WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHEN LEARNING FOREIGN LANGUAGES?

12:40 thejourneyneverends 0 Comments




There is no doubts everybody nowadays wants to speak English, at least English (lucky those who are English native speakers:)). As a Polish student of Applied Linguistics (this is the studying of two foreign languages - in my case this is English and German) I can see how many people care about their command of foreign languages and how crucial foreign languages are nowadays. Moreover, English became such common and desirable that "I do speak English" is no longer as impressive as it used to be about 50 years ago. So people tend to learn yet another - the third or even the fourth language! Command of English is now something mandatory and that's why the knowledge of any other languages is definitely a big advantage.

I am definitely into the idea of learning foreign languages (even if your mothertongue is English !). Apart from loads of obvious advantages concerning better employment prospects and being more independent and confident during holidays abroad - command of foreign languages not only broadens our horizons but also it makes us more open and tolerant - and it even helps us understand more our own mothertongue !

Ok, so let's get to the point.

The whole world has gone crazy about learning foreign languages - especially English. I can observe that  to a large extent in Poland, where actually English  became obligatory at schools around the nineties and that's why most people up 50 do not speak English at all (and now most of them start learning it at this age!). In the Internet we are bombarded with adverts of "the newest technology which makes you speak a foreign language in one week time". (Hope I don't have to tell you it's a bullshit?) Language schools compete with their offers among each other, promising they will teach you speaking in one month. Sounds nice... but if it were like that everybody would already speak a plenty of foreign languages!

Now, a few things YOU MUST KNOW WHEN LEARNING FOREIGN LANGUAGES:

1. Remember: foreign language learning takes time.
Never believe ads/books or whatever promising you will speak a foreign language after weeks or months. Sorry, but in most cases it takes years.

2. Decide which level you want to reach.
It crucial to estimate how much time you need to learn a language to the level that satisfies you. I believe that not everybody wants to achieve advanced level and to sound like a native speaker. For example to master the very basics of language one year may be enough (but does not have to be). But if you want to speak fluently and write correctly it takes a few years. It depends also on the quality of the language you'd like to achieve - so whether you care of grammar, pronouncation and so on (in my opinion - you should! Although it's not always necessary to speak!). It's simple: The higher level you want to achieve, the more time it will take (and the more effort you have to put in it!).

3. Foreign language learning does not have to be expensive or boring
With the invention of such a amazing tool as the Internet you really do not have to pay anything for learning. And most importantly with this invention foreign language learning does not have to be boring any more. So many possibilities are made available thanks to the Internet that sometimes I think: "What more do we need?". Websites, films, ebooks, podcasts, blogs (as this one:)), songs, social networks - that's all allows us to learn a foreign language in a pleasant, more effective than tedious filling in the blank (!) and non-standard way. And most importantly - most of that is for free! (I will write a post with lists of such websites and tools helping with language learning- coming soon.) 

4. You need to find a motivation which makes you keep learning!
It depends mainly on your self-motivation. Things you need are time, motivation and will!
Ask yourself: Why do I need a command of XXX language? Do I need it for my job or to travel without fear? Or is it just pure curiosity? Whatever it is, it must make you not give up with consistent and regular learning! Then imagine yourself speaking and understanding a foreign language you want to learn - that should help you :)

5. Balance the time you spend on practising particular language skills.
What do I mean? There are a few fields of language skills we have to master to say "I speak this language", these are: listening, speaking, writing and reading. Which one is the most important? Well, in case of communication skills both listening and speaking are the most important fields and the most difficult at the same time. Although it's advisable to develop particular skills equally, I would recommend you spend the most time with this field you find the most difficult, especially at the beginning of your learning.

6. Better less, but more often. 
Well, here we have to touch a bit of biology. If we learn something for the first time, it's in our short-term memory, so after some time, we will not remember it. So to put this what we want to remember in our long-term memory (here: foreign words:)) we just have to revise it and spread it out over some period of time. Our brain needs time to remember it for a long time. And a foreign language is the thing we want to remember for a long time, isn't it?:)  So if you think that learning language for five hours in one day of the week will give you the same effect as spreading it out over a few days of learning for 30 minutes, you're wrong. Regular and consistent learning in doses of 20-30 minutes is the most advisable way by polyglots and people who deal with foreign language teaching. Nevertheless, even five minutes a day is better than nothing!

7. You forget a language if you don't use it. 
The bitter truth. I hear many people complaining "Well, I used to learn it at school but now I don't remember anything." Unfortunately - we are only humans and we tend to forget things. It's natural. It's easy to notice that among immigrants who stop using their native language and after years they don't remember many words and speak with new aquired accent. The command of language is a flexible process. I will repeat: the process - it changes depenging on how much we use it and on our contact with it. It's being created all the time.  So the point is to have at least a little bit contact with the language you learn (or you "have already learned") than not to have it at all.

8. Last but not least - everybody can learn a foreign language. 
You don't have to be super talented. If you speak your mother language, you also can speak a foreign one! So if you tend to think that mastering the foreign language is hard, difficult, impossible, dull etc. THEN think : "Okay, but I do speak a language. I must have learnt it somehow in the past. So it's not impossible to learn another language." And then you can think: how did I learn my native language? ... Yeah, that's a good question. Children firstly hear a language and after some time start speaking. And after a few years of their life they start learning how to read, don't they? Let's draw some conclusions - listening and repeating new words loudly (like children tend to do) is a very crucial part of language learning. To produce something in a new language you must have some base of vocabulary and basic grammar - and you can gain it through listening and repeating loudly what you hear. It's often said that the best way to remember words is hearing them firstly and next checking their written forms. I think that this is essential especially at the beginning of learning when we don't know the pronunciation.



And you guys, what do you find the most crucial thing when learning foreign languages ? 



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