At some point or another, you’ve probably had to take classes in another language. U.S. high schools require that graduates study the same language for at least two years, and for most students, this is either French or Spanish. In a society as multicultural as ours, it’s easy to pick up on words here or there. The English language itself even has foreign words that have been adopted into its own language. Learning how to introduce yourself is easy, and some of the basic skills you picked up as a teen may remain with you well into adulthood, however when it comes time to actually learn another language to a level of proficiency, many are left completely stumped.
How can you effectively work on your language skills? Well, there are multiple ways, and their effectiveness will depend on your individual learning style, even though they are all important parts of a well-rounded acquisition process. Below are five easy ways you can work on your language skills, whether it’s Spanish, French or even Japanese. The methods are all the same, and all you have to do is find the right sources for your particular language. Happy learning!
The Internet has granted us access to thousands of free radio channels from around the world. Listening to the radio for just five to ten minutes a day in your desired language can have a huge impact on your overall understanding. Listening to native speakers is the best way to help our brains adapt to the sounds of the language, and will affect not just your ability to understand others, but also your pronunciation. Don’t sweat it when you don’t understand everything – or even anything for the first couple months. The listening and acclimating your mind to the cadences of a new language are what count.
Reading is one of the premier ways to increase your vocabulary, grammar and writing in any language. We read extensively in English throughout our academic careers, so why should we be any less rigorous when it comes to another language? You don’t have to be stuck with the texts in your exercise book. Many book stores have an international section with novels printed in other languages, and Amazon is always a fantastic resource. A great idea to start off with when reading a book in another language is to choose one that you’ve already read and know in your native tongue. This way, your mind will be more easily able to associate words. Selecting novels written in present tense is also a good choice for beginner/intermediate students looking to enhance their vocabulary through reading as they’re both compelling and easy to understand.
You don’t have to be a professional to translate a song into your own language or vice versa. One of the best ways to quickly build up a vocabulary is to read the translation of a song you enjoy and then put it back into English. You can also find sites that will let you read the translations side-by-side. Choose songs that are familiar to you so you’ll be more likely to remember the translations later on.
2. Movies and Television
This approach can go one of two ways. You can either use subtitles or go ahead and watch an entire film or program in your chosen language. If you’re a total beginner, then watching something in English with foreign subtitles will probably be the best start. As you progress, watching to dubbed-over versions of your favorite shows and movies is a great way to practice your listening competency.
1. Apps and YouTube
Apps that are free to download for mobile devices like Duolingo can do wonders for your learning as they require you to build up certain skills in order to progress. You’ll practice reading, speaking and spelling and grammar all in one 10 to 20 minute sitting.
YouTube is another optimal choice for language learners as there are dozens of different channels offering courses taught by native speakers. You’ll also be able to leave comments, get feedback and maybe even meet some other students.
While all of these are fantastic ways to build up your language skills, the only way to true learn and become proficient in a second language is to dedicate time and effort in all areas of learning. Make sure you find someone you can practice with, because speaking is obviously what learning a new language is all about. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself able to read and write well but barely able to utter a sentence. It’s normal for this to happen, and the only solution is to practice speaking, learn through trial and error and keep going no matter what. With some hard work and effort, you’ll be well on your way to speaking like a native in no time!
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Bureau Translations a leading company that provide translation services for businesses.