On Learning Languages

I have a lot of trouble seeing things through with the exception of about 3 things: my work, reading, and learning languages. So while my interests may come and go, ever since I was around 11 years old when I first started learning French in middle school, acquiring languages has been a relatively long-standing interest of mine. As such, I have collected a lot of methods for keeping that interest alive (even through the grammar bits!) that I would like to share with you today.

     1. Listen to music and memorize the lyrics to some of your favorite songs in the language you are learning.

I’ve found that this helps me learn and mimic the pronunciation and cadence of a language without sounding like a machine as most of those language learning programs do. Plus, you will be able to memorize the vocabulary much easily when its in a song.

2. Listen to language learning podcasts, watch youtube videos and movies with subtitles in the language.

I work and have many obligations outside of work that don’t provide me with much free time to sit and memorize vocabulary and grammar from a book (not that I’d want to even if I did) so I make language learning as enjoyable and interesting as possible. Granted, at the beginning stages of learning a language, you will need a book to learn from, however if you’re past that stage and have a grasp of the grammar and some vocabulary under your belt, start listening to the language in contexts that interest you. This makes the whole process much easier and fun, plus it’s cool see how much of the youtube comments you can understand!

3. Purchase and read from a dual language book.

These are great for visual learners. They are complete books or short stories with the foreign language on one side of the page and the English translation on the other side of the page. You are basically reading the book in the foreign language but have the English translation to help you out if you get stuck. This makes it easier to enjoy engaging in the language without having to search for the definitions!

4. Start to journal in the language.

I keep a (almost) daily journal and I alternate between different languages throughout the days of the week. This is great because you can start to acquire the vocabulary that allows you to express yourself in the language without feeling embarrassed if you make a mistake. You can start very basic (Today, I was happy.) and eventually through continued learning you’ll find yourself being able to write a pretty respectable journal entry.

5. Stay exposed to the language everyday — even if its for a few minutes.

Trying to keep all that goes into acquiring a new language in your head can be a tricky endeavor, especially when you don’t have anyone to speak with or are residing in your native country. It is crucial for me to spend some time everyday interacting with the language I am either learning or retaining.

So there are my 5 tips for learning and retaining languages. If any of you are learning a language or keeping up with one, please do let me know what works for you. I’m always interested to find new ways to interact with foreign languages!

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