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How Many Languages Can You Speak?

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I was born and grew up in the U.S., so I speak English as my native language. I'm Filipino, but my parents never taught me or my siblings Tagalog : (

I first learned Italian for seven years from middle school until I graduated high school. I'm now a sophomore in college, and I haven't met many people that can speak Italian, but I still use it on a daily basis for fun. I even set my phone language to Italian to continue learning. I then began learning Korean about 6 months ago, which I think is a very interesting and fun language to write and learn! And then just two weeks ago, I began learning some Spanish, so that I could surprise my Spanish-speaking friends back on campus.

I love hearing about other people's stories about languages, so how many languages can you speak, and how/when did you learn them?

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Spanish is my native tongue. I was born in Colombia and my family lived there for my first 10 years, so I picked it up naturally. I still remember it and speak it, although with a somewhat diminished skill for grammar and spelling since I don't get too much practice in it. I started learning English when my family moved to the US. Its been the main language i use since i was about 12, given that i resided in the US and then moved to Canada. I seem to make most people think English is my first language. Only a few people seem to catch onto my slight accent. I kinda wish i had more of an accent nowadays though. When I was younger i used to get mocked for it and wanted it to stop. But now every time i hear a spanish accent it sounds so good, i wish i spoke like that a little more.

I've also learned a bit of Italian during my High School years, but stopped pursuing it sometime after. I also learned some German, mainly as a way to go to Europe during my University years. Although I also really like how German sounds. The memes don't do it justice. But I did stop after reaching intermediate level. Mainly because writing complex essays and learning more and more complex grammar is very tedious. That applies to languages in general, not just German. Though i would certainly like to have more practice speaking both Italian and German

Edited by Zanarkin

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I'm a native English speaker, born and currently living in America.

Most of my experience with foreign languages is Spanish, a fair amount of which I learned in high school. Although, since then, I've forgotten most of what I learned. At most, I can at least understand basic phrases and read signs with Spanish words on them.

Other than that, my experience with other languages comes down to very simple phrases like auf wiedersehen or frohe weinachten for German, and arigatou gozaimasu or sumimasen, etc. for Japanese. I have listened to quite a bit of Japanese lyrics to video game songs featuring them, but I couldn't translate it at all if I saw or heard them.

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i really like languages, but i honestly never find enough time to study more of them

as for how many languages i can speak, my native language is italian, then there's english, and i'm pretty much still a beginner with japanese
i've also studied french for 5 years (3 years of middle school and first 2 years of high school), but i've basically never practiced it anymore after that, so i'm as rusty as can be

there's also latin, but again, never practiced it after i graduated at high school, and we never practiced speaking anyway, only latin->italian translations and literature (very interesting though, i still have fond memories of plato's and seneca's texts)

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I speak two languages, French is my native tongue but we learned English as early as elementary school where I live.

I don't consider myself fully bilingual just yet, I still struggle to speak English a bit.

Edited by Nym

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Chinese is my mother tongue but ever since my family moved to the US, English has become my primary language. I have been (trying to) use more Chinese by watching more variety shows /dramas and listening to music in Chinese but there's only so much you can do when my daily life doesn't necessitate Chinese. I also speak Japanese as I studied it all throughout college and have maintained it since graduation by watching anime/drama/Japanese Youtubers(intermittently), playing games and using apps in Japanese where applicable(FEH, Facebook, Discord etc.), and participating in Japanese (conversation) tables from time to time. Similar to Chinese, I don't get the chance to use Japanese unless I go out of my way to incorporate it in my life but that's what I do to keep my proficiency.

I started watching Korean dramas recently and have thought about learning Korean some time down the road given its shared vocabulary and grammatical structure with Japanese based on what I've heard. But the more practical language is Spanish as it uses the Latin alphabet and there's phonetic similarity between it and Japanese. The main problem is I don't watch nor do I even know where to begin looking for Spanish media so it's gonna be hard to just study and not use it to engage with native Spanish media like TV shows/dramas when I don't live near a Spanish speaking community and real life interactions are not consistent. I've found that mastering the basic pronunciation of the building blocks of a language does wonders for language acquisition and the best way to do so is through native media like TV shows/dramas with subtitles when starting out.     

Edited by Flying Shogi

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I'm from Ireland so English is my native language (thanks colonialism!). They teach us Irish at school, but they do a really poor job of it so my Irish ability is limited to basic vocab and virtually zero sentence structure ability. I took French in Secondary School, but I can't say it's any better than my Irish ability. My Chinese probably is better than both of those because I spent a year living there, but that's also a ridiculously difficult language to speak so when I say better I really mean I know more useful and practical words. By far my most proficient second language would be Japanese as I've been living here for about two years nonconsecutively, plus the standard "have watched quite a bit of anime". I currently study Japanese daily using an app called Duolingo. Only spoken Japanese though. I'm absolutely hopeless when it comes to reading or writing Japanese. I also lived in Thailand for a year, but for some reason I didn't pick up any Thai at all. I guess by that point, after so much time living abroad, my charades skills were proficient enough that I have transcended the need for language and can now make anything I want to know evident using grunting and pointing. I'm honestly not that great at languages, but I would love to study Latin.

Edited by Jotari

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7 minutes ago, Jotari said:

My Chinese probably is better than both of those because I spent a year living there, but that's also a ridiculously difficult language to speak so when I say better I really mean I know more useful and practical words.

As someone whose mother tongue is Chinese, I will say Chinese is hard. If I didn't know it already, I probably wouldn't study it due to the difficulty. 

3 minutes ago, Jotari said:

I'm absolutely hopeless when it comes to reading or writing Japanese.

Don't know how proficient you're at Japanese but I will say that dedicating one weekend to memorizing Hiragana and Katana when I first started taking Japanese really paid dividends. But then again, I was in a classroom setting so I had more reason to know it than not. Self study requires discipline and I applaud anyone who can stick to a regimen. 

Also, I'm curious as to what you do/did for a living(you don't have to answer if you're not comfortable sharing) that you were able to live in the various Asian countries for the duration that you did.  

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5 minutes ago, Flying Shogi said:

As someone whose mother tongue is Chinese, I will say Chinese is hard. If I didn't know it already, I probably wouldn't study it due to the difficulty. 

Don't know how proficient you're at Japanese but I will say that dedicating one weekend to memorizing Hiragana and Katana when I first started taking Japanese really paid dividends. But then again, I was in a classroom setting so I had more reason to know it than not. Self study requires discipline and I applaud anyone who can stick to a regimen. 

Also, I'm curious as to what you do/did for a living(you don't have to answer if you're not comfortable sharing) that you were able to live in the various Asian countries for the duration that you did.  

Katakana seems much more manageable than hiragana (while Kanji is so hard even Japanese people can't do it!), which makes sense as it's something of a constructed language. And taking out my notebook and dedicating some time to it last week when I was cut off from the internet did provide fruitful for learning aiueo (as in just the vowel sounds by themselves), but I doubt I'll ever have the need or resolve to learn it in full. Though Duo Lingo is forcing me to recognize some more writing even if I'd rather learn purely through Romanji, so I might get there some day. I'm an English teacher by trade.

Edited by Jotari

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I was born in the good old U.S.A, and both of my parents were around fourth generation here, so I only learned bits and pieces of their heritiges' toungs. I took two years of Latin in highschool, most of which I've since forgotten due to lack of practice. I'm attempting to at least learn passable Japanese for a trip I have planned a few years out. Right now, it's just English, but I'd like to be conversational in a few languages one day, particularly Italian and Polish.

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Wow, you guys sure are diverse! Me? Well, I was born and raised in the USA, so I speak English. How well I speak it depends on how well I slept last night. I don't get much sleep, is what I'm saying. Enough of the off-topic, though.

I took Spanish in High School, and got fairy decent at it, but there are absolutely no opportunities to practice it where I live. Past that, I've picked up a few words of various languages here and there, and use them in daily life. I use Spanish numbers for 1-10, Nein instead of No, Ci instead of yes, and occasionally use Nani instead of What. I did it first because I thought I was funny, but now I do it by nature.

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Only English since my mom doesn't even speak Spanish and only my paternal great-aunt speaks Hawaiian so that's also a bust. However, I am learning Italian at Uni currently (third semester). Unfortunately, my Italian class is online-only for second-semester Italian on (first semester was in a normal class). As such, there's almost no opportunity to practice with other students, and since distanced learning, it's even harder. 

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honestly pleasantly surprised to see so many people learning italian, i didn't expect this at all, given how relatively useless it is compared to chinese, spanish and french
definitely hope you italian learners don't get too turned off by its difficulty, which mostly lies in the many exceptions to basically every rule and in the many tenses
good luck!

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26 minutes ago, Yexin said:

honestly pleasantly surprised to see so many people learning italian, i didn't expect this at all, given how relatively useless it is compared to chinese, spanish and french
definitely hope you italian learners don't get too turned off by its difficulty, which mostly lies in the many exceptions to basically every rule and in the many tenses
good luck!

I'll likely never learn Italian, but I'll chime in here saying Italy is one of the absolute best countries in the world to visit as a tourist. There are so many great cities to visit with tones of art, history and fantastic food. I've been there thrice and there's still loads I want to see.

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I'm fluent in:

  • English
  • Filipino

I still know enough to converse in:

  • German
  • French
  • Spanish

I wanna study/relearn:

  • Norwegian
  • Swedish

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Heyyy another Filipino-American!

I grew up around Tagalog (but was born and raised in America), but my understanding grew more than my speaking ability. I'm in this weird limbo between understanding it perfectly fine, but speaking like a kindergartener.

I'm also pretty conversational in Korean and Hawaiian, and my speaking in both these languages are sadly better than my Tagalog LOL.

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11 hours ago, Tenma said:

Heyyy another Filipino-American!

I grew up around Tagalog (but was born and raised in America), but my understanding grew more than my speaking ability. I'm in this weird limbo between understanding it perfectly fine, but speaking like a kindergartener.

I'm also pretty conversational in Korean and Hawaiian, and my speaking in both these languages are sadly better than my Tagalog LOL.

Doing anything OTHER than speaking it means that it'll happen.  That's sort-of how I am with Japanese (though I'm far better than reading it than anything).

As for the question, I'm comfortable in English, not particularly confident in Japanese, and can say a smattering of words in a bunch of other languages.  Because English is three languages in a trenchcoat.

Edited by eclipse

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English, Old English, and a little bit of Japanese and Latin. Saying I can speak Old English or Latin sounds ridiculously dumb considering they are dead languages, but it's true. I learned them for creative writing purposes and took a class in Old English and Middle English in college. I guess I could throw Middle English in there too, but I haven't studied it nearly as much as I have Old English (though it is much simpler to follow and understand as an English speaker). Latin I probably shouldn't have mentioned, but I do know a little bit like I said. The same goes for Japanese, which I've found difficult to learn. I can get through basic conversations, but I have to refresh myself a lot otherwise I forget. I do know it much better than Spanish which I took two years of in high school (but that's been like seven years now). I'm wanting to learn Japanese more, but it's very difficult to tackle. I cannot read or write kanji however, though I do have study books to help me learn. I probably should be doing that alongside learning how to speak it, instead of just writing it in romaji. 

Edited by SSbardock84

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20 hours ago, eclipse said:

Doing anything OTHER than speaking it means that it'll happen.  That's sort-of how I am with Japanese (though I'm far better than reading it than anything).

Yeah, contrary to most Asian-Americans, my parents actually wanted me to speak Tagalog as a child, but I actually refused to and just wanted to speak English. Now that I'm older, I realize that was a huge mistake but what can you do as a child? LOL. I'm just glad I was able to learn one part of it, and that I'm not completely separated from the language, you know? Haha

Edited by Tenma

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4 minutes ago, Tenma said:

Yeah, contrary to most Asian-Americans, my parents actually wanted me to speak Tagalog as a child, but I actually refused to and just wanted to speak English. Now that I'm older, I realize that was a huge mistake but what can you do as a child? LOL. I'm just glad I was able to learn one part of it, and that I'm not completely separated from the language, you know? Haha

My girlfriend's son grew up in the Philipines for the first seven years of his life and now can't speak a word of it twenty years later. Japanese has completely replaced his childhood language.

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4 minutes ago, Jotari said:

My girlfriend's son grew up in the Philipines for the first seven years of his life and now can't speak a word of it twenty years later. Japanese has completely replaced his childhood language.

Actually, something similar happened to my older sister! Haha. We both were born and raised in America, but my sister's first language was Tagalog--didn't speak English.

When she got to preschool, the teacher told my parents they had to teach her English so she could communicate with everyone. Now, she's just like me: understands it perfectly, cannot form a sentence LOL.

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On 11/16/2020 at 4:38 AM, Yexin said:

honestly pleasantly surprised to see so many people learning italian, i didn't expect this at all, given how relatively useless it is compared to chinese, spanish and french
definitely hope you italian learners don't get too turned off by its difficulty, which mostly lies in the many exceptions to basically every rule and in the many tenses
good luck!

I initially wanted to learn French entered middle school, but ended up taking Italian and I'm really glad I chose it! I used to have trouble with congiuntivo, but I definitely understand it more now than I did in high school. The tense that does still continue to trip me up is whatever "fossi" is. I think it's a conjugation of essere in some way, but I don't know what the tense is called, what the other conjugations are, and when to use it (I literally know nothing about it at all) lol

28 minutes ago, Tenma said:

Yeah, contrary to most Asian-Americans, my parents actually wanted me to speak Tagalog as a child, but I actually refused to and just wanted to speak English. Now that I'm older, I realize that was a huge mistake but what can you do as a child? LOL. I'm just glad I was able to learn one part of it, and that I'm not completely separated from the language, you know? Haha

My parents didn't even try at all with my and my siblings. I understand absolutely zero Tagalog, except for the word for water lol

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35 minutes ago, Carter said:

I initially wanted to learn French entered middle school, but ended up taking Italian and I'm really glad I chose it! I used to have trouble with congiuntivo, but I definitely understand it more now than I did in high school. The tense that does still continue to trip me up is whatever "fossi" is. I think it's a conjugation of essere in some way, but I don't know what the tense is called, what the other conjugations are, and when to use it (I literally know nothing about it at all) lol

yeah, "congiuntivo" is almost never used when speaking, and most italians can't even use and conjugate it properly

by definition, Congiuntivo is used to express a subjective/unreal/not verified/hypothetical or irrelevant events
ex. "Penso tu sia bravo a cucinare", "I think you're good at cooking"
as you can see, in english there's no equivalent, and in this case, that of a personal opinion, you express it by using the present simple tense

ex. "Spero tu riesca a partecipare", "I hope you'll be able to participate"
to express this in english you need yet another tense, future simple in this case (which you can use in italian as well; "Spero che riuscirai a partecipare")

"fossi" is "essere" in its first person and second person singular form of the congiuntivo imperfetto tense (but also the plural form of "fosso", "ditch")
Congiuntivo Imperfetto expresses uncertain or hypothetical events
Uncertainty ex. "Pensavo tu fossi in camera tua", "I thought you were in your room"
Hypotheticality ex. "Se tu fossi qui, sarei felice", "If you were here, I'd be happy"

so yeah, from an english speaker it can definitely be difficult to understand and to actually grasp how and when to use Congiuntivo... and for italians as well, no wonders many don't even bother using it
usually italians use Presente and Imperfetto tenses instead of Congiuntivo Presente and Congiuntivo Imperfetto respectively, even though it's technically a mistake
ex. "Penso tu sia bravo a cucinare" -> "Penso che sei bravo a cucinare"
ex. "Spero tu riesca a partecipare"/"Spero che riuscirai a partecipare" -> "Spero che riesci a partecipare"
ex. "Pensavo tu fossi in camera tua" -> "Pensavo che eri in camera tua"
ex. "Se tu fossi qui, sarei felice" -> "Se tu eri qui, sarei felice"

i hope i've been somewhat useful, and don't worry, not a single italian with a working brain would make fun of you for not knowing Congiuntivo, in fact you'd be more than excused

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