Learning a foreign language can be a daunting experience. From memorizing grammar to learning vocabulary, language learners need to set up a routine that helps them to learn how to speak, write, read and listen in another tongue. While most language classes emphasize memorization and workbooks, the most effective ways are often not covered in the classroom.
Use Podcasts and CDs
As this language learner figured out, the key to speaking a language like a native speaker is to actually hear the language used. Music is a key way to learn another language because it allows the listener to figure out the natural rhythms and intonation of the language. While this is useful with romance languages, it is a vital technique for tonal languages like Chinese. Learning how to use tones later in life is difficult for beginners, but listening to music and hearing the language in action makes the tones easier to figure out.
Read Newspapers and Books
Obviously, a beginner will not be able to conquer Don Quixote on their first attempt. Over time, even the most difficult foreign language novel can be understood. With a dictionary in hand, language learners can read through examples that show them how the language is actually used in practice. This technique helps students to quickly increase their vocabulary by picking up new words that are used in the context of the story. If a novel or a newspaper is too difficult at first, a basic children’s book will also work.
Learn Through Actually Using the Language
As a recent article on Forbes noted, language skills are increasingly necessary in the modern world. While teaching the language is the typical technique, an alternative method has achieved excellent results. Rather than just teach the foreign language in a language class, some schools are teaching other subjects in the language. In the United States, bilingual schools are teaching subjects like history or social studies in Spanish so that students learn how to actually use the language in context. Known as “content and language integrated learning”, this technique has been shown by researchers to promote excellent language acquisitions.
One example of this technique being used occurred at the United States Customs and Border Protection training. Before 2006, the organization required courses in Spanish grammar. Instead of using the traditional class, they replaced it with a course that focused on teaching agents how to do job-related functions in Spanish. As a result, the agents were better able to do their job in Spanish and actually had better grammar than before.
When All Else Fails, Learn “Um”
Every language has filler words that are used to buy time. In English, native speakers use words like “um”, “well” or “hmm” as they take time to think of what to say. These filler words are useful for language learners because they give the speaker time to format what they want to say while sounding like a native speaker.
By using these tips and putting in extra effort, individuals can learn a language on their own or supplement the information that they learned in class. Although the traditional memorization methods are still popular in schools, polyglots use tricks and tips like the previous ideas to make their language acquisition faster.