Monday, January 10, 2011

Learn a Foreign Language Faster: 10 Tips

1. Overcome fear and perfectionism. It stops you from talking. To learn to talk, you must talk. To learn to understand, you must listen.

2. If possible, find a native speaker who speaks little or no English - or is willing not to speak English -- and practice routinely your target language.

3. Memorize the lyrics of catchy songs in the foreign language and sing them privately to yourself (Russian students might enjoy memorizing the words to the theme song of The Hunt for Red October, for example.)

4. Join or create a language learning club meeting weekly over lunch or supper at a restaurant, whose primary rule is that anything goes except English.

5. Start practicing the reading of familiar Bible passages or passages in the Scriptures of other religions you may be familiar with. The language is often simple. The entire Gospel of John has a vocabulary of no more than 1,000 words.

6. Once you can read the Gospel of John or some similar material, graduate up to fairy tales, which have slightly more complex, but still simple vocabulary. The next step up would be tabloid newspaper articles.

7. Get a CD for your car's player and start using otherwise dead time for listening. The Learn in Your Car and Teach Yourself Series are among the best. Listen to individual lessons over and over until you master the material before moving on. By mastery, I mean this: you hear the English and can generate the translation in the pause before the CD furnishes it.

8. It's trite, but vocabulary cards really do work. Buy a set containing a basic vocabulary of 1,000 words and commit them to memory.

9. If you have no background in the target language whatsoever, an excellent starter CD is one using the Pimsleur method. Pimsleur is one of the best courses, but unfortunately the intermediate and advanced level CDs are for many learners prohibitively expensive. The beginner's CD is affordable and starts you off with a thorough grounding in 150 words. You will definitely be able to express yourself in every conceivable manner using that limited vocabulary if you complete the beginner's Pimsleur CDs.

10. Constantly ask yourself throughout the day how something you're thinking of might be expressed in the target language. And most important: remember that, with a limited vocabulary, you will usually need to simplify the thought in order to express it. If you're thinking in English, "This is absolutely captivating!" - you may have to simply say: "I like this a lot."

Good luck. Bon chance. Ich wuensche dir Glueck.

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