The world is so rich and diverse not only in the sense of things that nature makes up but also in the way that we human beings have shaped up our planet. It does take a significant amount of open-mindedness to take a look back, freeze the humdrum of daily life and appreciate this colossal fact. Often times, people who do this want to participate in the richness and diversity of human culture. What other way to do this than to engage oneself in the most intact intangible remnant of the eons of cultural evolution – language. In this article we’ll discuss how you can learn to become fluent in any foreign language within a short time and given minimal resources.
What you need
Of all the things you need to learn a new language, the most significant and also the most inexpensive thing is the desire and motivation to learn the new language. You may have ample desire to get into it but perhaps in the initial stages your motivation may be a bit inconsistent and the process may seem not-so-interesting but once you get a hang of a certain words, phrases and more importantly, the basic grammatical structure of the new language, you can listen to recorded conversations and you’ll be able to slowly but surely discern and distinguish meanings. This will add to your motivation since understanding the basics of a new foreign language can be very rewarding. So once you start off with a little desire and good amount of motivation to learn you’ll surely get there.
Besides above mentioned intangibles that you need, it is recommended to have a computer with an internet connection with decent bandwidth, a few hundred US Dollars to spend on helpful software (not absolutely necessary in case you can’t afford it) and ample time.
Traditional way of going about it
One of the most obvious things to do to learn a new language is to approach someone who already knows it and pay a moderate fee and learn it. While this is the traditional way of doing it, it comes with the risk that you may not find what you were looking for such as individual attention or good standards or flexible learning hours. But if it does work out, for instance, if you find great reviews of a neighborhood teacher who teaches the foreign language you want to learn and his/her teaching hours fit smack on the free time of your day, then why not give it a try? But the fact is that the majority of people would not find all these factors fitting in perfectly. For instance, who on earth is going to teach you Swahili if you’re living in northern Alabama or in a small city in India? So availability and geographical constraints limit the prospects of traditional ways of learning a new foreign language which is why the following methods are suggested.
Method 1 – Commercial software
There is tons of commercial software out there that claim to teach you a new language in a few days. A few of them are worth taking a second look at. Out of all of them, Rosetta Stone stands out with all its awards and professional reviews from popular publications worldwide.
Rosetta Stone is an award-winning Computer Assisted Language Learning (or CALL) software by Rosetta Stone Inc. based in Virginia, USA. Using a method called “Dynamic Immersion method”, Rosetta Stone uses a combination of images, text and sound with difficulty levels increasing as the student progresses in order to teach a variety of vocabulary terms and grammatical functions in an intuitive fashion and without drills and translations that it reflects the way we all learn our first languages.
While the software might be very effective to most people it does have a catch and it’s the price. Learning packages are divided into several levels and the levels start at about $179 and most comprehensive learning packages cost nearly $399 for most languages and $499 for a few select languages. There is also a 12 month online classroom access which costs around $299.
Method 2 – Online Language Exchange Programs
Rosetta Stone might be great but it might not be for everyone since it requires quite a bit of monetary investment. There’s a method of learning which capitalizes on the fact that there’s someone out there sitting halfway around the world in a country of your interest, speaking a language of your interest pondering about how he/she could learn your language! Websites such as www.interpals.net connect such people together in what they call language exchange programs. Just join Interpals and check the box that says “language exchange” under the “Interests” section and search for people with similar interests who speak the language you want to learn. You’ll find plenty out there. Make your profile interesting enough to attract others and have moderate expectations regarding what you can get out of it since it is not really a guaranteed way of learning the language though it does offer a guaranteed way of making friends all over the world. Please do not fall for attractive pictures of the opposite sex or something else that prompts you to give off your personal financial information or credit card details or anything since there are plenty of low lying people who’re ready to exploit any medium to make some money through crooked ways.
Similar to Interpals is a website called www.italki.com which is dedicated entirely for language exchange programs. Here you’ll be able to find people dedicated primarily for language exchange. Besides free language exchange and other language learning features such as questions and answers, group discussions, and multimedia materials for self-study, italki also helps students connect with teachers for paid online lessons.
Method 3 – Final learning steps
There are many websites that offer services like translation between two languages, bilingual dictionaries. See the resources section below. Use them to the fullest. Once you’ve gotten the hang of the basic structure of the language, it is vital to not step off the ladder and settle for what you know. The most interesting part of the process begins here.
Ask your language exchange program buddy to voice record something in his/her own language and send it over to you via the internet. Start listening to recorded monologue/dialogue and note down your understanding of what is being said in as much detail as possible. Now if you’ve been reading carefully with the intent of following these suggestions, you should be asking “in what language should I write the transcription?” And that’s a good question. This is where having a strong lingua franca i.e. a common language between you and your exchange buddy is vital. Only with a lingua franca that you and your buddy are fluent in can you exercise in precise translations and efficient learning exercises. Anyway, once you’re done with the transcription of your buddy’s voice recording, do the obvious of sending over the transcription that was written in the lingua franca and have it corrected by him/her for any mistakes. Learn from your mistakes.
The above mentioned step could be extremely interesting but for those of you who are too lazy for that, you could watch movies in your desired language with subtitles that are in your language. Try to simultaneously gauge your understanding of the audio and rectify your mistake by seeing what the correct translation was. See the resources section below to find websites where you can download subtitles from.
The Key Ingredient
It is advisable that you use both the commercial software and the online language exchange programs to assist your learning process since the software alone cannot offer you the personal experience of interacting with live specimens of the culture of your interest and online language exchange programs alone cannot offer the standard of rigor that a well-planned commercial software offers. Regardless of how you go about it, the key ingredient in the whole process is your sustained practice towards and continued interest in the end product, which is the ability to speak your favorite language fluently.
It’s no shocking truth but relentless practice, which will surely be made enjoyable if you follow the tips and suggestions above, gets you to the spot you want to be in. So start practicing today with all the assistance referred to in this article and you’ll be one step closer to being a multilingual citizen of the world who celebrates the coming together of the world’s rich cultures.
Websites mentioned in this article:-
- Interpals for Android – With this app, you can search for and contact people whom you think might be interested in language exchange.
- There are a lot of apps on android created by Holfeld Apps that deal with teaching a new language either for free or at a nominal cost.
- This link offers a list of 50 iPhone apps that relate to learning a new language – http://www.onlinecollegedegrees.org/2009/04/07/50-iphone-apps-to-help-you-learn-a-new-language/