Lesson 58

Learning a Second Language with Fernando from Brazil

Level: Intermediate
Lesson contents:
  • Present Perfect.
  • Vocabulary: a synonym for mother tongue, graduate, immersed, you as one.
  • Would to indicate uncertainty.

Always watch the video several times without subtitles first. Train your ears! Your pronunciation will be much better if you follow this simple rule.

Exercises for this lesson:
How to do the lessons:
  1. Watch the video without subtitles.
  2. Do all the Exercises.
  3. Come back to this page.
  4. Watch the video with English Subtitles. Use the Pause button. People speak fast!

Problems? See general support or ask your question here.

Learning a Second Language

Watch this video, then click on Exercise 1

Same video with Precise Subtitles:



Fernando brings up a very interesting question. In order to learn a second language, he thinks that it is necessary to live in a country where the target language is spoken. In his case, an English-speaking country. This is also true for myself. I never would have learned to speak French fluently if I hadn't lived in France.

But a surprising number of learners objected to this "necessity", claiming that they learned English well in their home countries. There are many comments on this clip on our YouTube channel which attest to this belief, although most people who commented agree with Fernando.

I do know some people who have learned English quite well, who speak fluently or almost fluently, and have never even spent a single day in an English-speaking country. The ones I know are from The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. There are perhaps a dozen countries, at the most, that are unique in Europe, where English is learned at a young age in a more or less natural way, as opposed to the Mediterranean countries where language learning is based on a sort of text-based puzzle approach, where only grammar rules seem to be taken seriously (ridiculously seriously, never making the connection between grammar and speaking!) where language learning begins at a much later age, and where very little or no speaking takes place in the classroom.

Also, some otolaryngologists, and especially the followers of Alfred Tomatis, have attempted, with some success, to show that speakers of many languages (especially in the south of Europe) simply cannot hear certain frequencies, and therefore are at a disadvantage in comparison to their neighbors to the north who seem to have, in general, a wider range of hearing ability. I personally think there is truth in both of these explanations of why some people in certain countries can actually learn a language well, especially their listening comprehension and speaking skills, without having to spend long periods of time in target-language countries in order to learn.