For over a year I am now studying Spanish in order to learn it properly. I am very interested in the spanish language as well as the country and its culture! That is why I’ve always wanted to learn this language! I am not only interested in Spanish but learning foreign languages in general.
Learning a language is not only interesting but also helps massively when you travel. A language is the key to a foreign country and culture and that is why I always try at least to know the meaning of Hello, Thank You and Goodbye in a foreign language when visiting a foreign country. I consider it very polite and I think I am at least showing a bit of respect and interest in the people.
Today, I’d like to share some language learning tips with you that can be applied to every language you want to learn:
This part is very important. I know, learning vocabulary can be quite challenging and boring from time to time but there are also funny and more interesting ways than just staring at a piece of paper and trying to remember all the meanings of the different words listed:
- Pictures: My brain works a lot with pictures. That is why I can remember things better that I can remember a picture of. Why not put post-its on all the things at home with the correct word in the foreign language? This way, you can remember words on the go. There are also great smart phone and tablet apps out there with which you can easily study vocabulary based on pictures.
- Phase 6 or index cards: The computer based program Phase 6 which is available for either Mac or Windows, works the exact same way as the index card system. You study vocabulary in six phases. After typing them into the system it will ask you first a day after to remember them, then 3 days later, then 10 days, 30 days later and so on until you can remember the word after a break of 90 days. At that point, the word is considered to be in your long term memory and you are most likely not going to forget it anymore. In case you cannot remember a word in one of these phases, it goes one phase back. The program also keeps reminding you to study every day. And that is a must. You need to do a few words each day. Otherwise, you’ll simply end up piling up loads and loads of words and after a while you feel buried underneath them…
You need to learn the grammar of a foreign language in order to understand it completely. There is no way around this, I’m afraid. The key is to find exercises to practice. Only learning the rules and different verb forms by hard is not going to work. Even if you think you’ve understood all the rules, you will be surprised about how many exceptions there are. Here are some sources where you can easily find exercises to practice grammar:
- Grammar Books: You can either buy them or lend them from your local library.
- Magazines: Believe it or not but there are special language learning magazines out there that also offer grammar exercises
- Internet: There are seriously millions of websites out there in the worldwide web that offer grammar exercises in every language spoken on the planet. Just google “grammar exercises in (insert the language you wanna learn here)
3. Read, Read, Read
Studying vocabulary and learning grammar is not enough and would be extremely boring if you were just doing that. Reading in a foreign language helps you a lot to improve your language skills. It might be hard in the beginning when you need to look up a lot of words but it gets easier, I promise. After a while you know enough words to understand new ones from the context and you will need the dictionary less and less.
It does not matter what sort of texts you read. I found that reading texts about topics I am interested in in the beginning is much easier and more fun. I started with small magazine and newspaper articles (either online or in print) and a few days a ago, I started reading a short novel.
4. Watch Movies and TV-Shows
If reading is not your thing or you do not want to constantly sit around reading, you can also try watching movies or TV-Shows in the language you want to learn. This is actually how I learned English. I simply started to watch films and my most favorite TV-Shows in their original language and found out after a while that the original content is so much more interesting and funnier than the translated German versions… Also, it does not matter what you watch as long as you do it. If you have a DVD, it also helps to turn on subtitles in the original language. This way you can listen and read the text which makes it much easier to understand in the beginning
5. Listen to Music
If you are interested in music why not download some music in the language you want to study? I am sure there is something for every music genre you might like to listen to in every language. You can also download the song text from the web and try to translate it for yourself. How awesome is it to understand your favorite songs?
6. Find Penpals and Other Friends
There are a lot of websites that help you to find a language partner. You simply say which language you wanna learn and the program finds a person who wants to study your language and speaks your selected one. You can help each other, get to know each other and even meet in real life if you like. Speaking to someone about current topics helps a lot with small talk if you ever go to a foreign country as you learn some daily expressions study books usually not teach you.
7. Do a Language Course
Language courses are usually available everywhere at local schools if the language you want to learn is not too exotic. There are also great online courses, self study books or long distance courses you could do. That is exactly what I have been doing these last 1 1/2 years. I receive a box with the study material on a regular basis and have to hand in exercises. There is always someone available online or on the phone to help me with questions. Also, they offer a forum to exchange questions and information with fellow students. I really enjoy studying at home and being able to learn in my own pace.
Traveling to the country where people speak the language you are studying is probably the most effective way to learn a language. I’ve once done a spanish language course in Salamanca for two weeks. I went to school there every day and stayed with a local family. This way, I was forced to speak Spanish and I also learned a lot about the spanish culture. But even without a language class, it helps to be surrounded by the language and speak it when you place your order in a restaurant or speak to someone in the supermarket or around a sight you are visiting. You could also go and see a movie in the cinema, a play in the theatre or whatever other cultural event you are interested in.
Nobody said, learning a language is easy but it can be a lot of fun and you feel so proud of yourself when you are able to understand and communicate in a foreign language. It opens new doors and makes music, films and literature available to you that you never considered before. My goal in life is to being able to speak fluently German, English, Spanish and French. German and English are not a problem anymore and I am on a good way with Spanish. I’ve also studied French before and will continue at some point when I’ve mastered Spanish…
Do you have other language learning tips I forgot? Please share in the comments section below.