Are some languages easier for some to learn than others?

It would make sense and I found this link. myexpatsworld.com

But my experience has been different this far.

I tried Spanish for a while but my interest level just wasn’t there. I am really pumped about Russian but it does not come easy for me either.

So I started German to learn with my son. My interest level is good but not as high as Russian. But I find that German comes to me very easy. Much easier than either of the other languages I’ve tried.

So Spanish was more difficult than it should have been IMO. Russian was hard and was supposed to be. But I’m finding German to be very easy. I’m just reading/LingQing now. I’ve been working on German for a couple of weeks now and reading/understanding much of intermediate 1 material.

I wouldn’t think people are hardwired for a particular language. But I wonder if there are perhaps life experiences or other training that is not necessarily language related that can facilitate learning a particular language over another?

In my experience I have found that French has come easier to me than other languages, including Spanish. But, I would connect it to the fact that when I was very young my family and I lived in upper Michigan, and therefore would pick up some Canadian channels. Because of this, I would often watch Sesame Street in particular in French.

But, after we moved out of that area I and my parents never pursued me learning more French, and in fact they attempted to teach me Spanish. When I began learning French on my own, I don’t feel that I had any real memory of retaining anything from my Sesame Street watching days, aside from the ability to count to ten in French. But, for some reason when I compare French to other languages it just makes more sense to me and I really cannot explain why. The only thing I can conclude is that while my early exposure didn’t drill any real vocabulary or grammar into me…it somehow still caused me to retain some feeling for the language that I cannot really explain.

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That makes sense. I learned to fly fish by exposure. I was around it a lot as a child, although I had no interest. When I did pick up a rod in my teens, I became very proficient very quickly. I think it was because I had a sense of the timing involved by listening.

I didn’t have an exposure to German other than I bought a cassette series 25 years ago that taught me a few phrases and how to count. I had much more exposure to Spanish, living on the US/Mexico border for 3+ years. I could and can count, do a little shopping, food ordering, ask for directions etc., in Spanish.

I wonder if that brief exposure had that much affect but if so why didn’t the Spanish exposure?

My guess would be there was a difference in your level of interest. At this time I do not feel compelled to learn Spanish; it just doesn’t hold any draw for me and it never has. On the other hand I have a lot of French Canadian heritage, which causes me to have an interest in the language and the people.

Incidentally, I’m also half Polish, and Polish is the other language I really want to learn. But, I wanted to build my language learning confidence so I started with French first because it will be easier to pick up since English is related to French in many ways.

I find that often it does have to do with personal interest level when it comes to learning a language based solely on your own persistence. However, the ease of learning certain languages over other has to do with the level of similarity that another language has to your language of origin, or even to other languages you have already learned. German has many similarities to English, which makes it much easier to learn for an English speaker than other languages such as Spanish for instance. I have found that German, Spanish, French, and English all complement one another as they are similar to one another in different ways. I speak English and it took a long time to learn Spanish as my first foreign language, however, I am now catching onto German like a flash due to my ability to relate it not only to English, but also to Spanish.

My question to you would be: how far have you gone in the learning of those languages? What level have you reached? Your first impression about their relative difficulty may be very misleading. The real test is how good you are at the different linguistic skills (listening, reading, talking, writing, …) after some time learning the language.

I’m very much a beginner, only listening and reading now. Your question is spot on.

Question, how is your Russian? Was there a tipping point at which you felt comfortable reading and understanding the language? How many words was that point?

In this specific discussion, I wholeheartedly agree with Francisco’s question about your confidence in the various skills.

More generally, I believe you will find that the “easiest” languages are those which 1) are the closest linguistically to your native language/one you know very well; and 2) how motivated you are to stick with it for the long haul that is required for language learning. Incidentally, the farther the language is from your own, the more time it’s probably going to require, and thus you will need to be more motivated to learn.

If you and your son are really enjoying German together, and you are good at it, then by all means continue. However, if you are enjoying it simple because you are finding it easier, you might want to resume your Russian.

Obviously. Some people learn some things quicker than other people. But with language learning we can all get there, it just takes time. How much is down to the person.

Sometimes i think i’m never going to get spoken French at a high level. But when i started i understood nothing. Now i understand a lot but not everything. If i can go from none to some, i can go from some to all. My wife does no listening practice and just gets everything she hears. She just picks up on it. It’s frustrating but i just have to put in extra work to overcome the ‘natural’ listening skill she has compared to me.

Why? I’ve always found things that come easy to me to be more enjoyable (I believe this is common to most). As long as I’m interested in the language, is this not reason enough?

My son is just getting started. We’ll see how he likes it.

There have been several milestones along the way. At about 25.000 words I could begin engaging in conversations with some sporting chance of actually understanding what was said (you may call it a beginning B1 level). With over 40.000 I could begin enjoying some kinds of media content and I felt reasonably confident understanding native speakers and making myself be understood. Last time I was in Russia I was at the 55.000 word level and I could handle virtually all everyday conversations, although I often struggled to find the right turn of phrase. Now I’m close to 60.000 and I think I have a chance to be “kind of” fluent if I practice enough. The local Russian Center will start offering a language interchange program next week. Let’s see how it works out.
As for reading, I’m in the middle of my 7th Russian novel (“Master and Margarita”, a wonderful but tough text). I understand now much better than when I first attempted to read it (last year, if memory serves me right) so my understanding has greatly improved and now I can enjoy such complicated material. However, I’m sure that reading demanding literature without a dictionary (or Lingq) will only be possible after I reach almost 100.000 words. So, there’s still a long way to go

Wow, I just cut and pasted this for my Russian notes if and when I finally tackle that intimidating language. If he doesn’t chime in on this thread, I will have to ask JaliscoState what he thinks about the 100,000 word mark he recently passed. In a prior discussion with him, he suggested that 60K words would be the “potential fluency” mark as Steve K has put it. Your experiences seem to confirm that.

The fact that you and JaliscoS both speak English and Spanish like me encourages my Russian study. French ability is an equal bonus since that’s on my list too!

Yes, that is true. Like I said, “If you and your son are really enjoying German together, and you are good at it, then by all means continue.” You’ll have a fun activity together and you’ll get a foreign language under your belt. For the second part of what I said, I was only suggesting that you shouldn’t sacrifice your interest in Russian MERELY because you found a less interesting language easier. For example, I would be very interested in Italian or German culture, especially with Spanish under my belt. However, I wouldn’t pursue them over French or Russian (that I am even more interested in) just because I found them easier.

+LILinguist I wish you success with Russian and French, they’re both beautiful languages

“…I understand now much better than when I first attempted to read it…”

This is an interesting aspect of language learning - coming back to an old text and finding it has become transparent :slight_smile:

I bought a copy of Wolfgang Koeppen’s 1953 novel “Das Treibhaus” when I was living in Germany as a student. This was a time when I was speaking the language every day, making seminar presentations at a university, watching German TV, seeing dubbed films at the cinema, etc; you could say I felt like a reasonably fluent speaker. Yet I found this book just a little too difficult to read. I could manage German translations of Agatha Christie and the like, but this book by Kloeppen had just a few too many unknown words for me.

Well, in the course of a major clear-up of my library recently, I came across this very book again. It is strange because looking at the first few pages I can almost pick out the very same words which drew a blank back then, but which I can now immediately understand.

(It has taken me so many years of effort to achieve this level of literacy in ONE foreign language. I have nothing but profound admiration for those people like Francisco who have achieved this feat in multiple languages!)

Wonderful example, Jay. Yes, sometimes it feels almost like magic

Thanks. As I’ve said before, once I get finished moving, and buy an iPad2 (the original doesn’t work with LingQ app anymore), I am going to bang out a novel or two in Spanish in LingQ to jack my read words to 2 million and my known words over 33,200 (Advanced Level 3 in LingQ). I’ll read then a novel or non fiction book without LingQ, then maybe Don Quijote with LingQ (always wanted to read). I think I can bang both out in 2 90 Day challenges of 1.5 hours/day. I will then have completed 13-1400 hours of total Spanish learning.

Then the question. Which first: French, Russian, or Chinese?

Awesome!! Question: How do you read a novel on LingQ?

You just import it under the “Import Lesson” section. So far, I’ve incorporated large texts I have found online, or in Microsoft Word or even PDF format. Steve and others swear by a program called Calibre (which I believe is free) whereby you can convert epub files (what most ebooks come it) to more importable friendly formats to read on LingQ.

I personally haven’t done this yet, but for my next batch of imports, I will.