Friday, December 12, 2008

Practical Tips for Learning a Foreign Language

Guest Blog by Emily Jacobson

Learning a new language can be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t need to be. At first it will be natural to hit highs and lows during the learning process. Understanding new concepts can often also lead to disappointment at not learning things faster. Let’s go over some tips that can help make learning a new language as rich and valuable an experience as the language itself.

Being immersive when it concerns learning a new language is perhaps one of the most valuable tips you can take to heart. Thinking in a different language is the key to speaking in a different language, and the quickest way to achieve this is to actually live in the place whose language you are trying to learn. Unfortunately this is not always practical or possible.

Read everything you can get your hands on. If you take the time to read things you already enjoy it will make the experience of learning that new language that much easier. Absorbing newspapers, magazines, and comic books helps to create a broad sense of how the written language is used formally and casually.

Watching movies with or without subtitles will help your ears become more naturally accustomed to a new language. Reviewing sections of the movie again and again so that you can get a handle on inflection and pronunciation have the advantage of being both entertaining and educational.

The key to many people’s hearts is through their stomachs. This makes food an excellent place to start when approaching a new culture and its language. This is a particularly advantageous tip to keep in mind when traveling. Learning how to order food and how to describe meals with simple phrases are great methods for understanding the basics. If you love to eat then you’ll be excited about discovering new words to describe your favourite foods.

Try to think as often as possible in your new language. Every time your mind draws a blank on a word, look it up. Keep thinking, adding new words, thinking with these words, and you’ll see that the next time you’re involved in a conversation, those embarrassing moments when you clumsily grasp for words will quickly decrease in frequency.

Taking notes, creating a phrase book of your own, having a log of your most frequent conversations and new words will keep your language learning routed in your every day life.

Practice as often as possible. If you have a friend who is fluent in your language of study, try to spend as much time with them as you can. Ask them politely to speak to you in their language and to delicately correct you when you make mistakes. We can be defensive when people correct us and our frustration might deter us from continuing to learn, but if the constructive criticism comes from a friend we will be less inclined to become offended. We learn the best when we are happy and when we play, so try to incorporate the language into your social life and have a good time with it. Go to a bar and try to meet someone who speaks the language you’re attempting to learn. If you find them particularly attractive, you will work much harder to find the right words. Unless you completely murder their language with your brutal attempts to speak it, people often find the attempts cute and charming.

It’s completely normal to be frustrated at the beginning. There’s a good chance you won’t understand anything for a little while. But if you remain patient, employing the tips discussed and giving yourself time to become accustomed to the new sounds, to absorb them, hear them, to see them written and to eventually read them, gradually you will ease yourself into a comfort zone where you can speak them. Before you know it, your new language will become second nature to you.

This guest post article was written by Emily Jacobson, who is trying to conquer French in her spare time.

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