Friday, September 07, 2007

A Speaker of Seven Foreign Languages Gives Some Useful Tips

In this blog posting, I invited a native English speaker now living and working abroad; to share his best tips and experiences in picking up a foreign lingo once you’ve been relocated onto foreign soil. As mentioned before, when it comes to foreign language learning, be it English or any one of the other 6912 spoken languages in the world, we could all use any help we can get. Here are some segments from his extensive comments excerpted from my e-book, “You CAN Learn a Foreign Language: Tested Techniques Anyone Can Use to Learn ANY Foreign Language”.

Meet Kayleigh Garman

Kayleigh “Kees” Garman, Director of Language Studies at a large language institute in Europe, offers the following additional comments during an interview on foreign language learning. He speaks English, German, Dutch, Spanish, Danish, and Turkish and is now working on his Hungarian.

Learning a new language can be challenging for anyone As a learner of multiple languages, admittedly some better than others, there are indeed some tricks I have used to make the process easier for me personally which hopefully will benefit those who might be intimidated by the idea of trying to master (whatever that means actually) a new language. Some are rather obvious tips, but others are possibly things not much considered before.

Never fear

“One of the biggest and most obvious ways people hold themselves back in developing a new language is by being afraid to make mistakes.”

“Strive for meaning above accuracy, especially at the beginning!”

What do you mean Kees?

Are you saying that it’s okay not to have perfect grammar and language skills at the outset, even on simple structures? Are you suggesting that foreign language teachers and foreign language learners shouldn’t correct all their mistakes to keep from becoming “fossilized” in some mistakes?

“Yes and yes!”

Learn to laugh

On top of not fearing your mistakes, a very healthy dose of laughter can really take the sting out of those dreadful and “inevitable” mistakes.

“I’ll never forget some years ago being in a kitchen meeting at the dormitory in Denmark where I was living for a year and the horrible blunder I made. After waiting my turn to say that we needed to clear out the freezer of old bread and vegetables from days gone by, I made the following embarrassing mistake: Instead of saying “I’m very unhappy with the freezer situation” (fryseren), I said to my 23 friends at the table that I was “immensely unhappy about my hairdresser” (frisøren). It wouldn’t have been so bad, except that I was practically banging my fist about it – you can imagine the querying looks I got from my friends. You can also imagine the good laughs we had about in the days to come.”

But as they say; “It’s better to laugh than to cry!”

Get your pronunciation right

The mistake above was due to stress and intonation. Obviously you’re going to get it wrong sometimes, but why people (and often teachers as well) are seemingly rather lazy or uninterested in addressing pronunciation will forever be beyond me. Naturally, no one expects a learner of a new language to step off the plane sounding like a native-speaker, but let me say very clearly that …

… “The earlier one deals with getting pronunciation as close to natural as possible, the better off everyone is in the long run.”

Your speech doesn’t need to be the “Queen’s English”, in most settings one sounds quite silly speaking in such a way, but your language needs to understandable and acceptable to the community you’re in.

No matter which foreign language you might wish to tackle, these “from the trenches” tips can be useful tools in your English or other foreign language learning arsenal.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. Now YOU too can live your dreams in paradise, find romance, high adventure and get paid while travelling for free. For more information on entering or advancing in the fascinating field of teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language send for his no-cost pdf Ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know”, by sending an e-mail with "free ELT Ebook" in the subject line. For comments, questions, requests, to receive more information or to be added to his free TESOL articles and teaching materials mailing list, e-mail:

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