Summer has turned into autumn and it is the time of the year when universities, institutes and academies open their doors for students and adult learners. Language courses are probably among the most popular ones. We have many reasons for learning languages: some of us are travelling a lot and want to be able to speak the local language, many employers expect good language skills from their employees and some persons like me, just have an innate interest in languages and in the cultures behind them.
Foreign languages are my passion – and I also really enjoy studying them, and I do it constantly. So, they are an inseparable part of my life. J
Without bragging about myself too much I believe that during all these years I have gained some experience about some good methods that have helped me in the learning process. Hereafter I will present some of them.
1. Learn the basics well – (by heart)
This is an important point that has helped me a lot in the learning process. If you miss the basics of the language in the beginning, learning does not get any easier in the future. So, what I have done with all the languages I speak, I have learned the basic vocabulary by heart and also the most important parts of the grammar – thus how you conjugate verbs, decline nouns or adjectives and greet people etc. To learn these things does not require so much work but when you can them by heart it is easier to start speaking the language with native people
2. Read some texts aloud – (this will improve the pronunciation)
This might sound a bit funny but I like to read some texts aloud in order to improve my pronunciation. And it also helps me to find the right rhythm how to speak the language. Like in many other situations, repetition is for help also in this case. I used to read all the chapters in my language books aloud until I was able to read them without any major mistakes…
3. Sacrifice a lot of time on learning the vocabulary.
If you don’t know the words how can you speak the language? It is extremely important to devote some time for learning words. I do not mean that we should learn all the 80 000 words in a vocabulary but the more words you can, the better you will also understand the spoken language! I also believe that learning words by heart becomes easier with time. You will find you own most effective technique for that.
If I am studying the language with a language book, the first thing I do after I have read through the chapter for the first time, is that I learn its specific vocabulary by heart. I read through the vocabulary and mark the words that I didn’t know at the first time. Then I read through it again but only the words I didn’t know and mark again the words that I didn’t remember either at the second time. So I continue this way until I can all the words and finally I’ll go through the vocabulary once again just to check that I haven’t forgotten any of the words. :)
4. Use the dictionary
I usually carry with me a dictionary every time I travel abroad. I like to check from the dictionary all the words I hear but don’t know. This way I learn some new words that tend to be useful in everyday conversations. This works also the other way round: if I need to order some food in a restaurant or ask some advice from someone, go to a doctor or make a phone call in a foreign language etc. I usually like to think in advance what words do I need to use and how should I construct the sentences. This way I learn a lot of new useful words.
5. Don’t be afraid of mistakes.
This is an important thing to understand. It is difficult to learn a language if you don’t start to speak it, with mistakes or without! Mistakes cannot be corrected if you don’t show to someone that you do them. If someone corrects your pronunciation or some other mistakes, that should not be taken as an offense because this person is making you a great favour. I remember moments when some friend of mine burst out laughing when I did some small but funny mistakes… But after those mistakes I always learned something. :)
6. Talk with local people
I studied German at school for eight years and after that I probably knew the grammar and vocabulary by heart but I still couldn’t speak the language fluently. It is difficult to learn a language if you don’t put yourself in the situations where you have to form the sentences in “real-time” and to communicate with people without spending time on too much “thinking”.
When you speak with local people you also learn precious sayings and proverbs that are impossible to learn by studying dictionaries or language books. It does not matter if you don’t understand all the words that your local friends say, you will learn them little by little. And be sure to ask the meaning of the new word, if you don’t know it!
7. Attend parties – a couple of glasses of wine do not harm the learning process.
It’s funny but true that parties and casual situations (abroad) are the moments when I have improved the most my language skills. In parties you meet a lot of local people and talk a lot! After one glass of wine, it also is likely that you think less about your mistakes and concentrate instead on speaking. J So, you do not learn the language if you sit all the evenings at home!
8. Watch local TV shows and movies with headphones
Watching foreign TV channels is a good way to improve the ability to understand spoken language. In addition I have noticed that it becomes even more effective with headphones…that way you concentrate with 100 % on the language and avoid other distractions.
9. Find a reason to love the language.
It is motivation, determination and concentration but above all the passion that enables us the learn almost whatever we want. Passion brings us energy and allows us to focus with 100 % on reaching our goals.
When I want to learn a language I cannot do it if I do not have any reason I would love the language – a reason to feel a passion for it.
”Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you. ” Oprah Winfrey.
All the points I have presented in this article are important, but how could you follow them if you didn’t have the willingness to learn the language? The reason to love the language is the rule number one. That reason may be any. It could be a wish to familiarize yourself better with the local culture, a desire to live or work abroad, ability to communicate with local people or foreign boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife.
“The more intensely we feel about an idea or a goal, the more assuredly the idea, buried deep in our subconscious, will direct us along the path to its fulfillment.” Earl Nightingale
I also have my own reasons for loving all the languages I speak. And these reasons vary depending on what language it is question about. My next language project will be learning French of which I already know the basics. I hope that after six months I will speak it more or less well. :)
“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” Anthony J. D’Angelo