New year, new challenge? Then a new language would be a great addition to your repertoire!
Misconceptions About Language Learning
When it comes to learning a foreign language like Spanish, German or Mandarin Chinese, students are probably accustomed to hearing the same advice: “forget about traditional classes and head for the country where that language is spoken”. In other words, ‘full immersion’ in the language is best if you want to learn fast and accurately.
It makes perfect sense: head to the country, throw yourself into the language and culture, observe or make friends and learn how they speak to each other in their native language... but the only issue is that - you could wind up only learning a colloquial, informal form of the language and never actually learn the true basics and correct process of acquisition (i.e. you are missing out on that process of learning the framework of the language, which native speakers will have done throughout their education and thus have this permanently imprinted in their brain to fall back on even when they are only messing around with friends and using slang).
So, if you are keen to try to learn a new language the more 'educational' way, then read our tips below.
Our Top 5 Tips On Foreign Language Learning
1. Start With Basics Words
While intense exposure to a foreign language undoubtedly has great value in increasing vocabulary and fluency, if your level of comprehension, vocabulary or grammar are not at least at a high intermediate level, then the experience can be counter-productive, causing frustration for students who are still struggling to learn the most oft-used words in the language they aim to master.
Foreign language tutoring is one way to surpass the barrier between basic and intermediate knowledge of the language since your tutor can help you out with the fundamentals of foreign language learning.
2. Learn Your Grammar 'Off By Heart'
As a bilingual, I can say that one of the things that helped me to grasp my second language was practice, practice and more practice. Back in school in France, all I ever heard was learn this and learn that "par cœur" (by heart).
If we learnt a new verb in class in primary school such as 'être' or 'to be', we would be tasked with learning the conjugation off by heart that night and then returning to class ready to regurgitate the lesson to the entire class (and they did, indeed, pick on pupils to stand up in front of the class so it was best to be prepared!). The same went for if we learnt a poem or a piece of history... all were to be memorised word for word. And the truth is, although it seemed absurd at the time, being a six-year-old English girl who had to learn an entire page of information about Napoleon overnight, I simply cannot fault the method.
Forcing yourself to read and re-read something really helps it to stick in your brain.
However, you cannot learn about Grammar on your own, so you will need a good Grammar book or a tutor to give you tips along the way.
Students need someone to explain the basic differences between the grammatical rules of their native language and that they want to learn. Spanish students encountering English for the first time, for instance, need to understand that in this language, the subject must always come before the verb.
On the other hand, English students learning Spanish, need to come to terms with entirely new verb forms like the subjunctive form, which is used when verbs following a particular list of verbs.
Fluency is not everything; accuracy is a vital component of successful communication in a foreign language and this is one area where a tutor can be of great help.
3. Build Your Vocabulary
An experienced foreign language tutor will be familiar with the most commonly used words in your target language and will build lessons around these words. There are many ways to do this: by using flashcards, or by reading books with a limited number of target words; another popular strategy is to use songs to introduce colloquial language and to reveal the context in which certain words and expressions are used.
A good tutor will think up novel ways to teach vocabulary at a pace you are comfortable with; some will even use scenes from films in class, pausing frequently so you can revise important vocabulary.
Make sure to expose yourself as much as possible to target vocabulary through music, film and books. The more you come across words, the easier it will be to retain their meaning and even to use them in your own speech and writing.
4. Practice Your Pronunciation
A solid basis in grammar and a good vocabulary will not be of much use if you don’t pronounce your words well. Yet even phonetic languages like Spanish can pose difficulties for foreign learners, since certain letter sounds are very difficult to produce off-bat (sounds like the rolled ‘rr’ or the breathy ‘j’ can be a real challenge in many languages).
Foreign language tutoring will be of great help in this area, since your tutor will be aware of the sounds you are most likely to have difficulty with and will work alongside you to improve those sounds. If you’re having difficulties, be patient; and ask your tutor about the typical sounds native speakers of your target language commonly have with speaking your own language: for instance, native Spanish speakers can have difficulty uttering the ‘v’ or ‘ch’ sounds which probably seems like second nature to you!
5. Hire a Tutor
As we've referenced throughout this piece, hiring a tutor is a sure-fire way to get ahead with your language skills.
Get on the Superprof platform to choose your language instructor (there are tutors available covering almost any language you can think of!).
Each teacher will list their expertise and experience, so you can see which one feels right for you. What's more, each teacher can list the price that they charge for lessons, and this can be seen on the Superprof platform as well.
Another thing to look out for is the little webcam symbol on a Spanish tutor's profile. This means that they offer distance learning via webcam.
We hope that these top tips can help you get to grips with a new language, and explain why we think getting some one-to-one help from a language tutor will help. If you have any tips that you would like to share, please add them to the comments box below.
Adiós por ahora.
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