We’re going to start off a new year of the Language Island blog with a few useful pieces of advice for anyone considering learning a new language. These general tips are applicable regardless of the language you are learning or are planning to learn. If you’re new to the blog I’d recommend reading this entry first, then looking at the language-specific hints and tips that have been posted over the past couple of months.
Why do you want to learn a language?
Learning a new language as an adult is a serious commitment. Before you dive into a new language, consider what your motivations are and what you want your goals to be. If you plan to learn a new language for school or work-related reasons, for example, you’ll want to take the following factors into account. First, choose the language that will provide you with the greatest degree of utility. For a business professional, this could mean choosing the language that is spoken by the majority of the people you interact with overseas. It could also mean learning the language spoken by your most important clients. Second, you should prioritize learning the aspects of that language that are most relevant to professional business correspondence.
Once you have decided which language you want to learn and why, you need to consider which dialect(s) to learn. The degree to which dialects differ within a language varies depending on the language itself. The two most widely spoken Portuguese dialects, European and Brazilian, are further apart in pronunciation, spelling and vocabulary than UK and American English. Spoken Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese use different tonal systems. Spoken and written Arabic have standardized forms used for conducting business, but the numerous dialects spoken in casual conversation can have almost nothing in common. In short, you should begin with the dialect that most of the people you’ll be interacting with actually speak. If you’re not sure which one that will be, going with the predominant dialect (if there is one) is usually a safe bet.
There’s a simple reason the Language Island offers full immersion language classes: they work. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening to a new language every single day is the most effective method of learning it. Find someone you can practice with who is fluent in the language and won’t judge you on your mistakes but will continually push you to improve. Private one-on-one tutoring from the Language Island can greatly help in this respect. Our teachers are experienced, patient, and provide a judgment-free zone in which to practice interacting in your new language.
This might seem a bit old school, but flash cards are still one of, if not the most, effective ways to memorize a new vocabulary. You don’t necessarily have to spend hours making flash cards by hand or pay for expensive pre-made sets either. E-study web sites such as Quizlet.com have brought flashcards into the digital age. These sites provide countless pre-generated flash cards and greatly automate the process of creating new ones. Almost all of them also feature mobile apps, making it possible to take your flash cards on the go without carrying around a bulky set of note cards.