General Question

Zen_Again's avatar

If you had to learn English as a second language, how did you do it?

Asked by Zen_Again (9878 points ) February 20th, 2010

What was the process? At what age? What are some do’s and don’ts? Any tips?

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16 Answers

CyanoticWasp's avatar

More to the point, can you help some of us learn it as a first language? We obviously need some help.

deepdivercwa55m's avatar

I am from cyprus (greek) and english is my second language. I starded english lessons when i was seven it took me 8 years to take my igcse ( B and 2). My tip is try to speak sometimes english when alone. And dont be shy to use the language in front of others.

gggritso's avatar

Immersion is how I did it. I moved to Canada when I was 11, having a few years of English classes in my head. Once in an English-speaking environment, if you’re willing to, you’re going to learn quickly. It took about a year for me to feel relatively comfortable, a few more to feel like I have no problems communicating. After about 4–5 years I did very well in high school English. It’s been almost 9 years now, and I’m starting to feel like I have a good grasp of the language overall.

nisse's avatar

Picked up English approximately between ages 10–13. Mostly by being exposed to American culture in all aspects of life, as well as probably a small bit of it from school.

TV: Air wolf, The A-team, Fresh Prince in Bel Air etc. Internet & computers. Online chatting. Getting into basketball etc..

So i would say immerse yourself as much as possible into everything you can find in/about that language. It helps if you are interested in the culture and think you are getting something out of it, except only understanding of the language (for example enjoyment, like those sit-coms i mentioned).

mcbealer's avatar

I learned English through the ESOL program at school, so it wasn’t a conscious decision. In fact, since my entire environment at home was free of English, I remember sitting back in ESOL class and thinking it was optional. Yes, even though I was only 5, I was already very opinionated!

It wasn’t until several years later that I became more confident speaking English, around the second grade. My teacher figured out that I still couldn’t understand most of what was going on, and I was placed in an intense ESOL workshop. Every afternoon while the rest of the students had independent quiet reading time, the ESOL group would meet. I remember sitting at a round table and practicing phoenics over and over again. I’m sure there were other elements as well, however that is what I recall most vividly.

By the time I reached the third grade one year later I was reading at a 6th grade reading level, and from then on became an avid reader. I spent a lot of time reading when I was a kid, and made it a habit to look up every single word I ever came across that I didn’t know the meaning of. Some would think this behaviour to be a bit OCD, however it helped me build a tremendous vocabulary and made it very easy to excel in reading comprehension/vocabulary standardized tests throughout school.

antimatter's avatar

I learned English from Sesame Street, it sounds crazy but that’s how I learned English. Than I started reading books, got an English girlfriend, after that I watched Star Trek, Supernatural, Sponge Bob, CNN, Ugly Betty, ext. Social networking, Internet and computers. And let’s not forget fluhter!

Jeruba's avatar

Interesting answers! Could you also mention what your first language is? Some leaps are greater than others.

Symbeline's avatar

I learned it initially by moving to a completely English place and not knowing a word. If I wanted to properly communicate with people around me, I had no choice but to gradually learn. I was able to understand English completely in less than a year, but it was a while before I could speak and write it properly.

When I was in school, there were times set up for me to get together with a teacher and she would teach me English one on one. She was pretty cool and patient.
But what really helped for grammar and spelling wasn’t school, it was role playing games like Final Fantasy, as well as plenty of reading.

gggritso's avatar

I’m Russian. I should also mention that I was placed in ESL classes. A few times a week instead of attending my regular class I went there and for 50 minutes learned English in a small group. I almost immediately felt that it was getting in my way more than anything and was “released” early because I felt confident.

Zen_Again's avatar

Thanks people. Keep em coming.

mattbrowne's avatar

I earned my M.S. degree in the United States. Best way to learn English is to move to an English-speaking country.

Otherwise I recommend reading hundreds of English books, watching English satellite channels and watching DVDs in English (English subtitles switched on as well). Here’s a more recent inexpensive way to practice spoken English:

http://www.tutorvista.com

with unlimited tutoring for $99 per month using Skype. I know people in Germany who were using this and their English has improved.

Love_or_Like's avatar

My parents are Mexicans but I was born In Usa. I learn English at school. It was very hard from me because I couldn’t understand anything they were saying to me. But I had some great teachers that helped me all lot. They still are some teacher that helps me in college with my English. But I had to learn two languages at the same time. It was hard for me because at home I only could speak Spanish because my parents didn’t know all lot of English. And English at school. English is very hard because of the sounds of the words. Some tips are learning all the sounds of the letters. And you will get there. There are some words that are very hard to sound out but try the best. My teacher all the time told me to sound words out.

shalom's avatar

Shouldn’t the question be “If you had to learn English as a Second Language, how would you do it?”

I am so pissed at being moderated and having my comment on another thread removed about a month ago just because I chose to not use formal punctuation on – c’mon – the Internet! I was told my language is not up to standard. But a question like this with a blatant grammatical mistake that affects context and understanding doesn’t get moderated?

Sorry, this is not the correct thread but since we’re on the topic of language learning and moderators setting me up against some ridiculous elitist standard…....

shalom's avatar

Research has never been able to isolate the factors for optimum language learners. Chomsky highlighted a region of our brain called the LAD (Language Acquisition Device) which postulates that the learning of L2 takes the same trajectory as L1. e.g. if you are poor in L1 you will be poor in L2 as the cognitive processes acquired in L1 is transferable to L2.

From my years of research and classroom observation of hundreds of students and tracking their progress over at least a 7-year learning curve I have been able to isolate sets of factors that work with certain profiles of learners.

To really answer your question and to fast-track you in the world of ESL I would really have to write a 10,000 or more word thesis because I do not want to simplify the context of the synthesis of factors and influences of English L2 speakers of various ages.

Let me just suggest some of my favorite authors on language learning. The sea of opinions on ESL is vast so I’m suggesting from what has been most helpful to me in my former career.

- Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought
– Noam Chomsky (narrow it down to Language Acquisition Device)
– Stephen Krashen and Input Hypothesis.

shalom's avatar

If you want a fulfilling career in ESL you should be willing to delve into the world of psychology, linguistics, self-directed learning, classroom management, etc. Being a really good ESL teacher requires you to have an exceptional repertoire of skills as well as knowledge across a few domains in order to be able to see patterns, synthesize information and then apply them in the classroom dynamics you will be faced with. Your learners are going to change – from semester to semester and from class to class. No amount of pre-made teaching material is ever going to help you help your learners.

It is only through a very deep understanding of Learner (motivations, barriers, etc) Material (the parts and whole of English as a language) and Context (communicative, higher learning, cultural immersion, migration, exam and testing, business, etc) that you can draw your knowledge of other domains into solving the problem of bringing a non-native speaker of English to Functionality / Proficiency or whatever goal you had set out for them to achieve. On top of a very disciplined and methodical commitment of taking a laboratory approach to everyday classroom teaching you will also have to hone a highly perceptive Intuition to make sense of what is going on.

Everyone can become a successful English language learner – if you can speak your MT you can succeed at an L2 and L3. The caveat is that both internal (learner) and external conditions create obstacles to successful language learning.

Tip : If you can dissolve the barriers and obstacles – you will be able to develop successful proficient speakers/writers. If you can have perfect autonomy in your teaching, as I did, then your success rate in producing proficient speakers will sky-rocket.

zensky's avatar

How did you means how did you do it in the past – how would you implies they haven’t done it yet – and I don’t need speculation – I am looking for results and experience. @shalom

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