The Five Secrets to Unlocking a New Language

The five secrets to unlocking a new language

Five secrets to unlocking a new language

After living in Spain and teaching English for the past year, I have seen the struggle of grasping a new language from two perspectives. I have been the teacher, slowly and patiently going over the same sentence, which to me seems like child’s play. I have also been the student, sat mute at a table, lost and frustrated at my inability to converse.

With technology making the world that much smaller and global capitalism striding it’s relentless path, languages are more important than ever. If you’re on the same journey as me, or just beginning, I thought I would share my top 5 tips on how to progress that little bit quicker;

1) Find someone to speak the language with:

When learning a new language there is nothing like real-time, native speaker feedback to help your progress. You can do this in several ways. One way is to participate in language exchanges. Now with Facebook and other social media platforms effortlessly connecting people across the world, these language exchanges are easier to find than ever. For me I simply type in; Barcelona and language exchange, and I am hit with a plethora of options to find native speakers and the local bar they will be hanging out in.

Another option is to learn through Skype, this has the benefit of linking you directly, with native speakers of the language.  Here at our small language school in Granollers we are currently offering Skype classes to anyone looking to learn a new language.

2) Don’t be embarrassed to make mistakes:

All my students are terrified of making mistakes. I’m terrified of making mistakes. That’s because making mistakes is not a nice feeling.

Sometimes I can feel the way I want to express myself on the tip of my tongue. I stumbled over the sentence, is it ‘la’ or ‘el’ , masculine or feminine?

I tune back into the conversation around me and realise it has moved on. I’ve missed my precious chance to practice. I shouldn’t have been so worried about making a mistake.

It’s by making mistakes that we learn the most. Once I accidentally told my house mates that if Britain left the EU I’d need a husband (being a heterosexual male). Then there was the time I asked the waitress if she wanted a tuna pizza when trying to order.

I felt really stupid both times I got it wrong.

However from these ‘stupid’ mistakes I learnt first hand the importance of new grammatical structures. When I first encountered these structures I was tempted simply to ignore them. However, through my mistakes I learnt their importance. I am sure these will be the lessons I never forget.

3) Practice, practice, then practice some more:

It’s a cliché but its true. If you really want to learn a language you are going to have to practice. Probably every day.

The good news is that with handy apps like duolingo (free) or babble (subscription) this is possible without taking up massive amounts of your time -or money.

Are you bored on your morning commute? Are you always killing time 10 minutes before that next meeting? You should maximise that free time to improve your language skills. Utilize a sworn translator like Davron. If you are in international business you can even see this as a step to improving and furthering your career.

4) Keep a handy notebook:

A must-have. Use it like this: every time you struggle to find a word for something you wish you knew write it down. When you get home translate that word. There is nothing like the relief of finally knowing that ‘milk’ is in fact ‘leche’. So now you can finally have a normal coffee and because you wanted that word for so long you will probably never forget it.

On the other hand write down any expressions, words or phrases that capture your imagination in your new language. This is the especially important if you live in the country where the new language is spoken.

You will soon have a book full of all the words you needed and all the words you that inspire you in your new language.

5) Find things you love in your new language:

If this thing can be a person who speaks that language, all the better- you then you get an A** in your language learning. However I realise that this is often unrealistic. Therefore, you should explore the other options that are open to you.

For example I have completely fallen for the Spanish Master chef. It is totally hilarious and completely different to our version. Now I watch it every week (although still with Spanish subtitles as a guide!) It’s true, maybe I only understand 50% of what is said however the formulaic nature of the show allows me to follow enough to find it really entertaining.

You can also try books and music in your new language. I recently bought ‘taste of the Mediterranean’. There’s nothing like the mixture of hunger and a picture of tantalising food to motivate you to learn faster.

So these are my five secrets to unlocking a new language. I hope you find them useful to progress your language skills. If you want more content to help speed up your language learning, check out the Granollers Language School Facebook page – We’ve got plenty more we’d like to share with you.

By: Matthew Wilcher