I’ve always enjoyed Italian opera and their cuisine as well as culture Dante Alighieri to Umberto Eco which caused me to create this article on 10 tips for learning a foreign language. This is why I decided to sit down and learn a new language. I made many mistakes, but I also got some very useful tips on learning a new language that I would like to share with you. These tips can be applied to most western languages. So here they are.
1 Spend a good deal of time on pronunciation
This is where most people get it wrong, and even though they become proficient in a foreign language they still sound weird to the natives. You will look like a fool and it will be a bit weird, but learning to pronounce the words correctly and hit the right intonation. Audio books are a great help, but you will need to spend a few hours a day repeating the same words over and over, so be prepared.
2 Open the dictionary and learn the most important words
Most textbooks are pretty useless at teaching you conversation skills – I mean who cares about Mario’s trip to the library or Antonia’s adventure at the doctor’s office. Find the things that you would actually like to ask someone about, or the simple little things you come across every day. You can write down some of the most common phrases as well, and practice them every day.
3 Focus on basic grammar
Your grasp of the basic grammar rules will mean the difference between sounding normal and sounding like an alien. Learning when and how to use the appropriate tenses will save you a lot of trouble, and combined with the most important words and phrases will help you string together coherent sentences and express yourself.
4 Start off slow, don’t do too much in one day
You can cover half the grammar textbook in one day, but you won’t retain any of the information – it’s like reading a hundred jokes one day and then not being able remember a single one when your friends ask you to tell them a joke the next day. Devote 2-4 hours a day on a few pages, a few words and phrases and then take a break to let it all sink in.
5 At the beginning of each session revise the previous lesson
Don’t be too eager to jump to new lessons, take some 10-20 minutes at the beginning of every session to recap the previous session. At the end of every session incorporate the new material with all the things you have learned previously and try to use it in few sentences about a particular subject.
6 Speak to a friend in a foreign language about things relevant to real life
It doesn’t matter if your friend doesn’t speak the language. When I was learning Italian I would have short conversations with a friend – he would ask me something in English and I would try to answer in Italian. You need to practice putting your thoughts to words and utilizing proper sentence structure. Devote at least half an hour a day to this little exercise.
7 Movies and YouTube clips are a great way to learn conversation skills
You don’t get too much slang or different accents in official language courses. Once you start watching movies, TV shows and YouTube clips in a foreign language you can pick up a lot of the fine nuisances. Just be patient, a lot of western languages, especially the romance languages like Italian, tend to be spoken at quite a remarkable speed as the syllables flow easily of the tongue and the people generally have a stronger temperament.
8 Use social networks to find people from that country
The best thing is to have a friend, or several friends who are fluent in the language you want to learn – this way you will be constantly exposed to it. The next best thing is finding a friend from that country online and have a chat with them from time to time. This can be a fun way to learn a few things about the culture as well.
9 Start reading a book in that language/translate something into that language
This technique is a bit more advanced, so make sure you have all the basics covered before moving on to this step. It is a great way to get some deeper insight into the language you are learning and will require a lot of patience and focus, but it will put your knowledge and skills to the test. Reading a book will mean frequent breaks and dictionary searches, and translating will be very taxing – you won’t be able to do more than 2-3 pages in a sitting when you first begin.
10 Take a trip to the country to hear the language spoken in its natural environment
The ultimate learning tool is submerging yourself in the culture, language and being forced to use the language every second of the day to communicate with people and get things done. I would advise at least 6 months of home study before going on a trip abroad to get the best results, attempting this if you don’t speak a single word of the language can be frustrating and contra productive.
These are the best tips I can give you based on my own experiences with learning Italian, a lovely, melodic language. The best thing about European languages is that every language you learn has something in common with another language (or several) so each subsequent language will be easier to pick up.
Written By Maya Johnson, a student at Griffith university and a blogger.