Thursday, August 28, 2014

How to learn any foreign language

How many languages do you speak? I have always loved foreign languages, and I just finished this fascinating new book on how to learn a foreign language and actually remember it. I've studied four foreign languages but would only say I am proficient/can remember anything in one, and I truly believe it's due to how I (tried) to learn them and how often I practiced speaking. For Latin (kindergarten - grade 4), we sang songs and learned conjugations; for French (grades 10-12) we did projects and watched movies; for Arabic (one semester in college), we learned vocab and took so.many.quizzes; for Chinese (grades 6-9, and then in college), I lived in China for three of those years, had a tutor who didn't speak any English, spoke it every single day, and then later spent three months in an intense immersion program with no English allowed. Not surprisingly, I remember a couple of songs in Latin, I know enough French to order food, I can say thank you in Arabic, and I can actually speak Chinese.

The methods described in Fluent Forever are very detailed and provide all the information and resources you would need to begin tackling the language you'd like to learn. Some of the methods from the book are:

*Never translate. Cutting out English (or whatever your native language is) allows you to actually think in your target language. You can use pictures at first to learn words, slowly graduating to simple definitions and fill-in-the-blank flash cards. This allows you to learn the vocab and grammar of your target language without having to translate back and forth. This will help you attain fluency rather than just the ability to translate.

*Make personal connections. We can remember a concept with a personal connection 50% more easily than a concept without one. For example, if you can connect the word for dog in your target language with an image of a cute little dog, you'll probably be able to remember that word pretty easily. But if you can connect the word for dog in your target language with the dog you had growing up, it will be essentially impossible for you to forget the word.

*Study using spaced repetition. This is a learning technique that incorporates increasing intervals of time between reviews of previously learned material. The intervals are specifically chosen to have you recall material at the optimal time to push them deeper into your long-term memory.

*Choose the right vocabulary. Pick up a frequency dictionary to begin studying your target language by learning the first thousand most frequent words. Beyond that, target the specific type of vocab you need, whether political, academic, financial, etc.

If you're interested in learning a foreign language, or want to delve back into one you studied years ago, I suggest picking up this book. It has motivated me to get back into regular Chinese study, incorporating some of these techniques I've not tried before. If you don't want to read the book, you can also check out the website here for more information on the tips and techniques.

What do you think? Will you try to learn a new language? Would you want your kids to be bilingual?

Disclosure: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my review. I picked this book to read + review, and I absolutely loved it. All opinions are 100% my own.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh I wanted to get this one!! I just checked though and Blogging for Books is already out of them. Oh well, I loved reading your review and now I know I need to get this book!! Maybe I can find it at the library :)