View Full Version : How long to learn a language?

17th Dec 2007, 14:22
The newly-appointed England Football 'manager' is an Italian National whose current command of English is 'not great'. He obviously has some comprehension of English and is able to make 'small talk' (though his speech today could have been scripted). He has stated his intention of being fully capable of communicating with the English footballers 'within one month'.
Now while this may seem to be ambitious, he seems to have the basics (it has been said that he plays down his capability in order to learn more of what his players are saying about him), and, I recall from when I was working in a foreign land, it can be lack of confidence which impedes fluency. I was able to understand 'foreign' but unable to phrase my response therein without lengthy hiatuses (hiati?) so I usually spoke in English (thereby ensuring that what I wanted to say was, at least, correct (there were numerous examples where my attempts in foreign were amusingly incorrect - especially where homophones were involved).
Eventually, of course, I gained in confidence, and ended up speaking foreign, not only at work but also at home with my English family. The whole transition took longer than a year (I was travelling abroad during this period and dealing with English-speaking - or at least English-understanding - customers, none of whom were of the basic 'foreign' nationality).

So now to my question - how long (or how short - ie quickly) is it possible to become competently fluent in a non-native language (in this case English from Italian, though I believe the gent in question can also converse in Spanish)? I guess that this guy can employ the best tutors (although he is of mature years and not a fresh young student).

17th Dec 2007, 14:24
You're missing one vital point though. He said:
capable of communicating with the English footballers
So one month shoud be an easy target.

17th Dec 2007, 14:25
That didn't affect Jose Mourinhos' work a bit when he came to Chelsea did it? He only needs to speak a higher language level i.e. football ... right?;)

17th Dec 2007, 14:40
When I went to work in Leipzig, the company sent me on a 4-week intensive German language course. The sort where the tutor will speak only the language being taught.

Luckily for me, there were plenty of other people on the course who had English as a second language, so I muddled through the first week or so 'til I got my head 'round it all.

At the end of the course, I went back to Leipzig and the boss decreed that Monday was English day, and Tuesday - Friday was German only in the office. I reckon by the third/fourth week of everyone ignoring the rule and me mixing with English speaking people only of an evening/weekend (if you can call Scottish brickies 'English speaking') my German was still patchy at best. Technical German, forget it!

I lasted 9 months before I'd had enough of every German I worked with wanting to refine their English on me and asked for a transfer back to the UK.

In short, G-CPTN, I've no idea, but I bet it'd take me even longer!

Curious Pax
17th Dec 2007, 15:25
As ever, the answer is 'it depends'. If he puts himself in an environment where he has to speak English all the time, given that he is starting with some knowledge already, then a month or so will probably do it. However if he just has a lesson a couple of times a week, and isn't forced to speak it then it could take him forever.

I've lived in The Netherlands for 7 of the last 14 years, but hardly speak any Dutch, though I understand quite a lot, especially if it is written down and I have time to think about it. My son, now aged 7, was pretty fluent within 6 months of arriving aged 5. Guess which of us was forced to speak it 5 days a week, and which gets answered in English every time he tries!!

Dis-inclination, and embarrassment about doing it badly also plays a large part.

17th Dec 2007, 15:29
fully capable of communicating with the English footballers 'within one month'Argghhh....has it right, limited vocab for sure...I would not have thought it would require a full month though:E:E


17th Dec 2007, 15:29
For ú6.5 million I reckon I'd be a fast learner.

Mercenary Pilot
17th Dec 2007, 15:33
He already knows the motivational phrases and language that English footballers understand.

Ferrari, Armani, Prada, Gucci etc.


17th Dec 2007, 15:37
I have to admit that during the 'foreign' parts of the press conference, I was in mind of the Fast Show's Chanel 9 Neus:- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctaszjeaDK0

Our children learned foreign very quickly (about six weeks) attending the local school. The 5 year old was 'immersed' without any English, whilst the 7 year old was helped by a teacher who provided extra time 'in English' (ie explaining the native language vocabulary and grammar using English wen necessary). Within a year they were both indiscernible from the native children in both language and dialect.

Curious Pax
17th Dec 2007, 16:18
How did your kids get on with spelling G-C, both in their new language, and in English when you returned to the UK? For ours that seems to be the main area of concern. As we will be here for no more than another 18 months we're not too concerned about Dutch spelling, but the English spelling is another matter. We assumed that the exposure/learning of a new language would outweigh that benefit, but as time marches on we fret over whether we did the right thing (he could have gone to the British School here).

17th Dec 2007, 16:25
Lieutenant General Vernon Walters USA was reputed to be able to speak and understand pretty well any language in a matter of days just by hearing it spoken. I don't know if written proficency came with that though. Interestingly he had no university education.

After an excellent landing you can use the airplane again!

17th Dec 2007, 16:42
Well, I've lived & worked in France since 1991. Embarassingly, I hate to admit that whilst I can make myself understood quite clearly in French and for some strange reason, comprehend even better the responses, I am not, nor ever will be completely fluent. As for written French, well, oubliez ša, not in a million years...?! It doesn't help that 95% of my business interlocuteurs are non-French.

I follow the French TV news without a problem. I immediately get the giste of anything in the printed press though I usually have to read it twice to understand the subtleties.

I think that learning new languages are for the most part limited to children or teenagers with a penchant. I grew up in Malaysia when at that time, going onto secondary education mean't being able to speak and write Malay. At the time, I frequented a Catholic monastery a few hours every week, where I learned the rudiments of French (what I learned "stuck" so that I could communicate basically the 1st time I ever visited France in 1985). However, I distinctly remember having a problem with Malay, so much so that I prayed one night...?! Almost like a miracle, I found myself being able to fully converse in spoken Malay within a few weeks, and since the written form is phonetic, being able to read and write it all too?!

Well, I never stayed there long enough to put it all into practice. All that remains from my life there is a quasi-continuous hankering for satÚ and other similar foods. After Malaysia, I spent 3 years in India. Thankfully, the main language was English in that establishment. I took French as a 2nd language and Hindi as 3rd. I managed to count upto 10 quite well and enrage my somewhat anti-colonial Hindi teacher extremely well with my complete inability to grasp sanskrit.

Suffice to say that today, I could hardly utter half a dozen words in Malay or Hindi. One I could once write and speak fluently, the other, just about make myself understood verbally. It must be a memory thing, I probably consumed too much British beef at some stage...?! :{

17th Dec 2007, 16:44
The boy done great = Il grande fatto ragazzo
A game of two halves = Un gioco di due metÓ
We gave 110% = Abbiamo dato 110%
We came for a result and we got it = Siamo venuto per un risultato e lo abbiamo ottenuto
I'm over the moon = Sono sopra la luna
We was robbed = Siamo stati rubati
The referee's blind = I ciechi dell'arbitro

Should suffice :E

17th Dec 2007, 17:05
How did your kids get on with spelling G-C, both in their new language, and in English when you returned to the UK? Daughter (who never was a keen reader - and maybe mildly dyslexic) never did adjust to English spelling when we returned (aged 10). Son, who was reading words like bibliotek as early as age 5, (and who continued to read prolifically) never had any problems - mind you he got a double first from Cambridge and has been consistently a 'high achiever' (science scholarship to Australia at age 16 - the only state school pupil to achieve this).
Daughter had trouble with 'b' and 'd' before we left England, though her spoken foreign was superior to son's.

17th Dec 2007, 17:16
Mariner has got it.

a) Football has a language of its own.
b) Most English footballers command of English is woeful. Think Beckham interviews
c) plus, I understand that he has/will haul in a bunch of other coaches from Italy, who will do the 'day to day' work.
d) He has already said he wont be speaking to the press much. I'd lol if he did his 1st interview mostly in Italiono ;););)

Anyway. Good luck to the man. Its a poisoned challice. I think the lingo issue/problem is the very least of his worries. His prime need is a bunch of players that can play at international level.

Meethinks one of the basic ingredients is missing.......

17th Dec 2007, 17:22
Daniel Tammet (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bVVQ0FZeys) is a genius who learnt sufficient Icelandic (one of the most difficult languages) in a week to be interviewed on Icelandic TV (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMz3gjl9x-M&feature=related).
I often speak complete bollocks, a language I'm fluent in :}


17th Dec 2007, 19:18
I know several languages -- but none any more recent than Qbasic or Fortran 77.


17th Dec 2007, 19:37
The Americans have been trying to speak English for over two hundred years, and still haven't managed it.:E

17th Dec 2007, 22:51
I did it the other way round. Went to live in Italy from England. When I went there I could just about order a Pizza and a beer. The biggest prob÷em I had was that everyone in the company wanted to practice their English on me. The only real chance I had to learn was outside of work.

I could get by reasonably well within about six weeks. I then did an evening class (one evening a week for three months) and improved considerably.

The problem was fourteen years later moving to Germany and trying to do the same with German. It took a lot longer to get to a level where I could make myself understood.

So it depends on age as well.

17th Dec 2007, 22:58
Well I learned German from Danish (ie whilst living in Denmark, using Danish as the starting language) despite being an Englishman.

Lamenting Navigator
17th Dec 2007, 23:08
I'm learning Arabic. I'm exposed to the language everyday but it's still incredibly difficult. I see languages as word logic puzzles and poetry. Sounds daft but it works for me, inshallah!

17th Dec 2007, 23:49
Get yourself some of this LN :- http://www.earlenescakes.com/store/images/tools/T-GumArabic_LG.jpg

Dan D'air
18th Dec 2007, 00:14

Di verdad no tanto tiempo si en realidad tu quieres apprenderlo............