•How to learn a language or three•
Bonjour tout le monde!
Chloe here, your resident language expert. If you know me at all, you will know that languages are my absolute passion, and generally if you have a question regarding languages, I will be there to answer it.
Now, I realise that not everyone has the same love for language learning as I do, but there are still many reasons out there as to why you may want to learn a foreign language. You may want to increase job opportunities or be posted somewhere new for work, you may want to learn a few phrases for your next holiday destination to better immerse yourself in the culture, or maybe you even want to be able to communicate well with your grandparents. Learning a new language is also great for kids and can delay the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Convinced? Ok. Here are some tips for learning a foreign language!
• Take a beginner’s course •
If one is available, it is great to take a beginner’s course to introduce yourself to the language. There is nothing like having a teacher to ask questions to, or someone whose pronunciation you can listen to in your first steps with familiarising yourself with the language.
• Travel to the country •
Not always the cheapest option, but travelling to the country gives you a great insight into how the people speak. When I first started learning Czech, I learned words and I could speak, but I had none of the natural rhythm and tones that Czech people use in their speech. After having lived there for several months, I knew and could emulate exactly how people spoke, and I actually found it really fun! The language is so expressive and you can be so dramatic without it sounding too over-the-top if you want – it was great!
• Go to a club themed around that culture in your city •
Now, this depends on where you live of course. However, you would be surprised how many communities and community events there are related to your target language. For example, when I was learning Czech, I couldn’t find formal lessons anywhere in Adelaide. However, I went along to the Czechoslovak club in Adelaide and there was Czech being spoken all around me! It was fantastic.
• Buy yourself a phrasebook – and a more detailed textbook •
Phrasebooks are great for preliminary learning and familiarisation, or quick learning on the spot if you really need a particular phrase. However, they will never give you the detail that you need to truly understand what you are saying. I often get frustrated when beginning to learn a language, because I can copy phrases, but without understanding the building blocks behind those phrases, I don’t feel that I am truly in control of what I am choosing to say. This is where a textbook comes in great (preferably not one used for Universities – those things are NOT cheap!) – you can learn the grammar from the beginning and use those building blocks to create a variety of things to say.
• Watch Youtubers in the target language •
This is one of my favourites. About a year or so ago, I was watching my usual Youtube suspects (including In the Frow, Zoella, and Patricia Bright) when I realised – I could be watching these beauty videos AND learning a language at the same time! I could be watching things that calm me down and interest me whilst also immersing myself. It was a great moment. One of my favourite French speaking Youtubers is called Enjoy Phoenix (although be careful – she speaks SUPER fast), and I really loved watching A Cup of Style, a Czech channel run by two sisters in Prague.
• Listen to music, radio or TV in the target language •
A classic language learning tip, this does work well if you are listening actively. This means that you are actually working to take in the information and could sum up what the segment or song was about at the end. If you just listen without really taking it in, you aren’t going to learn much. This can also be a really fun way of learning the language as you get some enjoyment out of the entertainment as well.
• Read the newspaper in the target language •
This can be especially interesting because you may get to find out more local news about the target country(ies), or just read about events from another cultural perspective. You can learn a lot of new vocabulary this way as well, and see how it is used in a variety of sentences.
• Speak to native speakers! •
This may be the most daunting of all – and believe me, I definitely find that to be the case. It is so much easier to stuff up in front of fellow learners than in front of native speakers – because natives can hear how horrid it may sound – it goes directly into their heads! However, you MUST do this. It is the only way to truly be able to eventually just speak without even thinking too much. If you make mistakes, they can show you the right way to say it. And by listening to their responses, you are learning so much. Even if you already knew all the words they said, you are picking up tone, word order, colloquialisms, and so much more.
And that’s it! I hope it inspired you in your language learning. I know there can sometimes be roadblocks and you may struggle – but just visualise yourself in the country speaking the language to the locals. That is one of the BEST feelings in the world. Keep working at it, and you’ll get there.