Discuss: how do you learn a second language?

English is my second language and now it comes to be my working language, I use it everyday and everytime. I started learning english since I was 13 years old. Actually it was not a good time for a little child to learn a different language.

I should say that my main learning time of english study was in my university. Well, the earliy time in high school or middle school, our teacher just taught us grammar and some out-dated spoken language. Most time were put into analysing grammar and reading and writing. All the purposes of english learning are for marks, a better and nice marks. I was learning for passing examinations, never thought one day I could grasp a language and speak it like native speaker.

Well, I try to seek new ways of english learning, never like in high school. I try to read more original books, watch english films, and chat with my overseas friends. I spent my 4 years life like that in university. Now I can speak fluent english and use it all the time. A little bit pity is that I still have no such chance to visit an english speaking country. I really wanna enjoy the culture and improve my english more better. That might be one of my dream of 2010!

I think that you don’t have to begin the title with “Discuss:” because the forum is a place for discussion and we are not supposed to be ordered to do so.

I am learning English at LingQ, and I consider reading and posting messages on the forum very effective.

I think that the worst thing during my learning English at the high school and at the middle school was the lack of a native speaker English teacher. My greatest difficulty is to understand speaking English, maybe just for that reason.

I think that understanding what you hear is the most important skill. Once you have that the rest will come, and at least you can defend yourself. So I listen a lot in my learning.

Lack of a native English teacher is non-issue in my opinion, as long as the teacher has a decent accent and can guide the students in the proper direction. The classroom isn’t the best place to get a lot of input anyway. This being said, I’ve had one (Swedish) teacher who had a British accent that could have fooled me anytime.

After studying two languages unsuccessfully (French and Japanese) I learned quite a bit about what didn’t work for me.

In Spanish, I started listening to rap while driving. It sounds crazy, but rap is closer to spoken language than actual singing. Rappers speak more quickly than most people speaking day to day and it helped my comprehension a LOT. After a while, I began to like the songs and started trying to sing/rap along, which was great conditioning for my tongue. I used to spend a day just on particular phrases that I knew were important. I suggest this to all my speaking partners. I make sure to give them artists that have relatively neutral accents and better grammar (hard to find, but they’re out there). That said…I tried this in Mandarin and it gave me problems with the tones. I now use spoken poetry instead.

For Mandarin, I listen to a LOT of radio (all day at work). The good thing about radio is that it’s usually about the same things in all languages (celebrities, weather, news and politics). I pick a few phrases from a category, study them the night before and at work, they’ll jump out at me. It’s a good way to build useful phrases based on subject matter you understand, can relate to and can find material on in other study materials.

I also have my speaking partners do tongue twisters…unfortunately they got me back and now have me do them in Mandarin! They’re fun though and help get your mouth used to making sounds it might not be used to making relatively quickly. Good luck!