How to Develop Your Foreign Language SkillsFebruary 14th, 2018 by Christine Chadwick
Bilingual individuals and polyglots alike can agree that learning a new language is a daunting task, but there's definitely a plateau of understanding involved. If you're learning a new language, what's the best way to get over the steep learning curve and into this conversational "eye of the storm"? Here are a few tips to help you develop your foreign language skills:
Use the Web to your advantage
The opportunities for learning a language online are nearly limitless, but the best success comes from the original 'study secret' - real-time interactions with native speakers of your language. This can be achieved through social media, through sites specifically created to connect foreign language speakers, or even private chats on Skype. The benefit of using the Internet to help master your language of choice is that the answers to your questions are only a visit to Google Translate away!
Read as the locals do
Magazines, newspapers and even websites that are presented entirely in your new language can help you understand words and phrases in context, as well as keep you updated on the socio-political occurrences in your chosen language's home country. Rather than dry lessons about the locations of libraries and train stations, you can have your pick of categories to read: sports, restaurants, politics and even celebrity gossip.
Consider exchanging conversation
Many libraries and community groups offer outreach or connection services between ESL students who need to learn English and English-speaking second language learners. Simply getting together for coffee with someone local that speaks your chosen language and 'trading off' languages can be incredibly invaluable for comprehension. Native speakers can offer hints and direction that programs and textbooks often can't, and you'll be helping someone with their English at the same time. It's a win-win situation!
Listen to music
Sometimes the way a word is pronounced is difficult to grasp in flat conversation but easy to remember in the context of a song. Learn the national anthem for your chosen language as well as the meaning of the lyrics. Not only could the music help guide you in pronunciation, rhymes that may be present in the song can also make for an excellent mnemonic device. If the anthem is lyricless or a little too advanced for your current comprehension level, try children's songs - they're made to be simple and easy to memorise.
Taking off days (or worse, weeks) between your fluency conversations and language study can set back your learning a considerable amount. Try to do activities, reading, or seek out conversations in your chosen language every day to keep your learning fresh. If you need to pick up the language in a hurry, such as for a trip, skip classes that are spread out over weeks and months. A few intense sessions with a tutor may actually provide more lasting benefits in time-sensitive learning scenarios.
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