7 Tools for Learning a Language

22 09 2009

One of the best ways to connect with the world and expand your horizons is to learn a new language.  Of course, this task sounds daunting, but it really doesn’t have to be – just take it one step at a time.  I have been working on Spanish since the beginning of the summer, and have loved every moment of it.  In the process, I have come up with a list of 7 tools that will guarantee language learning success.

1. Motivation – There’s no way around it – learning a language is work.  The only way to succeed is to be motivated.  Choose a language that has special meaning to you.  Come up with milestones and rewards along the way (see tool 7) to help you stay excited.

2. Quality Method – Some methods of learning a language are just better than others.  I prefer self-directed methods because you know your learning style better than anyone else.  Still though, there are many options.  For my language learning, I have been relying heavily on Fluenz program. This program focuses on teaching usable structures from the beginning rather than teaching simple words and phrases that you don’t see in real life.  For instance, while a program like Rosetta Stone might teach you “The apple is red”, Fluenz teaches “How much does that cost?”.  For me, this method is very encouraging, as you will be communicating from day one.

3. Steno Pad – If you aren’t familiar with this, as steno pad is a small notebook with the spiral on top and a line down the middle of each page.  It was originally developed for dictation in shorthand so that two pages of information could fit on one page.  However, it is perfect for language learning.  Simply put any new words you learn in English in the left column, and in the foreign language on the right.  Then, review them frequently.  These notebooks typically have about 80 sheets with 22 lines each.  This translates to 1,760 words, or 3,520 words if you write on both sides – this equates to 1 notebook to reach fluency!  For me that is encouraging.

4. Verb Book – Conjugation, conjugation, conjugation.  Any way you look at it, you can’t master a language without knowledge of its verbs and their conjugation.  A verb book is a must.

5. Immersion Content – To really grasp a language, you need to become comfortable leaving the textbook behind and seeing it used in the real world.  Immersion content helps to bridge this gap.  This can include anything in that language outside of your regular learning program, including TV shows, magazines, books, etc.  Learn to love the arts and media surrounding your language.

6. Language Partner – Having someone to talk to in your new language is essential for fluency.  Take time regularly to have conversations in the new language and to receive feedback from a fluent speaker.  Luckily, the internet makes this process much easier.  Sites like Livemocha.com specialize in bringing language learners from all over the world together so that you can get experience no matter how obscure your new language is.

7. Reward – This goes back to motivation.  Reward yourself as you reach milestones in your language learning.  Naturally this reward would come as a trip to a foreign land where your new language is spoken.  Rewards don’t have to be that expensive though.  My rewards in Spanish include trips to local Mexican restaurants where I can practice speaking.

With these tools, you should be ready to expand your horizons and tackle any language.  If you’re working on a language, drop me a line and let me know how it’s going!