Learning a new language can seem daunting at first, especially if you have never tried it before. Don't despair. You CAN do it! You learned to speak English, didn't you? Learning a new language can be just as successful, and even more fun!
Here are two key points in your learning process:
Patience. You didn't learn English in a week or two. You won't learn to speak a new language fluently in that amount of time either. Be patient with yourself and enjoy the learning process.
Consistency. You learned to speak English by being exposed to it every day. You must do the same with your new language. By consistent exposure through a combination of books, tapes, native speakers, or even a learning buddy, you can make steady and solid progress. Exercising your language muscles on a daily basis will absolutely result in a sleek, buff language skill that will make your friends jealous. Guaranteed! That is, if you don't give up. Make it a goal to do SOMETHING everyday in your new language, no matter how small.
Now, for a few strategies to try. Not all of them work for everyone, or fit into everyone's schedule. So keep an open mind and try them all, then stick with the ones that work best for your learning style and circumstances.
1. Vocabulary Lists are one of the most common ways to increase your foreign language vocabulary arsenal. Most people will list the new words to be learned in a vertical list down the left side of a page, and list the translations down the right side of the page. Then depending on how much time is available, this simple method can be followed:
a. Say each word in the left column out loud three times, and then look at the translation on the right. To avoid learning the words "in order," jump around when practicing.
b. Cover the left column, looking only at the translated words, and try to recall the new language equivalents, saying them out loud.
2. Phrase book - Finding a good phrase book in your new language will help you to feel like you are getting somewhere fast. It will also give you at least a little functionality if you will soon be in a situation where you should really be more fluent in your new language than you are. They are also helpful for when you don't have much time, since phrase books are usually small and portable.
3. Anytime study - So you say you want to learn a new language but don't have time to study? No problem! By carrying a good phrase book with you wherever you go, your learning time will take care of itself. Be alert to using little pockets of time that are otherwise wasted during your daily routine:
- Waiting for a doctor's appointment
- Sitting in traffic
- Traveling on public transportation
- Waiting in line at the bank, post office, or grocery store
- When placed on hold on the telephone
- Waiting for a slow Web site to load
4. Cassette tapes are another great learning tool when time is tight. Though they are generally a more passive way to learn, they still provide exposure to your new language. In addition to the above list, you can listen to tapes while driving in your car, exercising at the gym, doing housework, or walking the dog. Everyone has enough time to learn a new language! What is more important is the strong desire to do so.
5. Speak up! Participation is one of the best ways to make that new language stick. As already mentioned above, when learning new vocabulary words, it is important to say them out loud whenever possible; three times is even better. But how can you know if you are pronouncing the words correctly? You will need to find either a native speaker or a language learning program that includes audio. Try to find both.
6. Use the Internet. The Internet has a wealth of free information available to language learners.
- E-mail is a great way to get practice in your new language. Do you have a friend who is a native speaker of the language you are trying to master? Why not exchange friendly e-mail ONLY in the new language? Ask him/her to correct your grammar. Participation in e-mail will improve your vocabulary, grammar, and help you to lean the language as it is spoken everyday.
- E-mail groups specifically for those learning your new language, such as are found on Yahoo groups, is another way to practice and exposure yourself to your new language. It is also a great way to network with other learners as well.
- Web sites abound these days in every language imaginable. Many provide basic learning lessons, as well as many audio clips for correct pronunciation. You will probably find a decent online dictionary that will be very handy when composing those foreign language e-mails! There are also inexpensive online learning courses to be found on some Web sites.
7. Grammar isn't everything. Don't get too tangled up in learning all the rules of grammar. Children learn many rules of grammar and become relatively fluent speakers long before they open a grammar book. Remember that grammar is there to help you - not hold you back. If some grammatical rules don't make sense to you, don't worry about it. Imitate the way native speakers speak or write. You may end up learning many rules intuitively before you understand them logically. The point is to keep progressing.
8. Brain overload is when you hit your saturation point at any given moment. Don't force yourself to attempt to keep learning. Take a break and clear your mind. Do something totally different that has nothing to do with language learning for at least 10 minutes, or reschedule your learning session.