Learning languages

Learning languages

Listen to Simon talking about how he learned several languages in a variety of different ways.

Do the preparation task first. Then listen to the audio and do the exercises.


I've lived in many different countries, both in Western Europe, Middle East and now here in Hong Kong. And during all of that time, I've learned five or six different languages to one degree or another. I love learning languages. Not only are they important when you move to a country, I just find them fascinating.

Before I came to Hong Kong, I lived in Barcelona, Spain, for ten years. And when I first arrived, the most important thing was being able to communicate with people locally. I don't attend classes. I don't think I'm particularly good in classes. I prefer to learn by just talking to people, finding out what I need to say, by looking at dictionaries and listening carefully.

Other things that helped me when I first moved to Spain were watching the typical kinds of programmes we see every day on channels around the world, for example the weather. This is great, because they always say the same things, so you can really quickly hear the same words repeated again and again. And the pictures help of course.

Other types of programme that helped me learn Spanish quickly were things like game shows, where the same thing happens. They have a catchphrase or a slogan that they repeat endlessly when contestants win or when they are called to compete.

As well as that, I used to pick up the Spanish newspapers. First of all, I just accepted there was no way I was going to understand anything but one or two words. But gradually, I found that I learned lots of new things about this. I was interested because I wanted to know what was happening in the country I lived in. But I also knew that I could learn a lot of language this way. So I'd take a dictionary with me sometimes, or I'd notice a word and I'd ask other people what … it meant.

Anyway, by far the best practice I ever had was just talking to people in the street or in shops, where I'd rehearse in my head what I wanted to say beforehand, before I went in. Usually, I made a right mess of it first of all, but after you get over the embarrassment, it's quite funny really. And people are very sympathetic and supporting in most cases. 

It took me a long time to develop a good level of Spanish. I lived there for ten years, and I think I'm very fluent now. But I think for the first two years that I was there it was quite a struggle to hold a decent conversation. There were always lots of words and expressions that I didn't pick up on. In particular with the colloquial expressions, idioms, that kind of thing, that people use in everyday talk, but you don't necessarily see written down. I didn't find those very easy to learn at all. But it was a lot of fun. And people, as I said, are really supporting when they know that you are genuinely interested in learning their language.


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Average: 4 (49 votes)

Submitted by Zamira on Fri, 01/10/2021 - 17:52


As for me, repeating is the effective methods to learn.

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Submitted by danisep on Wed, 09/12/2020 - 20:24

I think that the best way to improve your language is to put it on practice, use what we know, we don't need to know everything, also it is important to learn new vocabulary and expressions. It has been difficult to find an English partner who help me to practice my English. Sometimes it happen just to hold a short conversation for one day and that's all.

Submitted by sheida on Sun, 09/08/2020 - 07:38

In our country ,at grade 7 we are supposed to learn Arabic and English. but in the way they teach , we'll only be able to understand some easy words and sentences.so I decided to take up English courses myself when I was 11. The classes were really helpful ,but the problem was that after some years I realized that I'm not improving , so i quit. because I believe that you wont learn a language until you find a native speaker of the language you are learning. Generally, I find learning new languages fascinating.I like the way I have to figure out what other people are saying.currently I'm learning french and Korea in addition to English .Hope that I could speak all of them fluently one day.
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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Sat, 23/05/2020 - 10:33

The most effective language learning method for me is listening and speaking to the people that has knowledge and understanding about the language.

Submitted by ellytran on Fri, 24/04/2020 - 05:02

being linguistic is really fascinating, you can hold the conversations with people all around the world and the language barriers aren't your almost worry when you travel.

Submitted by Crunch01 on Thu, 19/03/2020 - 16:37

I have learnt English for 10 years, and I have only B1 level. Since 2 years, I practice english every day by writting and sometime by phone. I travelled in Turkey, China, Portugal and Roumania and I spoke English, it was very intersting and I improved myself. I need to work my english every day. Thank you so much for your different experiences.

Submitted by cittàutopica on Fri, 14/02/2020 - 18:19

When I went to lower seconday school, French was the only one foreign language in my school and I studied it, according to the traditional method. After I began to study English on my own and I used on line resources. I think there isn't the most effective language learning, but it depends on the purpose of the study.

Submitted by parisaach on Wed, 26/06/2019 - 10:59

In my country we should learn two foreing languages at school Arabic and English, actually no one learn much at school just basic words and sentences. So I started to learn English when I was about 11 years old. but there are bunch of illiterate teachers around . They couldn't speak Englsh fluently . In fact they were aweful . They couldn't prounance the words correctly. My father sent me to English courses in summers and I learned much better there , but it was just summers, so it couldn't be enough. After school I continued learning English more seriously. I took English courses and I thought my English was perfect. actually I was much better than before but not perfect. If you want to be good in English you should watch English movies, read English newspapers, newsletter, books ... anything . and of course English songs are really helpful because you can remember the rhythmic texts much better . I also took some French language courses several years ago. I learnثي some new way of learning then. French was more strange for me . I've never learned any French language before that time. Our teacher made us to repeat the sentences as we heard them . It was really good I had no idea what I said because it was the first time I heard those words and stences but I tried and I could say the same sentence that I heard. I think that was a good idea I guess children learn speaking in that way they just repeat what they heard. Maybe they made some mistake but finally thay can say the correct sentences.

Submitted by tukytuk on Wed, 08/05/2019 - 16:08

I think learn any language is hard. Maybe films and tv shows can help you to improve skills language. But it's just another step in a long way.
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Submitted by Samer.Zydia on Thu, 14/03/2019 - 14:12

From my perspective, I think it depends on your target of learning a new language if it's for fun the casual ways may work, but if you need its for academic purposes classroom and courses are a must. To be honest, I didn't find an effective method to improve my Englis level from intermediate level to advance, so I am still searching and I appreciate any useful suggestions.