Mrs Kaufmann's learning style

I could be mistaken, but I thought the lovely lady was born in Hong Kong…

I think a whole bunch of us are curious about her, but I always assumed she would have made videos by now if she had wanted to share something. Still, it would be interesting…

I agree with Julz. ^^

I agree with Paule.

I discussed this my wife, and would summarize things as follows.

My wife’s native language is Cantonese. She’s speaks English essentially at a native level, and writes better than most natives. She grew up in Macau and Hong Kong and went to school in English. Her Costa Rican mother spoke Spanish to her sometimes, and she has heard Spanish during our visits to Spain and Mexico. She heard a bit of Portuguese in Macau, and more during our several visits to Portugal.

She learned Mandarin by spending time with my/our Mandarin speaking friends as well as watching Mandarin movies and television programs. Mandarin is essentially the same language as Cantonese, just pronounced differently.

While in Japan she took a month of Japanese language training, but mostly learned while doing her shopping in our neighbourhood, and during social interaction with Japanese people during our stay in Japan.

We lived in Ottawa for a year, where she studied at l’Alliance Française for six months. She did no homework but listened to the teacher in class once a week, she tells me. Mostly she learned from interacting with our French friends and during visits to France.

Other than English and Cantonese, she speaks better then she understands. She has excellent pronunciation and is not afraid to speak.

Her levels in different languages would be as follows (roughly).

English and Cantonese C2.
Mandarin B2
Japanese and French B1
Spanish A2
Portuguese A1


The hell with languages… I want to hear her play more piano


I definetly agree with you that speaking a second language helps in learning a third, but I do think it depends on the kind of bilingualism. My mother is bilingual in the sense that she has two native languages, but she is completely lost in learning Spanish, despite it being really close to one of her native languages (French). I go to school with a lot of English/Spanish bilingual Latino Americans, and they seem to have just as much trouble as anyone else in foreign language classes.

I have learned French to a decent level of fluency, and now Spanish and Italian seem so easy to me, and just starting German I see that it won’t be that bad after I get past the initial couple of months. I think the only reason I think this way is because my second language was intentionally learned.

@ spfinegan

" Alot of my friends that speak spanish/english had a much easier time learining Italian or whatever language when we went to those countries."

I guess one of the reasons for that is the similarities between Spanish and Italian. For one, they have very similar vocabularies.

@ djvlbass

Great that you’re learning German. I think it is a little more difficult than French since there is a little less vocabulary in common with English, but I think they are basically comparable in difficulty. I don’t have much experience with French though.

“Alot of my friends that speak spanish/english had a much easier time learining Italian or whatever language when we went to those countries.”

Are you sure that they ‘learned’ the language? They probably were just speaking Spanish with some Italianisms (is this even a word!?). An Italian should not have too much of a problem understanding Spanish spoken slowly, and a hispanophone should be able to do the same with Italian. I myself have participated in conversations between French speakers and Italian speakers speaking their native tongues and understanding one another without too much difficulty.

Thanks for the welcome into the German club :slight_smile: After just a few days of looking through learning materials, I’d guess German is a bit harder, but then again I don’t really remember what French was like when I first started learning it. What is most fascinating for me in looking at German is seeing the germanic side of English. In French the word similarties with English are much more obvious, but with German I have to look at a word a couple times before I see the relation. An example is the word ‘Abend.’ At first I had no idea what it meant, then I read it a couple times and now I can’t look at it without seeing the word ‘evening’. I had the same experience with ‘tochter’ and ‘schande’.


I´m a german native speaker who learns English and French so yeah, maybe I can say one or two interesting things about this topic^^

It seems that most basic English vocabulary is somewhat similar to German…

House/Haus, garden/Garten, run!/renn!, luck/Glück, man/Mann, ear/Ohr, shoulder/Schulter, hand/Hand, hair/Haar, we/wir, you/du (well, there´s also “Sie” in German), can/kann, welcome/willkommen, she/sie, world/Welt…okay, that´s enough^^

There are also a lot of greek and latin words that are somewhat universal (die Philosophie, die Physik, der Doktor, biologisch, dementieren…) and words that German has taken from French (die Tasse, á propos, das Prestige, die Armee, engagieren, abonnieren, revanchieren, arrangieren, garantieren, recherchieren, Garage, Parfüm, Kostüm) and many more…

If you can speak English and French, you already know a lot German vobulary :wink:


Yeah…there are a lot of “unobvious” similarities. English is a germanic language, after all^^

I started German by going to a school and studying grammar endlessly, so obviously it seemed a lot harder than French did when I first looked at some French.

There are some things that I think make German grammar difficult to learn. First and foremost for me are the verbs with prefixes. These are really difficult to learn in my experience, and I would say are the most difficult part of the language. There are a finite number of prefixes that get attached to the beginnings of verbs (and often wonder off when you are not looking, only to be found again at the end of the sentence 15 minutes later). These prefixes often change meaning of the verb completely. You may think you know what ‘haben’ means, but then somebody uses ‘vorhaben’ and you are completely lost. Here are a few examples

haben - to have
vorhaben - to intend
sagen - to say
absagen - to cancel
fangen - to catch
abfangen - to intercept
anfangen - to begin

On the other hand, there are things that are easy about German, such as the spelling system, which is almost always logical. It is easy to know in general which words are verbs and nouns, especially when reading, and the grammatical structure is very logical, though with many unnecessary complications.

What exactly do you mean by “unnecessary complications”?

Mostly I had adjective declension in mind, but also the complex system of articles comes to mind. Let’s not forget how the case changes after a preposition is determined. People often complain about word order, but I find it to be quite easy after a little experience.

Well, they add variety and clarity to the language. They are unnecessary (English proves that^^) but they´re at least not useless. ^^

Let´s not forget, that the article sometimes changes the meaning of the word. “Der Kiefer” means "jaw, “Die Kiefer” means “pine” or “pine tree”. Slang words like “meine Alte” (my mom, my wife) or “Mein Alter” (my dad) would either have to disappear or they´d have to be changed…or you´d just add more words (like English does)…“my old man” for example.

If you´d get rid of adjective declension, you would probably say “alt” instead of “alte, altes, alter” (and yes, it would be easier) but keep in mind that “altes Bier” and “Altbier” are not the same thing.

So yeah, we don´t use complicated grammar because we want to scare foreigners, we use it because it is useful. :wink:

German is certainly a more exact language than English. I am not convinced that this extra accuracy is in fact useful. For example, if you just had der Kiefer to mean jaw and pine tree, it would not lead to any confusion since the context should make it clear which one you mean. In some cases there could be confusion, but this is generally cleared up really quickly (e.g. when describing food as ‘hot’ in English, it is often not clear if you are talking about it being spicy or at a high temperature, but this confusion usually lasts for less than a few seconds).

PS: I had to edit my previous post…it seems like I can´t write in English while thinking about German xD

Well Paule… I think you did a fantastic job of proving Colin’s point. German could be a very clear language… but it’s not.

Die See… Der See? Why? Just why?

Articles change based on case? Again… why?

Or what about adjective endings than change on whether a definite or an indefinite article is used
Ein guter Mann
but it’s
Der gute Mann

Again… why? Clearly the answer is “because it just is” The language wasn’t designed. It organically evolved.

I think if you took German and stripped out the craziness you would have a very clear and very logical language. We have Swiss German here in Switzerland… maybe someday we’ll have Logical German.

@Colin @spatterson

C’mon, let’s be honest - it wouldn’t be nearly so much fun using German if all of those pesky complications weren’t there! :slight_smile:

@spatterson: “…I think if you took German and stripped out the craziness you would have a very clear and very logical language…”

No, if you did that you would have a different language - one which would look a lot like Afrikaans!


Are you using the words “useful” and “necessary” synominously?
What I mean by “unnecessary but not useless” is that it´d be possible to understand “the Kiefer”(^^) despite its ambiguity (which makes it unnecessary) but it´s nice to make a distinction by using different articles, instead of hoping that the context makes things clearer (which makes it useful). IMHO, complicated grammar is hard to learn, but also nice to have. ^^

Do you know what I mean?

@ Paule

“Are you using the words “useful” and “necessary” synominously?”

No. I think we mean the same things when we use these terms.

I know what you mean, but I suspect that the language would work just as well without the extra complications. But to be honest, I don’t really know.

Sure it would work, Colin. Check out the ultra-simplified germanic grammar of Afrikaans - that works very well.

But it wouldn’t be the same German language that we love and hate in equal measure! :slight_smile: