Anyone here fluent in a non-native language (not Japanese or Chinese) as an adult?

Not pictographic languages…

How do you learn vocabularies? How do you learn grammar? How do you immerse in language-spoken environments? Is there anything more I need to learn? Classroom or self-studied? How long does it take? Is the number of hours exposed reliable?

Proficiency/fluency is in levels. Upper intermediate/Advanced would be preferred.

Language learning theories are also welcomed.

I want to hear how true accomplishments can be done.

Also, preferably not English, not living in the country of target language; and not having girlfriend of target language (friends are OK; I 羨ましい).

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My native language is Danish and (I think) I’m fluent in English. I learnt English at school but I were very far from fluent when I had my last English class four years ago. I think that I actually became better at learning English after my last class in the subject, because the classes reminded me of how bad I was at it. Not very motivational :frowning:
How I became good at it? The Fallout games taught me a lot. Especially Fallout: New Vegas.
I also made an Ankit deck, and I added words I didn’t know there, which gave me a solid vocabulary. Grammar came naturally because I already knew the rules from school, and those rules has become kinda second nature, just by using the language.
Also, learning Japanese and Esperanto in English were very good for my English skills. If you want to become good at a language, learn another language in your target language.


My native language is French. Similarly to cimmic, I learned I had English classes at school and that’s how I learned the basics, though I was not fluent at all then. I improved greatly, and became much more at ease, later when I started reading and playing video games in English (ie practising).

Native German. I think I became fluent through emersion. I’ve studied English at school for maybe 10 years, but I wasn’t very good. Then I became addicted to yt videos (watched both English and German) and from that point on my English quickly got better.

My native language is Spanish and also i learned English at school. practice, reading and other kinds of activities to develop the fluency of the spoken language

Portuguese here.

I can’t really consider myself to have learned English as an adult because I started having private classes about it when I had 15 years old. I also had English classes in school at 11 years old (though they su*ked).

However, I went from intermediate level to fluency (hate this word) pretty quickly by actively writing in English and reading English books/articles. I didn’t do anything else. Zero. Forcing yourself to participate and use the language can really take you far.

I started Japanese at 21 years of age (I just turned 22) but I can’t talk about that for obvious reasons… Still a beginner.

Here’s a cool article that makes a quick point on learning a new language as an adult :slight_smile:

It’s the Rule #6. You can read the rest though.


Native English speaker and I am fluent in Spanish. Lived in Mexico for a couple of years and had to talk to people everyday so lots of practice. I could hold a conversation after 5 months and I was definitely fluent after a year (maybe less I don’t remember).I studied the basic grammar beforehand which helped set a foundation but it became natural after continuous use to the point that I could tell if something that something didn’t sound right when I said it. I also read a lot in Spanish. After that it is just a matter of picking up additional vocabulary by learning new words and trying to use those words in daily conversation.

Turkish native speaker. Fluent in English and Spanish. I think I just kinda learned it all through immersion. I went to US for a few years when I was already fluent(due to large amount of exposure to english media, and grammar learned in school) and now my english and my accent is as good as a regular american. For spanish it was the classes I took that got me started, but after that I learned through reading books, memorizing unknown vocab found in said books, and looking up unknown grammar concepts. Then I lived in Spain for 5-6 months which put it all together

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Native Polish speaker, fluent in German, learned that language since i was 7 but everything i learned was just in my free time… speaking with some buddies listening to native’s admiring the culture and just enjoying life.

Same with English, 'bout Londonistan is not perfect :slight_smile:

Native English speaker and fluent in Spanish. I learned through so many different sources… I honestly don’t remember studying a tenth of what I study to try to learn Japanese so I’m not sure how much one compares to the other but, my main advice is to keep at it. The main thing above all others is Motivation with a capital M. Why is immersion so great? Because if you live in Mexico you will never lose the motivation to keep learning Spanish because you are surrounded by it 24/7. If you decide to learn Spanish for fun while living in Canada you may or may not lose your motivation and get side tracked by learning something else.

So you don’t need to live in Japan to have that motivation, but I’m guessing it certainly helps. The other thing I did was marry a Spanish speaking woman that didn’t speak English at the time. You might think it’s a little extreme to marry to learn a language but it definitely helps for practicing every single day and not losing your motivation or reason to keep learning. I’m divorced now but each of us learned the other’s language. Ha!

Also don’t freak out if you feel like ‘you’ll never learn it’. I had lots of those moments learning Spanish and I eventually came out on top. I’m not the best language learner in any sense of the word, but I did triumph and I’m fluent now so… I’m pretty sure almost anyone can!

I am a native portuguese speaker and I like to think I’m fluent in English.
Anyways, I learnt english mainly by gaming, as I would be exposed to a lot of reading, I got a a lot from school too, but I never took any separate english courses. Still, I’d consider 85% - 90% is from exposition, which also includes books, music, comics, and the likes.
My pronunciation is a bit lacking, but I don’t think that’s a major problem, as I have been to the US, and it was mostly fine(I improved since then, so). If you want tips, I would recommend a high exposition.
Reading is(in my opinion) the best and easiest to get, but do not disregard listening, speaking and writing.
About your questions:
I got vocabulary from exposition, as described above.
Grammar was also on exposition.Language-spoken environments are kinda hard to come by, so I never really got immersed on them, unless you consider MMOs, although that would be language-written environments right?
Anything more? I believe it’s always good to keep learning, but the essencials would be(IMO) grammar and vocabulary.
I didn’t really try a lot, it was more of a passive thing, so it took about 5, maybe 7 years. It’s hard to set a start and finish line over passive exposition, but more or less this amount of time. Keep in mind that if I had actively studied grammar and vocabulary, it would have been much shorter, all I did was really expose myself to content I liked in english.
I guess the number of hours of exposition changes from person to person depending on how you abosorb it.
Overall I’m just going to repeat myself but I think exposition is the best thing, although it’s not just randomly looking for things to read, they need to be things you want to read, or listen to, etc, that way it’s much more effective. Don’t disregard practice though, learning how a certain word or part of speech works in a lesson can save you many days of just being exposed to that.
This has become way longer than I expected XD

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I live in Montreal, Canada, and I’ve become relatively fluent in French over time. I studied French in school just like everyone else in Canada, but school is kind of rubbish for really learning a language I think. I got laughed at a bit for certain phrases I learned in school that were either really old fashioned e.g. “Zut, alors!” or just not what people use in everyday life in Quebec (can’t think of an example right now, but there are several).

Anyway, not to say that school isn’t useful at all, because it gave me a good baseline knowledge of French. Just that once I had that knowledge, consuming real media such as local news and local shows and movies as well as conversing with local people about everyday things helped me way more to really understand the language.

I’m not really a prime example of achievement or anything, I mean I am pretty lazy about practicing because my francophone husband speaks perfect English. But yeah, everything people say about immersion is 100% true, it just is really tiring and frustrating (at least for me).

I think unless you really plan on writing serious literature or papers for school, it might not be helpful to do studying for studying sake after a certain level. I feel like you probably already know this since you’re a pretty high level (at least in Japanese).

I imagine for English it is much easier to do this because there is much more media available, but what I do right now is watch the news on TV in French with my husband. It is cool because there are always captions at the bottom to summarize what the story is about if I don’t catch everything they talk about. If there is a word I don’t know, I’ll ask my husband what it means and sometimes an example of how it’s used. When I was working in a French speaking environment, everyone I worked with understood English but spoke only French. So sometimes I wouldn’t understand, but I’d just ask them what a certain expression meant. I started compiling a notebook on expressions and words which were mostly colloquialisms that I would have never learned in school. It really helped me so much with my comprehension.

I can’t really tell you how many hours per day it takes, although for example, if you are working in a non-native speaking environment, you can expect to have around 8h per day of immersion. I would say that would be extremely helpful. If not, even just listening to media in the target language for a few hours a day helps a lot. My dad married a Mexican woman and neither of them spoke each other’s language at first. My dad managed to pick up Spanish by watching Mexican telenovelas, and just carrying around his Spanish-English dictionary all day (according to him). I think the key really is to practice every day in whatever way is available to you, even if it’s just finding videos on the internet that are in that language.

I hope that helps a bit, sorry for the really long post!

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I am not sure if you want another answer about English, but only practice really helped. Everything else is just a bootstrap to get you there.

Although, I still would like to improve my English and it requires more theory. But it will not help with fluency by this point.

I’m fluent in English and somewhat fluent in German and all I can say for certain that there is no one right path to fluency. You have to find out what works for you and if you keep at it and don’t give up, it’s impossible to not get fluent in a language.

As for how long it takes for a language, it depends on the languages you know and your definition of fluency. It can take anywhere from 1000-4000 hours of dedicated study to pass some advanced tests, but you can get to a conversational speaking level quite a bit faster.

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Yeah it is pretty hard to study French compared to English. You can get native English materials everywhere, without effort - original audio tracks for video files, subtitles, reading materials, everything.

With French it gets more complicated. Not only there isn’t as much materials, but it is harder to get. Even when there is some French thing like TV series, getting the original audio for it is quite a pain. And of course, no subtitles.

Oh yeah, it is a lot easier living in Quebec where you can just turn on the TV :slight_smile: I have a good website for finding movies in French with English subtitles but I’m not sure if I can link it here for reasons. On the other hand, I believe has a lot of current shows you can watch for free. Also the NFB has a lot of films in French.

I’m exposed daily to the language so I got used to it. My pronunciation is off because I don’t speak it much, but I’d say I’m very good at everything else. That’s all there is to it, exposure.

Oh, no, I mean French subtitles.

I resorted to Netflix, will watch it more when it’s time to buff my French. It’s basically English TV shows dubbed in French, heh. No subtitles as well, IIRC, but at least when watching shows which you already watched it is easier to understand from the context.

Thankfully, English language isn’t very welcomed in France, so a lot of dubbed things exist :smiley:

Fluency is a difficult and vague word. Does it mean to know every aspect of a language without fault? To understand it completely, but not necessarily be fluent in methods of expression? How about pronunciation? Do you need to be able to write it? I highly doubt there are many who started learning a language as an adult who are able to call themselves as fluent as a native. In order to be fully fluent to the point of being mistaken for a native, you would most likely have to learn it as a child. Still, I won’t claim that fluency is impossible, just very difficult and dependant on your aptitude for learning languages.

If you want to become proficient in a language as an adult, the most effective way would likely be to immerse yourself in a native environment or media. I don’t consider myself fluent in spoken or written English according to my own definition, but I do have a fluent understanding of it. I learned English almost fully through video games, but I was young at the time and had an advantage I no longer have today. Another important thing to take into consideration is the language’s similarity to your native one. English and Norwegian are strongly related, so grammar was hardly any problem at all. I might have had more of a problem if Polish was the language I was supposed to learn. In that case, I would need to study a lot of grammar.

In the end, I personally believe that becoming perfectly fluent isn’t all that important. I doubt natives would judge. I meet non-native Norwegian speakers all the time, and I honestly don’t care at all if their grammar is a little off. The important part is to make yourself understood. Take it step by step, immersing yourself in the language while also studying grammar and vocabulary, work hard, and you might soon find yourself highly capable or even fluent.

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Oh, I bet you can find French subs on the sites I linked. Not sure if you’re interested in watching stuff in Quebec French, but there is a lot of variety :slight_smile: