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What are the first words one learns when learning a new language?

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ONEWE's WEVE
<a href="/fr/translator/lmtwgr" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1428669">lmtwgr</a>
Inscrit·e le : 26.07.2019
Pending moderation

I always had this question on my mind. When someone starts learning a new language what are the first things they learn? Or what have you learned at the beginning when you started learning a new language?
Do you learn to say hi, bye, yes and no first? Or numbers first? If a language doesn't use Latin alphabets, you'd probably learn those first but what do you learn afterwards?
I personally think it's the question words, what, why, when, who, where. At least that's from my experience. Even if I don't plan on learning a language, I can still remember these words since they are used a lot.
What do you guys think?

Moderator poromboessara 👨🏻‍🏫📚✍🏻👨🏻
<a href="/fr/translator/alma-barroca" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1110108">Alma Barroca</a>
Inscrit·e le : 05.04.2012

I remember that when I had my first Spanish classes at school we had the basics: names of the letters, days of the week, months of the year, adjectives, etc. Not enough to make of us fluent (or even basic speakers) in it, one of the reasons why I dropped out of Spanish and took English at the time, but I think that is a good start, specially if contextualized. I remember we often read song lyrics, watched Spanish movies and had translation exercises (maybe one of the reasons why I really like LT).

Editor chasing Anningan and Malina
<a href="/fr/translator/anerneq" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1112972">Anerneq</a>
Inscrit·e le : 10.05.2012

If I'm studying a language on my own, I start first with the alphabet and the pronunciation. I then move on to the basics (hi, hello, goodbye, good morning, how are you?, thank you and bla bla) and then I learn the whole grammar. While studying the grammar, I also study the most important verbs (to be, to have, to like, to speak, etc.) and the most important grammar words (and, because, more than, less than, etc.). From there on it's a matter of practice, learning new vocabulary and learning fixed sentence structures.

Novice
<a href="/fr/translator/avishag" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1508542">Avishag</a>
Inscrit·e le : 27.07.2021

I always first learn how to say "I don't speak/ understand (the language you try to learn)"

Moderator poromboessara 👨🏻‍🏫📚✍🏻👨🏻
<a href="/fr/translator/alma-barroca" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1110108">Alma Barroca</a>
Inscrit·e le : 05.04.2012

Italian music has been my teacher as I have never taken formal classes, and that explains why I can perfectly talk to you and any other Italian native here at the same time I'm unable to introduce myself in Italian 😳 It's been doing a good job so far, may I say. Soon I'll try translating raps or hip-hop songs to get more familiarized with slang, which I've often been told that helps even more.

Oh, and this thread raised my curiosity. I'll try to find my older foreign language textbooks to check their syllabi and how subjects are organized in it (OCD chiming in - but it actually is quite interesting Regular smile ). I'm pretty sure my English books started as well with ABC, 123, blue/yellow/green/..., fat/old/thin/tall/...

Editor chasing Anningan and Malina
<a href="/fr/translator/anerneq" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1112972">Anerneq</a>
Inscrit·e le : 10.05.2012

Yeah, music is helpful to learn more vocabulary, but it doesn't help too much with the basics.
I personally don't care too much about slang and if I decide to learn it, I wait until I have a super proficient level. Slang may be country-specific or city-specific, so I wouldn't really touch upon it, unless I'm living in that country/city.

What I've learned through experience is that the most varied your learning method is and the more effective it will be. Instead of focusing on one thing only, it's really useful to learn a foreign language by diversifying your learning method and use the language in different ways, like speaking to people, listening to music, reading books, watching videos, writing to people or even to yourself, etc.

Super Member
<a href="/fr/translator/dimi-chris" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1446131">Dimi Chris</a>
Inscrit·e le : 09.02.2020

In my experience, the first words you usually learn are greetings, like "good morning", "good night", "hello" etc., numbers and as soon as you get a dictionary you search for all the bad words.  :P 

Senior Member
<a href="/fr/translator/sofia-garrido" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1453020">Sofia Garrido</a>
Inscrit·e le : 18.04.2020

I've learned English trough years in the basic scholar formation, wich honestly isn't so good in public primary, and like other people, the things you first learn are alphabet, basic gramar, vocabulary, very required, the skills to develope your knowledge of the language, etc. And because how the teaching metodology in my country were stablished in those years I was a kid, it was all based on the same program in all states in general, with minimum requirements and anually degrees. I think that was one of the reasons so many children didn't really learned the language, but all they know English teachers are the best. The English class I know is a playful class with a wonderful miss or mister, and since my mother is a teacher herself, I was related with the language and still today. She use to teach with song lyrics also, and most of my English musical formation came from her. Now the years have passed, I see there is new innovate metods and approaches to learn and teach so many languages, adding translation. The need of having a second or more languages in a cv is every time more vital, and the information now can be reached is in need to be spread in so various idioms and forums.

Super Member
<a href="/fr/translator/jadis" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1387945">Jadis</a>
Inscrit·e le : 01.07.2018
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<a href="/fr/translator/bluebird" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1483017">BlueBird</a>
Inscrit·e le : 27.12.2020
I think It depends on what you mean by learning and where (how) you learn it.

Some say learning is the ability to use a capability. Generally, learning a language means mastering four abilities: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Naturally (like a baby) these abilities are learnt in the same order. It is all about being able to 'use' it, not just knowing the meaning of words.

Learning a language can be thought of as encoding concepts with words, sounds, constructs, etc in another symbol system. To be efficient, most used concepts are coded with the least amount of symbols. So, the parts of language you learn 'naturally' are the ones most used around you or by you, in their most efficient way (usually the short, simple ones). I guess that's how you start learning a language.

I remember a grandma, a teacher by profession, tried to teach her first grandchild to speak. She used to point to different things in her house all the time and tell the child, "What is this?" followed by "this is ...". The first things the child finally said was, "What is this?" Regular smile (this is called parroting in children).

So, I guess the first things one 'naturally' learns are greetings (Hello, goodbye, ,,,), Polite phrases used every day (Thanks, welcome, sorry, sir/madam, ...), basic answers (yes, no), introductions (I am, my name is, ...), conversation starters, basic directions, etc. Please see here for a more comprehensive list.

ONEWE's WEVE
<a href="/fr/translator/lmtwgr" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1428669">lmtwgr</a>
Inscrit·e le : 26.07.2019

Now reading all these different thoughts and experiences, I feel like I'm the odd one.
An example of what I mean, is the way I learned Korean (and some other langauges). I had zero knowledge of the language, I just started watching TV shows (with eng subs) and listening to music, I have to say sites like LT were very helpful as well. Time went by and in less than 3 years, with no intentions of learning the language, I was able to watch TV shows that weren't subbed, listen to songs (mostly rap) like always, understand them 95%, but unable to translate directly (I mean I understood what they were saying but I couldn't tell my sister what they were saying).
Even today, if I use my brain enough, I can translate Korean songs to different langauges, but I still can't read and write in Korean.
I think that's because I had no intentions of learning the language (I still don't).
I once decided to force myself to learn the alphabet, but it was impossible no matter how much I forced myself, that's when I realized that my brain absorbed everything just with hearing and seeing subconsciously.

Human's brain is such a fascinating thing!

Super Member
<a href="/fr/translator/balkant%C3%BCrk" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1439077">Balkantürk</a>
Inscrit·e le : 21.11.2019

There are many factors to consider, one of them is depeding on the environment you were raised. For example Bosnians, Serbs, Croats and Montenegrins understand each other without study the other languages. As I am Bosnian I speak and understand without any problems the other 3 languages. It has a history on that but that's annother item Wink smile In the case of my knowledge in Turkish language I am fluent thanks to my grandfather who worked as a Turkish teacher, and with whom I speak in Turkish since I was a child. My mother knew Russian and as a kid I love to watch movies in Russian language. That's the point. Try to watch movies in the language you are studying at or read books. Also, speaking is a good way to improve your knowledge. Other "environment" is your career. If you go to University, depending on the career, you will have to study two languages or if you got a work (I don't know for e.g in Germany) also it's a good way to learn a language. Speaking and Listening. Also, another excellent way is, taking notes about your grammar errors, but don't get obssesed Wink smile Try to speak with natives and ask them to correct you, if it's the case, so you will learn more and more. For e.g my boyfriend is  from Mongolia and since I wanted to speak with him and his family in Mongolian language we practice it every day. Step by step. First easy conversations and then we jump to new "grades". He corrected me and the more he corrected the more I learnt. The most important factor is your goal. If you don't have a goal then turn off and let's go. 

Senior Member
<a href="/fr/translator/ratboy" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1396708">ratboy</a>
Inscrit·e le : 21.09.2018

In classes I learned greetings, days of the week, and numbers first (alphabet was usually less important unless we were learning how each letter is pronounced, but this was only in languages with the Latin alphabet). I remember my French classes going into everyday things (the metro, restaurants, etc) although some of it was outdated since the books were very old. My Spanish classes were mostly the same, but I missed some material and my teacher mysteriously never went over grammar with us - unless I missed that, because I was put into the class mid-semester.

My experience with Russian has been really unique (compared to the other languages I learned), but that's because I had learned the alphabet on my own years before and already had a vague idea on some words and phrases due to music. I managed to take a couple classes and got the grammar down - even though case forms sometimes confuse me, interacting with them in songs has helped me a lot. My teacher even seemed to like the approach and we'd often take songs apart and figure out what they meant and how each phrase was structured. At that point, I also knew more about languages as a whole so I was able to ask more 'productive' questions.

I think I word things weirdly in my other languages because I usually see a less common (and sometimes archaic) word I find funny and decide to find a way to work it into my vocabulary (though usually it only comes out when talking to myself because I'm too nervous to say it otherwise). I've also found looking at memes and the like have helped me understand stuff like text speak and sometimes more casual ways of wording things, if I don't have a native speaker to talk to (let alone one my age).

When it comes to languages I don't know much of, the first word I usually pick up on is 'love'.

Member
<a href="/fr/translator/nienor" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1515049">Nienor</a>
Inscrit·e le : 12.10.2021

If I go to a country where English isn't the main language, I always learn how to say "Hi" and "Thank you"
(or try to learn, whether I speak it understandably is another question).
I think that is common curtsey. "Yes" and "No" is also useful, especially if you go somewhere where people will bombard you with "great" offers to sell stuff Teeth smile

I am notoriously bad at learning languages, especially if they are not very similar to Norwegian or English, so often that is the best I can do. However, if my brain cooperate, I also try to learn stuff like "I am" "What is your name" "Where is...." "Could you show me / teach me ..."

If you want to use a language to talk to strangers you will often need to learn how to say stuff about yourself and ask stuff about others. If you want to use it to talk to friends / people with common interest you will have to add other stuff, like "Currently I am reading this really sad book about..." :p Regular smile

Moderator
<a href="/fr/translator/thomas222" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1310118">Thomas222</a>
Inscrit·e le : 06.10.2016

To this day, I still remember the very first English words I've learned in school:

-Red
-Green
-Tomato
-Cucumber

Whatchutalkingabout smile

Editor Pursuer of Shalva-רודף שלווה
<a href="/fr/translator/moshe-kaye" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1457601">Moshe Kaye</a>
Inscrit·e le : 25.05.2020

I always seemed to learn the swear words first... hmm.. :-)

Yeeter of Creepers
<a href="/fr/translator/aussieminecrafter" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1508735">AussieMinecrafter</a>
Inscrit·e le : 30.07.2021

It depends. I’ll give an example of the language I mainly translate into here - Arrernte. Arrernte is an Aboriginal language spoken in Alice Springs. You’d mainly learn basic words first as well as some nouns (some of which come from English e.g mutakaye = car ("motor car"), kamule = camel, ye = yes, Angkelethe = English, nutele = noodles, rapite = rabbit, kampiyute = computer, makite = gun ("musket"), etc). Basic words in Arrernte include:
* werte = hello
* ngenhe = you
* ayenge = I, me
* -alakenhe = like (from English "alike")
* ngkwinhe = your
* atyenhe - my, mine
* iwenhe - what
* angwenhe = who
* -kenhe = ‘s (e.g Ngkarte-kenhe puke = God’s book)
And so on. It’s probably different in other languages because Arrernte only has around 5,000 speakers, so there are less words and many words were coined by the Bible and by dictionaries.

Moderator poromboessara 👨🏻‍🏫📚✍🏻👨🏻
<a href="/fr/translator/alma-barroca" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1110108">Alma Barroca</a>
Inscrit·e le : 05.04.2012

It curiously was not uncommon for me to have foreign people asking me how Brazilian profanity is and sounds like Regular smile I had an Italian friend that definitely knows Brazilian bad words due to me, but let's keep it out of discussion xD

Super Member
<a href="/fr/translator/igeethecat" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1365086">Igeethecat</a>
Inscrit·e le : 16.12.2017
Alma Barroca a écrit :

It curiously was not uncommon for me to have foreign people asking me how Brazilian profanity is and sounds like Regular smile I had an Italian friend that definitely knows Brazilian bad words due to me, but let's keep it out of discussion xD

Is Brazilian a language?

Moderator poromboessara 👨🏻‍🏫📚✍🏻👨🏻
<a href="/fr/translator/alma-barroca" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1110108">Alma Barroca</a>
Inscrit·e le : 05.04.2012
Igeethecat a écrit :
Alma Barroca a écrit :

It curiously was not uncommon for me to have foreign people asking me how Brazilian profanity is and sounds like Regular smile I had an Italian friend that definitely knows Brazilian bad words due to me, but let's keep it out of discussion xD

Is Brazilian a language?

The answer to that question depends on your own point of view, dear. Of course it is not a standalone language though there are some (even linguists) who claim that Brazilian Portuguese is so different from European Portuguese that it should be considered as such. If you go to Facebook communities you'll even see 'European Brazilian' being said regarding our European cousins, because of historical/political factors. But I was not talking about language in my last comment, I was talking about my own nation - for Brazil and Portugal really are different countries with different people and cultures, as such, the way we cuss obviously also differs Regular smile Or why would I say 'Portuguese cussing' if I'm not Portuguese? See? Regular smile

Super Member
<a href="/fr/translator/igeethecat" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1365086">Igeethecat</a>
Inscrit·e le : 16.12.2017
Alma Barroca a écrit :
Igeethecat a écrit :
Alma Barroca a écrit :

It curiously was not uncommon for me to have foreign people asking me how Brazilian profanity is and sounds like Regular smile I had an Italian friend that definitely knows Brazilian bad words due to me, but let's keep it out of discussion xD

Is Brazilian a language?

The answer to that question depends on your own point of view, dear. Of course it is not a standalone language though there are some (even linguists) who claim that Brazilian Portuguese is so different from European Portuguese that it should be considered as such. If you go to Facebook communities you'll even see 'European Brazilian' being said regarding our European cousins, because of historical/political factors. But I was not talking about language in my last comment, I was talking about my own nation - for Brazil and Portugal really are different countries with different people and cultures, as such, the way we cuss obviously also differs Regular smile Or why would I say 'Portuguese cussing' if I'm not Portuguese? See? Regular smile

I know, honey! It's the same reason they should call American English "American" 🤣

Invité·e
Invité·e

Hi Eri, yes, I would prefer polite and question words, too. For to get in contact, for further orientation and for to learn more about the foreign culture. But it depends on the situation, of course: If I were a conquistador, the most important phrase would probably be: "Give me all your gold!" If I wanted to sail around the world on my own and had to learn the Morse code, SOS would be my first choice...

Super Member
<a href="/fr/translator/bluebird" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1483017">BlueBird</a>
Inscrit·e le : 27.12.2020

May I suggest changing the topic's title to "A walk down the memory lane by used to be language learners"? Regular smile

It's like school days memories, so nostalgic.

Super Member
<a href="/fr/translator/florbox" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1503836">florbox</a>
Inscrit·e le : 11.06.2021

The best french teacher I had was an Italki-teacher from Alsace Regular smile She was the best. Apparently people who master a dialect are more conscious of the differences between standard language and dialect and are aware of rules too early, even without studying linguistics or whatsoever.

Super Member
<a href="/fr/translator/florbox" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1503836">florbox</a>
Inscrit·e le : 11.06.2021

All language lessons for beginners are pretty much the same ( how are you, how old are you, numbers, what time is it, etc). The only exception is turkish. We spent our first 3 months learning about vowel and consonant harmonies and then other 3 months about noun cases . A lot of people drop out because of that. It was like doing linguistics. So boring and tiring. I am sure that there are teachers who try to make the lesson interesting, but well, we were all adults in the class and nobody wanted to hear songs, nor...speak to each other hahha

Super Member
<a href="/fr/translator/%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%BD" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1516495">Мирин</a>
Inscrit·e le : 29.10.2021

The first words what I learn are pronouns, verbs "be" and "do" and words "yes" and "no". I think these are the main things to learn new language.

Member
<a href="/fr/translator/bendycrate-aka-foldy" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1530452">Bendycrate A.K.A. Foldy</a>
Inscrit·e le : 07.02.2022

As someone with experience, i find it helps to learn the most common/useful words first (That, when, is, it, for, if, etc...). Afterwards I recommend learning nouns, verbs, and adjectives (in that order)