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20 Tips for Learning a Foreign Language (Part 1)

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Have you ever met someone whom you thought you had met before? This may be because they reminded you of someone you already knew. Or perhaps you meet someone who does in fact look different but in time that unique face soon becomes an acquaintance or even a good friend.

Learning a foreign language can be quite the same. Just as there only so many features which can make up a person’s face there are only so many sounds that the human tongue, throat and facial muscles can make.

So, over time you may realize that, in some ways, that strange and unique language doesn’t sound so strange anymore. What is the key to making a once unfamiliar language as familiar to you as a dear friend?

Exposure.

In these series of 2 articles, we will share 20 tips to exposing yourself to a language, so that that once unfamiliar language may become a close relative. Read below to find the first 10!

1. Determine the language you are learning

Even within a common language there can be great differences. For instance, speaking to Dominicans would be very different than speaking to Bolivians even though they both speak Spanish.

Therefore, if you work with Americans then it may be best to learn American English. If you work with the English then it is best to learn British English. Whatever the case, know that the grammar, spelling and idiomatic expressions though similar can be very different. Here are some examples of common words:

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Though the difference may be subtle, many English learners may try to use both at the same time. This is because they are not sure which to use.

Or out of preference they may struggle to remember how to say it in a particular way since they had learned it the other way. Both of these cases, leads them to speak slower, disjointed and, ultimately, it hinders fluency.

2. Find your inner child —it is okay to make mistakes!

Children have some advantages when it comes to language learning:

  • they are not self-conscious of speaking with an accent
  • they have the desire to play with the language
  • they are open to make mistakes.

We learn by making mistakes. As kids, we are expected to make mistakes, but in adult life mistakes become some sort of taboo.  Making a mistake as an adult may mean failing a test, losing a job or committing a social faux pau. As adults we may be afraid to admit that we haven’t learned something yet or that we aren’t able to do something. (I can’t drive, I can’t write cook, I can’t speak Spanish).

While there is pride in knowing how to do something society may have prescribed shame with not knowing how to do something. Children on the other hand are expected to not know how to do things. They humbly and freely admit to not knowing or to struggling to do something.

When it comes to learning a language, admitting that you don’t know is the key to growing. Let go of adult inhibitions! Earn your mistakes. They may even come with a funny story. These experiences may even ensure that you never forget that word or phrase.

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3. Use sticky notes to label things around the house

Since our goal is to think in a foreign language, invite that language into your life. Labeling objects in your house will help you to associate them with the words, so that you don’t to translate them from your mother language.

This visual connection becomes more important than a definition or a translation. That way, when you see the object you can associate it with the relevant foreign language word. Practice saying the word to cement it into your memory.

4. Replace common phrases that you may use every day with their equivalent

Translate phrases you use every day and use them in the language you are learning.  You can use these with your friends and family. Phrases such as “Have a good night”, “Can you take out the garbage?” or “Can you give me that?” make good examples.

Since these phrases usually require words which are commonly used (we will talk about the “1,000 most commonly used words” later), the sentence structure will soon become more familiar to you.

5. Ask a native what phrases they commonly use in their homes —and add them to your list

Share the common sentences that you have taken in the previous point with a native speaker of the language you are learning. They may help you find interesting alternatives or synonyms to refine your list and allow you to sound more like a native speaker of the language.

6. Watch TV in the language you are learning

watch-television-learning-foreign-language-myngle1As children we learn our first language by listening. Learn to listen before you speak. Even a strange sound may become a familiar one when you expose yourself to it. There may be sounds that you struggled to pronounce in your native language when you were a child.

In English, for example, the TH sound or the L at the end of a word can be difficult for some. The best way to expose yourself to these sounds is to watch TV in the language you are trying to learn.

Many foreigners have learned to speak a language this way. They have learned by listening and seeing how these sounds are made. You may even visualize them. Whereas classroom conversation slowly enunciated assists with pronunciation, watching TV in the foreign language will prepare you for the speed of everyday speech.

Try to choose a show or film which you have seen before in your native tongue. This will expose you to a set of vocabulary that you are more likely to use and will also hold your attention for longer. When available, having subtitles in your own language can help you follow the action and learn new vocabulary and expressions.

7. Interact with those who know more than you do

As humans, we are social beings who benefit from interacting with others. In the case of language learning, this also includes non-native learners. In some cases, a non-native speaker may know more about tips and grammar than a native speaker.

Therefore, interaction is key. Thanks to Internet, now it is easier than ever to find people with whom you can practice your conversation or writing skills.

8. Create a word diagram for new vocabulary

Word diagrams can help you remember new vocabulary from a specific topic. All you have to do is choose a topic, subsection and vocab. This way you are connecting words to a central theme or relating new words with those you already know.

This will help you to remember the words faster. Essentially, new words become bridged by their theme and are easier to remember because they are linked to the concept and the context in which they are normally used. For example:
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9. Try to think in pictures instead of translating into your mother tongue

OK, maybe not everyone is good at visual learning. But studies indicate that using several senses does help to leave a longer lasting impression. Therefore, before translating a word or even a sentence, try to search the word in Google Images. Those pictures will give you a good idea of their meaning. You may even draw a picture of the word. Those approaches are more interactive than learning an equivalent in your language by heart, thus making it easier to remember.

10. Read content written in the language you are learning

reading-myngle-learning-a-foreign-languageReading is fundamental to using a language, even if your goal is only to speak in that language. Literacy leads to having a larger vocabulary. Don’t fret if you do not understand every single word that you read.  Simply knowing the general idea of the content is a feat in and of itself.

Circle 5-10 new words you don’t know to study. Try to find out their meaning through the context, rather than looking them up on the dictionary. ALWAYS choose an article from a topic which interests you in order to keep yourself engaged with the activity. This way, you will learn words which you are more likely to use. Add these words to a list and see if they are used again in the same or other articles.

If you are an absolute beginner, you may want to circle all the words that you do know and try to understand the article. This can give you a confidence boost, remind you of words you have learned and indicate your progress.

Next week we will share an additional 10 tips for learning a foreign language. So, stay tuned! The best thing to do so is by subscribing to our blog by clicking on the relevant link on the sidebar.

 

If you have some tips based on your own experience, feel free to share them in the comments section below!

Explore posts in the same categories: Education, Language Learning

One Comment on “20 Tips for Learning a Foreign Language (Part 1)”

  1. shaima Says:

    thanks for the teacher named KevinCardenas and for his efforts and his support to the student to learn in better manure and provider the efficient topics .

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