“The limits of my language are the limits of my world”
– Ludwig Wittgenstein
Wittgenstein, one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, was definitely not the last man on earth who was pushed to his limits because of lack of language skills. We all, even you, encounter it every day – when travelling to a foreign country, when meeting someone with whom we do not share a common language or when trying to order food written in a foreign language. Sadly, the situation gets more precarious for expats if they do not speak the local language. According to a survey published in Telegraph.co.uk, lack of language skills is the biggest obstacle for international students. Majority of them fail to learn the local language which greatly affects their academic career.
So, why learning a second language is so freaking hard?
Because we don’t do it correctly!
And also there are myths that hold us back. So first, it is crucial to debunk these myths which can be more dangerous than an outright falsehood.
- Languages are taught in classrooms
Not really. In this age of digitization, you can learn anything by opening a webpage or YouTube video. The basic fallacy here is to consider learning as a permanent process. Because if someone learns something in school, it does not mean that they will remember it for the rest of their life. You can easily master a language while sitting in the comfort of your homes.
- Children learn languages the best
This is a popular belief. But if you see children’s behavior closely, you understand children begin learning the language only after birth by paying attention to their parents’ voices and noises around them. It is not exactly the same sort of behavior that we call ‘instinct’ in animals. So we, as adults, still stand a chance.
- It is expensive to learn a language
Again, the internet has made learning as cheap as possible. Only an internet connection and system can get you access to a sea of data and information. When it comes to learning a new language, so many free resources are found online that may uncover the wealth of opportunities to learn languages online.
- Foreigners always have a foreign accent
If you did not grow up in one of those English-speaking countries, you would always have a foreign accent. This line is often used to discourage students from learning new languages. Frankly, there is no reason why you can’t speak a foreign language with natural accent. It is true that you will need some imitating talent in you. In case you don’t, you can make it up to it with persistence and a little practice.
Hope you wouldn’t fall for these myths ever again in your life. Now, coming to the main highlight of this blog.
Easy Ways To Master A Foreign Language
Get FREE advice from ‘polyglots’ (who know several languages) and linguists (who have done their researches on languages). But do not just put them on your backburner after reading them; practice them, so that you can get best results.
- Start with some motivation
Don’t be a headless chicken. One morning, you woke up and told yourself ‘let’s try something interesting, ummmmmm… why not learning a new language!’ You start with a great enthusiasm. But after a few weeks, you gradually lose the cause and ultimately drop the plan. Want to know the reason behind the failure? It is lack of resolution. Achieving a goal needs a reason. It does not need to be a good one. It can be stupid like ordering food in a foreign language, talking to your classroom or roommate or impressing people around you. But the main idea is, it has to be something. You cannot win a war when you are not motivated by the cause for what you are fighting for.
- Learn the right way
We have seen people who use online translators to learn a language. They enter sentence(s) to be translated and memorize the translation to be used. Frankly, this is the worst way possible to start a foreign language. The best way is to start with is learning alphabets and syllables first. We all remember how our mothers used to push us to repeat after her, ‘A for Apple and B for Ball’. That was the first step toward learning our mother tongue. And it won’t change at the time of learning a second language. So your first task would be writing down the alphabets and learning them correctly by practicing.
- Befriend cognates
We are still learning English. There are a whole lot of unfamiliar words out there which we are yet to discover. Now you need to master a new set of vocabulary from scratch to learn a new language. But in reality, we never really learn a language ‘from scratch’, thanks to cognates. Cognates are words which you recognize from your native language, having the same meaning in another language. Not very clear? Here’s an example. French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian have many words in common with English like nation, position, pollution, revolution, solution, operation, situation, imagination, ambition, introduction, correction and thousands of other words. These words are spelled quite similar in French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. For Spanish, ‘-tion’ changes into ‘-ción’. Similarly, ‘-tion’ is used as ‘-zione’ in Italian. For Portuguese, it is ‘-ção. So you already have been introduced to new vocabulary.
- Repeat what you have learned
You hate that professor, who asks too many questions in the classroom. We all do! But there’s nothing to blame. It is the professors’ job to check whether students learn whatever is being taught in the class. The best way to do so is asking students repeat themselves. When they answer the question, they actually repeat the lesson. If they do it correctly, it means they have learned the subject well. So the best way to confirm your learned knowledge is to repeat yourselves after studying. If you have learned a word, repeat it at least 10 times in the morning and 10 times before going to bed. You will see the results!
- Play with words
If you have followed the above mentioned tips sincerely, you have already learned some basic vocabulary. So it is time to take the learning one step further. Alert: it is not going to be easy. But this is the best way to master the target language. What do you need: computer or pen paper! Try to create as many sentences with one word. Write the word at the top of the page, and conjure sentences while keeping the word in focus. Do it as many as you can. This is the best practice to learn a new language. This way, you put your learned knowledge into practice. In case you struggle, move on to the next word. Target at least 5-7 words a day.
- Start speaking as fast as you can
99 out of 100 people learn a new language with the primary goal to speak in the target language fluently. So there’s no point wasting time anymore. You have a starting vocabulary and some practice sessions already. So this is the best time to initiate conversing in the language. Isn’t it the whole point of exercising it? You might stumble at first. But that’s OK. Rather, you need to falter because if you do it properly at first attempt, you might not push as hard as when you fail. So whenever you fumble or forget something, try harder. Try to erase the mistakes from your system and focus. No quitting. When you start having fun, you learn faster than mugging up those textbooks.
- Don’t forget grammar
When you already know how to frame a sentence, it is time to correct your grammar. Grammar is always important. But frankly, reading grammar rules won’t help you much. It definitely can get you an insight of the usage of words properly. But again, you need to learn necessary elements of grammar by listening and speaking as that’s how we picked up grammar at childhood. Our parents did not drill into the right way to use go, went, going or gone. It came naturally either by listening or experiencing. This is the natural way to learning a new language.
- Widen your circle of friends
Colleges serve as cultural hubs in our society and campus administrator acknowledge the need for diverse student populations. Students travel from one country to another to achieve their academic ‘dreams’. So you will definitely find foreign students who do not share mother tongue with you. If you are learning Spanish, find some Amigos on the campus.
- Skype or one-to-one conversations are the best
Speaking live with a native is one of most traditional approaches to master a language. You can arrange a meeting with your new friend. You learn little from the first interaction, mostly identifying your mistakes. But gradually, the more exchanges you set up, the more knowledge you add on. If you cannot arrange an interaction with a native speaker on the campus, you can take help from websites where thousands of native speakers are waiting to help you. This has proved to be the best way to be functional.
- Free resources are the best
There’s no point of spending hundred dollars on learning a foreign language where great stuff come at free of cost. If you want to go the traditional way by taking up a course, then DuoLingo is a good option for learning European languages. BBC Languages is an alternative which provides you with the chance to learn almost 40 different languages. There are a few free apps available on the internet – Hello Talk, Mindsnacks, Busuu, Babble, Memrise, Leaf, etc. In addition, there are a few interesting options that make learning fun and exciting for you. Forvo (if you want to hear any word or small expression read aloud by native speakers). Rhinospike (if want to hear phrases pronounced by native speakers). Lang 8 (if you want to receive free corrections of written content) and Translate (if you want to spell out a text correctly).
- Nothing wrong with cheating
At junior or high school, even at college, we use mnemonics methods to remember a complicated or easily confused subject or part of it. It just makes things easier in an instance. So when you feel frustrated remembering the same words that you have heard a dozen times, use mnemonics. You can come up with a mnemonics of the target word which helps you retain the word in your brain for longer. There is a unique application called Memrise available on the internet to find a mnemonic on behalf of you. Alternatively, you can make up a silly or stupid story associated with the word. Yes, it can be time-consuming – focusing on each word you learn, but no one can deny the effectiveness of this method. You will need to practice these tricks until the words become the natural part of your vocabulary.
- Help yourselves
According to the studies, the most effective way to speak in a foreign language quickly is to practice conversing with others. You may sound like an obvious thing, but surveys have revealed the effectiveness of speaking in a language. And the improvement is worth noticing. Similar, if you dedicate one hour speaking with someone or even in front of the mirror, you would find improvements in your conversation. It is guaranteed that your conversation on the first day will not match with the conversation after a month.
It is a good decision taken by you. If you are successful at learning a new language, you will create more optimistic attitude, improve analytical and decision-making skills, increase creativity, make travelling countries easier and more enjoyable, enhance prospects in professional sector, improve grades in SAT and GRE, expand one’ views to the world, give a sneak peek to another culture, and the list goes on.
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