A note on learning language

I think i know that i start knowing a language really well when i first use a word and then check in the dictionary to make sure that it actually means what i thought. This is compared to earlier stages when i have the concept in my head in a different language and then start looking in the dictionary for a translation.

Does it make any sense? Am i the only one feeling that way?

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5 Responses to “A note on learning language”

  1. Leonid Says:

    No, it happens right after you start reading in a new language. You read the word many times and every time you are too lazy to look it up in the dictionary. Instead, you build a mental approximate meaning until you go and look it up once and for all.
    And then unpleasant surprises happen. For 10 years or so I was sure that “to lurk” means “to go around in circles menacingly” (because of all the things that lurk in the darkness).

  2. Veronica Says:

    Actually I agree with Dima. I think what he’s describing is the phase when you stop translating from your native language to the other, and just let the new language become fluent.

  3. lisa Says:

    I noticed more and more you use very complex English words — ones that I have had to check in the dictionary because I never saw that usage of it before — eg. ‘salient’ in your last post — and meant to comment on it positively, but looks like you found your own benchmark :)

  4. Dima Says:

    Thank you guys for the comments!

    Leonichka, i guess people have different processes. At the beginning i am very motivated and am ready to look up words in the dictionary. But as i go on and get swamped by things to do (particularly in that language) i let it slide and make up my own meanings.

    Lisa, i think it is only a reflection of the kind of English i learn :) There are so many slang words and phrases that i am not familiar with…

  5. Nadya Says:

    I think, the key thing is not the proficiency level, but rather the fact that you are in the country where they speak the language you are learning, so that you have plenty of opportunities to learn meanins from the context (you infer the meaning from the multiple instances of the word that you heard used in multiple contexts). When you learn from books, it’s harder to do. So maybe you’ve just had enough experience to start noticing this learning strategy?..

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