1189 Learning Language

Peter and Jana discuss what helped them learn foreign languages.


Jana: So Peter, you also learned English as a foreign language, right?

Peter: That's right, yes.

Jana: It's not your first language? So how did you do it?

Peter: That's a good question. When I think back, I think, I try to think about the things that helped me most and I think it was a funny combination of things. I had one really interesting English teacher, she was really strict, but she was really interesting and I think she inspired me in some ways because her English was so good and I thought 'wow' that's really great. I wouldn't mindbeing able to be as good as her. The other thing that really helped me was reading like I really read so much in English. I think you mentioned, I remember you saying that too at some other point.

Jana: Yeah, I think so too. I read a lot, not because I wanted to learn but because I like reading and so I read in English and later on I realized I must have learned a lot of vocabulary and things that I didn't even realize I learned.

Peter: I think yes.

Jana: Just through reading.

Peter: Yeah, the same thing happened to me. My home had so many books in it, I was lucky I guess in that way and at least half of them were in English and when I discovered that there were books in the house that I couldn't get into and I was really into stories and reading, I felt so angry that I couldn't get into them so I said OK I'll start try and read them and I guess it started off there because then I started reading so much and it was really good for me in the end, I think.

Jana: So that was your motivation, you wanted to read those mysterious books?

Peter: Yes and it was really good for me that way I guess.

Jana: That's interesting. You see people ask me how did I learn English. I didn't really have a plan, I just enjoyed English that's why I studied in my free time but I didn't think of it as something I have to do, I just did it for fun.

Peter: I think so too for me. Also in high school I remember my classmates complaining about all the homework in English and they couldn't do it and they used to come to me for help and then I thought but hang on it's not, it doesn't feel like work to me, it just feels like something kind of fun.

Jana: That's right.

Peter: But I can't tell you where that fun started. I guess it has something to do with being curious about things that are written or said. Do you think so?

Jana: Yeah, I also sort of remember when I first became interested in English but later on when I met some people from different countries, I became more interested in communicating with them and, like you said, my teacher also inspired me. I enjoyed just chatting to her in English.

Peter: Really?

Jana: Yeah, it was basically fun. It was not studying hard for me.

Peter: Yeah, I suppose it's the same for me I think. I think when I got to university and I could read and write and my listening was really good in English but I couldn't speak so well at all and then I happened to make some English friends and they couldn't speak a word of Afrikaans or any other language so I was kind of forced to communicate with them in English and that, I think that really helped me too because I was forced in a way to be able to speak my mind and in the way that they could only understand so you know.

Jana: Right, that really makes it meaningful doesn't it? You really need to, you want to express yourself so you have to try hard.

Peter: Yeah, and I remember this frustration. They would have these arguments about things that I was interested in and I wanted to join but I couldn't and so I just decided well I have to just do this. I want to talk so I'd better do it in English.

Jana: That's right. Yeah, I think I improved a lot by talking to people from different countries, not necessarily native speakers but having friends from different countries and I wanted to communicate with them so, yeah, you just do it and you learn as you go.

Peter: Yeah, I think so too.



Learn Vocabulary from the lesson

in some ways

I think she inspired me in some ways because her English was so good.

You can use the open phrase 'in some ways' when you don't want to give a full description of your reasons, but you want the listener to know that it was part of your motivation. Notice the following:

  1. It's good, in some ways, for children to spend a lot of time with their friends.
  2. In some ways I didn't like her, and in other ways she was the best teacher I ever had.

wouldn't mind

I wouldn't mind being able to be as good as her.

If there is something you 'wouldn't mind' to do or be, it is something you are okay with or you would like to have happen. Notice the following:

  1. She says she wouldn't mind being a bit shorter.
  2. I wouldn't mind seeing a movie tonight.

get into

I felt so angry that I couldn't get into the story.

You 'get into' a story when you are interested in it and focused on what is happening. Notice the following:

  1. I don't know how people can get into celebrity gossip so much.
  2. Everyone says that this book is amazing, but I just can't get into it.

not a word of

My friends couldn't speak a word of Afrikaans.

When you don't speak 'a word of' a language, it means that you do not know it at all. Notice the following:

  1. They didn't speak a word of each other's languages when they first met.
  2. I didn't know a word of Vietnamese when I arrived.

speak my mind

I was able to speak my mind in a way they could understand.

When you directly state your opinion, you are 'speaking your mind.' Notice the following:

  1. He comes from a place where people are not encouraged to speak their minds.
  2. Some people get offended that she speaks her mind so much.


Answer the following questions about the interview.

Keep Listening

Below are some more great lessons!

Vocabulary Challenge

Complete the sentences with the words below.
ways • wouldn't • gets into
word • my mind
  1. How can you teach English if you don't speak a of Japanese.
  2. I think he mind if we just went out for pizza tonight.
  3. He really watching sports on television.
  4. Having conversations with him is frustrating, because he never lets me speak .
  5. I think, in some , it was good that you didn't get into that university.