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Immersion in foreign language


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I read this article about language in the BBC recently, and it has kept me thinking for a while. One thing it brought up was an instance of a boy from Florida who spoke English but listened to foreign radio (Spanish I think), and this greatly contributed to his becoming a polygot over time.

Does anyone here have experience with learning languages just by listening? Of course that's how we all learn as we grow up, but is that an effective way to learn even in adulthood—just constantly listening to foreign language (say in radio) and eventually catching on, even if we have no idea what's being said initially?

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Yeah, absolutely. I've spoken already about this before somewhere in this forum, but I found my passion for English by watching English language movies and TV shows and that has helped me a lot on an internal level so to speak to understand how the language works and all that stuff. I always recommend to people to watch movies or shows in language they're trying to learn. 

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I think different people have different ways of learning.  I'm dyslexic and hard of hearing, so immersion may not be the best solution for me.  I am listening to foreign music and sometimes shows around my toddler, though, hoping that while her little brain is learning to read, it is also learning to recognize some words in foreign languages as well.  I'm not saying that she is learning Spanish right now, but hopefully it will make it easier for her brain to recognize the speed and fluidity of the language when she's learning it in school.

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I sometimes have a habit of tuning in to Arabic language news channels through the internet, out of curiosity. The irony of it all is that I didn't like learning Arabic in my elementary and first year high school,  However, in my adulthood, I'm trying to listen as to how commentators and guests in Arabic language programs speak very naturally.  Even if iI don't understand what the commentators are talking about, they will mention words familiar to my hearing, like "Inshallah."

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I studied Portuguese because of my grandfather. He kept talking to me in that language because he knew I got mad when I didn't understand him. He lived near the border with Brazil, so a lot of people there would speak Spanish and Portuguese. On my first year studying the language, I found I knew so much words and phrases because I had heard them from my grandpa, neighbours and people in general. It made the whole experience easier and more motivational. It helps a lot being exposed like that.  

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On ‎12‎/‎15‎/‎2015‎ ‎7‎:‎13‎:‎00‎, watangaboy said:

I studied Portuguese because of my grandfather. He kept talking to me in that language because he knew I got mad when I didn't understand him. He lived near the border with Brazil, so a lot of people there would speak Spanish and Portuguese. On my first year studying the language, I found I knew so much words and phrases because I had heard them from my grandpa, neighbours and people in general. It made the whole experience easier and more motivational. It helps a lot being exposed like that.  

Why don't parents and grandparents just teach their kids?  My father was a Marine.  At one point he was stationed in Texas for years.  He learned Spanish to a conversational point.  He refused to teach me.  I have no idea why.

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19 minutes ago, czarina84 said:

Why don't parents and grandparents just teach their kids?  My father was a Marine.  At one point he was stationed in Texas for years.  He learned Spanish to a conversational point.  He refused to teach me.  I have no idea why.

Haha, I don't know! He taught me some basic stuff, mostly vocabulary. He really liked to annoy me by talking in Portuguese, I was young and got mad easily so he got to laugh and enjoy himself a lot. In the end it motivated me, so I started to learn the language to "teach grandpa a lesson", I guess, and ended enjoying it a lot. Don't get much chance to use it, though.

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Sometimes parents have a reason to refuse teaching a foreign language; my father was Greek and he never wanted to teach me his language because he was proud of his newly then acquired citizenship and wanted to break with his roots in a different country.

However I must agree that language immersion helps, whether you do it voluntarily or you are exposed to other languages that eventually do not only turn familiar to you, but also understandable, particularly with the aid of someone helping to get them integrated into your life, as when you discuss about your new language findings with someone else that reinforces such knowledge.

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  • 3 months later...

This was possibly one of the most interesting article I have read in this forum so far! If the administrators see this message I hope they will permanently post it somewhere for others to reference in the future without having to search for it here in this post. I'm going to also download some of the other materials it quoted. What was very interesting to me is the 'Cultural Chameleon' theory and how the actor Harris gave his experience in how this worked for him. I'm re-investigating language learning techniques so as to get to the next level of my language learning. This post proved to be an answer to a prayer! 

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This is probably one of the best ways to learn. I had a friend from Estonia who learned English just from listening to songs! Although I believe you should do just more than listen. Write down words you hear often but don't know and look them up. Pair this with a more active strategy of learning a language and I am sure you will have great success. 

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I attended an immersion school in Japan for a year.  Everyone in my class, myself included, came out with Japanese equivalent to the JLPT N2 or higher.  Immersion works the brain in ways we can't when we "study."  Studying merely reinforces what we're picking up through engaging naturally with the language.  It's pretty miraculous, this immersion effect.  

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Children learn languages by just ''listening'', we all did ;)  Waaaay before we knew anything about perfect grammar or how to write.  I learnt English in a similar way, just listening and watching, yeah, I'd have never imagined that I'd learn anything by just sitting in front the PC :P  I was 16 years old though, when you are younger you learn languages more easily, the younger the better actually. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I think it is possible with some people. Those people who are naturally gifted to just be able to pick up bits and pieces and then repeat them back. I'm afraid, I'm sadly not one of those people. I can see it in my husband because, even as he's struggling to learn my language; I believe he's being too hard on himself. he's learning, just not as fast as he'd like. He'll pick up bits of what he hears people saying and then say it back to me when i least expect it, like randomly LOL I think that's quite a feat, and how he actually remembers some of this stuff long after he heard it is beyond me. I've heard of people who've learnt a foreign language solely from watching TV and listening to the radio. I wish I could do that, too.

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  • 1 month later...

That's pretty much how I picked up English since I was a kid. I watched a lot of movies and kids tv shows in English. Sometimes a local channel had the same program in Spanish so there was a good comparison point as to what the English one was saying. That and how widespread American music was at home contributed a lot. It just made me ask questions about what so and so meant. Just getting used to the language, and how it's used by native speakers, helped with my pronunciation later on when I was learning it formally in grade school and beyond. 

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Obviously when you listen to things you pick up patterns in the speech and expressions of the speaker. The tones of voice they use you really get used to as they're very similar in english in which words they put emphasis on. Is this a way to actually learn how to speak it yourself? I'm not sure, but it's certainly good for listening skills.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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