by Liz Rothaus Bertrand
Summer is winding down but who says it has to be the end of your adventures? Fall is the perfect time to shake up routines and make good on that resolution to learn a new language or revisit one you studied long ago.
When adults embark on language studies, they tend to over-focus on mastering grammar and memorizing vocabulary words. While these aspects are important, they are only part of the recipe for success.
Here are 5 tips to inspire your journey and give you a well-rounded T-A-S-T-E of what learning a new language and culture can be at its best.
It’s often one of the hardest things for language students to do but also the most necessary. As you start to learn your new language, look for opportunities to practice. You may be surprised at what you can find locally or online from conversation hours and cultural organizations to meetup.com groups and grocery stores. Look for the setting that makes you most comfortable or try a few options. The more you speak, the easier it will become and the more confidence you will build over time. Don’t be discouraged if you make mistakes or don’t know how to say everything you want to yet; each time you try can be a great opportunity to learn and improve.
It’s OK not to know everything. Go ahead and ask! A native speaker or a language teacher can be great resources. Websites like wordreference.com and about.com are also helpful places to look when something is unclear. Chances are you’re not the first person stumped by what you’ve heard, read or seen. Jot down new phrases or cultural questions when they pop up and investigate them at a convenient time. Your own curiosity is an essential tool for discovering key aspects of a new language and culture.
Yes, you do need to put in some time learning the nuts and bolts of grammar, building your vocabulary or refreshing your memory. Find the methods that work best for you. Do you learn best in a group setting? Are you more of a one-on-one learner? Maybe you prefer doing things on your own — watching foreign movies in their original language, listening to new music from abroad, or reading the daily news in the foreign press. (Click here for 7 Awesome Websites & Apps for Foreign Language Learners.) Variety can be the key to sustaining your interest and helping you progress in all aspects of communication, namely speaking, listening, reading and writing.
If you have the opportunity, by all means do it! Travel can be one of the best sources of inspiration. It’s where you get to put your language skills and new knowledge into practice. It focuses your efforts while you’re in the preparatory stages and can be life-changing when you actually do it. You gain knowledge and insight in an all-encompassing way — opening your eyes to a different language and culture in the most immediate and personal ways. Without fail, travel also changes the way you see your own culture, language and traditions. So go ahead plan that vacation, go study abroad, or look for work in a foreign country. It’s worth it.
Even if you can’t afford to travel, you can still voyage around the globe. So much of a culture is transmitted through its cuisine and mealtime customs. Check out a local restaurant with a menu inspired by the country or culture you are discovering. Or try a new recipe at home. Cookbooks are often rich with details on traditional ingredients, daily habits and meaningful celebrations.
Here’s hoping these tips will leave your mouth watering for more! Now, go out there and dive in.
The Language Academy of the Carolinas offers courses in English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Spanish at three convenient locations in Charlotte, NC. Visit our website for more details on all of our services including Business Programs, online conversation courses, translation services, and kids programs.