Some people learn languages with impressive ease–they pick up pronunciation seemingly without effort, use phrases accurately, and become fluent much faster than seems natural. For others, learning a foreign language is an obviously strenuous pursuit and will need to use language learning strategies.
They may never take up learning a second language to the point that it gives them practical results. Yet others will always speak improperly, chattering away, oblivious to any grammatical rules, phraseology, or pronunciation.
I started learning foreign languages when I was eight, and since then I have commenced learning a new language every so often. I’ve tried my hand at studying German, Spanish, Norwegian, even Greek (a little bit). So, I can tell you from experience that learning languages is an exciting and eye-opening activity, and there is no easy way to become proficient.
But there are a myriad of easy ways to acquire a language and actually speak it decently, and numerous reasons why you should study a foreign language.
First things first. In order to plunge into the world of language learning, you need to be driven. In fact, the greatest problem people face in language learning is nothing other than motivation. So, let’s focus on this list of the most obvious and tangible benefits of mastering a foreign tongue before delving into language learning strategies!
Travel the World: Traveling is much easier and so much more fun when you speak at least one foreign language, increasing your ability to move comfortably in new and exotic places.
Get Connected: Talking is how we connect with the people around us. The more languages you speak, the more people in the world you will be able to share your thoughts and feelings with, relating much more closely with foreign people and cultures. To be able to read about German culture in Deutsch and about the Chinese royal dynasties in Mandarin is an incredible privilege. Language increases your access to different cultures and aspects of life that were previously unavailable for you to truly understand and experience.
Professional Horizons: In this rapidly globalizing world, learning languages makes you much more marketable on the job, especially in the international domain.
Good for Your Health: You’re never too old to start learning a language. In fact, research shows that learning languages boosts your memory and possibly prevents the development of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, according to Huffington Post.
Motivated? Keep reading for useful language learning strategies…
Language Learning Strategies: Easy Ways to Learn a Language – Any Language
Unless you have a Babel fish to stick in your ear or a magic pill you can take, you will have to make do with learning languages by yourself. Here are some essential techniques that will improve your language learning strategies as well as boost your communication skills as a whole.
To become a good speaker of a foreign language, you need to practice often what you’ve learned. Otherwise, the rules, words, and grammar you study stays in your notebook and never get to be utilized properly. Speaking (preferably with native speakers) is a crucial activity as it increases both your listening comprehension and your ability to express yourself in the thought patterns of a foreign tongue.
How to Do It
The internet has made it extremely easy to meet and speak with foreigners. Given the obvious advantages of regularly chatting with native speakers online, you can find like-minded language learning enthusiasts on web platforms like My Language Exchange, where native speakers of your target language will teach you in exchange for you teaching them your mother tongue in return.
The idea behind the speech shadowing technique in language learning is pretty simple. You listen to spoken language and then repeat it. But the advanced technique involves simultaneous listening and repeating.
This technique is perfect not only for people who want to develop their knowledge of a foreign language but also for people who are not confident enough to start practicing what they’ve learned in class.
How to Do It
You can practice shadowing in any format: conversation, radio, podcast, monologue, a movie–anything indeed! It helps improve your language learning by forcing you to listen with greater care. Once your ear is accustomed to pronunciation, the journey to fluency becomes exponentially more manageable.
The shadowing technique also helps you recognize more exact pronunciations, discern the word breaks in a continuous stream of speech, and get used to rhythm-specific phrases.
Repetition helps you memorize huge quantities of phrases, idioms, word combinations, and whole sentences applicable to various situations, which might come in handy in many conversations. Julian explains and demonstrates pretty neatly how shadowing works:
Living the Language
Learning a foreign language doesn’t happen overnight (although some products might try to sell you this promise). It happens naturally when you live the language, that is when you immerse yourself in the foreign culture. The more fresh information you consume, the thirstier you become.
You will notice the amazing feeling that overtakes you once you start understanding signs in public areas, when you start reading the local newspapers, and when you finally start understanding the local humor. The more you discover, the more fascinated you will become.
How to Do It
Do you have no money to travel the world right now? Well, the internet makes this nothing more than a weak excuse. Even if you don’t like learning at a computer, check out local international cafes, the Chinese take-out place on the corner, the Italian gelateria near work, the Turkish kebab house your friend keeps recommending.
There are so many interesting people to meet who’ll be glad to help you practice your language when they see your interest in their culture.
Many people don’t get into language learning in the first place, because they think they lack the so-called “language gene.” There really is no such thing. You just have to face the fact that learning takes a little hard work. Others think that they can’t remember all those words, phrases, and weird usage exceptions. Well, there’s a technique to help you with this too.
How to Do It
The idea behind space repetition is that you can remember a huge number of words and phrases and keep them in your memory indefinitely by reviewing them at certain points in life.
For instance, you may have learned the Spanish word “rigorista” (“stickler”) one week and then see it a week later in a friend’s resume, reinforcing it in your mind. Then, when the word is just about to be forgotten, you may hear it in a movie, burning it into your neural pathways.
Language (written and spoken) is one of the most powerful ways to preserve and cherish the world, its beauty, culture, and knowledge.
Learning foreign languages helps you communicate with people from different cultures, but it is also a way to learn a lot about yourself, as it opens up those unknown areas of your mind and helps you tread into domains you never knew existed.
Now that you’re ready to start using these language learning strategies, you should consider really committing to your learning with the help of a qualified native teacher. There may not be a magic language pill, but Listen & Learn can offer the best possible instruction to ensure you reach your goals the right way.