“I was always hopeless at Languages at school”
“You could either do Languages or not”
“I was never a Languages person; I was more Maths and Science”
How many times have you heard people say statements like these? Examinations did not test the ‘real skills’ of communication. The English Skyperoom believes that the ‘real skills’ are trial and error, getting the message across, understanding gist, building a relationship with your audience, desire to communicate, paraphrasing and showing confidence.
If you need to pick up another language later in life, don’t be put off by past experiences and be one of those who says they were never a ‘Languages person’ instead use your school language learning to your advantage.
Follow these simple guidelines to get you started:
- Write down everything you already know in that language. Rack your brains and don’t look anything up ….check spelling later and keep those notes safe. Refer back to them and add all your new learning to them.
- Try to speak for real communication whenever possible. Take every opportunity when you meet a native speaker to talk to them (however little you know) ….it is very rewarding.
- Immerse yourself in the sound of the language whenever you get time. Watch films, TV, and listen to music from the country even if you understand very little.
- Build up your vocabulary by learning a group of words a day; chunk your words into groups as it is easier to remember them: 10 items of clothing: 10 food words: 10 words on accounting: 10 sales words etc.
- Link new words to familiar words in your own language. The French for 8 (huit) is 8 fields of corn and WHEAT. Have fun with this technique, play around with it. Make up a story with all the new words in…..
- Pick a new verb to learn a week but when you learn it, learn all the tenses. Make up a story using the structures: I usually speak quietly, but today I am speaking….. yesterday I spoke …..
Above all keep to a routine, keep saying the phrases over and over and keep reminding yourself that you are ‘good at languages’!
Just shut your eyes for a minute and imagine you can speak another language fluently. You can order a meal, find your way around town, go into business meetings, and answer questions at the job interview, all in a language that is not your mother tongue. A wonderful thought and it certainly would be wonderful if that could happen overnight or in our ‘minute of dreaming’. But as the saying goes, ‘It takes years to become an overnight success’. Maybe not years in the case of language learning but it just needs a little hard work, practice and dedication.
When you were two or three years old, you soaked up language. You heard an important word like ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’ or better still ‘tractor’ or ‘cat’ and you liked or loved those things so much that you wanted their attention and therefore you labelled them and tried to say the word as best you could. Other people reinforced this for you by repeating it so many times that you finally ‘got it’. The human need for food and drink meant that language was vital for survival. You had to learn ‘milk’ and ‘dinner’ etc. rather than just cry! The need to be loved, to have attention, to survive provided the perfect motivation to learn a language. So where does that leave us poor adults? You may need to improve your English, for example, in order to ‘survive’ in your new posting in Europe or you are going to begin a course at university in Britain or America. Ask yourself, how much do I need this and why do I need the language?