Learning Languages made easy ! (Part 1)
Don’t get me wrong here, languages are never really easy to learn, same as nothing that has something to do with learning is easy! But, it can lead to so many more jobs – literary translators, classroom teachers, and interpreters all benefit from knowing more than one language. So, while it’s hard, it’s worth it. However, I have some tips for you that will definitely make it easier and 100% more fun.
When I was writing this post it got longer and longer and so I decided to split it up into two parts. The second part will be online on my blog the first Wednesday of May.
At school I was probably the person that got the worst grades in English and French. I remember barely speaking a word in French at all! Not that I was ever afraid of speaking, I just didn’t know the vocabulary, so how should I be able to speak ?
My English teacher even laught at me when I said, that I wanted to move to italy. You don’t even speak English, how should you learn Italian was all written over his face !
But here I am, writing a blog in English, speaking very very good Italian and speaking quite good Spanish and I am yet about to learn more!
Actually there is no secret ! Everyone now is telling me I am just very good at learning languages, but at school I never was, so it’s nothing that just falls into your hands !
I think the biggest secret around it is, to really make sure that you want to learn it! Once you’ve figured that out you can then take the next step and start applying for the courses you want to take. That being said, you may want to keep this in mind: if you want to learn German and are based in London, there are some great courses available to you there from the likes of UKLP so if you’ve got a language-learning goal in mind then you may want to see how they can help you achieve it.
Every time I am learning a new language I am before everything going trough my check point list:
– a grammar book with exercises and vocabulary in the back
– a book that I really want to read in the language that I want to learn. Make sure that it is not a children’s book or something you are not interested in, the eagerness to know what is happening in the book will drive you forward to read it.
– movies, that I can watch with two types of subtitles and tones: my mother language and the one I want to learn
– internet connection for translating vocabulary or in alternative a dictionary at hand. It may also be beneficial when it comes to finding online learning materials that you can use to improve your skill range. This method must be popular as elearning is worth 200 billion per year, so having a good internet connection can help you to access this way if you choose to.
First Phase: It looks like Chinese!
You all know the beginning of learning a new language is the most difficult part. You read something and it looks like Chinese, you hear someone talking and you are not even sure how you should ever understand this. Well I am with you, this is how you are starting out when you have no idea about the language you’re going to learn.
So, how do you easiest survive this first phase?
In my experience the best is, to choose a month, that you are having a good amount of time to invest in learning the language. In this chosen month then you’ll start to learn the language. The longer this first period takes, the more demotivated you’ll get and the less likely you will arrive to the next phase. So try to do as much as possible in this first month: good results and positive feedback are the most important thing that will help you to stay focused and motivated!
The easiest way to start is watching movies in your mother language, with the subtitles in the language you’re going to learn. Also if you don’t understand a word, try to concentrate on the text. After the first weeks change this procedure into watching the movie in the language you want to learn with subtitles in your mother tongue. This makes your body sensitive to the language and will help you further on with the pronunciation and gives you a first feeling of how the language works.
Tipp: When I decide to learn a new language, I am ONLY watching movies in the new language. Depending on how big my basic knowledge is I start with subtitles as I have described it before. However important is, is that you don’t watch one movie in this first month, but that you do this on a nearly daily basis.
The second thing you should do is to learn the basic vocabularies, numbers and simple words such as “My name is …”, “I live in …” “I love to …” are not enough!
When I refer to basic vocabulary I am intending:
- the 30 most important verbs (sleeping, walking, arriving, going, eating, drinking, etc. )
- all conjugations of the above mentioned verbs for present, past perfect and future
- 150 vocabulary that you use in your every day life (home, work, mobile phone, etc.)
This basic vocabulary will take you away some time, but if you learn every day 1 verb and 5 words, then you have this done after exactly the first month.
Second Phase: Hey, I am understanding something!
If you are really focusing on all the tips that I have given you for the first phase, then you should be in the second phase by finishing the first month studying.
You will start to recognise some of the words you are reading / listening to in the movies, you will be able to phrase basic sentences, also if the grammar is not correct, and you will be confident about the fact that the language is “doable”.
Something that helps me a lot to stay motivated, is to speak/write with people in the new language. Also if you don’t speak a lot, or feel comfortable about it, this will keep you get rolling, stay motivated and help you to get used from the very beginning to use whatever little vocabulary you have. By searching the right answers to questions you just translated with google-translate you can learn a lot!
If you p.e. learn French, then write to some French people in Facebook, use some online chatting systems from France etc.
The first days you won’t be able to have a real conversation, however the fact that you are speaking with someone also in baby-steps will motivate you to keep on going. Every question or word you translate is something you will remember easier than while studying vocabulary and every sentence you write in an answer will be stuck in your brain!
When you get to this second step, then it is time to start watching the movies in the language you are going to learn. Don’t get me wrong, I know that you will not understand ANYTHING at first, but you will get sensitive to the language and will stay motivated the more you understand. I usually watch the movie in the foreign language while putting the subtitles in the same foreign language. This is not a lot of fun at first, but believe me it doesn’t take too much time till you’ll be surprised that you’ll understand more and more.
Tipp: Start with movies that you have already watched and like a lot, this helps you to understand the story and learn easier some of the words.
Important is also, that you don’t stop learning vocabulary. When there are sentences you want to say, look them up and split it into the single words. Learn them! Continue adding new verbs and new words to your daily vocabulary routine. The faster you learn these, the faster you’ll understand what movies are about and what your Facebook friend from the other side of the world is asking you! The more you know and the more you want to know, the easier it will also be to learn the grammar in the next step.
(Second part …)