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Poll: How old were you when you started receiving input in your second language?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

Venkatesh Sundaram  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 15:00
Member
German to English
Mine ('second language' was Marathi too Oct 14, 2008

Christine Andersen wrote:

My "second" language was probably Marathi, which my parents were studying and speaking when I was born. Unfortunately for my language learning, they took me 'home' to the UK around the age of three, and then moved to a city where they did not dare allow me out alone. I never learnt more than a few words of Marathi, and left India for good at the age of 10.

The second language I understood was French, which I learnt intermittently from the age of 7 and took up to BA level at about 40. I was fluent and could probably be again, but have never been to France or used it actively. I can read it without trouble.

I did four years of Latin along the way too... motivated by dreams of reading medicine.

At around 16 I started German, and did an intensive course to A-Level, then again, studied the language intermittently up to Bachelor level on different courses (I was battling with ill health in my 20s and went to three different colleges ...) I speak German more fluently than French at a basic level...

Then I married a Dane and took up Danish at the age of 28. That is now more or less my language of habitual usage or second native language, and I have lived longer in Denmark than any other country.

I studied Danish on an intensive course for foreigners for a year, but was largely self taught after that until I took a course at commercial college along with Danish sixth-formers, mainly to learn office skills. I followed this up with night school French-to-Danish and German-to-Danish at around bachelor level, and then as I approached 50 I took a postgraduate diploma in translation from Danish to English and English to Danish.

I do a few jobs from Swedish and Norwegian, though if I don't like the look of them I back out on the excuse that I am totally auto-didact and not qualified

I am functionally bilingual, and in terms of fluency etc. Danish is my second language. But it was about the fifth I actually learnt.

Take your pick!



[Edited at 2008-10-13 19:51]


Glad to know of others who had to learn Marathi as a second language! My first (since kindergarten) was English, and I learnt a couple of others too, on the way. However the one I now work with is German!


 

Venkatesh Sundaram  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 15:00
Member
German to English
One more - 'why not indeed' Oct 14, 2008

Alexandra Goldburt wrote:

Amy Duncan wrote:

Nesrin wrote:

Can you seriously imagine a professional translator first ever learning a foreign language in his/her 40s, 50s or beyond? (Well until now the poll suggests that there isn't).



Why not?


Indeed, why not? Human beings can learn in any age. I intend to continue learning new languages into my nineties, or whatever age I manage to live to.

Will I translate from it? Yes, after I have learned it well. I have done some translation from Portuguese - the language I started learning when I was 40.

Back to the original question: I started to learn English at the age of 25, when I immigrated. I started to learn Spanish at 27. I learned them both well enough to become a Spanish-English interpreter, and to aspire to get court certification as such (that's what I'm working on right now). Sure, there will be people skeptical about my ability to do it, but I will not let it stop me.


I started learning German, the language I translate from quite competently these days, when I was forty. I intend learning another language in my fifties too!


 

LegalTranslatr2  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:30
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Exposure to foreign languages Oct 14, 2008

Age 1: My mother's parents were French and my father's parents were German

Age 6: We moved to the bilingual state of Florida and I was exposed to Spanish

Age 18-21: I took Italian, Portuguese, Latin, Russian and Arabic in college


 

Marina Menendez  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 06:30
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
Translators, not learners Oct 14, 2008

So, we can be translators although we haven't learnt a language. Weird idea, isn't it?

[Edited at 2008-10-14 13:20]


 

Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 01:30
English to Russian
+ ...
Learning after 40 Oct 15, 2008

Nesrin wrote:
I'm not sure you understood me, Amy and Alexandra. I don't doubt for a moment that it is possible to start learning new languages in one's 40s and beyond.
What I am finding hard to imagine, is that someone could reach their 40s EXCLUSIVELY speaking his/her native language - not even having the concept of what a foreign language is, THEN start to learn a language, and THEN actually go on to become a professional translator.
But that may be just me with my limited imagination and understanding of human nature (and poll results are indeed starting to show some exceptions).


[Edited at 2008-10-14 09:01]


May be I did not understand you indeed, Nesrin. The above scenario - exclusively monolingual until 40, then learning a second language well and becoming a translator - is not very likely, but surely possible.

I am not sure, though, that "not even having the concept of what a foreign language is" part of the scenario is within the range of possibility. Not even to have a concept of what a foreign tongue is, one has to live in a really remote and isolated part of the world. Might have been possible long, long time ago, but in the age of globalization? I cannot envision it, unless you are talking about a member of a recently discovered Indian tribe of Amazonia - and if this is so, then I have to concede and you won a debate.

While I was monolingual until the age of 25, I certainly had a concept of foreign languages. There were some German classes at school, but the quality of instruction in the old Soviet Union was so low, that when I got to Vienna at the age of 24, I couldn't even order food in a restaurant! So, I cannot say I learned German - I was just exposed to it somewhat.

I also was exposed to people speaking many different languages around me (Russia is by no means monolingual!) - languages I wanted to understand badly, but there were no classes and no self-teaching materials.

So I think you are right about the necessity of at least some exposure to foreign languages, if not actually learning them. We are not so far apart in our thinking, as it turned out!


 

Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 01:30
English to Russian
+ ...
Late learners of the world, unite! Oct 15, 2008

Venkatesh Sundaram wrote:
I started learning German, the language I translate from quite competently these days, when I was forty. I intend learning another language in my fifties too!


My admiration, Venkatesh. Keep learning!

But why in the world stop at fifties?


 

wonita (X)
China
Local time: 06:30
11 Oct 17, 2008

At the age of 11, I started my middle school. English was a compulsory course then. My English teacher spoke really bad English, if her English could be called English at all. What else could I expect in the communist China in the 1980s? I got some real input of English at college, where we had native English speakers around.

[Edited at 2008-10-17 10:14]


 

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:30
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Duh... Oct 17, 2008

Same quandary as Christine. When you're born into an extended family where four mother languages (plus your nanny's) are spoken by the members, it's a race for the child's mind, initially at zero, from zero years of age.

 
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