Yes, if you want to learn French or German or whatever once you grow up when your native tongue is English, it's considerably harder than it would be if you were single digit age. I studied French at GCSE level, didn't have a clue (neither did the rest of the class in all honesty), didn't really like it and surprised myself when I somehow managed to get a Grade C in it. I suspect I could have scribbled whatever the French is for "b*llocks" across the exam paper and still get an F.
It can be done as an adult, learning a second language, you just can't use the methods that work for children, as they have nothing to fight against. You do. If you want your kid to be able to speak four languages, immerse them in it while they're still young. As an adult you have to put a heck of a lot more legwork in.
I'm currently learning French (at well beyond school age) - TV subtitles continue to be incredibly helpful, in part because it takes many, many hours of listening for your ears to adapt to the subtleties of the pronunciation. (Though when it does happen it's kind of automatic, as though your it's allocated more neural pathways or whatever for processing the language and you've suddenly got more bandwidth. That or it's grown used to different syllables, phonics etc.)
Also, French numbers are (in my opinion) - a nightmare. I was forever confusing various pairs (14 and 40, 6 and 16, 1,000 and 1,000,000…) and if you concentrate too hard on decrypting the number, you miss the rest of the sentence.
For these reasons I've found Franceinfo brilliant, because there's plenty of on screen text backing up what's being said, plus all the repetition.
My other observation from learning a second language in large part through broadcasting, is that presenters and correspondents speak it significantly better than everybody else - be it guests on programmes, or just random people you meet when visiting the country: considerably slower, with greater care and clarity, and the vocabulary is much easier to grasp than that in some of the newspapers.
There are a couple of major problems with subtitles though - they're almost always a rewritten, more concise version of the spoken dialogue. Also, I've found on French TV especially it's rare for a programme, even recorded, to have them correctly timed. It's especially frustrating where the subtitles suddenly stop for 10 seconds or more, and then you get two or three phrases flash up in quick succession and you have a second or two at most to read them. Though French TV doesn't have the number of subtitling errors I remember UK programmes having.
YouTube's auto-generated captioning solves these issues and the timing is incredibly precise, except, because it's auto-generated, it's often total nonsense.
Last edited by william on 5 March 2021 1:02am