Jessica Freeman is a professional journalist and a freelance content writer at the company Australian Writings.She is passionate about learning foreign languages and writing about education and academic innovations. You can follow her on Facebook and Google+.
When I was a little kid, I had a friend from France. We met on a vacation and we loved spending time together. Do you know what the best thing about this friendship was? I didn’t understand a single word she said, and she didn’t understand me. Have you noticed how children can speak on a language of their own? We did that. But then (*sigh*), I grew up… I could no longer communicate with shouts and body language.
Do you know how different languages originated? According to the myth about the Tower of Babel, the humanity was united after the great Flood. Everyone spoke the same language. People from the east were coming to the land of Shinar, and they built a city with a tower tall enough to see the heaven. Guess who didn’t like that? First, God caused confusion in their speech and scattered them all around the world. People could no longer understand each other.
I like that myth. I like the idea of a universal language that unites people. But, I also love the diversity of humanity. There’s beauty in foreign languages we don’t understand. People from Asian countries totally impress me with their speech.
We can’t hope for God to have mercy and unify our speech again, so we need to do something about understanding each other. Here’s the point: we should all study foreign languages. Today, that mission is easier than ever, since we all have access to online language courses. You sit at home having nothing to do? Go through a grammar lesson and learn three new words!
Wait; it’s not that simple. Language learning needs organization. I’ll give you a few tips that come from my own experience. After a great deal of trial and error, I found some techniques that really worked.
Online Technologies – Our Way to Unified Humanity
Digital technology is not only for fun. I doubt that Simon, the world’s first smartphone, was invented for creating robots out of people. I don’t think its purpose was to glue us down to the screen and suck our intellectual capacity away. Nope, it was meant to make our lives more effective. That’s exactly how we should use technology: as a window to a world of opportunities.
Let’s do an experiment: think of something you want to know, right now. Google it. See? You got an answer. The task of finding a language learning source is just as simple as that. I learned the basics of French in three months. I went to a vacation in Nice and I was surprised with myself: I could talk to people and I understood some of the things they said (they speak really fast, so don’t judge). The mission continues, since learning a foreign language is a life-time challenge.
I started with an actual classroom course, but I decided to quit after two weeks of useless classes. Then, I transferred the mission in the online world. Some learning techniques worked, and some didn’t. Don’t worry; I won’t waste your time with the methods that were an absolute disaster (like that time I decided it was a good idea to start reading Marcel Proust in French… yeah right, I’m having the best laugh just thinking about it).
Here is a list of language learning methods that DO work:
You thought I would tell you to get away from social media if you wanted to learn something? Absolutely not! Hey, it’s not me; it’s research. Social media platforms are proven to engage the learner in self-determined learning.
Careful, though! I don’t suggest adding random friends from the country of your interest. That would make you look like a spooky Facebook user. Here’s the method that worked for me: I started joining groups and following relevant pages. I just typed “learn French” in the search bar and I got several pages and groups worthy of attention. That’s how I made friends.
Once you find the right pages to follow, make sure to join the talk. You’ll find great recommendations of online lessons, and you can ask your questions about grammar, vocabulary, or culture. Some of the people will add you as a friend, so open up to the community and you’ll inevitably see some progress in your skills.
2. Movie Nights
So fun! Of course, you can’t watch the movies with synchronization. Did I really need to point that out?
Make a list of movies in the foreign language you’re learning. I suggest taking it further: sitcoms are great! They are relaxed and they won’t burden your mind with the story. You can only focus on the jokes and the language. Documentaries are also great, since they teach you about the countries where the language is being used.
3. Music Taste Upgrade
Hit YouTube. Search for the most popular musicians singing in the language of your choice. Enjoy!
Music has such a powerful effect on the brain. I suggest listening to classical music at any time of the day. How does it help you learn a language? Well, I found that it made me more focused on my goals. However, the real type of music that helped me learn French was… you’re guessing it: music with French lyrics.
The rhythm helps you memorize words much more efficiently. When you’re listening to different songs on YouTube, start spontaneously. Simply listen the song and try to understand as much of it as possible. Then, find the lyrics (a Google search should be enough for that). Sing along! Write down the words you don’t understand, and you’ll notice how they are sticking within your memory.
4. Write, Write, Write!
No method was more challenging than this one, but once I committed to a writing practice, I realized it was the most efficient technique of all. I suggest you to start with an online diary. Write about the impressions of your day, but do it in the language you’re learning.
You’ll need a good vocabulary foundation before you can start writing complete sentences. But, you can also start doing this from the very beginning of your language learning journey: just write whatever you can in the foreign language, and fill in the gaps with words in your native language. You’ll notice how you’re making progress over time.
When you feel confident enough, I recommend you to take this practice further: essay writing. I never liked academic writing, which is why I used an essay writing service at the beginning. Essay writing agencies, such as Australian Writings, can have a great effect on the language learning process. At this point, you’re not only learning street vocabulary; you’re becoming an advanced learner who can have any kind of conversation in the foreign language.
5. Online Quizzes
A quiz per day was my way to success. Duolingo is a nice app that has a nice choice of lessons in different languages, accompanied with exercises. If you don’t like the app, you can simply search Google for tests and quizzes.
Make sure to test your knowledge and skills as frequently as possible. Tests are not that stressful when you don’t expect a grade. You will get results, but you’ll be the only person to judge them. Even if they are bad at the start, the results will give you the motivation to carry on.
When I started taking tests on French grammar, I failed miserably. I knew a good deal of words; I just didn’t know how to connect them in a grammatically sound way. I thought I was a brilliant beginner, but French people would probably have a good laugh at me. Well, I swallowed my ego when the quizzes showed me how much I knew… it was practically nothing. I discovered my weak spots and I worked on them. Better grammar made me a more confident speaker.
In This Modern World, You Gotta Speak a Foreign Language
With advanced technology at our fingertips, it would be a shame for us to waste this lifetime without learning a foreign language. Once you put yourself through this journey, you’ll realize you’re discovering a whole new world. It’s awesome that our tablets, smartphones, and computers make that possible.
I found some of the tips provided by Jessica here to be techniques that are very dear to me. Music and films in particular can really change your whole learning perspective! What other techniques would you add to this post? Tell us in the comments!