Tips for Learning Languages
Pronunciation matters. As in English, many words can have wildly different meanings if pronounced differently from the textbook guide. Focus on the vowels first, and don’t worry about speaking slowly at first – you will gain speed and fluency as you go along, but the foundations of the new language must be in place. Use online talking dictionaries like wordreference.com to check your spoken word.
Learning a new language is a process of accretion. You can’t expect to absorb all of it in a few weeks. Put aside 20 minutes every day to learn five new words and practise the vocabulary you already posses. Children learn language through a gradual daily process, gaining more and more new words as they grow up. This ability to absorb language is still present, though less nascent in adults, so pick up your salsa heels and head down to the local Spanish dance class or tapas bar to practise. .
Write down the names of objects around your home in a new language and stick them on the relevant things – this will help jog your memory and provide an environment in which you are constantly surrounded by visual prompts. A good system to use when learning a language with male/female nouns is to use colour coded Post-its; white for neutral, blue for masculine words and pink for feminine words.
Follow the News:
The three R’s considered the best methods for learning a new language are – reading, retention and rote. Firstly read the news in a foreign language, then once you have familiarised yourself with the story and vocabulary, listen to the newscast of the same story.
Next, repeat the story you’ve just heard to yourself and see how much you’ve managed to retain. You will find that by reading, remembering and repeating the news is a quick, easy way of increasing your vocabulary and brushing up on grammar.
One of the precepts of the Rosetta Stone language series is linking words with real world situations, which helps students to remember them better. Create a memory chain by imagining where certain words “live.” For example nouns fit easily in the home – “il gatto” lying on the hearth, “le pain” in the breadbasket, “la mesa” in the dining room. Verbs work well in park where people are running, jumping, swimming, eating, jogging, and bicycling. Adjectives are easy to describe in a market, where stalls are filled with colour, shapes and smells.
Learning a new language doesn’t have to be all hard work. A painless and fun way of picking up a foreign language is to watch foreign films. Leave the subtitles on so you can enjoy the storyline. Even if you find yourself unable to follow the pace of the foreign words spoken, you will still be absorbing the accent, vocabulary and syntax of the language.
Read Children’s Books:
Pick up a children’s book, preferably one which you are already familiar with. Since you already know the story, the book is already translated in your mind, and you can pick up the gist of the words as you read. Have a dictionary handy as you read and write down the meanings of unfamiliar words as you go. When you re-read the book, having the notes in the margins will prompt your memory and make reading it again much more enjoyable.