By Philip Prabaharan
Many of the students I encounter who are trying to learn a second language cite the same frustration: the slow, glacial pace of their language acquisition. I always tell them that the pace of their learning is in some sense tied to the energy and time they put into it – the more you work, the faster it goes. Of course, sometimes they can’t simply come up with a 25th hour in the day in which to study. So I also have some more practical tips on how to speed up learning a new language. These are practical tips you don’t hear everywhere, but they can all have an impact on the pace of student language acquisition.
Listen First. Before you do anything else, spend some time just listening to your target language. Don’t make any effort to study at this stage – think of it as preliminary research. Listen to neighbours who speak the language, broadcasts or audio books in the target language, anything. Just absorb it. The brain works miracles behind the scenes, and this will actually help you tremendously.
Pro Tip: Try looking for a free Internet radio station in your target language at http://www.radio-locator.com/. It’s a no-cost way to have the language in the background all the time, and it’s something you can listen to constantly while on the bus, standing in line, or walking around.
Time Planning. You likely have plenty of time during your day which is wasted. Standing in queues, eating lunch while mindlessly surfing the Internet, riding a bus home and staring out the window – use these moments. They add up, and if you spend an extra half hour every day studying or practising your language, you will improve much more quickly.
Pro Tip: The Babbel app is available for iPhone and Android phones (http://www.babbel.com/mobile). While not as powerful as the full Babbel suite of language tools, the free Apps are something you can fire up while on the bus and learn a little.
Phrases Not Words. I always advise people to think in terms of phrases instead of individual words if you want to get to speak quickly. Phrases are pre-declined and conjugated for you, and can be pieced together to form more complex thoughts.
Pro Tip: Michel Thomas’ language system always concentrates on phrases that can be fitted together to form more complex sentences. Download the App (http://www.michelthomasapp.com/) and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can throw some simple sentences together. The knock against Michel Thomas has always been that he doesn’t bother with grammar or a true understanding of verb formation, but as a starting point he can be amazingly effective.
Visual Learning. Visuals always speed up learning on any subject. Tying words and phrases to objects in your life will help you practise even when you’re not consciously thinking about language – for example, placing note cards on objects in your house will constantly remind you what to call a lamp in your target language, and this sort of effort is passive, but pays off handsomely.
Pro Tip: The Busuu community (http://www.busuu.com/enc) is well known, but they also offer some amazing Apps that incorporate high-quality visual learning into your language program.
Write. Don’t focus entirely on speaking. Try your hand at writing the language. A great idea I’ve stolen from another Word Nerd is to write a children’s book! Use simple phrases and construct a narrative in your target language. It will help cement some grammar and phrases in your mind. And it’ll be fun!
Pro Tip: Book Creator (http://www.redjumper.net/bookcreator/) lets you create beautiful books that can be shared in the iBookstore and read on your iPad. Making the books is easy and fun, so even if you’re sweating over the words you’ll be having such a blast creating your work of art you probably won’t notice!
Don’t Fear Mistakes. Fear of failure afflicts everyone, and it kills success. Be bold – speak your target language to native speakers and don’t worry about getting things wrong or getting some light-hearted abuse – just speak!
Pro Tip: Voxy (http://voxy.com/) will not only send you news snippets in your target language, edited to your language level, but it will also take note of your location via your phone and display information about local places so you can practice with context.
Think in Target Language. This is tricky, but tries thinking in your target language. As you walk home and ponder dinner, try to do so in your target language. It’s an easy way to cement words and ideas in your mind!
Pro Tip: A simple, free way to accomplish this is to set your computer’s default language to your target language – and your phone, and your TV at home, etc. Set as many electronic devices as possible to your target language and you’ll be forced to think in it.
Even setting just your search engine’s default language will have a huge impact as you’ll have to switch into your target language every time you Google where to go to lunch!
Philip Prabaharan blogs on behalf of One Hour Translation, a professional translation firm that specializes in language Translation Services. To know more please visit http://www.onehourtranslation.com.