Saturday, October 18, 2014

How to Learn a Language (For Real)

Hey all,

So, learning languages is becoming a big deal nowadays, and while it's great that people have this new (or perhaps old and longing) interest in learning a language, a lot don't know where to start. What do you learn first? Where do you learn the grammar, vocab, etc.?

Before I go into the steps, I just want to say this--it's habit-enforced.


I'm just saying that you need to spend time with your language, on a daily basis, in order to learn it. That doesn't mean that you spend 3 hours on it everyday--it could be just ten minutes of your time. There's really no excuse for not learning a language, because even the smallest amount of time will help you to improve.

In case you need some more convincing on what I'm doing (because I know that a lot can preach their ideas, but haven't experienced it themselves (not trying to sound like a bitch haha)), I'm currently learning eight languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, ASL, German, and Gaelic). I understand that 5 of them are categorized under one group of languages, but that doesn't mean that I don't take time with each of them. I practice all of them by themselves, and it's totally worth it.

So let's say you're just beginning with a second language--that would only be thirty minutes a day. That's not bad at all, unlike the sound of my four hours :)

Can you guess how long it takes me per day to practice them? I usually like to aim for thirty minutes each--which would account to four hours of learning (which makes me laugh). BUT, I don't do them all in a row. I'm a college student, and I'm loading six classes this semester and, with studying, reading, exams, papers, blah blah blah, I use my breaks to practice my languages. That is the best habit I've ever found. Let me emphasize that again--I USE MY BREAKS DURING STUDYING TO PRACTICE MY LANGUAGES.

Whew. That got intense. ;)

Okay, blah blah blah, here ya go!

  1. Listen--Gosh, what a miracle this is. I'm all about sounding "authentic", which means that I need to listen listen listen and catch any letters they may use that we don't have in English. It's great if you can find a pronunciation video on YT or another website, because you can mimic. And acting like a monkey every once in a while doesn't hurt.
  2. Learn Greetings/Find a Program--Duolingo has helped me tremendously start my Gaelic journey because they include tips, audio, and have feedback from other users. If you Google "[language] greetings" or "learn [language]", you will find several sites that are "promising". Take your time to look through them and see what you like doing--we all learn in different ways. Whether you like looking at pictures, or seeing a list of vocab, it's all up to you and what you like.
  3. Read, write, listen, speak, repeat--I go through 4 things each day in those thirty minutes--I read someone online in the language (even if it's just 4 sentences, you're still practicing), write something with my known knowledge, listen to a video in the language, and speak to myself. Speaking to yourself may sound silly, but it allows you to practice stringing words together and forming sentences. The more you practice, the quicker your sentences come together.
  4. Find a native--this is probably my most intimidating moment, just because self-learning can put you into your own little bubble, where you're comfortable and don't feel like getting out. Well, pop that bubble! I use HelloTalk (an app for Apple and Android) that allows you to meet native speakers of the language you are learning that are (most likely) willing to talk to you. You can make some awesome acquaintances or penpals this way, and it allows you to use that info you've worked so hard to learn! I now have a friend in Brazil who's my age and wants to practice his English and Spanish, and he helps me with my Portuguese. I've learned so much about this kid that it feels like we go to school together! Penpals really help you to connect with the language on a different type of basis. Try it and you'll see what I mean :)
  5. Speak up! Allow yourself to boast about it if someone needs help--I know that we're usually shy when we first begin to speak with others and use our vocab and grammar and put it to the test, but it's really cool to others and your self-esteem majorly skyrockets into the universe of polyglothood.
If you have any questions on learning a language that I maybe didn't go about talking here, feel free to hit me up and I'll get back to you asap :)