7 hints for those WHO would like to grab the chance at their next holidays and talk to the locals – in their language!
“Lucky you, speaking all these languages. I am not that gifted…”
I don’t know how many times this sentence has struck my ears – in and out of the classroom – and how many times I have explained in a few words: the good old “gift of languages” is most likely a myth and that it is, as always, more about your attitude to learning.
My message for language learners and especially to those who wish to chat with natives at their next journey: stop racking your brain regarding your learning progress, stop worrying and start enjoying every freshly conquered word that is helping to open a new universe.
1) Scale down your expectations.
Instead of being satisfied about little successes we often only look at all the steps yet to be taken. Set a limit and understand every new word or grammar phenomenon is a little success and a step done. Learn in a focused way, take breaks and more importantly: reward yourself – regularly!
2) Dictionary sessions. According to some studies almost every second English word has a French root (yes, French! – not Latin and so forth). No person is an island and nor are languages! Seated in the morning metro or comfortably in your pajamas: take a dictionary and scan it for all the words that you understand passively. Then memorize! Our passive vocabulary is always far bigger than our active one: Benefit from it! And learn words as sub-blocks. Include them, si possible, in phrases and proverbs!
3) Turn it into a friends project. Languages are for communication. This is obviously nothing new to you. Why not use it? Think written forms of addresses or goodbyes for little love messages to your boyfriend, fiancé or husband. You can be sure that he will look up “Ti amo” as soon as possible and that your best girlfriend will also much appreciate a “Come stai, carissima?” if she has a link to that language. Don’t limit your creativity! Integrate it into your everyday life: for instance put your favorite Spanish quote on your desk at work.
4) Watch movies – with and without subtitles. Yes. Also without subtitles. And again, scale down your expectations. Where you might focus on the language’s intonation as a beginner, you can try to catch colloquial phrases as an advanced learner. Practical experience proves this is one of the most helpful tools to learn a lot in a fun way.
5) Look for conversation. If the destination of your language is far, far away, be assured, you are not the only one to dream about it. Go online and look for foreign language conversation groups, go to university language departments, ask for exchange students and tandem partners willing to chat with you.
6) Close the door of your room and sing! Lyrics accumulate lots of colloquialisms and frequent grammar phenomena. Moreover songs transmit the languages’ intonation. Go to YouTube, look for songs and add the hint “lyrics,” “lettras,” “lettres,” “paroles,”… according to your language. You will be surprised to see the abundance of choices. For current songs check the international hit parades.
7) Don’t give up and learn from your own mistakes! Your interpreter friend also had to learn “his” language from scratch. Thus, repeat constantly words and conjugations you have already learned. Create your personal “bring to perfection” file and write down the words and aspects you struggle with most. And again reward yourself! Maybe by saving money for a short trip to the language’s destination.
And first and foremost: Don’t hesitate to speak. Speaking can only be learned by practicing. And above all – don’t let timidity hinder your entrance into a new universe!
“So there lies in every language a particular world view.” (Wilhelm von Humboldt, 1836)
Let us capture it! (ger)