Why learn a foreign language? There are as many reasons as there are languages to learn. You may want to travel. You may want to do research. You may want to translate your grandmother’s diary or take a job overseas. Whatever your reason, it’s important to you, so here are some tips on how to learn a foreign language easily and quickly.
Most experts in foreign language education agree that students should begin by listening to the language, allowing it to imprint itself upon their subconscious. When you first hear a foreign language, all you’re consciously trying to do is understand it. Even before you comprehend the meaning, however, your brain is subconsciously acquiring a sense of how that language ought to sound, and this is a step toward being able to speak it on your own. So choose a system of language training that emphasizes listening and speaking rather than conjugating lists of verbs right off the bat. Listening is the first major step in how to learn a foreign language.
Two excellent online programs are the Pimsleur language courses and Rocket Languages. The Pimsleur series, developed by American linguist , is entirely audio-based and is founded on years of intensive study on how to learn a foreign language. Pimsleur was fascinated by the way children acquire language without any idea of its formal structure, and he used his findings to develop a program focused entirely on listening and speaking. This is somewhat different from the Rocket series, which supplements its audio foundation with software games and an interactive forum – a more multi-faceted approach.
Whichever program you choose, make sure that you listen carefully to the audio script, and when you’re asked to repeat a phrase, say it at the same tempo and with the same variations in pitch as the original speaker. Be sensitive to the tiny nuances of tone and rhythm, and repeat frequently (the Pimsleur program has specific recommendations on how often to repeat words you’re trying to learn). Repetition is the second important step in how to learn a foreign language.
Practice your new language every day, as often as you can. Don’t think that only the time you sit in front of the computer “counts.” Talk to your plants, your cat, or yourself in your new language. Although people who learn foreign languages as adults will always retain a trace of an accent, your pronunciation will improve in proportion to the effort you put into practicing it. Speaking extemporaneously is the third important step in how to learn a foreign language.
So whatever program you select, choose one that allows you to listen, repeat, and speak. Don’t be afraid that you’ll sound silly when you talk to native French speakers; in all likelihood, they’ll be impressed with your effort, and they’ll help you by practicing with you. Now that you know how to learn a foreign language, go find a program that’s perfect for you, and learn!