How To Learn A Foreign Language – And Have Fun While You’re At It
There are many theories and methods about the ways to learn a foreign language, but roughly speaking, the ways people learn languages fall into two categories: we either learn them from our families and/or society early on in our childhood, or we learn them later on in life (most likely, but not exclusively, in school).
The language (or, not so often, the languages) we learn in our childhood is the so called native language or the mother tongue. Very few people have more than one, and those who do are the bilingual people. These people usually come from one culture but grow up in another (for example, a family of immigrants who speak their country’s language at home, but speak the language of the host country with neighbors, coworkers and friends). Another example of bilingual people are those who come from mixed backgrounds; for example, a French mother and an English father can have a child that speaks both French and English from an early age.
The paragraph above shows clearly that no amount of tips in the world can make you bilingual. Even though nobody is born bilingual, and everybody can become bilingual, you can only become bilingual in your childhood. Unless you’re a four year old, that ship has sailed. In this article, we will focus on the process of learning a language in your adult age.
Before we start giving tips, we must mention the so called four linguistic skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. As you can see, these skills are both oral and written, but they also differ in the activeness and the passiveness. It’s safe to say that, in order to learn to speak a language fluently (or at least very well), one should work on these four skills without neglecting any of them.
So, what is the easiest way to do that? It may depend on your level: a total beginner can’t afford to ditch the textbook completely, while it’s quite possible to do so at an upper intermediate level. Whatever your level may be, read the following tips and include them in your practice as much as you can.
Use internet! A lot!
By all means, use the advantages that are given to you by your internet connection. Most of the tips found below will be based on the assumption that you own an internet connection and you know how to use it – the very fact you’re reading this article can attest to that.
Read blogs and forums that talk about the things you love
A sports fan? A tech nerd? A sucker for all things fashion? Whatever your passion may be, you can find plenty of resources online that will be of interest. This way, you’re not only learning a language, but you’re also learning something new about your hobby or your profession. Talk about killing two birds with one stone, right?
The skill it enforces: reading
EXTRA TIP: For maximum results, read aloud! You may feel silly reading aloud in an empty room, but you have to accustom your vocal chords to the language in question. Following this tip, you’ll also enforce the oral skills, not just the written ones.
Join the discussion
Luckily, internet is not just for reading. You can join the discussion and interact with the native speakers who share the same passions as you. Interaction with the native speakers is one of the best ways to learn a language, and hours of learning grammar theories can’t hold a candle to 10 minutes of practice in this regard. On the other hand, if you’re having a discussion about something you love, you can make new penpals or even professional connections. At first you may run into some difficulties, it may take a while to learn to write properly and you may make some mistakes, but after a while you’ll lose the fear and gain more practice.
The skill it enforces: writing
EXTRA TIP: Don’t fear the mistake! And this goes for all tips you read about. It’s better to make a mistake and learn from it, than never to make a mistake and never learn the right way to say something.
Look for artists of your favorite music genre who sing in the language you’re learning. Learn the song by heart and it will help you learn new words and expressions. You can also opt for numerous podcasts that have a goal to help you learn a language, or look for any kind of videos that interest you. Ranging from how-to tutorials to political debates, YouTube has it all, and make a goal of actively looking for what it has to offer.
The skill it enforces: listening
Embrace YouTube vol.2 (for the brave ones)
If you’re shy and don’t like putting your face all over Internet, this tip may not be for you, but if you don’t mind having a bunch of strangers see you talk, you can create a YouTube channel and post videos of yourself speaking. This way, native speakers can hear you and give you feedback about your speaking skills. If you go beyond the language itself and discuss a certain issue or create tutorials, you may even end up with a fan base among the speakers.
The skill it enforces: speaking
Seek or exchange lessons via Skype
It’s like tip No. 5 for shy people. You’d have to pay for some services – for example, if your goal is to learn a language as soon as possible, that may require several lessons per week, and let’s face it – most people have no time for that unless it’s their job. But if you are interested in learning at a slower pace, you most likely won’t have to pay. Browse Skype community for native speakers willing to help you. Some may be interested in learning your native language, while others may simply be willing to spread the knowledge. Either way, you’re bound to find someone ready to help you.
The skill it enforces: speaking
Always keep browsing the web for new resources
These tips are in fact just a tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of websites that can help you find something new and interesting that you can implement in your learning process, just like there are many websites where you can find grammar rules and numerous explanations for all the questions you may have.
Use language as a means to an end
In all these tips, you see that the language is there merely to communicate something more interesting and more important. If you’re reading a book about something you care deeply about, you’re very likely to adopt the words and the expressions from the book; if you read a boring text just because it’s written in a certain language, you’ll hardly learn that much. If language becomes the means to an end, and not the purpose, you will surpass difficulties in communication much easier.
Use language to support your passions – you’ll learn much faster.
About Author: Milica is an amateur writer (aspiring to become more than just an amateur), who loves movies, books and travel. When she’s not doing any of the above, she’s most likely daydreaming about it.