An ex-boyfriend once called me “soulless” so I freaked out, googled and found this proverb. That´s how I started learning different languages.
Those who know many languages live as many lives as the languages they know and if you learn a new language you will get a new soul. ‒Czech proverb
Jokes aside, I love learning new languages and personally find it very important and rewarding to speak a couple of languages. It´s not only fun & gives you a lot more career opportunities but also people really appreciate it if you´re (at least trying to) speak in their local language.
I guess when most people think of language learning they think of that boring French or German classes back in school where all you learned was grammar but still couldn´t hold a proper conversation, even after years of studying.
First of all, you need to determine the following:
Language School vs. Private Tuition vs. Do it yourself
Obviously how you´ll start to learn a language depends on your budget on how much you are willing or able to spend on it.
I went to a few Group Classes ( mainly in Dublin and two on my language holidays) and with Language Schools it´s a very mixed bag.
I loved, loved, loved the French class at the Alliance Francaise; great teachers, really engaging and motivating and just the right mix of conversation vs grammar excersises. The Language Class at the Italian Insitute on the other hand was boring as hell and after a couple of weeks I started to skip a few classes until I finally dropped out completely (way too many students per class, not engaging, very few activities outside of what was expected from the teacher).
Personally, I found the language holidays brilliant and very rewarding as you progress quickly and are fully immersed into the language.I did both of my language holidays at the Scuola Leonardo da Vinci in Italy and I really enjoyed them.
They have a few schools around Italy with different types of Classes and the teachers are one of the best I´ve ever studied with. Have a look at their website for more info: http://www.scuolaleonardo.com
Most Language Schools also offer private tuition which has the advantage that it´s only you and the teacher so you´ll make progress quickly and the teacher can fully concentrate on what you want to achieve and where your strong and weak points are.
There´s also the possibility that you can decide on what you want to learn to a certain degree.
The disadvantage is that it´s quite costly (around 20-40 Euro per hour) but again, it´s worth it if you can afford it and really want to step up your lingo game.
As I said, Language Schools offer 1-1 Tuition but you´ll probably get it cheaper if you search for a teacher yourself. Either on the web ( Firsttutors and Gumtree ) or notice boards at Universities are a good bet.
If you rather spend your hard earned money on on shoes and clothes and the zara sale than on a course ( I hear you!) than your only option is to learn the language all by yourself.
Get yourself a book ( The Teach Yourself books are good value for money; they also offer ebooks for more savings—Ka-ching!) , sign up to the free Duolingo language app and start learning.
Make sure that you learn all your vocabulary, do all the listening excersises and read the texts in the book out loud.
As you won´t get the speaking practice you´d usually get with a Group or 1-1 Class, you need to find an alternative. If you already know someone fluent in the language you´re trying to learn, ask him/her.
If you´re not in such a lucky position, find a penpal who is willing to help you and do a conversation exchange in return.
I found all of my pen-pals here on Conversation Exchange, totally free and you´ll find lots of helpful people through it.
For Smartphone users you can use the HiNative app where you can ask language and culture related questions to native speakers. More here.
If you read through all of this, then you definitely deserve a Thank you! and my Oh Yeah´s and God No´s on learning a language, here we go:
Learn your Vocabulary with words AND sentences
I was convinced that I didn´t have to learn any vocabulary. I don´t know what I was thinking, that the words miraculously be remembered in my memory. Anyhow, after a while I realised I was missing words and couldn’t form phrases even though I should have known the word.
So I sat down and wrote all my vocabulary on flash cards and it helped tremendously. It´s important to write down the single words ( gender & plural included) and also form sentences with the word. In that way your brain knows exactly how to actually use the word and it´s much easier to remember it if you form a context.
I don´t use actual flashcards anymore but do it all electronically through memrise.com which also comes as an app for your phone or tablet. Very handy and very helpful!
Conversation is key!
It´s really important to speak from day one, no matter what. At the end of the day every language is a spoken one ( except for latin maybe) so you need to practice to become fluent. I know it can be daunting at first but it´s one of these situations in life where you just have to say to yourself : Fuck it!
And if you really don´t want to speak right from the get go, the next point might be something for you…
La-di-da-di-da, what´s this fancy word you might think!
Well, it´s basically what old grannies and freaks do while you give them a dirty look on the bus. They talk to themselves.
Now don´t be thinking now that since you´re language learning that you can just talk to yourself everywhere you breathe and stand ( well, you could, but people will think you´re crazy, but be my guest).
The idea is to do it in a very subtle way and practice the vocab and expressions you´re learning at the moment.
Make & embrace mistakes
Don´t worry about making mistakes, instead just rock with it/roll with it and embrace them. It´s totally natural to make mistakes, nobody is perfect and even some native speakers can´t speak their own language in a faultless manner. So don´t worry about it, make mistakes, learn from them and keep going!
Listen to the radio, audiobooks and watch TV in your target language
I find this the most enjoyable way to improve on a language and there is nothing more motivating than realising bit by bit on how much more you understand day by day and how much you´re improving. It will also help you on your pronunciation and overall language understanding.At first, it really does not matter how much you understand, do it from day one. Pick audiobooks (Spotify has a great selection) or series ( change the language setting inNetflix for example) you know already, this will help.
Read newspapers, Children´s books, Parallel Text books
Children´s books are always your best bet at first because the vocabulary is quite basic and the sentences simple. If you get bored of this or you´re already a bit more advanced you can buy parallel books ( for example the English original text on the right, the translated French version on the left) or read the newspaper online.
Starting off the paper you can start with tabloids ( again simpler texts, vocab not that sophisticated) and then read the more sophisticated newspapers and magazines.
Grammar is important but not most important!
Knowing your verbs, tenses and declensions are important in my opinion but shouldn´t take over your whole learning efforts. Like I mentioned above, I studied English in school for more than 8 years but moving to an English speaking country and properly having to talk the language is a whole different ball game. Grammar will teach you the rules and structures of a language but teach you nothing- nada about accents, slang, culture or language habits.
Practice & repeat 20 mins per day rather than all in one sitting
That´s what I did back in the days having an exam coming up but guess what, after the exam it was all forgotten ( short term memory, ya know!) so unless you really have to, it´s best to practice every day a little bit instead of cramming everything into one session it´s best to split it up in 20-30 minutes/ day.
You´ll find that it´s much more enjoyable and effective that way.
Carry a Dictionary with you
I use the dict.cc app on my iphone which doesn´t use too much space and also no data. It´s handy because you can look up words on the fly and because it´s electronically you don´t need much time looking for the word or expression. Nevertheless, an oldschool dictionary will obviously also do the trick.
Hope you found this post useful and are able to to benefit from the tips.
Comment below if you have any Q´s, Suggestions or more Tips!