Monday, December 26, 2016

Learning a Foreign Language: How to Really Succeed

  Learning a new language can be frustrating and daunting. Especially for those who did not grow up in bilingual homes, adapting the brain to absorb and understand foreign languages is very difficult. This is especially common in the United States, where English dominates, and the vast English speaking geography limits visits to other countries.

  So, how does one overcome the limits of a monolingual upbringing? Suppose you want to travel to France or Italy, Greece or Turkey? What about Southeast Asia? India? Brazil? Argentina? Suppose you want to impress your friends, or simply want to better yourself by learning a new tongue? While daunting at first, learning a language is less overwhelming if you take a systematic approach.

 Try to learn these words (travel, write, put, die). Then check your understanding from here. { vocabulary Quiz }

  For reaching a conversational level, you can cut out a lot of fluff. Rather than trying to swallow the entire dictionary, focus on the five hundred most commonly spoken words. Knowing obscure and archaic terms will not help you much at this stage. Simple Internet searches will usually yield handy dictionaries of the most common words in any given language. If you know the core five hundred spoken words of a language, you should be able to get through the bare bones of a conversation. This allows you to interact more freely, and learn new words through these conversations.

  Practicing is very important. While you may be practicing vocabulary, the skill of being able to understand and speak sentences in a natural flow is surprisingly difficult. When someone speaks very quickly at you, you don't want to stare at them for five minutes, painstakingly translating every word they said in your head. You may know each and every one of the words they said, but putting it all together into something intelligible is something your brain needs to adapt to. This is maybe the most overwhelming stage of foreign language study.

 Try to learn these vocabulary words (stop, lie, hit, picnic). Then check your understanding from here. 
{ Four English words } you need to learn. 

  The real trick to succeeding lies in grit. You need to be stubborn. You don't necessarily need to work hard; it's much easier to succeed when you are having fun. However, you will need to be consistent in your listening and practice.

Listen to this article.

  There is another magic five hundred number for learning a language, and that is the number of hours dedicated to speaking and listening. You must dedicate yourself to five hundred hours of conversation to become fluent. It is simply a matter of putting in the time. Decide how many hours per week you can devote to learning a language and see how many weeks it will take you to reach your goal.

 Learn these words (photographer, photographic, important, breakfast, appointment). Then check your understanding from here. { Quiz }

  Spend these hours watching audio materials like TV shows from the country, memorizing new words and using them in sentences. The best type of learning is conversational. See if you can find a friend or tutor to practice with you.

  By learning the core words, and sticking to a schedule, you have a real shot at succeeding in learning a second tongue.
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