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Learning the Language

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
One guy in my classes is from Taiwan...he's a nice guy, but I think he came straight here from Taiwan. So his English is very broken.

I do understand that English is not the national language, but the common language. In a way though I feel bad for this guy because he is really struggling with classes. I.e. our mid term for one class got postponed for 2 weeks. He asked me when it was again, and I had to repeat myself 2 or 3 times when the exam is.
I'm also in 2 groups with him, one group with 5 other people, the other its just him and I. The one with him and I, our topic was due a week and a half ago. But he keeps post poning his portion of the topic decision so that he can consentrate on mid-terms. While I can accept this, the teacher was pressuring us last class to decide a topic. I'm worried that our grade will be effected by all this.

I'm not sure if he's here on a study abroad progam or if he just decided to apply and go to school here. I personally think this guy has taken on too much for himself. He needs a lot of clarification on materials, dates, etc. I.e. the project that he and I are grouped together in I had to tell him about it. Thankfully our 3rd class together are individual projects, but even that class he needed to be informed of it.

My question more or less for you is, do you think its plausible to go into a country that you'll be staying in for a year or more without learning the language or knowing much of the language? Or would you take the time to learn the language?

I personally would attempt to learn the language at least 6-12 months before moving to a new country. It may not always be possible to take that amount of time, but still I would try...
post #2 of 22
I would learn the language. If I didn't know it by the time I got to a country, or know enough to understand what was going on I would atleast study the language DAILY, in attempt to learn more of it. But not everyone is like that. Lee hasn't learn much German at all, even with my sttempts to help him learn. He says he will learn when he gets there.
post #3 of 22
A lot of people say immersion is the best way to learn a language, but personally, it isn't for me. I took Spanish class for years and was near-fluent by the end of it, so when I went to Spain I did just fine. However, I went to France and Germany with very little knowledge of the languages, and instead of picking it up quickly while I was there, I felt overwhelmed.

Do you know if he is enrolled in any English courses?
post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LoveMyBabies View Post

Do you know if he is enrolled in any English courses?
Yes, he is enrolled in an ESL, but through a different school (ours does seem to offer it? I haven't found anything towards it, but we are private and small so maybe its not in the budget).
post #5 of 22
May I ask if you speak another language fluently, or how long you think that process takes? I'm not trying to be "smart", but I do wonder if you know what's involved. I teach ESL in Germany. Most of my students had 6 to 8 years of English in school, and none of them speak it perfectly. I myself had 8 years of German under my belt when I went/came to Germany as an exchange student, and believe me, I didn't understand everything, particularly when dealing with dialects, people who talked too fast or swallowed words, etc.. English and German are related languages. I can only imagine how difficult it is for somebody whose native language is in an entirely different language family, and whose system of writing is totally different. I have Russian and Arab students who need twice as much time to write a simple assignment just because they have to concentrate not only on expressing themselves in a foreign language, but also on putting it on paper in a fairly legible manner.
I've been speaking German at home for 26 years, and have lived in the country for half my life. Do I make grammar/spelling mistakes, or have to ask people to repeat themselves? You bet I do.
I can understand your frustration with being "teamed up" with this guy, particularly when it's just the two of you (talk to the teacher about your fears of it affecting your grades). The best place to learn a foreign language is in the country itself, IMO, but your classmate might be taking on too heavy an academic load at the moment.
post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
I do agree that if you're learning another language, the best place to learn it is in a country that speaks it.
Maybe Taiwan is like the U.S meaning perhaps he has had a couple of years of classes in English, but when you live too far from the country you can't visit it to practise the language. I.e. I can see how its easier (I'm not saying "easy" but easier) for someone in Europe to learn French or Spanish if they're German. They have the school trips and such where you can travel to that country.
In the U.S. it is more difficult to learn another language as we are so dependent on English. The closest foreign country is Canada for French, but even then you have to reach Quebec or Mexico to practise Spanish.

Hmm..I think he would've been better off taking one class to start, but if he is on a grant or study abroad he may not be able to do that. well he did tell me where he is taking ESL courses and the place is a very good place to take them at.
post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phenomsmom View Post
I would learn the language. If I didn't know it by the time I got to a country, or know enough to understand what was going on I would atleast study the language DAILY, in attempt to learn more of it. But not everyone is like that. Lee hasn't learn much German at all, even with my sttempts to help him learn. He says he will learn when he gets there.
LoL, if he is stationed at the army base he wont get to learn anything except thank you!


ANyway, sometimes people have no choice to learn the language and just have to move to a country, In other cases though, if you just moved to a country you shouldnt go to university or other high "thing" because how will you pass if you cant even speak the language?

I know if i went to finish off my highschool here i would have such low grades with my german, I mean don't get me wrong, i speak it well, just the grammar is horrible. and it wont budge
post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by fwan View Post
LoL, if he is stationed at the army base he wont get to learn anything except thank you!


I got him a kids learning thing that i used before Iwent the 2nd time. Lyric Learning with the kids from Family Circus singing songs about the beach and the zoo and the supermarket!! Thank Goodness he won't be at a military base! Funny thing is he tries to correct ME on words I KNOW I am saying right! Oh well!
post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by jcat View Post
May I ask if you speak another language fluently, or how long you think that process takes?
I can understand your frustration with being "teamed up" with this guy, particularly when it's just the two of you (talk to the teacher about your fears of it affecting your grades). The best place to learn a foreign language is in the country itself, IMO, but your classmate might be taking on too heavy an academic load at the moment.
Going to have to agree.

Even for someone you did a alot of study and then is faced with using that language every day is going to have issues. i made some friends from overseas, cause i took the time to deal with the issue here that you are talking about.. I would also talk to the teacher, but i doubt they will the care much. Then i always have been in places where i did not know, or just the basics of. I am sure he is having a very hard time also.

I deal with language barriers every day at work, with german , french, chinese, &thai,
all you can do is the best job you can,

take care and good luck
post #10 of 22
I think there could also be some amount of culture shock, for lack of a better phase. Consider this, you take classes in x language for years, but your teachers only have a textbook knowledge of the language thus you miss the nuances, slang, dialects, etc. Also, in classes teachers do slow things down (generally speaking) for the students so they can understand the language. You get good grades and can understand your teacher and other students and can "communicate" in the language. But then you go to the country where it is spoken by the native speakers. Suddenly, you're exposed to people speaking very fast, using incorrect grammar, words you've never heard (slang/dialect), and you find that you aren't well understood either. All that does is slam the confidence you once had in the language and you retreat into silence as much as possible. When you do speak, it is with great insecurities.

I faced that when I took an advanced Spanish class where the professor was a native Spanish speaker. And that was actually IN a class where we knew he was bilingual and we could ask for clarification. It was still very intimidating and it put all of that classroom knowledge that I had in a totally different light. Learning a language is difficult, and English doubly so since we break every "rule" that we have, and it is a conglomerate of many different languages.
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by valanhb View Post
I think there could also be some amount of culture shock, for lack of a better phase. Consider this, you take classes in x language for years, but your teachers only have a textbook knowledge of the language thus you miss the nuances, slang, dialects, etc. Also, in classes teachers do slow things down (generally speaking) for the students so they can understand the language. You get good grades and can understand your teacher and other students and can "communicate" in the language. But then you go to the country where it is spoken by the native speakers. Suddenly, you're exposed to people speaking very fast, using incorrect grammar, words you've never heard (slang/dialect), and you find that you aren't well understood either. All that does is slam the confidence you once had in the language and you retreat into silence as much as possible. When you do speak, it is with great insecurities.

I faced that when I took an advanced Spanish class where the professor was a native Spanish speaker. And that was actually IN a class where we knew he was bilingual and we could ask for clarification. It was still very intimidating and it put all of that classroom knowledge that I had in a totally different light. Learning a language is difficult, and English doubly so since we break every "rule" that we have, and it is a conglomerate of many different languages.

I completely agree with that! It really is different learning in school then going to a place where the people speak that language natively. I could understand parts of conversations and communicate what I needed but it was amazing how different it was!
post #12 of 22
I realize your college is small but do you have a foreign language dept where he could possibley get translation help??
post #13 of 22
My best friend just moved to Japan. She considered taking a class here, but in the end decided just to sign up for one when she got there. If the languages are so different, I would probably do the same.

I can understand your frustrations completely. I dislike group projects immensely anyway!
post #14 of 22
By the end of my ten years in Bosnia I spoke the language OK on an everyday basis, but made loads of mistakes and sometimes had great difficulty with local variants and accents. And I spent two of my years there teaching university students English. Some of them did badly through arrogance because they had come from schools where their teachers spoke/wrote English badly and they had never heard native speakers, yet got high marks and thought they knew it all. And some people are great linguists and some are just not, though they may be very bright at maths or computers or whatever. Your colleague obviously needs more help, and I would suggest that he tries to do more group work, as that exposes people to different kinds of speech and people also tend to speak more naturally. Can you talk to your teachers and explain that you are worried in case his problems affect your grades?
post #15 of 22
There's a Bulgarian girl in my school who had only been in England for about a month before term started and although her spelling was all over the place her speech was amazing considering she'd only been learning english for about 3months, and was able to teach me some Bulgarian! And a girl in my Maths and Further maths classes came to England from Iran about 3years ago and she's getting straight As!
In short I'd say, while I know how fustrating that must be i'd say give him a chance and you'll probably be amazed in a couple of months just how far he's progressed
post #16 of 22
Another thing to consider is how many accents there are within English alone. I speak excellent English; it's my first language, after all, and I studied it in university. My grandmother was a lovely British woman whose parents paid for her to have elocution lessons, and her "proper" English was what I heard most of my life ... but get her drunk, and she had the thickest Cockney accent you could ever hope to hear! When my nana was drunk, I didn't have the faintest clue what she was saying -- and we both speak the same language! I can't imagine coming to another country where I don't speak the language well and the accents vary as much as those of an English-speaking country. I mean, how many different accents can you think of, within English alone? Upper-class British, Cockney, Scottish, Irish, Southern US, East-Coast US, Newfie, Northern Ontarian, Montrealer, Aussie, South African -- and that's just a few within native speakers! Throw in the slang inherent to a locale as well as to specific generations, and you might as well be learning a whole variety of very different languages that all happen to fall under the basic heading of "English."
post #17 of 22
If he is in a study abraod program they should have made sure he had a good handle of english. But people can do great on writen language tests and not understand a word verbally. I know of forgien born Grad Assistants who would study their butts off to pass the english test and not be able to speak the language very well or at all.
post #18 of 22
Thread Starter 
Right...I do remember that from when I took languages in high school: You first learn to "read" the language, then "Write" and the last and harder step is to speak it.

Well the update is that we finally have a project idea that the teacher OK'd. We're about 2 weeks behind everyone else. He did explain to me that he hasn't gotten back to me because he was so busy studying for his mid terms.

I guess IMO, I would study the language for a time, I would live there for 6 months, get a good idea of the language, accents, etc, then go back later to do a study abroad program. I know doing this wouldn't make me perfect in the language, but I would feel a little more comfortable attending class.
post #19 of 22
I'm malay and have been bi-lingual since birth (Malay and English). Picking up languages hasn't been much of a problem for me since I speak/read a few anyways...but, I would still take lessons prior to going to a foriegn country if I were to be there for a while...it just makes sense!
post #20 of 22
My parents are foreign, and they came to this country with some genral english skills under their belt. They took years of ESL classes and also spent years working , my dad in engineering and now business administration, and my mother in shops and boutiques. They've been in the US for 33 years. They still have me review correspondences and set up reservations/meetings because there are a few things that they have trouble with.
It's very frustrating for them to have people act like they don't understand what it is that they are saying when they are trying hard to understand and be understood. My dad has less of a problem with this, because he's immersed in a business environment every day, but you can bet he still has me proofread and correct him when he's written annual reports or employee reviews.
If someone speaks very quickly they have to have people repeat themselves. Also, we live in the south, which means that they have to deal with southern accents which, beleive me, can vary by neighborhood, not just state.
While I sympathize (VERY MUCH) with your concerns, I think that we as Americans tend to be a little inflexible when it comes to understanding about having to learn the language. It's worse when you're talking about someone from a country that uses a different letter and number system because, really they have to learn to rad a completely different language in addition to learning to speak and understand it. erhaps he should have waited to take the language heavy courses and used the extra time to get a job that he could learn the language better at, but these days if you don't already speak very good english, you won't be hired at a department store or grocery store- unless it's run by people of your own nationality, at which point it sort of defeats the purpose.
It is a big issue, but I don't know if there's a solution. Granted, In respects to languages, I had my basic german (equivalent to a 3-5 year old) in about a month, but that's probably because I heard it quite a bit (and learned it when I was small)...So perhaps I'm a quick learner, but it is scary being someplace where the language isn't quick on your tongue, and the more frustrated you are, the harder it is to speak it.
post #21 of 22
One of my good friends was born and raised in Puerto Rico before moving to Wisconsin about 40 years ago. Many people struggle with her accent and I must say she has created alot of new english words. When her mom and sister come to visit-her mom doesn't speak much english and they just rattle away in spanish. I think you just have to be patient with him and treat this as a learning experience.
post #22 of 22
He should not be in your classes if his English is that bad. At my university international students whos first language was not English had to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and if they scored badly they could still be admitted but had to take a one year foundation English course. Otherwise why waste their time (and money International students pay a lot more) ruin their GPA by failing?
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