Every new year many people make a resolution to learn a foreign language moved by guilt for not succeeding at that in the previous year or just in search for the cure of their hangover (or other more respectable reasons). You, dear reader, may fill in the blanks.
Many go to the language-learning sections at their local bookstore (yes, there are still some of those left around) in search for the book with a mixture of miraculous and magical strategies to enable them to speak English, French, Spanish or Mandarin overnight.
By the following week many will realize that no matter how many books and language courses they buy on CD, DVD or online they will sit around gathering dust in a darker corner of their homes and offices before the end of the month.
Those failed attempts can be fixed or prevented, though.
How? Speaking and listening is the key
Surround yourself with LIVING language material: Listening resources play a major part of learning – be they videos, or radio, or podcasts.
Even without understanding – it’s passive learning – it will help you identify the “music” of your target language. But it will take time.
Let me tell you the example of my “niece-in-law”, Ingrid. As many Brazilians she basically knows the verb to be (present tense) in English. However, after her first child was born 2 months ago she decided that she would help her boy learn English and she would do whatever necessary in the process. I’d advised her to play children’s stories in English for the baby to get familiar with the sounds of the English language and she started listening to them as well. I believe that exclusive audio sources would be better than the TV with so many visual distractions. Conclusion: 2 months later she’s speaking some English with great fluency and her ears have become better trained to identify the sounds and reproduce them. And her 2-month-old baby, João Paulo, is already crying in English – no more “buááá” but “waaaahhhhh” – Just kidding, sort of).
Another strong point is that Ingrid is not afraid of trying to speak and now she is moving towards a pre-intermediate level, without having opened a “language course book”.
So to get your feet wet in your target language remembers:
1. When listening – echo practice – repeat phrases and words you hear, mimic them / parrot them. Be a “fool” on purpose.
2. Establish a regular time to practice – Saturday morning when making coffee and preparing your breakfast, laundry, or whatever. If you have to go shopping make your shopping list in English / play with language / mess around in a creative way. Explore the language. Try to listen to authentic material at least 5 times a week.
Different folks different strokes
3. How would you answer to the questions / interact / comment to what you’re listening whether a podcast, or radio, or YouTube? Talk to yourself in your target language – create an inner monologue
Other people learn best when they’re reading, but that’s a theme for another blog post.
Special thanks to Luke’s English Podcast – episode 407 – Reflections on Language Learning http://teacherluke.co.uk/2016/12/07/407-reflections-on-language-learning-working-as-a-translator-interview-with-kristina-from-russia-winner-of-the-lep-anecdote-competition-2016/
Happy New Year and Happy Language Learning in 2017