The language learning thread

I thought it might be interesting to hear what experiences people have on here with languages.

I started learning (Mandarin) Chinese in 2014. I had graduated from high school a year early but, for various reasons, I didn't immediately go to college. This wasn't really a "gap year", since that term makes me think of people going on luxurious trips around the world or at least working in some capacity. I just sat in my room without going outside. Until the spring of 2015, when I started seeing a therapist, I don't think I spoke aloud with anyone except my parents. Very early on though, I think maybe a week or two after I finished high school, I bought an old Chinese textbook and downloaded the tapes that were supposed to go with it off the internet. Over the summer and fall working through the textbook was pretty much all I did.

Now, almost 7 years later, studying Chinese is still my only real hobby. It has really taught me how much time you can put into something and still be nowhere near where you want to be. When I started studying Chinese, I imagined that language learning was like a progress bar filling up, that there would be a day where Chinese was officially learned for me, and I could move on and study other things. I guess my expectation was that if I could comfortably talk to Chinese people about most things and could comfortably read novels without constantly checking a dictionary, then my work would be finished. But that's not really the case at all. In reading, I'm constantly discovering, like, some super simple character I learned in my first year or two has some other meaning I've never noticed before. Or I find myself in social situations I've never been in before that seem to require a vocabulary that I haven't acquired. The most extreme example of this was playing Mahjong for the first time, having the rules explained to me -- there is this whole micro-language I'd never encountered before for talking about that game. Though less extreme examples happen almost everyday.

And beyond all that, there's something much more complicated, which I'll call the cultural element, since I can't really think of a better word. I don't want to say too much, because I feel like I'm totally unqualified to talk about culture and cultural differences in any intelligent way -- but I've slowly realized that in learning a language that you weren't born into, you are taking something that doesn't belong to you, that you can never hope to fully understand, and there's a certain responsibility that comes with that. I'm still coming to terms with it. It's not something I had ever even remotely considered back before I started learning Chinese! I guess I'd thought language was like this module you can just install in your brain then be done with, which isn't really how it works. You have to actually talk to people, read people's writings, consider shared experiences that you were never and can never be a part of, yet still try to do your best to understand. In doing that, there's a whole universe of complexities that arise.

In the last six months I've started very casually learning Japanese. I just want to understand song lyrics! And well, there's also a bunch of books I want to read with no English translations -- but that's still a ways off. It's weird how simultaneously easy and hard Japanese is. It's easy in the sense that, even at the basic level I'm at, I can play through games in Japanese and still understand 80% of what's going on. This is of course because I know what most of the Chinese characters mean (though they are sometimes used in very different ways from how they're used in Chinese). When you combine that with some basic Japanese grammar knowledge (and also all the katakana English words), it's possible to at least read the language and vaguely understand things. But Japanese is incredibly hard in the sense that it basically contains all of Chinese (or at least a certain form of Chinese) as a subset, so I have to relearn the pronunciation of every character, but there's also the completely different native language coexisting in there that has its own multi-millenium history and its own idiosyncrasies that I'm now just barely beginning to understand. It will be a very very long time until I'm even remotely comfortable with spoken Japanese.

So that's me. What about you? Share your experiences!

I speak fluent Tagalog (Filipino,) and English. Tagalog is my first language. I‘ve studied Spanish, French and Japanese. I don’t speak any if those well at all but can pick up on things enough that I won‘t feel completely hopeless if i was somehow stranded in their respective countries. I would want to learn Japanese most, since it interests me the most and it’s the language I'm least familiar with.

I took four years of Spanish in middle and high school. I wanted to take Japanese but I got put in Spanish. It paid off, however, because I grew up in a part of the country with a predominantly latin community. I learned a lot in school and was able to apply it when I started working. The job I‘m at currently, I’m the only white dude there and it‘s an interesting experience. I wouldn’t say I speak Spanish, but I at least know enough to communicate in it when I have to, and even joke around sometimes.

In August 2019 I decided to start trying to learn Japanese. I bought a japanese learning textbook and download duolingo. I tried to approach it like a class at school. In the morning or after work, I'd study out of the textbook and take notes and stuff. I use duolingo during the downtime in the day, when I remember. I learned the alphabets pretty quickly so I can at least read it for the most part, but the kanji is where I'm really struggling. I have a really hard time remember the symbols and what they mean. I like to buy japanese manga whenever I can and just browse it, trying to make out what I can or using the Google translate app to write kanji symbols and commit them to memory.

I also took a linguistics class during my short stint at community college where I learned about how different languages are constructed. I find that really fascinating and I think it's helped in picking up other languages by being able to deconstruct sentence order and stuff. It also taught me about pidgin languages, which is when peoples of two or more different languages who are forced into close quarters with each other (through work or displacement) will mash their languages together to create something in the middle that both sides can understand. Crazy stuff.

@saddleblasters I started learning Japanese in my third year of college and I‘m 33 now, so I guess that’s about half my life so far. I still really suck shit at it. All the stuff you said: putting so much time into it, but still being so far away; it not being a progress bar; learning over and over again that something is more complicated than you thought, all rang very true.

When I started in college I had learned a little hiragana and katakana and was like welp, i'll probably ace this intro to Japanese course! I was easily the worst student in the class, and the teacher literally suggested that I get a tutor. I was approaching it, by my own assessment, in completely the wrong way: I was over-analyzing every word and point of grammar we were presented with and trying to fit it into the 3D jigsaw puzzle I had labeled "Japanese" in my brain, and when it didn't immediately fit I would have 10 questions as to why. Through trying to learn Japanese I have learned so much about how my tiny pea brain learns stuff. It turns out that when you're trying to learn something as massive and complex as a foreign language, you're jumping into the deep end no matter which way you approach it, and instead of immediately turning around to see how far you are from the wall, and how deep the water goes, and what is the mineral content of this water, and wow this water is very choppy, the only thing to do is to just swim, just keep moving forward. Once a year, maybe, it's OK to look back and see how far you've gotten.

I lived in Japan for around five years. One of my single biggest regrets in life is being too afraid to deploy my shitty Japanese, regardless of whatever state it was in, whenever I could. At that time in my life I had enough problems just communicating in English, and to put it simply I was way too worried about what I "sounded" like. It's not like I never spoke Japanese while I was there; I did, tons, but I would always gravitate toward stuff that felt comfortable. So the first year I lived there I became good friends with a Japanese guy at the same university. I'm glad I did and we're still friends today, but he likes to speak English, so we would do that. I met my spouse, also a Japanese student, at a language school in Japan after college, so we hung out a lot. Of course I'm glad I met her, we have two kids now; but when I look back on my time in Japan, I sure did spend a lot of time not speaking Japanese. What I'm saying is I should have had the courage to just like, go to a Boris show and try to meet native speakers who were into punk. I should have spent more time hanging out at Hirose Entertainment Yard in Akihabara. I did work in Japan, for a couple years, but it was at a company that was like half Japanese, half foreigners, and of course I often ended up on teams with other English speakers.

The hardest part of Japanese for me, still, is just being able to organize my thoughts, because the way that's done in Japanese is very different than in English. One thing that happens regularly to me when speaking Japanese is that I'll get very far into a statement and then realize I don't know how to get out of it. Like I'll have forgotten to say some important thing that in Japanese should have been made clear earlier, and if I were speaking English I could comfortably just add it in, but in Japanese I don't really know how to do that, so I sort of just have to start over. I'm still often in the very inefficient mode of thinking in English and then translating what I want to say into Japanese. Haven't learned to think in Japanese yet.

Anyway at some point along the line I passed the second highest level of the Japanese proficiency test, N2, and did so pretty easily, so I tried N1 the next year and bombed. I'm probably still somewhere between N2 and N1. And I look back on all the time I've spent and I'm like...have I really dedicated myself to this? At some point I became able to play Suikoden II in Japanese comfortably, and I think that more or less coincided with when I left Japan, and I'm wondering if at some subconscious level that's me telling myself that that's all I really ever wanted to be able to do, was play Suikoden II in Japanese. Probably not an exaggeration to say that I spent all that time and effort just because of Suikoden II. I'm an idiot but if that's really the case then it was worth it.

After taking a hiatus of four or so years, I've been back at it over the last six months, drilling vocab every day, Skyping old Japanese friends and getting them to talk to me, and now watching Japanese let's plays while I do the dishes. May still try to pass N1 some day

@Syzygy#21636 I actually made this thread specifically because I wanted to hear about your history with Japanese, but am too much of a weirdo to just ask you directly. So thanks for sharing!

(If you (or anyone else) are ever bored and feel like talking in Chinese (middling or not) with a non-native speaker, feel free to message me!)

@milo#21631 I also took a single linguistics class as a junior in college and deeply regret not taking a whole bunch more. I'd majored in math and had a brain full of concepts like sets, trees, and predicate logic, so it was kind of mind-blowing to see those same concepts being used to describe language, which up until that point I'd classified as something completely different. That class also opened the door to reading rigorous grammars, which helped a lot in taking my Chinese to the next level, especially when I started studying classical Chinese (文言). All of the English (and many of the Chinese) materials on it have a very academic flavor to them that probably would have been a lot more impenetrable without that class.

Anyways, I'm thinking now about the dichotomy that @tapevulture touches on where language can be something like a puzzle or a super complicated RPG battle system, that you can spend countless hours thinking about and trying to master, but it's also a practical tool for engaging with other people, entering their brains, having their feelings transmitted to you as you transmit your feelings, and in those moments language works best when it's something you don't even notice.

Spanish is my first language, but since I live and grew up in Tijuana which is a Mexican border city I spent most of my childhood being taught English in school. I would‘t say I didn’t learn anything in those clases, but most of them were terrible and I have a tendency to not do very well in classrooms or with traditional teaching methods, but I have an excellent memory, so I basically spent my whole childhood acumulating a lot of english vocabulary and a little bit of grammar without really knowing how to use it. So it was not until when i was like 12 that I started getting interested in a lot of things and I started listening to podcasts, watching youtube videos, playing rpg‘s and reading books in english, that I started to figure out and understand how to piece english together. I consume like 95% of media in english since then and I feel like that’s has been the thing that has made me comfortable speaking English.

Then when I was 17 and thinking about college, I wanted to try to study outside of my country (because I think that education here isn't very good and because I live in a place where being trans isn't very safe) and since US/Canada tuition costs are fucking ridiculous for an international student, I started learning french with the intension of applying to universities in france and belgium in adition to spain. I took french classes during the last semester of high school and during a sort of gap year that I took after High School. Then when it was time to apply, i felt that I was able to pass the level b2 test required for studying in france or belgium, but for personal reasons I felt that I wasn't ready to leave my home, and decided to enroll in college in my hometown (wich is basically free other than some enrollment fees) just to justify my existence while I waited another year and figure stuff out. While waiting for the school year to begin, and to start college, i decided to take japanese and korean classes because why not. I could take those classes in my local college even though I wasn't a student there yet. So I started with a month of daily 5-hour japanese lessons. And what would later be a period of 3 and a half months of 2 daily hours of Japanese and Korean lessons.

But then covid happened...

So I had to start college via online classes and it wasnt good at all and I hated it, I only lasted 2 months until I eventually dropped out. During the pandemic I continued learning Japanese on my own since I felt like the lessons weren't working for me. I gave up on korean and basically only remeber how to read Hangul. But I have been doing quite well in Japanese because im using an excelent srs kanji learnign service called WaniKani, it works pretty well and in less than a year I have learned more than half of the Joyo Kanji, right know im lacking a lot of grammar but i think that studying intermediate and advanced grammar once I know most of the kanji, will be more fun and a a alot more useful for my learning style.

Also during the pandemic I basically forced my way into learning Portuguese, since french had been easy for me because knowing spanish helps a huge amount, I figured out that portuguese would be a lot easier, so i completed half of the portuguese duolingo tree in like a month and a half, and then I started reading a ton of novels in portuguese. At the beggining i was quite slow at it, but after like the fifth one I could read them without any problem. (Edit: I forgot to add that while reading books in portuguese I was using my kobo e-reader's portuguese dictionary and that helped a ton)

I also have had a strong interest in linguistics in the last few years, and i feel that that has helped me a lot in language learning, being familiar with historical lingisitics and the process in which a word morphs and evolves as new lenguages emerge and evolve has been super useful in understanding why the languages im learning are the way they are. (this applies to a greater extend when learning languages form the same language family, eg. spanish english and french)

I dont consider myself fluent in any language other than Spanish or English. I can read novels In French and portuguese too, wich is pretty cool, but i dont consider myself familiar enough with french or portuguese speaking cultures, so I probably sound extremely robotic and weird when I speak either of those languages. I have a lot to learn still in all the languages that I dont speak natively but i have a lot of fun learning languages. I also just started learning tagalog 2 months ago so wish me look with that.

I did high school and college spanish, then mostly for work reasons picked it up again. Adult education for anything above basic spanish is not cheap unfortunately, so I take a few months on of classes followed by a few months off in order to not load up a credit card.

Also, the only place that offers classes at more proficient levels is kind fancy and I ferociously hate a good proportion of the other students. There's a real divide between like the public school teachers and healthcare workers who are taking classes and the 100% awful bourgeoisie I have to put up with. Just nightmarish. Did not expect to have that problem, but any normal person interested taking spanish classes - beware of the local gentry showing up to brag about their vacation homes, investment portfolios, and the time they saw hamilton on broadway - all in bad spanish!

@yeso#21648 I encountered the same type of people in my french class which was in a private language school, all the adults in the class were the most despicable kind of arrogant rich scumbags that said something racist or xenophobic each time they opened their mouths or would talk about all the times that they have been in france and about their careers as “entrepeneurs”, and the rest of the class were just teens with too much free time, like me.

Luckily I later took japanese and korean clases in a public university (which where extremely cheap) and most of the people there were very nice

I took one Chinese class in college (for similar reasons to what Syzygy mentioned earlier) expecting that it would be an absolute nightmare. My assumption was that it was going to be (a) business/economics/political science majors who have no interest in China/Hong Kong/Taiwan beyond the hope of giving a boost to their future salary by being able to list Chinese on their resume, and (b) white guys who wanted to use it to pick up girls. There really wasn't anyone like that though. It was just a bunch of random introverted people who were all extremely shy, but would get to class an hour early to practice with each other.

There were a few people taking the class who had parents from China/Taiwan but grew up here and had never formally learned the written language. At one point a few weeks into the semester the professor roped us (me and the Chinese-American students) into singing [this song]( for a cultural festival our school was doing. We had to each give a little speech about Chinese identity, which made me feel incredibly embarrassed and idiotic, since, being non-Chinese, I felt like anything I could say would be presumptuous and unsuitable. But the professor was very insistent that I be there. And I guess the whole situation was good, because at the very least I was brief and hopefully didn't detract that much, and it put me in a position where I listened much more closely to everyone else's experiences than I would have otherwise, giving me a lot to think about.

Anyways, this reminds me I need to email that professor. I was supposed to give her an update on my life post graduation, and since I'm a jerk, I never did.

My history with language learning/study has been sporadic and unfocused…probably best summed up as “The worst approach possible if you aspire toward any level of fluency.” I have a strong academic interest in language and linguistics, but learning from books and classes can only take you so far without travel, immersion, and real dedication.

I studied French for several years in high school, not completely by choice as I had already taken a year prior to high school and it seemed logical to just continue. I'm grateful for what I learned, but realistically this was one of the least practical languages I could have studied both in terms of professional and personal utility. In fact, my high school offered an unusually diverse set of options for language learning (including specifically offering _me_ the opportunity to travel to Japan)--not taking advantage of this at the time remains one of my greatest regrets in life.

My university required either one year of language study or the necessary placement exams to demonstrate some proficiency. My interest in French had waned and I hadn't studied it in senior year of high school, so I was just shy of the required score to place out of this requirement. I elected to start over with introductory Italian in college, which I ended up studying for two years. I really quite liked studying this language and, despite the shorter time studying it, feel I retain significantly more. However, by now I am light years from conversational, though I can haltingly communicate if pressed. For my final two semesters I studied Mandarin Chinese. Again, I learned quite a lot and even retained a decent amount from this intensive course, but (as the OP eloquently described) if I wanted actual proficiency I would need a great deal more dedication.

During college I also developed my interest in linguistics, mainly in terms of historical linguistics. I took a few courses on the topic and had my mind blown wide open by Proto-Indo-European. If my university offered minors I would have strongly considered linguistics as such. The closest concept was a joint concentration, which would have required a thesis combining this with my major (Chemistry). This was not completely infeasible if I had focused on the more biological or behavioral side of human language, but that wasn't quite my interest.

So that is where my formal academic training in language ended and, other than some half-hearted stabs at picking the mantle back up, I remain firmly monolingual. I have learned a great deal _about_ the Japanese language and, as the OP mentioned, having a background with Chinese is a nice leg-up with regard to Kanji. I had a reasonably long commute during a year-long fellowship a few years ago and listened to the Pimsleur Japanese lessons. I enjoyed their method of teaching, which is less passive and encourages you to think and respond in real-time with the recordings. At this point in my life I still have aspirations to continue learning the language, I just need to find the time and motivation to do so. Hopefully by encouraging me to reflect on all this IC has given me enough of a spark to do so!

edit: Also, for anyone with an interest in etymology, The Endless Knot by Mark Sundaram is a charming and fascinating [podcast]( and [YouTube channel](

I grew up in a majority Italian-American community in the States, so I‘m a native English speaker but I studied Italian for four years in high school. I would be so bold as to say I learned nothing in those classes and couldn’t speak a word of the language at the end. In my senior year of college I studied abroad for six months in Florence and during that time became modestly fluent. This drove home to me how incredibly important immersion is for language learning. It makes all the difference in the world to be able to practice, and better yet be forced to practice, every day. That was now over a decade ago and I have pretty much lost the language, which is a real regret of mine. Early in the pandemic I picked it up on Duolingo thinking that would be a fun thing to work on in isolation. It turned out my skills with the language were still good enough to blow through the lessons - but I did not find that it helped me actually speak the language with any fluency again.

**The other question I would be interested to pose to the group**: Do you all think that _talent_ plays a role in language acquisition? I've always considered myself _bad_ at learning languages. Maybe because of my pretty piss-poor early learning experiences. It is not something that comes naturally to me at all. My spouse, on the other hand, seems to soak up languages like a sponge. She studied French in school and was pretty fluent by the end of high school even without immersion. We actually went to Florence together (we were dating at that point) and her Italian was stronger than mine within a few weeks of arriving, despite my years of study in school. I'll never forget a night when we took a train to Rome and picked up food at a McDonald's in the middle of the night (if you know Italy, you'll know that that was the only thing open - even in the dead center of its biggest city.) My spouse ordered for us at the counter, and a man next to us turned to her and said, in Italian "Oh! You speak French too!" He could tell from her accent that she could speak English, French, and Italian. I thought that was so cool and it really spoke to how she was fluidly navigating these three languages while I was still struggling to know how to order a sandwich.

0 talent, 1000% brute force right here

This is a cool thread, I really enjoyed reading about everybody's experiences with language learning. I will also share my own now.

My first language is Danish. I like to think I’m pretty fluent in English which is not much of an accomplishment as anyone my age from Denmark is relatively fluent in English, although I’m probably more so than the average person as I have spent a lot of time reading books in English and working in an international environment in which the common language is English. I speak and understand Japanese relatively well, but would hesitate to call myself fluent. I also studied German in school, but I’m unable to speak it, although I can understand a lot of written German. However, this is in large part due to it being similar enough to Danish that I can often guess the meaning of words.

Having established that, I think it is pretty interesting to compare the learning process I went through for English, Japanese and German. English is the first foreign language that I started learning. While I had probably picked up some English from movies and such (all movies in Denmark that are not for small children are shown with subtitles) I started learning English at school from 4th grade when I was 10. The way I remember it, I didn’t learn much from school and my English only began to really take of once I started reading books in English and spending time on the (English) internet. However, I must have learned something, because otherwise I don’t feel like I could have started picking up English simply by absorption. I started learning German from 7th grade and I remember hating it because the classes were so focused on drilling grammar unlike the English classes which were more focused on communicating.

Having now lived in Japan for a while, I think one of the reasons Japanese people tend to not be very good at English is that their English lessons are more like my German lessons and less like my English lessons. This is of course not the only reason, as Japanese is simply very different from English which also makes it harder. Indeed, I remember how joyful I found my first experience with learning Japanese as I realized how different from Danish and English it was. With English and German I always felt like I was essentially just learning different words as the languages are build around a similar grammatical structure as Danish. With Japanese on the other hand, for the first time, I felt like I was really learning something new and different. One weird thing I have noticed though is that as I started to learn Japanese I became completely incapable of speaking German. Whenever I tried to remember a German word, Japanese words would come out instead. I think that because I never really mastered German, some temporary language-learning center in my brain got overwritten somehow...

As I started learning Japanese at a much later age (22) I remember the process much more clearly. I went to a language school in Japan and I remember thinking that Japanese was incredibly easy. I improved so fast compared to what I remembered from when I started learning English. Of course this was because I was concentrating on studying Japanese everyday and was constantly trying to communicate in an immersive context. Still, after one month I was able to communicate pretty well in broken Japanese, after 3 months I could have a rather detailed conversation about most topics. After that the rate of growth slowed down significantly. After my one year in Japan I definitely was a lot better than after those first 3 months, but it was much harder to pin down exactly when I had gotten better, although I guess it was easy to see that I knew more kanji. I took and passed the JLPT N2 at that time, although I barely passed and didn’t feel like I was really at the N2 level. If I had continued studying Japanese at the same intense pace I feel like I could probably have been completely fluent in another year or two, but alas that was not to pass. I returned home and after that I sporadically studied Japanese. Over the next couple of years I did improve my kanji and passive vocabulary quite a lot, but not to the point that I felt comfortable reading novels.

When I was 26 I moved to Japan again this time for a PhD. However, my institute is international and the working language is English so although I have now been here for 5-6 years I don’t feel like I have improved that much. Of course, I have in fact improved, I am now able to read quite a lot of novels, even though I only understand maybe around 90%, but it’s generally good enough. I did pass the JLPT N1, with a much better grade than my N2 as well. But I don’t think it actually means much. Only when I can completely read a proper novel or newspaper and understand 99% will I feel like I’m actually fluent. Although I lack the specialized vocabulary for certain topics I can pretty much have conversations about anything and know enough Japanese to generally explain my way around words I don’t understand. However, unlike my first year in Japan when I felt pretty proud of how quickly I had mastered conversational skills, I now feel almost embarrassed that I am not better as I have spent 6-7 years or so here. As I said, 5-6 of them have been spent in a very international environment where the everyday working language was English though. I will be moving to a different Japanese university in a group with no other foreigners soon though, so I hope that over the next 2 years I will manage to get to that last level of fluency that I crave.

Initially, I thought that Japanese was easier than English as I improved so quickly, but now I have to say that I definitely had better reading comprehension skills in English after “studying” it for 10 years, compared to my current Japanese skills after “studying” for around 10 years. I think it was a lot easier for me to pick up the meaning of new words in an English text through context than it is for me to do in a Japanese text. So I definitely sympathize with the feeling of having studied a language for a long time and still not really feeling completely fluent.

One thing that I have noticed with both English and Japanese is that my language ability leans on intuition. For Japanese, I had to learn a lot of grammar initially in order to say anything as the grammatical structures are so different from Germanic languages, but rather quickly I became able to tell what “sounds correct” and be right 99% of the time. Similarly, with english I don’t have to think about grammar, I can simply hear what sounds correct. Obviously not as well as a native speaker, but well enough. Building this intuition is very important for becoming fluent I feel. After a few months of study I would completely formulate my sentences in Japanese, never trying to awkwardly translate from a Danish sentence. I feel like thinking and formulating sentences in a new language without relying on the crutch of your native language is essential for learning. The crutch will only hold you back, you might as well throw it away as quickly as possible. Mind you, I am not a professional - this is all based on my own personal, anecdotal experience.

I do think that some people have more of a talent for language learning, but as with everything it’s a mix of talent, motivation, passion and the amount of work you put in. I also think it becomes easier to learn a new language when you have done it once. I am thinking about going back and learning German properly once I feel like I am "done" with Japanese and would consider another language after that.

how you feel

where you are

always use the word:


i wish i knew cool rhymes for remembering Chinese grammar

i guess there's always
人之初 性本善 性相近 習相遠
苟不教 性乃遷 教之道 貴以專
it goes on for hundreds of lines, i only know the first two.

for you japanese speakers out there, as a fun exercise you can try to figure out the meaning without looking anything up (I am actually really curious how much would be understandable/guessable)

Edit: for those curious, it's the three character classic (三字經), one of the poems kids used to (and in some cases still do) memorize to help learn the basic characters.


don’t know what to tell you, your friend might need to practice the verb estar using a memorable rhyme

looks like I’m the “maestro”

@Syzygy#21681 is this meant to be sung

@yeso#21680 I read this as “EE-star” and was very lost. Then I read saddleblaster‘s reply and still didn’t get it! After your reply I finally understood.

I took high school spanish...