Mastering a new language (no grammar)


I just want to share with you not my experience, but an experience from a person who learned Spanish:

Recently here in Spain I knew a person from Romania. He spoke Spanish very fluently. Maybe she made some bit of grammar mistakes, although her pronunciation was more than acceptable. Her speech was fast and with little hesitation.

What it surprised me was that he had been to Spain just for 3 months. I asked her if she had been taking lessons of Spanish, but she hadn’t. In fact, she’d learnt Spanish watching soap operas in Spanish in her country. Soap operas in Romania aren’t dubbed, they are only subtitled. So she spent many many hours watching interesting content in an informal an relaxed way. At first, she read the subtitles every time, but after some time, she started to get used to Spanish, and finally she didn’t read most of the subtitles. She hardly spoke Spanish before coming to Spanish.

So the bottom line is that without using at all grammar, and without taking any academic lessons, a person was able to learn a new language, and now she can communicate fluently and effortlessly.

I agree that maybe, if she had a look in a grammar book, she would perfect some minor mistakes in her speech. Anyway, her goal has been achieved: Now she communicates with Spanish people.

Thanks, Oscar. Your anecdote confirms that I made a good New Year’s resolution for language learning: to listen to more Spanish. Maitee on this board also said that she did this (watching tv). I have heard several people say this. I wonder if I would get the same benefits as quickly from just listening to the language. I’ve been listening daily for 4 months, and have seen improvements, but I can’t understand everything, nor am I fluent. Maybe I need to be more patient.

With all that said though, people forget that Romanian is a Romance Language, and it’s probably as close to Spanish as Italian is…

Chris , you decided to go to Poland to learn Polish, because you thought Polish was
a) a Romance language and similar to Spanish and Italian and easy to learn? or
b) a Germanic language and similar to English and easy to learn? or
c) similar to both and easy to learn or
d) you like cabbage rolls or
e) some other reason

I thought about the same thing as blindside did, so I tried to find out how similar Romanian is to Spanish. According to this page on HTLA…

…there is a 60% similarity between Romanian and Spanish vocabularies. (The similarity between French and Spanish is 80%; between Spanish and Italian also 80%). The grammar is also judged to be quite similar.

Based on what I know about French, I’d think that while Spanish should not be a difficult language for aRomanian speaker, it would not be a piece of cake either. It would require a fair amount of effort and time to achieve fluency.

Great news!

Romanian has changed more than any other Romance language and also imported a lot of Slavic vocabulary, which is not surprising. While it wouldn’t be a huge challenge for a Spanish speaker, it would certainly take more effort than Italian.

I’m not surprised by this. Yes, Spanish is closely related to Romanian, but, to me, the fact remains that she learned by watching subbed films/shows.

I have found the same thing for me over time. I have also found that watching films/shows that one is really familiar with helps even better. I have very familiar with the Bourne Series(Identity, Supremacy, Ultimatum), and I usually would watch them in Spanish with English sub. Now, I find it better for me to watch them in Spanish without the subtitles. I just keep a dictionary next to my bed in case I come across a word I don’t know. After a few months of doing this I find that my listening comprehension has increased significantly. I am able to understand about 75% of the film. Of course this number is higher depending on the scene.

I would suggest to anyone to pick out a few of their favorite films and start doing this. After watching the film many times over a course of a few months with subs, put it only in dubbed form.

My parents and some of my aunts and uncles came to Canada from Italy in the 1950s. Let me assure you that not one of them spent any time in any E.S.L. classes, yet they learned to speak English quite well. How? Well, at first, the local A.M. radio station provided plenty of authentic listening content. Later, in the early sixties, game shows such as “Password” and “Jeopardy” were a big help, too. Soap operas provided entertainment and instruction for my mother; whereas “Hockey Night in Canada” did the same for my father. Fifty years later, they freely switch back and forth from Italian to English every day. They have three daughters-in-law, none of whom speak Italian, yet they are close to all of them. Language is not an obstacle at all, but rather a uniftying component of our extended family. (Dominic Rossi)