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Five Ways To Think About Learning That New Language
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Five Ways to Think About Learning That New Language

Yesterday we talked about how there are benefits for those recently retired in learning a second language.

Today we put forward five ways to think about how you would meet this challenge, and these points actually are applicable to anyone who undertakes this challenge, regardless of age.

1. Decide how deep you are going to go in this new language.

The boundaries of languages are huge. In our natural language we probably have about 3000 words. So learning to this level in a new language is a daunting task. For most of us who travel and want to speak the new language we certainly don’t need this number of words and we don’t need all the intricacies of the grammar. So really you need to decide whether you want to just communicate or become fluent when living there or fluent period.

This will then enable you to tailor your learning strategy going forward. See more about this below in point 5.

2. Decide how you learn best.

We don’t all learn the same way. In addition there are many more aids now to this learning process, some of them very cheap. You may learn best by having a one on one with a teacher, in a class, or on your own. Do what I did and try a few methods and see where you get the most progress. I have found that where I need to increase my vocabulary I use flashcards (yes remember these from school), and for the conversation skills I go to a teacher. By the way the flashcards are on my iPad and cost $6.00.

Also figure out the best times of the day to learn. I definitely am a morning person (much to my children’s chagrin when they lived at home). I know from experience that the period from 7.00am to 11.00 am is my best learning time. There is a short opening in the afternoon between 2.00pm and 4.00 pm but the morning is best. Try various times and see what is best for you.

3. Speak the language as much as you can.

There is no doubt in my mind that using the language is a must, otherwise when you start to talk to a native user you will be tongue tied, or even just go blank. I started with a series of CD’s and wandered around the countryside with my dog, practicing aloud and it worked. (The dog didn’t answer me in the new language when I asked him questions but hey you can’t win them all can you?)

This can be done anywhere.

If you can find a person locally who speaks the new language and is prepared to help, and in our multicultural society this is more possible now than it was, jump at the chance.

4. Be prepared to accept your mistakes and move on.

As I have said already if you are young mistakes are not an issue. As we get older we often become less tolerant of making mistakes, and perhaps more self conscious. Take a tip – don’t be. You will make many, many mistakes. Just ignore the embarrassment and move on, with a smile or a laugh at yourself. Teachers, and locals will not be concerned at these mistakes and will just appreciate that fact that you are making an effort.

5. Grow your Vocabulary.

There is nothing worse than being somewhere, like in a shop, and not knowing the word to use for something you want. Go back to point 1 and decide what will be the most useful areas/lists (?) of words you need. Taxi Directions, Hotel, Restaurant, Shopping, scuba diving, and so on. Focus on the words you need and practice as we said above. Believe it or not the flashcards work for me, and you can set them so that as you become more proficient with particular words they will drop out and you then concentrate on the ones you are finding most difficult. Also if you need to, try word association - more about this later. Again you can pick up this technique for free from the web, so take a look.

So to summarise, take a look at what you want to do with the new language before you dive in to this challenge.

  • What do I want from this “project”?
  • How do I learn best?
  • Can I find someone to practice with?
  • Am I okay with making mistakes – if not I should be.
  • What vocabulary do I need to have?

It pays to get these decisions made before you go out and buy that expensive, all singing, all dancing course, or sign up for a 20 week class.

Happy learning and on the way.

Street Talk

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