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14 Tips For Learning Foreign Languages

Depending on the language you want to learn there may be thousands of books, CD's or tools out there (if you're lucky) to help you learn the language. Don't run out and buy anything just yet.

1. First you should do some research. Research the books, and materials best suited to your needs. How do you do that? Well the easiest way is to go online and visit the largest shopping sites that sell books, CD's and multimedia; customers often leave feedback on items they have bought. Read the feedback and quite quickly you should be able to determine what books or materials are best suited to your needs. On the other hand, you may not need to buy anything at all. Some libraries have a foreign language section and they will let you borrow their material for free. In addition, some websites such as speakingjamaican.com can also give you a free head start in the language or dialect you want to learn. If you are a student, who is in high school or plans to go to college, (or are already in college) you can ask a teachers' opinion on what books/materials are best suited for learning your foreign language (of choice). Students could also consider taking the foreign language, of interest, as part of their curriculum.

Another very important point to remember when learning some foreign languages is that there are dialects and forms of the language and they vary by country or by region. You should decide which dialect you want to learn to speak. Here is a simple example: a dialect from "country A" may not be understood in country B, C or D even though it is classified as the same language. On the other hand, another dialect spoken in "country E" may be understood by all other countries. What's a common reason that the dialect of "country E" is widely understood (by other countries)? Well it may be widely understood because all or most of the movies, music or entertainment might be produced in that country (country E), therefore the dialect is widely understood in all the other countries. A foreigner wanting to learn the language might be better off learning the dialect of "country E" since it is more widely understood. Another thing to remember is that, in some foreign languages, a huge variation in dialect should not be an issue because learning the standard form of the language should ensure that you are understood by all native speakers.

Ok other tips for learning foreign languages are:

2. Listen to foreign language music and watch foreign language television, even if at first the language all sounds like "one big long word." By watching the programs, you'll learn new words. Some words have a way of jumping out at you and sticking with you even if you initially have no idea what they mean. With time, you can learn what these words mean by asking a native speaker, asking at school or through self study. If you keep listening to foreign music or watching foreign language television, in time the "one big word" will begin to sound like "smaller word chunks" and eventually you should be able to tell where one word begins and another ends even if you don't understand what the word(s) mean. Later on, you can investigate their meanings.

3. Most people spend their time listening to the sounds of their native language whether it's the news, music or by chatting with friends. That's how you learned your native language; by listening. Spend less of your time listening to your native language and try to fill as much of your world, as possible, with the sounds of the foreign language you want to learn. You can do this by listenening to language tapes, over and over again in the car. Try to be interactive and actively participate by repeating what you hear on the tape. Repeating the words helps both with pronunciation and memorization. The key is repitition. If you take a bus or taxi, invest in an mp3 player (tip: you can fit more mp3 material on a single CD) and make your own mp3's if possible. If mp3's are out of the question then opt for CD's, computer software or cassettes.

4. Try listening to foreign language tapes at home also. It's best to use headphones because you get the full effect of a native speaker speaking into your ear. Furthermore, with headphones you hear the nuances of the language alot better. In addition, if you decide to leave the room (or go outside) the headphones will still be on your ears and the speaker will still be talking directly into your ear.

5. Alot of the above methods involve listening materials. Listening and imitating is the way you learnt your native language as a child and is therefore one of the best ways to become proficient in a new language. But there are other materials you should use to complement your rigorous listening exercises. These could include books, flash cards, computer software. Books are especially important when the language, you want to learn, does not use the English alphabet (Roman alphabet). The written word would help in instances when there are words you have difficulty pronouncing, deciphering or understanding.

6. As mentioned earlier, another aid to learning a foreign language are movies. Foreign language movies with english subtitles are preferred. If you can turn the subtitles off (as you can on many DVD titles) then you can watch the movie with and without the subtitles to test your knowledge.

7. To learn a foreign language you have to completely immerse yourself in that culture for periods of time (whether through music, movies, television or by visiting a friend who speaks the language).

8. Visiting the country where the foreign language, you want to learn, is spoken is also a very good way to learn the language. Quite logically, the longer your visit the more you will learn. If you surround yourself with others who mainly speak the foreign language then you will be forced to learn and communicate in the foreign language.

9. Some foreign languages use a different alphabet system, different phonetics and the arrangement of the letters do not always follow the A to Z formula. Therefore, by learning their alphabet, phonetics and alphabet order you'll not only improve your pronounciation but also be able to use a dictionary.

10. In time after studying intensively, you'll begin to ask yourself "what is the word for such and such". At this stage a small pocket sized dictionary becomes an essential tool. With a foreign language dictionary, you'll be able to quickly find the word, commit it to memory and satisfy your mind's curiousity.

11. Go over the basics from time to time. Never assume or tell yourself "I already know that so I can skip it." You may be surprised to find that by looking at things from a new perspective you'll gain new insight on something you thought you had already mastered.

12. Take breaks when necessary but don't stay away too long because it's easy to forget what you have learned.

13. Friends who are native speakers of the foreign language are also an essential resource. Try to be around them especially when they are conversing with others in their native tongue. Even if you don't understand initially you'll be improving your listening skills. One important thing you might come to realize when learning a foreign language is that some words even though they are spelt with a certain letter, that letter may fall silent when spoken in some countries while in other countries it is pronounced. Another important thing to remember is that although a word may be spelt with a letter and that letter has a particular sound in english, in another language that same letter may have a different sound. Those are a few of the reasons why being around native speakers can help improve your foreign language skills by leaps and bounds; not to mention the cultural tips you'll learn which a book, CD, cassette or teacher probably won't cover. Friends are also great resources because they can give insight and help you with the meanings and usuage of words.

14. Don't tell yourself that you are too busy to study or learn your new language. Make the time. Excuses, excuses will get you nowhere.

Submitted by:


The author has learned to speak two languages using these methods. http://www.speakingjamaican.com


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