HOW TO STUDY A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Some great tools to help facilitate learning a foreign language.

Did you know that learning a foreign language is not difficult if you go about it by accepting a recognized set of habits? Firstly, we all learned our native language quite naturally. We listened to other people and copied what they said. By doing this over and over again, we eventually built a set of habits which enabled us to speak our native language with ease. The learning of a foreign language is based on the same principle. Such study requires some steady work for a few minutes each day, taking into account the following hints which facilitate working more efficiently.

Hint #1- YOU MUST LEARN TO LISTEN AND IMITATE

You are faced with the same task that you did as children learning your native language. since you know one language, you can be told how the new language is put together, how it works, and how it is different from yours; these directions can speed the learning of a language. Here are some concrete examples I use with my high school students. I teach both French and Spanish. Both languages are Romance languages which means they have the same root(Latin). Primary goal is help students learn in a way that is very personal to them, that way they will remember the information a lot better. In English we have subject pronouns and their function is to replace a noun. The same is true for both French and Spanish. The subject pronoun “I” is used to speak about yourself. I am Nicole, Je suis Nicole, Yo soy Nicole. The translation for I in French is JE, for Spanish YO. The students quickly learn to imitate me by saying Je suis/ Yo soy to describe themselves.

Hint#2- YOU MUST MEMORIZE

A language is a set of skills to be acquired; you don’t learn a skill by “THINKING” but by practicing over and over again. That is why people who actually go and live in the country where the language is spoken is able to speed up their learning considerably. They are put in a situation where they are forced to speak therefore they are actually practicing the language over and over again. I came to the United states when I was ten years old. I did not speak one word of English, but after six months living in New York I became very fluent.

Hint# 3- STUDY ALOUD

It is not good enough to memorize the new material just by reading it over silently; you should read it and study it aloud. This will improve the pronunciation as well as the retention of the material.

Hint#4- YOU NEED TO THINK

Because you are now more mature than when you were a child learning your own language, you have the advantage of being able to analyze the materials you are studying. You will discover, for example, the way your second language changes endings, and start making your own observations and rules accordingly. This can speed up your learning considerably.

Many people complain about not being able to utter one word of the language they learned in school. Why is that? I believe it is because most teachers do not put enough emphasis on the speaking part. There are four major skills that relates to language learning. They are speaking, writing, reading and listening. What are the most important skills to master if you want to speak the language? In my opinion, listening and speaking. Before you can speak you have to be a good listener so you can learn to imitate. As you master the skills of speaking and listening you can now move toward perfecting the reading and writing skills. After having been in the Uniteds for six months, I excelled in speaking English, but struggled with my writing and reading. You always hear how it is very important for parents to read to young children. The reason is because children learn to imitate as they sharpen their listening skills. By doing this over and over again, children eventually learn how to speak. Pretty cool stuff!!

My passion for the past twenty four years has been teaching French and spanish to mostly middle and high school students. I have used the above suggestions with my students and were able to obtain some outstanding results. Though I am still teaching in the high school and middle school I am now wanting to go a different direction. I want to direct my energy toward reaching younger children. That is why I wrote my first picture book in the three languages:English/French/spanish. The very first books I read when I first came to the United states were the Curious George series. I loved those books. My older sisters read those books to me at least a trillion times. After I learned to read English I started reading the books to my dolls pretending to be the bigger sister.

I believe my newly published picture book is a great resource for any parent who wants his or her child to be exposed to French or Spanish. Why the two languages? Why not? Children’s minds are like sponges. Both French and Spanish are romance languages thus have the same grammatical structures. Since the script is side by side, it is quite simple to compare words and the translation. Believe it or not, there are many cognates in French and spanish that are very similar to English. This can be a very fun way for children and adults to learn about another language and culture.

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