How to Learn Another Language Quickly!
Is it possible to learn basic commication in 40 languages? Certified language instructor and interpreter Eric Dondero R. shares the tips he's learned to help others master new languages.
Learning another language is not an easy task.
However, there are shortcuts and even a few tricks
that can be employed to make the job a little easier.
Over the years, I have learned over 20 languages. I
have also learned survival skills for another 20 or
so. I learned my first second language, the hard
way. I have learned all the others using accelerated
learning methods, many developed by others, and some
My own language learning journey started with
Spanish. I picked up some survival skills in the
language as a sailor in the Navy after port calls in
Spain, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Afterwards,
when I attended college, I took some Spanish courses that brought me to a basic level. But I
desperately wanted to go all the way.
What followed were several years of difficult yet
self-determined study. This included: studying the
same textbooks over and over, memorizing textbook
glossaries, countless hours listening to language
tapes in the car, lots of Salsa, Tejano, and Latin Pop
music, Mexican radio and television, and most
importantly, frequent trips to the border.
Even after 6 to 8 years of study, I had only reached
the advanced level. Finally, I headed to Mexico for 3
months to teach English at a well-known college in
Tampico. This extended period of total immersion in a
Spanish-speaking environment pushed me over the top to
Reaching the top and becoming totally fluent was a
tremendous achievement. It felt truly wonderful. I
would encourage anyone to follow the same path. But
the amount of effort and time I invested for fluency
in Spanish was enormous.
I did not learn my other languages in the same
manner. Before I ventured into learning other
languages I invested some time reading books on
language learning methods, accelerated learning,
advanced study techniques, and brain development. For
my next language - Italian - I cut the language
learning time in half. For French and Portuguese I
cut the time it took me to learn Italian by half.
Since then, I've been able to learn other major world
languages to a medium level of fluency in about a
So, what are the tricks?
Build Your Vocabulary - There is a core group of
about 50 to 100 essential words in any language that
should be mastered right away. These words include
prepositions, question words, a few adjectives, and
some selected nouns. Once you learn these words, many other
words can be understood eventually through context.
Memorize Vocabulary Words - Word lists should be
memorized and then reviewed many times over. Saying
the new words out loud, rather than just reading them
silently, helps greatly. Word association, imagining
an equivalent word in your native language, can also
be helpful. Flash cards might seem a little low-tech
but they are quite effective tools for this. Even
Post-it Notes placed on household items with the
vocabulary word listed can help. To gain maximum
retention, the vocabulary list should be reviewed daily
for a week or two and then again weekly for at least 4
to 5 weeks.
Always Read Aloud! - Don't just read new phrases
and vocabulary silently to yourself. Read aloud.
Studies show that this helps you retain new vocabulary
at a much faster rate, plus it helps with
Don't get Bogged Down by Grammar - Let's be honest.
Grammar is a dry subject. It can be an absolute
incentive killer. So, just start out with a brief
overview of prepositions, definite and indefinite
articles, singulars and plurals, adjectives, and most
importantly, pronouns. Put off learning conjugation
for verb tenses for later on. Just learn enough
grammar at the start to get you by. If you make
mistakes no big deal. Native speakers can understand
what you are saying 90% of the time through context.
Study Phrase Books - Always carry a phrase book
with you for the targeted language you are learning.
Study it at every opportunity: standing in
line at a grocery store, waiting for a train or bus,
over your morning cup of coffee, or while relaxing in
Immersion - Look for every opportunity imaginable
to use your languages skills. The best way of course,
is to physically go to the actual country where your
target language is spoken, even if it's for a very
short time. I cannot stress enough how
critical an element this is. Look for any excuse to travel to a
country where your targeted language is spoken. The
next best thing is to visit an area in your city or
town where the language is spoken. Hang out at cafes,
libraries, malls, bars, and other locations and engage
foreign language speakers with simple conversation.
Make friends with native speakers. Invite them over
for dinner or a few drinks. Tell them that you want
them to speak to you only in their native language.
Date a native speaker. The absolute best way to
immerse yourself quickly is to find a boyfriend or
girlfriend who speaks the native language you are
trying to learn.
Watch Television and Movies for Your Targeted
Language - These days television stations are
available in a whole range of languages over satellite
and on cable. Watch them for an hour or two every day
and try to pick out familiar words and phrases.
Additionally, try to mimic the tone and accent of the
speakers. Go to the local video store and rent movies
for your targeted language. Have a 2-hour review
session of vocabulary before you watch the movie. It's
even better to watch them more than once.
Listen to Music in Your Targeted Language - Give
your native music a rest for a short while and
experiment with some music from a country of your
targeted language. Many of the national bookstore and
CD chains now have excellent World Music sections.
Listen to stations and programs on radio for your
targeted language. You can tune in to some of these
Listen to Language Tapes! - Purchase some language
learning tapes and listen to them as often as
possible. First read the accompanying booklet to get
a feel for the vocabulary and grammar. Then, listen to
the tapes while relaxing at home, while driving to
work, on a Walkman when jogging or while working out,
and even while in the shower. Be a maniac with the
tapes. Don't just listen to the tapes in your easy
chair or in your car once a day. Listen to them
around the clock. You need to listen to the tapes
about 15 or 20 times before they really start to sink
Take Language Courses By Computer - Whether on-line or
a software program, computer language courses provide
good visualization for learning vocabulary words.
Immerse yourself in the language learning experience
and you will learn much more quickly.
Eric Dondero is a Certified Language
Instructor and Interpreter in Houston, Texas. He
speaks over 20 languages. He is the author of
"Worldwide Multilingual Phrase Book." At Amazon.com. or http://www.portsidelanguages.com
If you'd rather order from Amazon.com, please click here.
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