similar to the one of most second language learners:

                        • You started your second language learning once you were a fluent speaker of your L1. Most of you started in your adolescence.
                        • In all cases, you had some formal teaching (i.e. you were explicitly taught the language you had to learn and then practised it using a variety of exercises). The methods you have mentioned so far include:
                          • Learning done through repetition / habit formation (what Anna mentions as ‘Audio-Lingual method’)
                          • Traditional grammar-translation approaches in which learners study the grammar rules and then apply them to controlled practice exercises (e.g. gap-fills, matching exercises, error correction, etc.). The new language is generally explained in the students’ L1 and every new structure is translated from L2 to L1. This method is quite common in compulsory education in many countries (e.g. Spain, as Angela mentions).
                          • Communicative approaches in which students are guided to use the language in tasks that imitate real-life tasks. This is the common method used in teaching nowadays.
                          • A combination of all different approaches (‘the eclectic approach’). As Anna mentions, there is some good in each of the previous approaches so a combination is also commonly used nowadays.

                        We’ll learn more about these approaches in week 5 but thanks to your discussions I’ve been able to introduce them already.

                        Like you, most L2 learners face the following difficulties:

                        • No motivation / can’t see the practical application (like Jennifer)
                        • The language is too challenging to learn (see for example Yi-hsuan experience with French)
                        • Learners can be confused if learning two similar languages (e.g. French and English, Italian and Spanish)
                        • Too many formal lessons can be tiring (see Emma’s experience learning German)
                        • Language may seem illogical or strange (see Angela’s or Yi-hsuan’s posts)
                        • Difficult to remember new vocabulary, especially if they are trying to memorise random lists (see for example Liuyizhi Wang)
                        • Lack of exposure (even when living in a country that uses the target language)

                        However, these are some of the things that can be done to overcome those difficulties:

                        • Be motivated to learn the language (compare Jennifer’s learning experience with German and French)
                        • Trying a variety of methods to find out which one best fits their learning style.
                        • Use the language in natural contexts (e.g. by working in a country where the target language is spoken)

                        From your posts, we can also see that some people manage to learn a second language successfully even when they start at a later age if they have enough exposure. However, we know that living in an environment in which the target language is used is not always enough and that some formal teaching is needed (see Emma’s post).

                        Based on all these reflections, let’s have some follow-up questions:

                        If you have not contributed yet, is your learning experience similar to the ones mentioned here?

                        If you have already contributed, what can we do in our teaching to ensure that our learners improve their language skills as much as possible? Consider:

                        • Motivation
                        • Exposure to the target language
                        • Opportunities to use the target language
                        • Range of skills
                        • Ways of remembering new language more easily

                        Sorry for the long post but I think you’ve mentioned very good points and I wanted to expand on them! I look forward to reading your ideas on the follow-up questions!

                      • #21682
                        Jessie
                        Participant
                          @jessie730

                          1. Where, when, and how did you start learning a second language?

                          English has been my second language since I was 8 years old. It’s a little bit of shame that I cannot use it very well though I’ve learned it for such a long time, haha~
                          2. What did you find difficult about learning a second language? How did you try to overcome those difficulties?

                          For me, the most difficult should be the language environment. I think it might be the main problem for most Chinese students who are learning their second languages. Moreover, Chinese education is an exam-oriented system, it contributes to the very low communication skills and relatively high written skills in many students. So did I. Then I’ve spent plenty of time on self-studying, such as find a language partner to practice my listening and spoken, or to read and listen to something I’m interested in as much as I can, that means I have to create an English learning environment for myself.
                          3. Did you learn the language successfully? Why/ why not?

                          Absolutely no. :scratch:

                          I might get high in my assignment and an exam, but I still have some problems when I communicate with others in real life. It was not easy to do learning and working at the same time for me. And sometimes, motivations are crucial for your learning effectiveness. But I won’t stop learning, just keep it up and going.

                        • #21803
                          Manuel Flores Lasarte
                          Moderator
                            @manuel

                            Hi Jessie, thank you for your answer. What you explain is quite typical of L2 learners: we spend many years trying to learn a language but not always successfully. Having said this, if you are talking about your L2 English, I think you’ve done a pretty good job as you can participate in forums in English quite well! ;)

                            You’ve mentioned some good points about the importance of the environment, the type of focus given to different skills in your lessons as a student (e.g. speaking & listening vs writing & reading) and the interests of the learner. All these factors have an impact on how successfully a second language is learnt.

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