Learning & Speaking a Second Language : some tips, thoughts and advices

  1. I don't know if this is gonna concern a lot of people here, but if you're in high school, college, or maybe want to learn more about a language some distant family speaks, here's some things I've learned.
  2. Until about 2 weeks ago I wouldn't have called myself bilingual. For me the rule was simple: if you don't speak equally both languages you're not. My two best friends are bilingual and since high school I've compared myself to them and I knew I wasn't as good as them.
  3. But I graduated high school 10 years ago, and kept improving my English since then. And finally few weeks ago @jessicaz sent me an essay on bilingualism (I still have to finish it) but she told me about an important new concept : I'm bilingual but with a dominant language.
    Obviously I did all the jokes I could do regarding being French Dom and English sub.
  4. It's still weird for me to call myself bilingual. Not because some modesty issues but cause well I guess it's a form of imposter syndrome ? I still have an accent, I still make grammatical mistakes... But well I've been told in French in France that I have an accent (?) and I make grammatical mistake in French too (!)
    French grammar is the worst
  5. But I had to tell myself some facts like : you've worked in English, you went to NYC and Chicago to do IMPROV IN ENGLISH, you write and talk to English speaking people everyday day on whatsapp..
    I also mostly only tweet in English now but it's because that's just a very petty way to have more likes than when I don't, thanks listers for all the likes that fulfill an emptiness in my soul.
  6. So that intro was longer than I expected but I think I needed to get where I'm coming from now. I don't know if those will be good advices, are they even advices ? Maybe it's just tips and thoughts on that long journey that is learning a new language.
  7. So here are my wisdoms :
    Yeah let's say wisdoms that even less modest so it's perfect !
  8. 1- Hang in there it's gonna be ok
    Learning a new language is a long journey. Actually it never ends. At least if you don't want it too. Personally I still ask tons of questions, learn new words, or expressions. You'll get to learn more and more precise things; modern issues; slangs!
  9. 2- Dare to ask about something you didn't understand
    Well I just said it but again: it's ok to ask. Learning is always the best answer. Make sure you understood a word is important for many reasons, mostly to be sure you're understanding the conversation you're having RN but also to be able to reuse it later. So it can be one single word. It can be an entire English rule you have a doubt about. And more importantly, in speaking conversation it can be a word you know but misunderstood, I've ask hundred people to repeat and never got slap for asking
  10. 3- You'll feel humiliated/discouraged
    Once you've learned the basics and have to use your new language for the first time it's very challenging. And yes sometimes you will have very strange encounters. Something happened to both my cousin and I when we went to the US (stories being about 10 years apart!) : we ordered an hot chocolate and got a Diet Coke. (I'll let you process that wtf moment). The thing is, this happened to me when I was a teen and was still officially learning English but it happened to her in her twenties
  11. 3- cont
    So we reacted differently. I was with my parents who encouraged me to talk again but she was with her boyfriend and friends and felt bad and just stopped speaking English for the rest of her stay, hiding behind her boyfriend who speaks better English than her. Which brings me to :
  12. 4- don't hide behind people speaking better than you
    I had complex with my two best friends and for a while I would let them speak but then I realized there's nothing they're saying I couldn't say. And one day you end up being the one someone (my cousin) hide behind.
  13. 5- Find an extra motivation to learn it and go behind the basics
    Now I was talking about humiliation... like every great story my motivation (to learn English) comes from humiliation and seek of revenge. I think @k8mcgarry and @jessicaz both wanted me to tell this story once and since they both forgot to request it it may be time I say my real story about : WHY I WANTED/NEEDED TO LEARN ENGLISH
  14. ~ Interlude : the story of why I needed to learn English ~
    I visited my Californian American family for the first time at 12. So after my first year of learning English at school. Basically I could understood basic words but was in no way able to speak. One night we had this big diner party with all the cousins (btw after war Jewish diaspora generation none of them speak French). I was at the end of the table, with on my left my 14 yo cousin Mike And on my right his best friend. And then during an entire diner I would get that they were making fun of me
  15. ~ cont ~
    I remember it perfectly, I didn't get everything but it went from the way I hold my fork (sorry for being classy, asshole) to how I'm stupid for not understanding. Now I'm laughing about it but for a 12 yo girl it was very humiliating. I realized years later that this was my "ooh I really need to speak English" declic.Cause I knew that my goal was being able to make fun of Mike the next time I'll be in the US. And FYI 2 years later I made him believe there was no running water nor cars in France
  16. 6- You'll have to go behind school education
    When you just enter high school or middle school and teachers or family tell you that "you'll need it later" it's very vague (maybe less for the new generations?) but because I saw my american family I had an early understanding this it WILL be useful that I feel many others didn't get until way way later. Now it differs from countries so per example Sweden or Netherlands (@franksars let me know if I'm wrong) are already very bilingual countries, with movies in English on tv, early teaching etc.
  17. 6- cont
    But France really is not, we have dubbed version of movies and its only until very recently that some tv networks propose multilingual versions of some movies or shows. So if you only learn English from school don't get me wrong it's good already, but I realized that the level required (at least in France) doesn't progress much from middle school to high school.
  18. So what really helped me going from school level to fluent was reading, movies, TV shows etc. choose things you love ! I started with the gossip girls books serie and it really helped me! Cause for the first time I was learning "fun" English with modern slang and it was easy to read !
    So when I say go behind school I don't mean read important historical authors ! I only started reading Fitzgerald and Jane Austen recently ! Don't start with Zola or Hugo if you're learning French ! Choose whatever you actually like and explore from here. Same with movies and tv ! Don't start With Nouvelle Vague but ask me for good comedies instead ! People often think I'm joking but I really became more fluent thanks to gossip girl. Find yours !
  19. 7- Don't compare yourself to others
    I already said that in the intro but it's true. I thought I was not that good in English but then I realized that my awesome friends were just awesome and better and it's ok. Actually do compare yourself to others: but only to realize you're also better than the majority of other people around you
  20. 8- You'll struggle
    As I said above its a very long journey. Maybe an endless one actually. Even this week I was lost at the Walgreen cashier cause they ask odd questions when I'm not paying attention and when other customers are used to said questions. It's ok. There's also funny misunderstanding like when @simplyshelli thought that I was angry when I was hungry. (Why would I be angry tho ?!) those are obviously minor struggles but I'm purposely mentioning very recent things cause imagine how it was few years ago!
  21. 9- Condescending only one language speakers are the worst but it's ok YOU ARE BETTER THAN THEM
    Ok you'll struggle and ask to repeat. But sometimes Americ.. I mean some people that usually only speak English will make you repeat although you know you were clear enough. It's not you, it's them. They won't make any effort. They'll do that with Americans from other states: don't let them muggles get you down ! (If you've seen the Cedric Klapisch trilogy see the scene where Xavier speaks with a New Yorker, if you didn't see it, stop what you're doing and go watch those 3 movies)
  22. 10- The steps of progress aren't regular and some take more times than others
    Meaning you'll easily go from zero to Basics. Then from that to school level. Then conversational level. Then fluent. Then, maybe, bilingual. The more you Climb those stairs the longer it takes to get on them. And you can and will continue to progress always. In other terms there's also the sense of things you're learning: you'll learn the basic grammar rules then more and more vocabulary then more society or political concepts etc
  23. 11- You'll still be lost or shy from time to time
    And again it's ok. That doesn't mean you're bad at that language. Maybe you're tired. Maybe the languages used by other people is though or they speak mega fast or you misunderstood the first line so you're lost for the rest of the convo : it's ok. Same with shyness you can, for totally out of the blue example do improv in English but then be shy to ask the bus driver something! It happens in your native language too anyway ! Sometimes you're comfortable sometimes you don't feel like it!
  24. 12- you'll be proud of yourself after every steps
    and you should be! You're speaking another language than the one you've heard all your life!! Yay you ! So congratulation on learning to say your name ! Or writing an essay ! Or making a pun ! Or progress accent wise ! Sometimes you may not realize or forget that you're speaking to someone in language that isn't theirs : let them know they're doing good ! And if they're like me you can help them correcting some mistakes (in a non condescending way obviously but in a positive always learning one)
  25. 13- You'll use it
    Professionally, personally, for pleasure, work, to write lists on an app: I swear it's worth all the humiliations, misunderstanding and awkwardness !