Language learning should be fun
Learning a new language can seem too complicated; however, you can learn any language in an incredibly short time without being gifted in languages. Language learning should be fun and is faster and easier when you enjoy the process of learning.
Pronunciation can be difficult when learning a new language, especially for adults. The learner will need to master sounds that are unknown in the native tongue. Some words will have a different pronunciation than in the learner’s first language.
Techniques that make language learning easier
Do not be stressed about making mistakes. Making mistakes is how we learn. The sounds and structures of a new language will be unfamiliar, and it natural to get it wrong.
2. Learn pronunciation from locals, do not rely on written words.
When you look at the spelling of new words, pronouncing the letters does not always tell you how the word sounds. Consider the English words ‘Though’ and ‘Thought,’ trying to pronounce these words based on the spelling is not possible. Learn how to pronounce words by watching and listening to native speakers. Observer body language and facial expressions as are essential to learning meaning and pronunciation.
If you look at the Portuguese word ‘Real,’ which is the name for the currency, then an English speaker would probably pronounce the English word ‘real.’ The Portuguese pronunciation is something like ‘He-ou,’ the spelling of ‘real’ does not provide any clues on how it is pronounced.
3. Find a learning partner, someone who is fluent in the language you want to learn.
This person will be your pronunciation teacher and will not let you get away with incorrect pronunciation. Modeling means learning from someone who has already mastered a skill.
4. Have conversations with yourself in the language you are learning.
You can practice with your self in your new language. Rather than internal dialog in your native language, speak it in your new language. People will probably think you are mad talking to yourself; however, I see people talking to themselves every day.
5. Find study buddies
Have you heard the saying ‘A drowning man cannot learn how to swim’? Full emersion in a foreign language can be like drowning unless there you have help, and a structure and discipline to learning. Often, people who like in a foreign country do not learn the language without aid.
Find one or more people who are also trying to learn your target language. Meet with him, her or them, and have conversations in your new language, correcting each other’s pronunciation and grammar. If you cannot find someone in person then search online, there will be others trying to the language. Video conference with your online study buddies using skype.
6. Comprehension is key to learning a foreign language.
The comprehensible input method of learning: This method of learning involves learning the meaning of a sentence rather than individual words and grammar. This method of learning has proved to be up to two times more effective than grammar-based learning. When you understand the message, you will acquire the language unconsciously.
Listen carefully for the nuances of pronunciation that the brain filters out
When hearing a new language, our brain filters out sounds that we are not familiar. As I am learning Spanish, at first, I could not hear the subtle difference between ‘queiro, quiere, and quieren,’ which means ‘I want, you want, and they want.’ I had to listen very carefully before I could hear the difference, therefore, decode the sentence.
Observe others speaking
It is a great advantage to be able to observe a person slowly speaking the words you are learning. Watching the shape of the mouth as the words are pronounced will help in learning pronunciation. Pronouncing unfamiliar words often use facial muscles and shaping the tongue in ways that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable. The Rolling ‘rrrr‘ in many Spanish words, for example, in the word ‘perro (dog),’ takes a while for many people to master.
Learn relevant vocabulary
When starting to learn a new language, learn the phrases that are the most pertinent for survival. A phrase like “Where is the bathroom?” is far more relevant than learning a phrase like “One morning, I saw an elephant in my pajamas.” Words like ‘bathroom’ are far more relevant than words like ‘pajamas.’ Learn a language as a tool for day-to-day living, do not waste time learning vocabulary that is not useful.
Learn when you are relaxed and in a good mood
Psycho-physiological state plays a huge role in learning. It will be challenging to learn if you are angry, sad, upset, or worried.
Immerse yourself in your new language
Spend time in full language emersion, either talking with native speakers or by watching movies in your new language. I like to watch Spanish videos on Netflix. I pause after each sentence and repeat out loud what was just said. Even if I don’t fully understand the dialog, I can get a lot of meaning from body language and context. It is more important to understand the meaning of each sentence rather than individual words. I am learning a lot of Spanish slang and colloquialisms from watching Spanish movies.
Start by mixing up nouns, verbs, and adjectives
If you learn ten verbs, ten nouns and pronouns, and ten adjectives, you can say approximately 1000 different things. Experiment with creating sentences using a noun or pronoun, an adjective, and a verb. Get feedback from your mentor. The objective is to be creative, not to be perfect.
When learning vocabulary, start with the most common words used in every-day communication. About 85% of basic daily conversation only involves around 1000 words. Three thousand words will cover about 98% of everyday conversation. If you can speak 3000 words, then you know the language.
Have a learning plan
- Week 1: Start with simple nouns, pronouns, verbs, and adjectives, words like ‘you, me, that, give, cold.’
- Week 2: Start talking like a baby mixing nouns, pronouns, verbs, and adjectives.
- Week 3: Learn transition words, ‘and, but, like, although.’
Use your mentor or study buddy to practice words. The mentor will be your ‘Study parent. It is essential that your mentor is supportive and allows you to make mistakes. Rather than correcting errors, the mentor should repeat back what is said using the correct language. Parents are supportive of their children when they are learning a language. The parent uses body language and simple language; they know the child will understand.
Associate new words with a feeling, image or sound
Using repetition to learn new words is very inefficient. A better way is to associate the new word with a Feeling, image, or sound. For example, if you are learning the word for ‘fire,’ then you can visualize burning wood, you can hear the sound of a crackling fire, and you can feel the heat coming from the fire. This builds different neural pathways in the brain associated with the word.
Follow these guidelines to fast-track language learning
- Relax, you can’t learn when you are tense angry or upset
- Learn pronunciation from locals, do not rely on written words
- Find a learning partner, someone who is fluent in the language you want to learn
- Have conversations with yourself in the language you are learning
- Comprehension is key to learning a foreign language
- Listen carefully for the nuances of pronunciation that the brain filters out
- Observe others speaking
- Learn relevant vocabulary
- Learn when you are relaxed and in a good mood
- Immerse yourself in your new language
- Start by mixing up nouns, verbs, and adjectives
- Have a learning plan
- Associate new words with a feeling, image or sound
- And remember to have fun learning your new language
Tools for learning a new language
- Rocket Languages is the best online and smartphone app for learning a new language
- English Phonetics and Phonology is a practical course in learning phonetics
Just For Fun
When you learn a foreign language, but the foreign locals do not understand