I guess I am not the only one who thinks that foreign languages help us a lot. I am not talking only about finding a better job, even though this could be a good reason to motivate you, but I am talking about traveling and being able to speak to the locals or to other tourists. That kind of experience doesn’t compare to anything else. I am Romanian and I speak fluently English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and at the moment I am learning Italian and Greek. I cannot say that I struggled a lot to learn these languages or that it was very difficult. It wasn’t easy either, but what I can say is that it took me some time. You cannot go to bed listening to a tape and wake up speaking Chinese, right? But here is what I am doing when I want to learn a foreign language:
10. Gather all the materials that you need. You can go to the library and search for books, you can search for some pdfs online, whatever might help you. After you finished the hunt have a look at the structure and decide with what you want to start.
9. I always start with common phrases and words or easy sentences which I could use in case I meet someone that I could speak to in that language. For instance when I was in Greece I tried to learn the salutations and easy questions. After trying to use them in public and making some mistakes I finally got it right. People will be more than happy to help you and teach you.
8. Write some post its and put them on top of some objects inside your house. I did that in my entire house and while washing my teeth I was reading how you say mirror, sink, door etc in that other language. Seeing the words in front of me all the time helped a lot.
7. I download apps on my phone. Lately I’ve been using Memrise and Duolingo.
6. Now it’s time to move to more serious stuff. After you managed to learn usual phrases and all the objects inside your house and you achieved some goal with the apps, you are ready for the next level. Which is… listening to music in that particular language that you are trying to learn. Search for songs and listen to them when you go out for a run or when you are cleaning the house. You will recognize some words and you will learn others. You might not know what they mean yet but as soon as you will find them in another context you will know you’ve heard those words before.
5. Youtube is my best friend. I am following a lot of vloggers and the native ones help me when I am just learning a new language. Listening to day to day talk, their stories and looking at their gestures and facial expressions helps me understand more.
4. The next thing that I do is watching movies in that language. At the beginning I am normally using subtitles in Romanian because I don’t understand so much, but then I add subtitles in Romanian and that language and try to listen and to read in that other language. I try to look at the Romanian subtitles as little as possible.
3. Book, books and more books. I still remember how happy I was after reading my first book in Spanish. It took me a while, I think I understood 60% from the book but somehow I finished it. Stopping at every unknown word doesn’t work for me, it takes too long and from the context you can assume what certain words might actually mean. Oh, and read some pages out loud to improve your pronunciation.
2. Make a friend from that country and offer to teach him/her another language. I have a friend in France. We exchange letters. She writes to me in English and I answer in French. This helped us both.
1.Go to that country. Only then you can tell how good your level is. Listening to the conversations, talking to people at the subway, inside restaurants and bars, etc. You can even get an internship in that country. Only when I worked in Spain for 3 months I realized just how good my level of Spanish was.
And don’t give up! It’s not easy but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to have a perfect grammar, nor to find 5 synonyms to each word. You have to understand what other people have to tell you and you have to be able to give them a clear and simple answer. Good luck and keep up the good work!