Sunday, January 17, 2010

Learning a language in 3 months??

Yup, that definitely did not happen for me. Not even in 6 months.

From previous posts, I should hope that it's pretty obvious that one of my main goals here is to become fluent in Spanish. That desire has led me to blog after blog in search of the magic method. Unfortunately, there is none. However, I have gleaned things from those blogs (and my experience here) which have helped me immensely.

1. Avoid speakers of your native language like the plague.

If you really want to learn another language, you're going to have to make yourself a little (very) uncomfortable.

2. Roadtrips are a really good time for you to practice speaking the target language.

Sure you could fill 5 hours listening to music, but it would be much more to your benefit if you took advantage of the journey to have a conversation. My housemate commented on my how much better my fluency and my accent were after returning from a long roadtrip. I was alone with someone who didn't speak English and I really have any other option but to talk to him in Spanish.

3. Read read read.

You have to pick up vocabulary from somewhere. Children learn it from their parents and in school. Since your parents probably don't speak your target language, and 3 months of schooling, even intensive schooling, can not make up for years of vocabulary deprivation, you must take other steps to acquire the vocabulary that you lack. Books, newspapers, and magazines are great sources.

4. Watch the news.

Besides being a well informed person, you will get the chance to hear proper pronunciation (the ideal) and learn new words. Also, the news is done at a pace that is faster than many of the lessons on language tapes, while not as fast as that of normal conversations.

5. Intensive language courses...

Don't work in my opinion. If you're going to take one, make sure to practice outside of class.

6. Bars are probably the best place to learn a language.

Usually in these settings, people are more relaxed and much more likely to use slang, idioms, and popular sayings which are fundamental in the transformation of the target language from a textbook language to a real, living thing.

7. Break up your language learning.

For me, that meant dedicating the first 3 months to listening and understand. I dedicated (and am currently in) the next trimester to syncing my brain and my tongue. That means taking extra care with my pronunciation and making sure to get my point across. I don't know what I'll focus on during the 3rd trimester. I'll just have to pay attention to the areas in which I am really weak.

I've found excellent advise from the following sites:

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