Looking at Improving Yourself? Try Learning a New Language

The world is populated by over 7 and a half billion people, with nearly 6,500 languages spoken. English speakers number about 1.5 billion. Armed with this information, knowing how to speak a foreign language could be very transformative.

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Learning a language is more than just knowing the words. Consider learning 25-30 words a week by looking at top words in a given language. Try using flashcards, either paper or on a smart device. There are numerous apps/programs for this. Visualize/act out the foreign word for better recognition. Try using the language all day by listening to foreign language TV/audio for familiar words. Learn the pace of the language as well as the words. Learn about the foreign culture or become immersed in it by traveling to that country. This also helps avoid embarrassing language mistakes. Reinforce learning with foreign language games. But most of all embrace and enjoy learning a new language

Learning Spanish

Learning Spanish has two roads: 1) Spain dialect and 2) Latin American dialect (Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, etc). Of course, all Spanish speakers understand each other; the nuance is in the pronunciation. Working with a tutor, in person or online, for either dialect is the fastest way to fluency in Spanish. By focusing on one student, the tutor can concentrate their efforts towards total immersion in Spanish without distraction. Speaking via Skype with native Spanish speakers from anywhere in the world helps to reinforce language. Try using a flashcard app that uses images or sounds for quick memory boost on words. Download Spanish language podcasts for conversational reference. Read a favorite book in Spanish where the storyline is familiar, and concentrate on the words. Keeping a journal or daily diary trains the mind to think like a native Spanish speaker which will help with fluency by reinforcing recognition. Of course, práctica, práctica, práctica, practice, practice, practice.

Learning French

Listening to spoken French is the best way to learn French. There is a vast difference between written French and spoken French. Be aware of the silent letter! Each student needs to determine their own learning styles whether by memorization, by audio (listening), and or with written instruction. Don’t overlook classroom or tutored instruction. However, learning French by audio is the best choice if communicating with French speakers is required. Learning to think in French is superior to translating from English into French. It's confusing and wastes valuable learning time. Visualize each learning situation in French; don't just learn the word. This is where flashcards are invaluable. Remember, also, that French words employ a lot of silent consonants at their ending. Try learning French in sentences that are part of everyday conversation, and prioritize learning in related sentence groups. Learning in blocks of 15 minutes a day helps eliminate rereading/ listening to the same information multiple times because of interruption. And, last but not least répéter, répéter, répéter - repeat, repeat, repeat!

Learning Italian

Before beginning to learn Italian, set some learning goals. Determine the amount of time available a day for learning. Is progress measured weekly, monthly or yearly? Determine if learning Italian is for watching a movie or speaking fluently to Italian speakers. Make a commitment for daily practice and stick to it. Create a lesson plan with built in learning blocks of time to fit the daily routine. Start out by learning grammar with indicative or statement tone with simple verbs and prepositions. Create a list of approximately 2,000 commonly used Italian words and practice a few every day. Flashcard time! Group similar words, synonyms, to express the same thought in a different way. Switch up learning tools by using online videos or Italian language movies. Use an Italian language phone app to play word or sentence structure games. These track progress as well. Get immersed in an Italian language club or Italian American groups that have events in Italian or where Italian speakers converse fluently. Commitment to practice will pay off molto (greatly)!

Other Languages to Learn

There’s plenty of other languages that can be learned that are useful. German, Mandarin, Japanese and Portuguese all come to mind. There are also some rare and cool languages if you’re looking for a party trick. Looking for unique or unusual languages to learn? Give these a try:

  • Silbo Gomero - This curious mix of whistles translated from Spanish is used in the La Gomera, Canary Islands by approximately 22,000 people. While the residents of the Canary Islands actually speak Spanish-Canary, they found it much easier to communicate by whistle sounds through this mountainous region. These sounds carry clearly for approximately 3 miles without it being misunderstood. This language has been taught in schools on the island since 1999 and was officially recognized by UNESCO in 2009.
  • Archi - Consisting of 26 vowels and 74 to 82 consonants, this complex verbiage is spoken amongst the 970 inhabitants in 7 small villages in the Archib region of Dagestan Russia. Until 2006, Archi was not even a written language. Its written form is in Cyrillic, the usual written character form for Russian languages. The only way to tell if a noun is masculine or feminine is by the inflection of the speaker’s tone of voice. If that wasn't a big enough challenge, it is very possible for this language to have over 1.5 million forms of a single verb. Anyone for Mandarin!

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