Here is a request from a friend who will go to France as an exchange student and her native language is Latvian, a language that does not sound similar to French. She wants to know about my language learning methods. I hope that it helps.
I usually go straight to the situational phrases. There are abundant situations that can be found even in a pocket-size phrase book. Priority is given to some situations which I think I may likely encounter in a real situation, such as socializing and asking directions. Three words that I think everybody should know, and use all the time. They are "Please", "Sorry" and "Thank you". Find the translations of them in your target language.
LISTEN AND IMITATE
Tonal languages like Chinese and Cantonese might be quite challenging. Different tones give different meaning, so learners should pay much attention to it. In this case, I shall learn the pronunciation by listening and imitating. Besides, these methods are also best applied to languages that have many silent letters like French.
I have never learned grammar in the beginning. I do not think that it is a good idea. Never start with grammar unless you really need to know about the language structure. The reason why not to start language learning with grammar is that the grammar has many rules to follow. Thus, it may create a boring atmosphere to the learners (unless you really like grammar)
Every language class always starts with alphabets during the beginning few meetings. I just realized that whenever I learn languages that use Latin character, such as Spanish, German, and Dutch, to name a few, by myself, I have never learned the alphabets! However, I did learn the alphabets, Hangeul 한글 for Korean and pinyin 拼音/ zhuyin 注音 for Chinese
There are many methods of language learning, such as watching movies, having regular meeting with native speakers and doing exercises. I like to try every single method and even create my own method to find out the best method that fits me well. For example, the methods I use for learning Spanish are taking up new vocabularies by reading news articles and signing up to a Spanish online course.
Immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. You can even create an atmosphere of the language or of a particular place where the language is spoken. For instance, when you are learning French, you may want to listen frequently to French songs, watch French movies, read about French culture, history or the tourism, and find out anything that you like to know about French.
You may want to consider taking a language proficiency certification exam as a complement to your language learning. However, certifications are available only to several languages -- Spanish, Chinese, Korean, French, and German, to name a few. I have got my TOEFL and TOEIC for English, and TOCFL for Chinese (Taiwan)
DARE TO MAKE MISTAKES
Everybody learns from mistakes. I do make mistakes as part of my language learning. I sometimes even use a word, regardless of knowing the correctness, before checking the dictionary. The result is it sometimes creates a funny situation. For example, cansado/a = tired and casado/a = married in Spanish. There was one time I said "estoy casado" = I am married instead of saying "estoy cansado" = I am tired. Since then, I always remember my mistake and the funny situation.
Many people that speak several languages, so-called polyglots, are easily found on the Internet. I like to watch their videos and reading their blogs to keep myself motivated to language learning. Apart from that, I can also get advice by sending them mail.
Every language learner learns in different ways. Therefore, it is a task to find out the best method that fits you. This method can be changed as you progress in your language learning. So do not worry about switching from one method to another method because a different method is necessary to achieve different levels of proficiency.
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