After living in Spain and teaching English for the past three years, I have seen the struggle of grasping a new language from two perspectives. I have been the teacher, slowly and patiently repeating the same basic phrases. I have also been the student, sat mute at a table, lost and frustrated at my inability to converse.
With technology making the world that much smaller and global capitalism striding it's relentless path, languages are more important than ever. If you're on the same journey as me, or just beginning, I thought I would share my top 5 tips on how to progress that little bit quicker;
1) Find someone to speak the language with:
When learning a new language there is nothing like real time, native speaker feedback to help your progress. One option is to learn through Skype, this has the benefit of linking you directly, with native speakers of the language.
2) Don't be embarrassed to make mistakes:
All my students are terrified of making mistakes. I’m terrified of making mistakes. However, it's by making mistakes that we learn the most.
Once I accidentally told my housemates that if Britain left the EU I'd need a husband (being a heterosexual male). Then there was the time I asked the waitress if she wanted a tuna pizza when trying to order. I felt really stupid both times I got it wrong.
When I first encountered new grammatical structures I was tempted to simply ignore them. However, from my 'stupid' mistakes I learnt first hand their importance. I am sure these will be the lessons I never forget.
3) Practice, practice, then practice some more.
It's a cliché but it’s true. If you really want to learn a language you are going to have to practice. Probably every day. The good news is that with handy apps likeduolingo(free) orbabble(subscription), this is possible without taking up massive amounts of your time - or money.
Are you bored on your morning commute? Are you always killing 10 minutes before that next meeting? You should maximise that free time to improve your language skills. If you are in international business you can even see this as a step to improving and furthering your career.
4) Keep a handy notebook
A must-have. Use it like this: every time you struggle to find a word for something you wish you knew write it down. When you get home translate that word. There is nothing like the relief of finally knowing that 'milk' is in fact 'leche' and because you wanted that word for so long you will probably never forget it.
On the other hand write down any words or expressions that capture your imagination in your new language. This is the especially important if you live in the country where you new language is spoken. Soon you will have a book full of all the words you needed and all the words that inspire you in your new language.
5) Find things you love in your new language.
If this thing can be a person who speaks the language, all the better - you get an A** in your language learning. However I realise that this is often unrealistic. Therefore, you should explore the other options that are open to you.
For example, I have completely fallen for the Spanish Master chef. It is totally hilarious and completely different to our version. Now I watch it every week (although still with Spanish subtitles as a guide!). It's true, maybe I only understand 50% of what is said however the formulaic nature of the show allows me to follow enough to find it really entertaining.