I don't mean programming languages which seem trivial to pick up once one has seen a few. After all, one of my lecturers once said "anyone can program - even I can program".
So I mean natural languages. I've primarily used English since an early age. Since then, I've seriously tried to learn French, Mandarin, Japanese and now Mandarin again i.e. I spent a couple of years on each.
However, I usually only get as far as the basics like "My name is ...", "I live at ..." and "My grandmother is ... years old". After that, I get swamped in too much vocab and cannot remember anything. Did I start at too old an age? I hear that people in Europe learn a lot of languages at an early age (e.g. German, French, Italian and English) and they're very good at it.
What is it that makes natural languages so hard to learn compared to programming languages? Most programming languages are Turing complete after all! Even C++ templates at compiletime but that's another story...
So the only things I can remember now are:
je ne parle francais pas [I'm missing the circumflex under the 'c', sorry]
Any tips on how to pick up a language in the shortest possible time? I only need to be able to participate in conversations and read.