This week we’re going to offer some more tips for learning a new language. The goal of all of these strategies is to maximize the time that you spend reading, writing, and speaking in the language that you are trying to learn.
Total immersion is the process of spending time in an environment where you read, write, and speak entirely in the language that you are learning. Total immersion is one of the most effective ways to boost you fluency in a language. Every single interaction reinforces and builds upon the language skills that you have already learned. The language classes offered by the Language Island in Atlanta all use the total immersion method. Once a student has a certain basic grasp of a language, he or she will communicate with his or her instructor entirely in the new language.
Another way to totally immerse yourself in the language that you are learning is to spend time living in an environment where your target language is the primary one spoken. If you are a student currently taking a foreign language, strongly consider studying abroad for a semester. Not only will you need to speak your new language in order to get around town and go to school, but you’ll be living with a host family whose first language is the one that you are learning. Make a point of communicating with your host family in their first language whenever possible. A good host family will be patient and nonjudgmental when you make mistakes and will help you to understand how people actually use the language in their daily lives.
If you’re a professional who needs to know a second language for business reasons, see if there are any opportunities to work or visit abroad. Even a few months of living in or semi-regular visits to a country where your new language is spoken will greatly help you improve your conversation skills. You can then use these skills any time that you are conducting business in this language, whether it is in person or via telephone or video conferences.
Read, Write, Listen to, and Speak in Your New Language
Consider getting your news from a bilingual web site that is written both in your new language and English. Read the news in your target language first then check the English translation to make sure that you have not missed or misunderstood anything.
Write in your new language whenever you feel comfortable doing so. While I wouldn’t recommend writing notes for an important presentation or a major exam in your new language, many safe opportunities for doing so already exist in your daily life. Use your new language to write things such as notes to yourself, your to-do list, and your grocery list. The extra time and inconvenience is a small price to pay for the consistent practice you will get with the written form of your new language.
Watch movies and Youtube videos and listen to podcasts in your new language. Make a point of avoiding subtitles and other translations unless you absolutely need them. Don’t be afraid to re-watch scenes in a film or rewind a podcast if you don’t understand what was said. You can also trying watching a movie that you have seen before with the subtitles on. See if you can identify what is an accurate translation, what is not, and why the subtitlers chose to translate certain phrases the way that they did.
Never miss an opportunity to practice speaking and conversing in your new language. Ask any friends or coworkers who speak your new language if they would be comfortable with you having conversations with them in that language instead of English. Having a person or persons who you can speak with in your new language on a regular basis transforms office small talk and friendly conversations into impromptu language lessons.