Have you thought about learning a second language, such as French, because you are planning a trip to Paris and don’t want to be like a typical American tourist who doesn’t speak a local language a gram? Frustrated with further action? Does this Duo Lingo app ™ or Berlitz DVDs ™ for some reason do not correspond to your particular learning style? If it’s you, I’ve met many who shared your frustration, and it inspired me to share six tips on how to learn a second language. For simplicity, imagine that you want to learn French; It goes without saying that these six tips below also apply to any language you want to learn.
1. Take it easy!
According to Dr. Stephen Krashen, one of the world’s leading authority on second language (L2), L2 training is best conducted in low-stress settings. Children learning their native language (L1) never experience stress: parents do not have a deadline to be followed, and there are no awkward and uncomfortable moments when mistakes can be made. Children easily learn L1 effortlessly and at their own pace, without stress and delay. Mastering L2, as a child does in a stress-free environment, is a key component of the Natural Approach, a teaching method developed by renowned linguists Tracy Terrell and Stephen Krashen.
In short, the natural approach: don’t impose language teaching; Don’t fill out a long list of new vocabulary words in a short amount of time, as if you’re participating in a timely prize contest. Get your L2 “small portions” at your own pace, but be consistent. Learning a little each day, gradually based on what you have already learned, is much more effective than compulsory attendance once a week. Also, learn as much as you can in a natural environment with specific content that you’d like to know. To avoid stress, don’t worry about mistakes!
Avoid a strict grammar approach.
According to Dr. Krasching, mastering the language is largely a subconscious process that does not require intensive use of conscious grammatical rules or boring practices. It is best to learn the language by osmosis. After all, that’s how we learned our native language. As a child, we didn’t really care about the rules of grammar, and we didn’t have a list of new words to remember. We studied just by immersing ourselves in our language and out of necessity. We learned by linking words to contextual clues; for example, the mother points to the cat and says, “Look at the cute kitten.” The child takes and learns what a “cat” is. Contextual learning, learning based on everyday experience (the way children learn their L1) is much more effective than mechanical learning.
This is clearly easier to achieve in the environment of native speakers. Fortunately, you don’t have to be in a country where L2 is spoken to to feel some impact. For example, you can go to a local French restaurant and make an order in French or join a French-speaking club made up of French-speaking and French expatriates.
Although it is usually very difficult for an adult to learn a foreign language without learning grammar and memorizing new words, this should not be the only method. Example: I knew a smart pensioner who wanted to learn to communicate in French during a longer vacation in the French province of France. She looked through grammar textbooks – that was her only approach – and correctly responded to all practical exercises; moreover, his ability to read French was impressive. Despite her devoted but “bookish” approach to French, she, unfortunately, spoke very little French and understood very little, although she spoke very slowly. In short, the “old-school” grammatical approach almost always leads to the development of reading and writing skills, but it does little to improve speech communication.
Immerse yourself in L2
Now it is much easier to do without leaving your own home than 30 years ago. Watch French films with English subtitles, listen to French news channels such as France 24, watch YouTube clips in French, find a French correspondent on sites such as MyLanguageExchange.com, or hire a qualified French teacher.
Many French learners complain that they reach a point where they can read French, but when they speak it, the words seem indistinguishable. It helps a lot to watch films in French with English subtitles included: subtitles are a great tool for word-sharing, greatly improving understanding. (Note that not all translations are accurate, but most of them at least very closely represent the actual dialogue.)
In addition, there are many articles and stories that can be read in French. For beginners, there are a lot of entry-level materials on the Internet, such as children’s stories, etc.
Finally, find French wherever you can. In the United States, for example, most of the instructions and warnings attached to products are written in English and are a combination of French or Spanish. Compare the instructions in English with the instructions in French. This is a great way to replenish your vocabulary. If you become experienced enough, follow the instructions in French!
As strange as it sounds, the more you speak French to each other, the faster you learn. (After all, you definitely won’t always have a Frenchman to talk to.) Talking to yourself or trying to think about French is a great way to replenish your vocabulary. As you ponder your day at the office in French, you will constantly encounter new words and idioms. For example, instead of thinking in English, I should finish this table by tomorrow. Think about it in French, and you’ll find yourself looking for a French word for a worksheet, and a new vocabulary is added to your ever-expanding repertoire. Remember that if you keep thinking and talking to yourself in French when you become experienced enough – usually when you least expect it – joy, there is a good chance that you will realize your first dream in French.!