Learning a Foreign Language Easily and Quickly – My Personal Experience

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I came to an idea to write a hub about this after answering a question here on HP. A fellow Hubber asked the following question: What is the best, fastest and most effective way to learn a new language? Naturally, I gave my opinion on the subject, and then got to thinking how easily and quickly I learned my “first” second language.

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Cartoon Network and the Start of My Journey through the Land of the English Language

I discovered a TV channel that was all about cartoons, and I was delighted to be able to watch cartoons all day long. These cartoons included the ones without any talking, such and Tom and Jerry, but they also included more serious cartoons such as Jonny Quest, and the ones that were funny only if you could understand what the characters were saying, like Scooby-Doo and Johnny Bravo. So, there was nothing else to do but spend my time watching these cartoons, and trying to figure out when to laugh. After a while, I got pretty good at this and discovered some patterns, i.e. sentences and words that would be repeated by characters in almost every episode of these great cartoons. These probably included things like “What?”, “Okay!”, “Lets’ go!”, and similar words or short sentences.

I Became an “Advanced” English Listener and Understander

After a few months of my sitting/lying/sleeping in front of the TV, I began to laugh and smile at those loveable cartoon characters more and more often. I couldn’t yet understand everything they were saying, but I actually understood most of the things. So, I started to really enjoy watching Cartoon Network. I enjoyed it so much that I stopped watching the cartoons that our TV stations aired on weekends and in the evenings, as Cartoon Network offered a variety of cartons which I could finally watch and understand.

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Listening to Music in English

Aside from cartoons, I also started listening to music at a very early age. I was always surrounded by records, tapes and CD’s. When my parents bought our first CD player, I began listening to the stuff my dad used to buy, and these were CD’s by bands like The Beatles, for example. I used to listen to these CD’s literally every day, and every night I would fall asleep with the sounds of these great bands, as there was a CD player in my room at the time, as well.

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The Point of This Hub – English, French and Italian

Finally, we have come to the point I was trying to make here. I learned English easily and quickly, and I have been learning the language for the past 17 years. However, when I went to high school, I started learning French and Latin. Latin is a different story, as it is not a “live” language. However, French is a language much like any other, no different than English to native speakers of Serbian. However, learning French proved to be nothing like learning English. It required a lot of studying, a lot of bad grades, a lot of time and effort. I did learn the language in the end, but not nearly as well as I learned English. If I went to Paris, I would probably be able to communicate to someone at a basic level, but I could never write a grammatically correct sentence or two in French, without the help of dictionaries and grammar books. The same is with Italian which I learned during my college days, although it was easier than learning French, in the sense that they are both Romance languages, and I already had a good background from learning French.

Subconsciously Learning a New Language

So, we come to the part where I realized that I had learned English without even knowing it. As I said at the beginning of this hub, I started watching cartoons in English when I was in the second grade. In the third grade, we started learning English at school. Surprisingly, I understood everything my English teacher was saying during our first class, and it turned out that I knew so many things over the first couple of months of these classes that she wouldn’t believe me when I said I had never learned English before. Apparently, I was lying to her, as I had been learning the language for almost a year.

So, What Foreign Languages Do I Know Today?

If someone were to ask me this question in all seriousness, I would answer that I speak English, and that’s it. No French, no Italian. I would love to have learned these two languages in the same way that I learned English, but it just wasn’t the same. I didn’t see many movies in French or Italian, I never listened to their music, and I never surrounded myself with these two languages. Even today, I am surrounded by English, and not by any other foreign language.

How Many Foreign Languages Do You Know?

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The Best Way to Learn a Foreign Language

I think that the best thing you can do in order to learn a foreign language is to surround yourself with the language you want to learn. Listen to it all day long, watch movies, learn about the country and the native people, and study their culture… Do everything you can to let the language enter your mind on a subconscious level, and you will be able to learn the language more easily and much more quickly. However, this is only my experience and my opinion, and this is not something that is guaranteed to help you; although it did wonders for me. Anyway, good luck, and I hope you will decide to learn another language!

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Comments 29 comments

calpol25 profile image

calpol25 4 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (At Home With My Wonderful Partner)

Hi Brilliant hub, I have voted it up and found it useful and interesting. :)

I actually speak 7 languages French,German,English,Swedish,Dutch, Scots Gaelic and of course my mother tongue which is Cumbrian.

Cumbrian is a kind of Gaelic that is spoken in the northern region of Cumbria and shares a few similarities with Norwegian and German. We do speak English a lot up here now, but there are a few of us that speak the Old Cumbrian, although many of us fear that it will die out.

We are fighting to keep it :)


nemanjaboskov profile image

nemanjaboskov 4 years ago from Serbia Author

Hi, Callum! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate it!

Wow, I'm amazed that you speak so many languages, that's always fascinating to hear.

I know what you mean about a language dying out, and I'm glad there are some of you who actually care enough to try to do something about it. Something similar is going on with Serbian, as more and more people are choosing to use the Latin script instead of our own Cyrillic... Also, the wide use of Internet and English is overwhelming, and it has a considerable effect on Serbian words being completely replaced with their English equivalents. I'm all for learning foreign languages, but I'm also for keeping our own alive and kicking :)


lisadpreston profile image

lisadpreston 4 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

I am embarrassed to say that when my 2 grandkids were 2 and 3 they were speaking Spanish and Chinese. I then learned that it was because of 2 cartoons that they watched. I started watching with them. Dora the Explorer! Isn't that sad? What is even more sad is that I can't remember anything I learned.


nemanjaboskov profile image

nemanjaboskov 4 years ago from Serbia Author

Yes, there is probably something about children and learning languages. I remember a theory that a child can learn a lot of languages simultaneously at a very young age, and later speak all of these languages as if they were all their native language.

I have some friends who have learned more languages as children, and now speak all of them perfectly, without even realizing that they actually had learned several, while the others learned only one, their native, language.


christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 4 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

I am always intending learning another language, but so far,I have done little about it. You certainly did a great job of studying English, and put many of us to shame.


nemanjaboskov profile image

nemanjaboskov 4 years ago from Serbia Author

Chris, thanks for the wonderful comment!

You have a chance to start learning a bit of Serbian with me :)

Your comment about putting a lot of you to shame would be true if I had managed to learn French or Italian like I had learned English. English was pretty much natural to learn, as it happened without me even noticing :)


wwolfs 4 years ago

You did a great job learning English. You have many good ideas listed for others that want or need to learn another language. It's been awhile but I finally got back to reading some of your other hubs. Good job. I found the hubs on freelance writers to be interesting. I didn't see a spot for your fan mail or I would have written there.


nemanjaboskov profile image

nemanjaboskov 4 years ago from Serbia Author

Thank you very much for finding the time to read and comment, wwolfs :)

I'm glad you found the freelance hubs interesting, and I am glad to have received such nice words from a great writer such as yourself.


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

Hi, Nemanja. You have not only managed another language, but another language in orthography. You can obviously read both Latin lettering and Cyrillic script. I find it very difficult to understand another language unless I can picture the words in my mind's eye.

When I was about eight to ten years of age, I could speak Barohi (or Baluch) which I had learned from my Baluch Ayah when I was a little boy. I have a Baluch speaking friend who says that the little I can remember from that time is most probably Barohi.

My mother was Welsh and I spoke (and read in Welsh). In fact, at an all Welsh speaking school in a Welsh speaking village, I was top of the class in that language.

I spoke Urdu and Hindi, which are very similar, and Marathi, which I learned from our servants when I was living in Maharashtra Province in India. My father was teaching me to read Hindi, but no attempt was made to teach me Arabic, so I couldn’t read Urdu.

At school in Australia I studied German for three years and managed to converse in it when I was on many holidays in Italy, as my hostess only spoke French, Italian and German,

I studied French also at school, but just enough to book rooms in hotels and order meals in Paris, Lyon, Cap d’Antibes, Cannes and Golf Juan.

I have loved opera for years and as a result, picked up Italian, but the Italian I would tend to use was very dramatic and dealt with phrases like “Only death can part us now” and “I die, I bleed, I will never see my lover, my mother or my homeland again… God has cursed me, Alas”

Not too useful when one wants to order a kilo of tomatoes at a vegetable stall in Italy.

I am afraid that I only speak English now, and as I have been going on and on in that language for the whole of this comment, I will stop now.

Ha ha!

Ian


nemanjaboskov profile image

nemanjaboskov 4 years ago from Serbia Author

Again, thank you, Ian, for finding the time to read and leave such an insightful comment. I am really amazed at the number of languages you have spoken through the years, and it is a damn shame you lost touch with most or all of them - except for English, of course.

I can relate to your knowledge of Italian, as I speak French in that way. I could probably find my way through Paris and order a thing or two in restaurants or at vegetable stalls, but that's probably where my French would be used up. On the other hand, my understanding of Italian and French is much better than my ability to speak. I have managed to piss off many with my carefully timed phrases such as "Mon Dieu!"


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

Strangely enough, I remember, I could also understand Piedmontese, which is a local language spoken in Piedmont. Tuscan being the language in which Dante Aligiere wrote 'La Divina Commedia' and which is now the official state language of Italy. I heard so many of my friends speaking it when I was on holiday there, and I either understood it or (as I said in a comment on an earlier hub of your) I am a trifle psychic... I still prefer that to being psychotic.

I couldn't speak a word of it, but I understood what they were talking about.

My goodness, don't I talk (write) a load of crap?


nemanjaboskov profile image

nemanjaboskov 4 years ago from Serbia Author

Ian, this can be everything but crap, my friend! As you can see, this is a private party, as no one else is reading my crap - so there's no need to worry about talking too much. Since we are the only ones here, we can do whatever we want :)


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

Ha ha!

"It's my party and I'll cry if ii want to"

Tra la la!

Nemanja, no one is reading my stuff, right now except for you and a very small number of others.

I am still reading the Hemingway you introduced me to and I love the way he weaves the story David is writing into the drama that is going on between him and the two girls. I was unsure about the novel at first, but am now absolutely hooked.

Thank you for the recommendation.


nemanjaboskov profile image

nemanjaboskov 4 years ago from Serbia Author

Ian, I can say the same about my stuff... I have one hub that is getting hits from Google, and all the other are plummeting... However, I really do not care about this. I write for fun and I am not trying to make any money here on HP. As a matter of fact, I cannot even consider making any money from HP, as they only deal with PayPal, and I cannot open a PayPal account here in Serbia :)

So, to Hell with having Google hits and trying hard with my hubs! I write them for fun, and it has been fun up until now. Meeting interesting people and reading was just an added benefit at first, but it seems to be becoming a priority now.

Anyway, here I go again, babbling on... I am glad you are liking the novel, as I liked it very much. When I read "The Old Man and the Sea" for the first time, which was in primary school, I pretty much hated it. I thought I would never read anything written by Hemingway, but that's being a kid for you, right?

Thanks for your support and all the wonderful words, Ian!


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

This is a great hub! You are absolutely correct! The quickest way to learn a language is being immersed in it at a young age. I know Chinese Mandarin, Thai, and Taiwanese to various degrees. The language which I assimilated the quickest was Taiwanese, and I never went to school to learn it. I had already learned Chinese Mandarin, and picked up Taiwanese after I married a native Taiwanese and we lived and raised 2 kids in Taiwan. The subconscious learning of a language through constant immersion can't be overstated. After all, isn't that how we learned our first language with years of only listening before we started speaking.


nemanjaboskov profile image

nemanjaboskov 4 years ago from Serbia Author

Paul, thanks for reading and leaving such a great comment! Yes, you are completely right when you say that we should learn all new languages in the same way we learned our first language - that is an excellent point!


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

Thanks for the comment nemanjaboskov. I am sharing this with my followers.


nemanjaboskov profile image

nemanjaboskov 4 years ago from Serbia Author

Thank you, Paul, I appreciate the gesture :)


Ana Gajic 4 years ago

I am glad you've shared your personal experience about how you learned English, as you have described some pretty useful methods on how this is done:) I think that no matter what language you're trying to learn, it is always important to learn it in a fun way. Watching cartoons and listening to music are surely two of the most fun ways to learn a language. Also, they say that people should learn any foreign language in their earliest years, if they want to be successful. I don't know about that... I've started learning Italian pretty late, and I can pretty much tell you my name, count to twenty and maybe say this was a wonderful hub - in Italian of course:):):)

I learned German, Russian, Polish, English and Italian:) However, I wouldn't dare talking to someone from Germany or Poland, as I would probably make a fool of myself:)

Once again, you've written a very informative, yet interesting and fun hub:) I am pressing all the buttons:)And adding a new button - flawless!


Ana Gajic 4 years ago

You asked for it, hombre! :):):)

Here it goes: ?? ????? ??????, ??? ??? ?? ??????? ???? ???????:)bardzo interesuj?ce :) German, German, blank, blank, blank:)

Okay ragazzo?


nemanjaboskov profile image

nemanjaboskov 4 years ago from Serbia Author

Wow, now that's a comment :) Great, I loved it!


Tanja Wanderlust 3 years ago

9 languages I guess.. not counting latin and old norse which are dead languages you don't really "speak" actually


nemanjaboskov profile image

nemanjaboskov 3 years ago from Serbia Author

Tanka, that is impressive! You should count both Latin and Old Norse, as even though they are not spoken languages, they are very hard to learn. I know because I studied Latin for four years :)


Gvkishore profile image

Gvkishore 3 years ago from Nellore

Excellent hub i Voted up and useful too


nemanjaboskov profile image

nemanjaboskov 3 years ago from Serbia Author

Kishore, thanks for reading and voting!


Spongy0llama profile image

Spongy0llama 3 years ago from Canada

I think you are very correct. This method of language learning is the most natural as it is the same way we learn our native language, through listening! Voting up and sharing, thanks again!!


Danii 3 years ago

I speak english,dutch,and german fluently. next to that i speak broken spanish and can actually read french and italian quite well.


nemanjaboskov profile image

nemanjaboskov 3 years ago from Serbia Author

Thank you very much for your comment, Danii :D I think you can be proud of yourself for speaking that many languages!


Laurent 2 years ago

But what is your easiest way to learn Serbian language ? Cartoon network isn't yet in Serbian. ;-)

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