have learned

Sasha Ivanov

Senior Member
Russian
I'm watching a ESL video on YT, and there, I think, a pretty native-like sounding female (US?) is saying this and there's also subtitles:
How long have you learned English? 6 months, one year, two years or more? No matter how long have you learned this language, understanding a movie without subtitles...
This structure "have learned" struck me as a little off, am I wrong? Never before I've seen it used like this.
To me it implies completion. I, myself, for this idea would never use this structure I would use "have you been learning". Or did she use it absolutely naturally?
(She might be a non-native speaker giving a fairly good impression of native pronunciation. I can't discern yet subtleties.)
 
  • Sasha Ivanov

    Senior Member
    Russian
    But still, can I say: I have learned English for 3 years - if I'm still learning it and it seems it's going to take me another 10 years to be able to say "I have learned English, kind of."
     

    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    SSBE (Standard Southern British English)
    But still, can I say: I have learned English for 3 years - if I'm still learning it and it seems it's going to take me another 10 years to be able to say "I have learned English, kind of."
    It's not quite right. As you say in your OP, I have learned English implies some kind of completion. If your English learning is still "work in progress" and you're still learning, you'd say I've been learning English (for 3 years). Your instinct is correct - it does sound "off", as you say.

    Is the presenter a native speaker? I'd say no. If she really did say How long have you learned English? ..... No matter how long have you learned this language, understanding a movie without subtitles..., she is not a native (or competent) speaker of English. No matter how long have you learned this language is not simply "off"- it's actually wrong.
     

    IlyaTretyakov

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I learnt English: I was successful, I know now it.
    I studied English: doesn't say whether I succeeded in learning it.

    In effect, 'learn' is the telic form of 'study', though the distinction is lost in a continuous tense.

    How long have you learned English?
    You'd have to use any of these:
    How long have you been learning English?
    How long have you been studying English?
    How long have you studied English?
     
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    IlyaTretyakov

    Senior Member
    Russian
    As you say in your OP, I have learned English implies some kind of completion. If your English learning is still "work in progress" and you're still learning, you'd say I've been learning English (for 3 years). Your instinct is correct - it does sound "off", as you say.
    Do you think, it's correct to say:
    • I've been learning English (for 3 years), but I still haven't learned it.
     
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    stuupid

    Banned
    Sundanese
    If your English learning is still "work in progress" and you're still learning, you'd say I've been learning English (for 3 years)
    I just want to know as an undersrstanding. Why don't you say "if your English learning were still "work in progress", you would say ..."?
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I just want to know as an undersrstanding. Why don't you say "if your English learning were still "work in progress", you would say ..."?
    Wordy chose the “type 1 conditional” structure rather than the “type 2”. In other words, he chose NOT to signal that the condition is unlikely to be fulfilled. Do you have a reason to object to that choice?
     

    stream21

    Senior Member
    Russian
    It seems to me, I have learned English for five years may imply an intermediate result, not necessarily completion.
    One can continue like this: but I don't know the alphabet well enough, as yet and confuse letters.
     

    Wordy McWordface

    Senior Member
    SSBE (Standard Southern British English)
    Do you think, it's correct to say:
    • I've been learning English (for 3 years), but I still hasn't learned it.
    Ignoring the hasn't, which I presume is a typo:

    No, because it's just confusing. What you might say is something this, for example:

    I've been learning English for 3 years, but I still haven't learnt much.
    I've been learning English for 3 years, but I still haven't learnt how to use phrasal verbs properly.
    I've been learning English for 3 years, but I still haven't learnt enough to communicate fluently.


    These follow the same basic textbook examples used to demonstrate the difference between the simple and continuous aspects of the present perfect. For example, textbooks often contrast I've been baking all morning with I've baked twelve cakes. They both refer to the same time period, but continuous aspect focuses on the activity and the time spent, while the simple aspect focuses on the achievement so far. (Your "telic" aspect, perhaps? That's a new term for me :))
     

    IlyaTretyakov

    Senior Member
    Russian
    No, because it's just confusing. What you might say is something this, for example:

    I've been learning English for 3 years, but I still haven't learnt much.
    Why do you think 'much' is necessary? If "I have learned English" implies completion, why do you think it's wrong to say:
    • I've been learning English (for 3 years), but I still haven't learnt it.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    The intentional action is called "studying".
    The passive result (the goal) of studying is "learning". You cannot intentionally "learn".
    The result of "learning" is "knowing".

    This is true for any topic. What if I child wants to know their multiplication tables, but doesn't know them.
    They will have to learn them. Once they learn them, they know them.
    They learn them by studying them.

    Why do you think 'much' is necessary? If "I have learned English" implies completion, why do you think it's wrong to say:I've been learning English (for 3 years), but I still haven't learnt it.
    There is no such thing as "completion" for learning a language. It can't happen. If someone is learning a new language, how do you decide "complete"? There is no such meaning. I have studied foreign languages for many years, and I don't know any reasonable definition for "complete".

    Fluent native speakers do not know an identical set of things. Some know more than others.

    I have learned English.
    That is a false statement, made by someone who doesn't understand languages.
    I learnt English: I was successful, I know now it.
    That is also false. Nobody knows all of English. Fluent speakers do not know all of English.

    Besides, "English" is not a set of information to be learned. It is a skill. You learn how to use English,
    just like you learn how to play piano and learn how to play tennis.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Why do you think 'much' is necessary? If "I have learned English" implies completion, why do you think it's wrong to say:
    • I've been learning English (for 3 years), but I still haven't learnt it.
    That doesn’t work in English (even if it does in Riussian!). You could say you’ve reached the end of your studies because you’ve finished your English course, but that’s another matter. There doesn’t come a specific moment when you’ve “learnt” a language in the same way as you learn a fact. It’s the same with other skills too. You learn the basics, start putting what you’ve learnt into practice, and become progressively better at it the more you do it.

    learn
    Gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught.​

    cross-posted and making the same point
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    « I have studied English for 5 years. » This is fine: it probably means that I now have the competence in English that is to be expected from this amount of study.

    With most verbs, the present perfect simple can imply and/or tacitly reference any one of a wide or infinite range of possible present consequences. But « learn » seems to be an exception: the present perfect simple tense seems to always imply « PERFECT present knowledge ». Is this what « telic » means?!
     
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    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    To me, this is pretty clear-cut:

    How long have you learned English? :cross: 6 months, one year, two years or more? No matter how long have you learned this language, :cross: :cross: :cross: understanding a movie without subtitles...

    I can maybe see a native speaker saying the first one in careless speech, but there is absolutely no way any native speaker would say the second one. So she is 100% not a native speaker.
     

    IlyaTretyakov

    Senior Member
    Russian
    You could say you’ve reached the end of your studies because you’ve finished your English course, but that’s another matter. There doesn’t come a specific moment when you’ve “learnt” a language in the same way as you learn a fact. It’s the same with other skills too. You learn the basics, start putting what you’ve learnt into practice, and become progressively better at it the more you do it.

    learn
    Gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught.​
    Sorry, but that doesn't tell us anything about the sense of completion when using the past simple or the present perfect with the verb 'to learn'.
    how I learned .png
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, those titles are fine – they mean how I learned [to read/write/speak] Russian. We do talk of learning a language, of course. The verb learn is fine to mean studying a language, acquiring language skills.

    Nevertheless, as I explained in #15, the sentence you were actually asking about is not one that someone who had fully mastered English would use:

    I've been learning English (for 3 years), but I still haven't learnt it. :cross:
     

    IlyaTretyakov

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Yes, those titles are fine – they mean how I learned [to read/write/speak] Russian. We do talk of learning a language, of course. The verb learn is fine to mean studying a language, acquiring language skills.
    That's exactly what I'm talking about, if we watch that first video "How I Learned Russian" with Steve Kaufmann, who claims to have learned Russian, we can see that he can't even READ russian properly (let alone speaking).
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    You can make too much of the fact that "learning" something implies that you know it completely, as opposed to simply having "studied" it.

    I learned French and German at school. We do say such things. Of course, I don't mean that I left school with a perfect knowledge of two foreign languages. If I want to be absolutely truthful, I was taught French and German at school.

    I learned Greek in Greece.
    A perfectly normal sentence. Of course I'm still learning, but my claim to have "learned" the language stands. I never studied Greek; I only learned it.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    There are subtleties that are hard to teach that we all understand.

    Every sentence has a different context.

    Saying "I learned Russian in Russia" is not the same context as "I learned Russian for three years".

    "I learned Russian in Russia" = "I gained my knowledge (at whatever level I'm at) of Russian in Russia." In that context, "I learned Russian" is a completed act. What I know, I learned in Russia. You might think his Russian is terrible, but to him it's a specific accomplishment from earlier in his life.

    "I learned Russian for three years" is trying to refer to a time period and an activity in that time period. It's not referring to an accomplishment. So there is no sense of completion and it's not the proper context for the word learned, which is generally used to indicate gaining some completed knowledge. "I learned that the sun is made mostly of hydrogen."

    - I studied Russian for three years.

    That was the activity I did for three years.

    If you are still doing that activity then you have more options because -ing forms don't indicate completion.

    - I have been studying Russian for three years.
    - I have been learning Russian for three years.

    You are in the middle of an ongoing process and the -ing form of learn is okay for that.
     

    IlyaTretyakov

    Senior Member
    Russian
    "I learned Russian for three years" is trying to refer to a time period and an activity in that time period. It's not referring to an accomplishment. So there is no sense of completion and it's not the proper context for the word learned, which is generally used to indicate gaining some completed knowledge.
    A few months ago, I was trying to figure out this whole thing in English, and I had an opportunity to ask one brilliant teacher from UK about this topic. I asked him many questions and he told me the same, as you Kentix wrote, that "I learned 'something' for + period of time" has no sense of completion. But, he also told me that both the perfect simple and the perfect continuous versions are correct with duration.
    What are your thoughts on this?
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    To me, "I've learned French for two years" sounds similar to "I've learned the sun is mostly made out of hydrogen for two years". It's goofy.

    - I studied French for two years.
    - I spent two years learning French.
    - I took French for two years.
     
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    IlyaTretyakov

    Senior Member
    Russian
    To me, "I've learned French for two years" sounds similar to "I've learned that the sun is mostly made out of hydrogen for two years". It's goofy.
    What about the reported speech?

    John: I learned Russian for three years.
    Several months later: John told me that day that he had learned Russian for three years.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    That the original sentence has been transformed into reported speech can change the form of the verb, but it doesn't, as far as I know, change the meaning of the verb.
     
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