HOW TO LEARN A LANGUAGE

I’ve been studying French for two years now and I’ve been really focusing on it for a year. And even when I got into a national competition, I still didn’t consider myself being quite good. But last week people from France came to our town together with people from Germany because we’re in this Erasmus project. At first, I was kind of scared because I just thought I wasn’t good enough to speak to native speakers. But then, when I got in touch with them and we started to talk, I was actually really awestruck by how well I understood and by how well I spoke. My friend and I were the only ones who were able to kind of fluently (not really, but we could talk about things and we could laugh at jokes etc.) speak to them, although the whole czech group of ours had been attending french classes for two or even three years. The french teachers and even the students kept telling us that our french skills were on a very good level and german teachers were praising our ability to speak english. I hope this all doesn’t just sound like me bragging about my own achievements – I just wanted to give you an example that you can really learn a new language in a quite short period of time and you can really be succesful in it.

So, a year ago I decided that I really wanted to speak French. Fluently. On a very high level. And honestly? I had been studying French for a year at that time but I was completely lost. I was a begginer but that was all. I didn’t know many words, I didn’t understand what french people were saying, I couldn’t even say sentences like ‘I need to sleep’ or ‘I bought myself a hat’. But I made up my mind and I got into it. And a year later, I can talk to native speakers.

The key is not anything special, in fact. It’s just hard work. I know that people don’t like to work, they don’t like to study. But I personally find learning languages very beautiful and to me, it’s not boring at all. It’s fun. It’s so much fun!

When learning a new language, you need to focus on four things:

  • reading
  • listening
  • writing
  • speaking

THE START

First of all, you need to teach yourself the basics. Basic words, phrases, basic grammar. You don’t really need a textbook to do so and you don’t even need a teacher, languages can be learnt at home without paying any extra money. Nevertheless, I really do like textbooks. They teach you everything you need for the start and also there are CDs for listening, which is very good. But if you don’t want a textbook, you can just find the basic grammar and words on the internet.

READING

It’s pretty easy, right? You just need to read books. That’s everything you need to do to be good at this skill. Except for learning some grammar because in books there’s obviously lots of it.

LISTENING

That was actually the thing that I started with when I was learning English. I was twelve and I started watching american series like The Vampire diaries and Pretty little liars and these stuff which don’t make much sense but teenagers just love them. I watched them with czech subtitles. I became obssesed with these series and so I spent whole days watching the screen. And after a few months, I found out I understood what those people were saying without looking at the subtitles, I found out I was better at English than everyone in my class. So, honestly, English was not much of a hard work. But I was very young and small children are more able to learn a new language than older people. But still – watching series is the best thing you can do. And also youtube videos plus doing some excercises on the internet or in your textbook. You should hear the language at least once a day. I know, it’s a lot, but that’s just what you need to learn it effectively- hear it every day.

WRITING

I’ve never really written anything in english or french. Except for school essays. I think that when you keep learning new words and when you keep learning grammar, you’re always able to write something down when you get a piece of paper. But just for practising it, it might be good to write something at least once a week. A letter to yourself from yourself or a story or something. But it would be really helpful if you had someone who corrected your misteakes and so on.

SPEAKING

That’s just the same as writing. If you listen a lot and if you learn new words and phrases a lot, you are able to talk once the opportunity appears. That’s my opinion. But it’s always good to practise it, especially if you want to speak the language on a high level. I find that it’s helpful if you just speak to yourself. When you’re in the shower or in front of the mirror or something, you can just start talking to yourself in that foreign language. I mean, that’s what I do with English and French all the time. I might look a little but crazy (or maybe a lot) but I practise my speaking and that’s good, right?

TIPS

I think that if you put your mind into it and if you spend at least fifteen minutes a day learning that language, you can speak fluently in two years. When I don’t count the basics, I’ve been really truly learning French for a year now and there are still many misunderstandings and there are lots of things I yet need to learn, but it’s working. And I’m able to speak fluently in English after five years, but attention, I’ve never really focused on it that much. If I did, I could have speak that language on the level as I do now much sooner.

Listen to the language. Every day. Switch your phone to that language. You need to be surrounded by it. It has to become a part of your daily life.

And there are two apps that I really love and I use them every day – Duolingo and Quizzlet. Duolingo is an app in which you can practise the language from the basics and Quizzlet is an app to which you enter the words and after that, you can play some games with them that help you to learn them. It’s very effective and I recommend you to use these two apps every day. And if you read something and you don’t understand some word, write it down and then practise it on Quizzlet. I know that it can be kind of annoying and you surely can’t do it with every single word or you would go mad, but if there’s some word repeating and it’s bothering you that you still don’t know what it means, translate it and learn it.

Learning languages is hard work but also fun and a great experience. It’s an amazing feeling when you can talk to native speakers and you know what they’re saying and you figure out that the whole work was worth it. And also, it is proven that people who can speak more languages than one have less likely dementia and they are also better multitask takers. I hope this article helped you and if you have any questions, just write them below.

“As many languages you know, as many times you’re a human being.”

Denisa x

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