I love learning languages. Well, to be honest, I don’t exactly love the process of doing this. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into learning languages, and not all of it is fun. Lots of memorization, drills, and practice, practice, practice. However, that moment when you realize you’ve improved your language skills, or that moment you finally master a difficult grammar concept make it all worthwhile.
I studied Japanese, and I am currently studying German and Chinese. I am not very good at using linguistic terms, but since I often get asked how I like to study languages, I thought I would talk about it here.
The first tip I have is to make it fun! Doing drills all day is boring, so try to find some way to make practice interesting. Start an English blog! Try translating the lyrics to your favorite English song or maybe try chatting with some native speakers. Try to make practicing English one of the highlights of your day; not a chore.
The second tip I have is to not fear mistakes…at first. When starting to learn a new language, I am sure everyone feels afraid of speaking with native speakers of the language because they have no confidence in their language ability. But to be honest, being afraid to speak with native speakers will only pull you down. Try to relax and speak with as many people as you can! It’s all right to make mistakes. For Japanese speakers getting used to both listening and speaking English, this is vital.
One last tip I have for this time is not something you do actively, because it is a way of thinking. When you learn another language, try to associate new words and/or phrases with existing knowledge. This is even easier if you know other languages that you can relate terms with. For example, let’s say you wanted to learn the word ‘road’. Try to find something that you can connect this word to in your mind that will help you learn it faster. So in this case, try thinking about how the word ‘road’ almost sounds like the Japanese word 道路 when the syllables are switched around. Even if it’s just a small thing, this will help you retain your knowledge of the words.
Several friends of mine who are studying German have an interesting method similar to this, that they use to memorize whether a noun is male or female. They have pictures attached to all their flash cards on their computer for each noun. If it’s a male noun, they make sure they have a man somewhere in the picture. If it’s a female noun, they try to find a picture of a girl or woman with that item to put with the flashcard. The memory of that picture alongside the word helps them to remember the gender of the object much more easily than just remembering the word itself!
These are very small tips, but I hope you found at least one of them useful. Have a great week everyone!