In the past, learning a foreign language might have brought to mind dusty textbooks, lengthy translations and recitations imitating a teacher, but language acquisition techniques have evolved to include more engaging and varied efforts that are far from monotonous. To liven up your learning experience and jump on the fast track to proficiency, consider CORE Languages’ creative and fun tips to learn languages.
1. Surround yourself with the language
Imagine waking up to an alarm set to a merry Italian song that might play in a café in Venice. Scour the label of your shampoo bottle for recognizable French words, or the Spanish on the label of the oatmeal box. Let Chinese analysts debrief you on commerce trends in Mandarin through a news podcast while driving to the office. Weaving your target language into as many moments as possible accelerates language acquisition and diversifies vocabulary. No resource is too insignificant ˗ many adults progress by reading books or watching TV shows created for children or teenagers. The simple plots are easily anticipated by adults, freeing up the learner’s cognitive energy to attend to the nuances of grammar and absorb new words – no dictionary necessary!
2. Look for parallels to stay positive
Languages evolve and change constantly, but many of today’s languages originate from common ancestors, including Romance and Germanic languages. The English word “family” has identifiable cousins in the following languages: German familie; Spanish familia; French famille; Portuguese família; and Italian famiglia. Words that are similar in different languages, called “cognates,” give new learners the opportunity to celebrate early on that they do know a few foreign words. Recognizing cognates enables you to focus on the positive: you can easily learn more words, it’s only a matter of discovering cognates! In addition, many grammar patterns and parts of words, such as prefixes and suffixes, are recognizable between languages. Apart from Western tongues, languages throughout the world are fluid, borrowing names from items or processes developed in that country, so who knows where cognates might surface for you.
3. Focus on the frequent
Conversations are dominated by a few hundred repeated words and peppered with rarer, more complex words. Indispensable words and phrases should always take precedence over memorizing lists of less common vocabulary. Depending on where and with whom you’ll use your new language, your go-to phrases might include: “How do I say. . .” “Where is the. . .” “My job is. . .” and “One minute please.”
4. Don’t go it alone
It’s common knowledge that living abroad is an excellent way to learn languages, but not everyone can pack up and ship out. Total immersion is so effective because it can force communication, causing a speaker to push through hesitation and try different ways of saying phrases until the listener understands. But a student of language can glean the benefits of a conversation partner anywhere.
Whether they’re in front of you, on a screen, or on the other end of the phone, a friend who waits to hear your comments is invaluable. In the age of the internet, finding a native speaker to talk with is easier than ever, and working with a fellow learner is also great practice. Once you find a partner or two, choose a wide range of topics to discuss.
Ever heard someone complain that sentences in another language sound like the words are ‘all strung together’ beyond recognition? A great way to tackle a fluid language, and perhaps the best way to learn Spanish language, is with a tactic that exercises many language muscles simultaneously: watching a video or movie while referencing a transcript of the narration, or with subtitles in the target language.
Listening to music while reading the lyrics is a fun variation. You can also watch a play or musical with the script in front of you. Although locating a transcription or lyrics takes time, the strides you’ll make in comprehension are worth the effort. Don’t be afraid to hit rewind to drill down and pronounce aloud!
6. Take it easy
If it were easy to learn languages, more people would speak several of them. Pat yourself on the back for taking the initiative and remember to go easy on yourself. It’s common to become hesitant to avoid blunders in your new tongue, but reacting this way will only limit your learning ability. Making errors is inevitable in the language acquisition game and succeeding is more likely if you’re able to laugh at yourself once in a while.
7. Have fun
Long to speak French because of the cuisine? Learn French online with recipes in French from a Chef in France! Another benefit of learning a foreign language in the digital age is that content of interest to you is accessible in most languages through a quick internet video search. Tune in how-to videos about your favorite sport or craft, or discover history or travel options through videos online. Since you already understand the basics of the hobby or topic, you can learn how to discuss it while watching. As you progress toward proficiency, you’ll pick up new tricks or facts about your favorite pastime.
Diverse and absorbing activities are crucial to staying motivated and interested in your new tongue. Never forget to celebrate your progress. And by all means, invent your own strategies to make language learning less of a conscious effort and more of a fun time!