Interest in language learning worldwide is growing fast. Many people learn for fun or travel reasons. More people are learning for business reasons or to help get a job. There are as many language-learning methods as there are languages to learn. Which method is the best is the million-dollar question? What tools can you find to help you?
I have noticed that the majority of language learning methods try to teach you with phrases or sentences right from the start. To me this seems strange. It makes more sense to me if you start to build your vocabulary first. Then you will understand the words in the sentences. If you start with the common words that are used over and over like to, go, come, from, if, and with it is most helpful. The words you choose to learn first will really help you to communicate faster in a new language. Who, what, where, when and why are very good one-word questions that give you communication skills right from the start.
The single most important learning tool is to hear a native speaker of the language you are learning. Most methods have this.
The key to language learning is word memory. Obviously words are how you speak languages. I have found that it is very helpful for word memory to not only hear the words but to see them. If you are an English learner studying Spanish it does not take much to learn the way Spanish uses the English alphabet. The “e” and “i” sounds are reversed as the “j” and “h” sounds are among a few other differences. If you are trying to learn Mandarin Chinese or any language with a foreign alphabet the challenge is impossible unless you read the language. This is where another helpful tool is needed. Phonetic spelling of the words in English of the language you are learning is essential. You need to see and hear the words. Pictures will not work for most words but if you think about it phonetic spelling is a picture of a word. You understand how the word is spoken from the sound of its letters.
So now we have the tools for the sound and spelling of words in a new language. The single most important task of language learning is word memory. I have found that multiple-choice word games are great for this. Flash cards work the same way. Any way that questions you to recall the word will build your memory. You can learn a language but if you don’t speak it often you will lose memory of it. Many people know this from language learning they did in school. If you don’t use it, you lose it.
A great way to improve word memory is to learn the native or phonetic spelling of the words. Spelling is very helpful for remembering because it means you can see the picture of the word in your mind.
Science says that if you have three links to a word in your mind it helps to remember. The idea for language learning is the practice of using the sound and spelling of a word and also making a clue to help remember it. For example to learn the Italian word for tomorrow, which is “domani” I remembered it as “no money.” It rhymed. To learn the Thai word for ceiling, which is “pay don” my clue was “don’t forget to pay don.” It can be anything to help you remember as long as you are the one making the clue you will remember it.
Grammar is something that people get hung up on. Grammar is not important to communication. It only makes you sound better. If you talk to someone who speaks English as a second language you will find grammar is best left out. To say “I want to go to the beach today” it is much easier for the foreigner to understand “I go beach.” I find it both amusing and likeable to hear foreign speakers butcher English. I always understand what they mean. It is good to learn proper grammar but don’t get hung up on it.
Lets recap what has been said. You need tools to learn a language. The words you learn first are most important. The sound and the spelling with a clue give you a picture to aid your remembering. A multiple-choice or flash card game will aid your recall. Last you need a way to learn grammar.
There is a new website online called the World Word Exchange that has all of the tools that I mentioned here.
Good luck language learning is very rewarding and fun! I hope you will soon experience how exciting it is to speak in a new language.