Planning a trip to Paris? Want to chat with, and impress, the cute Spanish girl next door? Looking to read Dante in the original Italian?
Even if you don’t have a practical motive, evidence suggests that learning a new language can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia. Developing language skills can bulk up your resume and increase your cultural horizons.
For many people, classes and private tutoring are probably the best way to learn, short of total immersion in a foreign culture. However, if your schedule requires a more flexible method, there are many tools available to help you teach yourself a foreign language.
Gather your materials
Your first step toward language mastery is to gather appropriate supplies, including:
A grammar workbook – to teach the fundamentals of verb conjugation and sentence structure. A good workbook is crucial for developing literacy, as often words are written quite differently than they sound.
A dictionary – choose a dictionary that translates both to and from your new language. Opt for a fairly comprehensive dictionary that includes idioms.
A language CD – to help develop your verbal skills. Choose one of an appropriate level, with lots of opportunities to repeat phrases. You may be able to find a CD that corresponds with your grammar workbook.
A nootropic like Qualia – to improve brain focus, concentration, memory, and learning.
Assign yourself a small bit of grammar work everyday. Resist the temptation to fly through the beginning exercises. You will learn more thoroughly, and stick to your studies longer, if you study consistently and slowly.
When studying, focus on your grammar and pronunciations. These are the cornerstones of language acquisition. Say every new word you come across. Repeat phrases until they roll off your tongue.
Many people do better if they fit their studies into their lifestyle rather than trying to carve practice time out of their already full schedule. Listen to your CD while on the treadmill. Do your grammar work while listening to the evening news.
As soon as you have learned a few words and the basic sentence structure of your new language, try to listen to native speakers as much as possible. Even if you don’t understand much of what is being said, you will start to develop a better ear for correct pronunciation as well as an expanded vocabulary.
Download a few podcasts or find an appropriate frequency on a worldband radio. Watching videos or televisions shows in the language can be very helpful. Start with simple children’s shows or movies you have already seen. Captions or subtitles can help you recognize words and develop literacy within the language.
Keep a Notebook
Keep a small notebook where you can jot down new words you hear while listening to podcasts or watching movies. Use your dictionary to translate the words as soon as possible.
Conjugate frequently used verbs in your notebook, and try to write a few sentences a day using your new vocabulary. If you keep your notebook with you, you will soon find it a valuable tool for learning and communicating in your second language.
Use your new skills whenever you can. Advertise locally for a native speaker who might want to be a practice partner. Meet your practice partner at a public place, and speak for an hour in one language, then an hour in another so you can both improve you skills.
Language doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Learn about the culture that surrounds the words. Read a book in the new language, even if you have to look up every other word in your dictionary. Subscribe to a magazine or newspaper from a country that speaks the language. Not only will you improve your vocabulary, but you will also get a new global perspective.