My Experiences as a Language Learner I Have Learned Two Foreign Languages in My Life: French and Spanish. I Learned French in the Classroom Well Enough to Be Able to Communicate Before I Ever Visited a French Speaking

My Experiences as a Language Learner
I have learned two foreign languages in my life: French and Spanish.   I learned French in the classroom well enough to be able to communicate before I ever visited a French speaking country.   I learned Spanish in a very different way, with a little bit of classroom experience but mostly “on the streets” in Venezuela and Puerto Rico.   People sometimes ask me which way is better, learning in a classroom or learning by living in a culture where a language is spoken.   My answer is that both ways can work if you want to learn, and if you are patient and persistent.
I also tell people that the kinds of learning experiences that worked really well for me might not work equally well for everybody.
Here is the story of my language learning experiences.
As a child, I had almost no contact with languages other than English.   My family was monolingual, and I grew up in neighborhoods in Southern California like Newport Beach, where everybody else was monolingual. In case you are wondering, that is the Newport Beach that the TV show The O.C. is based on, and Newport Harbor High is the high school I graduated from.   By the way, when I lived there nobody ever called Orange Country “The O.C.” At this time of my life, I was aware that other languages existed – it was possible to hear stations from Mexico on the radio, for instance – but other languages were not really part of my world.
My first foreign language learning experience was with French.   I took two years of French in high school – in ninth and tenth grades – partly because foreign language study was a requirement for admission to college, and partly because I loved to read, and I thought it would be great to be able to read French literature in the original.   However, it took me much longer to be able to read good books in French than I thought it would when I began studying French!
Ninth grade French was very difficult for me.   I had trouble learning vocabulary and remembering...