Learning a new language is a fantastic goal and the sense of achievement it brings every time you further your knowledge is immense, particularly when you get to the point of being able to use your language skills to communicate in the real world.
It’s not an easy thing to do though – often, becoming close to fluent can take many years and a lot of hard work, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t speed up the process by learning smartly. Here are a few tips to help you along:
Learn The Language Structure
There are basically two facets to being able to speak a language: Learning the words and learning how to structure correct sentences.
By learning the structure of the language you can visualise it more easily and you will soon realise that you can visualise how to translate a sentence even if you don’t necessarily know the words. This is handy because it lets you practice translating things in your spare time (and if Google the words you don’t know, you’ll be adding to your vocab at the same time).
Use The Parato Principal
The Parato principal says that 80% of the results come from 20% of the input, and it holds true in a surprising number of contexts. In our example therefore, 80% of the language you speak is just combinations of the most popular 20% of your vocabulary.
Rather than learning your vocab by topic, try to get a list of the 500-1000 most commonly spoken words and learn those, if you are confident with them, this is often enough to hold simple conversations.
You might be surprised by how many of these words you already know, but as you work your way along the list you will find you can string together more and more different sentences, which will build your confidence and improve your recall.
Full Immersion – Enjoy It
Unless you are living in a country where the language is spoken it can be difficult to really immerse yourself and reading text books and flash cards is a little too boring to keep up all the time, no matter how dedicated you may be.
But a good solution is to learn the language through a medium you already enjoy – Films and TV of course!
Buy or download a few foreign language versions of shows that you already watch and know well (the better you know them the easier they will be to watch) and watch them with English subtitles.
It should be something that you can happily watch over and over; start by following along reading the subtitles and also listening to the audio until you can actually follow the story line without the subtitles.
This process is a fun way to add to your vocabulary, but more importantly it will train you to hear the words in the language when spoken in a native tong and this will accelerate your listening ability and help you to start holding conversations.
Finally, try to get hold of some magazines about things you actually enjoy in your chosen language. These make sure a great way to pass the time on journeys or any time you are at a loose end.
By choosing topics you are actually interested in you will find it more enjoyable to read about these topics and you will also learn vocab that is relevant to the sorts of things you are likely to want to say.
Practice a Lot
It’s not easy to do, and it can be scary, but to really get comfortable with any language you need to practice speaking it with other people. Start doing this right from the start with either; a personal tutor, class teacher or online mentor. If you have any friends that speak the language, ask them to talk with you too.
Practicing is truly the only way to build your confidence to a level where you can freely converse in the language. Many people are held back for years by fear of failure, but if you take the plunge and make the effort to actively use your skills, they will grow surprisingly quickly.
About the Author
This guest post was written by James from UKTutors, who offer tutoring and educational services for students. Thanks for reading.