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Learning through surroundings: How I learned French and didn't know it.

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I was at a hobby store yesterday, when I realized something. Most of the French I know has come from talking to people who speak french as a first language, French restaurant menus, media, and the constant references to french words throughout towns by the southern water. At any rate, I realized while looking at a poster naming various places in Paris, that I could translate all of them into English; even tough in high school I barely paid attention in french and I believe made a B at best. My theory is this, you don't actually have to be in a place that primarily speaks the language, but if you're living somewhere that it's prominent; then you'll pick up on it subconsciously. I was curious about this, so found an old french article and started reading it; surprised to note that I could keep up with most of the article. Is this normal? Has anyone else done this?

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It is normal for some people, but for others not so much. It depends on the person, but believe it or not that is how you learn your mother language as a baby.  It's called active listening and every single human that understand and speak a first language learnt it that way, thru active listening.  You did it that way with you mother language.  I did too.  For children is easier... that is why this method is perfect for kids. They put no effort in it, yet they learn to speak fluently.  Us adults learn just a few things, but rarely can learn to speak a language fluently this way, unless we put a conscious effort into it.

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  • 4 months later...

I can't find wronger affirmation than that. You don't especially need to live in a country where the native language is your target language, yes, but you need to go deep and try to immerse yourself into that native language for succeeded to learn it appropriately. Sure you can succeed to get some reference without it, but if you really target to be in the end, proficient in that language, immersion is more than needed.

So passive learning might work in the way it does not especially involve a lot of exercises, but you need a purpose and you need to have a lot of that language, in order to integrate all its varieties in your mind.

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