At one time, the solution to the problem of how to learn a language was to take yourself to that place, live there for months and return fully versed in the language, culture and ways of life.
For many of us, however, this is an impossible dream. The prospect of giving up work and living abroad for a few months may appeal but is financially impossible. And it may not be your dream – you may just want to enjoy the challenge of learning a new language.
So, how to learn a learn a language and not travel? Here are a few ideas:
#1 Immerse yourself
If travelling is not an option at the moment, there are other ways of immersing yourself in the language.
The Internet is a fabulous thing most of the time and whereas the TV and radio programmes of far-flung countries were once unattainable, it is now possible to access some of these via the Internet. As you learn a new language, spend some time viewing and listening to programmes in the language of your choosing.
This is a great way of hearing how the language is used on a day to day basis. There are different styles in all languages; news programmes, for example, tend to use more formal language, speaking slowly and concisely. Presenters and actors tend to use less formal language, including slang and will speak faster too.
#2 Mumble and babble to your hearts content!
To understand this point, you have to consider how babies learn to speak. They do so by copying and mimicking.
Pronunciation is an important part of learning a new language and this, without a shred of shyness of self-consciousness, you need to babble and mimic everything you hear in your new language.
Imitating sounds and copying linguistic expressions are a shortcut to fluency in your new language.
When learning a new language, you will often be taught common phrases and greetings a these tend to be the words and phrases that you will utter most. From asking directions to a common greeting used every day, these are undoubtedly useful phrases to learn.
Many language experts, however, suggest adding one more phrase to this early repertoire – and that is “how do you say…?” People whose native language you are learning will be more than happy to help you master it and so when you are stuck, asking in your new language how do say a phrase or pronounce a word is also another shortcut to fluency.
#4 Write it
Many people verbally learn a new language and this makes perfect sense. This is, in most cases, how people will use it whether that is ordering a meal or holding a conversation with the locals.
What can help with memory is when you have had a conversation in your new language, to jot down words or phrases that you have not fully understood. This way, you can look them up online or in your course materials, your dictionary and use them the next time you converse.
Some people create grammar sheets of colloquial expressions and phrases that they can use, keeping them as handy references.
#5 Use cognates
Have you noticed how some words seem similar in all languages? These are called cognates and unlocking their use can give you several more words in your vocabulary.
For example, most words ending in “ion” in languages with strong Latin connections tend to be the same in English. For example, information and información, or donation and donación.
Words can also be recognised across some languages because they have common root words such as fromage in French and fromaggio in Italian.
The good news is that learning languages becomes easier. Once your brain has learnt the patterns of a second language, it soon learns to look for patterns in words of other languages.
#6 Get a pen pal
At one time, when they taught languages in schools, students were paired with students of a similar age in another country. You would write in the language you were learning, and they would respond in English.
There are many websites that offer this service; you can rely on old-fashioned letters or email. Clearly, you need to be safe and not give out personal information etc. but, many people have pen pals who become firm friends.
Online language courses are the perfect way of learning a new language. Learning from the comfort of your own home, at a time and pace that suits you, makes learning and studying fun. With no pressure to hit milestones according to someone else’s timetable, you can take your time and enjoy learning a new language.