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I have been studying one or another foreign language since I was 12 years old. That gives me almost 20 years of experience, and one would assume some knowledge on the topic!
My language learning started with Spanish, later moving on to Japanese and currently consists of dabbling in ASL (American Sign Language).
I am fluent in Spanish, and in the two and a half years that I was in Japan I had friends who spoke no English and I also learned to communicate through simple texting (not the easiest thing in the world if you start out knowing only the Greek alphabet).
Here are 3 of my favorite study tips that I've picked up over the years:
1. Study Your Passion
Every few weeks, I pick up a fashion magazine in Spanish. The language in these type of magazines is fairly simple and the pictures are bright. I can brush up on my grammar, use of accent marks and even learn some new slang all while relaxing with a cup of coffee and an article on the current trends in jeans.
Maybe fashion isn’t your thing; the topic doesn't really matter. The point is, choose a topic YOU find interesting, creative, relaxing, exciting or whatever gets you going and find some material to read or listen to on your chosen subject.
If you are interested in the topic matter, you will be more likely to read or watch more, all the while soaking in English vocabulary, spelling and idioms. You can learn a lot about English culture this way too.
Which brings me to my next piece of advice: I think food is one of the most important topics to learn about regarding the culture of any language.
Find and try out recipes, maybe visit an English pub (they are everywhere now, just like most world cuisine), watch cooking shows in English, etc…
The thing is, everyone eats, and one of the first things we do in good times and the bad is eat together. Eating brings us closer in some inexplicable way.
Let me just share a story with you: I was traveling in Cambodia when I met a Japanese guy in a cafe. We started talking about the sites we wanted to see nearby and decided to visit some ruins together the next day.
While visiting the ruins I brought some sushi rolls with me, since I had randomly found nori and natto (a typical Japanese fermented bean dish) in a little supermarket in town. When we got to the ruins, we walked around awhile and then took a break on a crumbling wall. I pulled out our lunches and when my new friend took a bite he started crying because he was so emotional and so moved with missing Japan! He said, "It tastes like Japan!!"
Ever since then, friends for life. Food brings people together. Food will bring you closer to deeply understanding the foreign language you want to learn.
3. Don't worry about making mistakes
I know, I know, it’s been said a million times! But leaving the worry aside is so KEY to learning a new language.
We have to start like a baby. First, learn some common nouns and pronouns. Don’t be afraid to point or draw pictures! Then, work on the most used verbs (go, eat, give, want, make, etc..).
Gestures go along way here. You are a toddler now and can make sentences like “I do”. Conjugation will come, correct verb tenses will come. Context will help most of the time. You really can be understood even if you meant to use the past tense.
Remember, true friends and good teachers will never laugh at you, although they may laugh WITH you! Try not to worry.
My good friend in Japan would give me a grade every few months; “Now you speak like a five-year-old,” and then a few months later he said, “Now you are like an eight-year-old,” and then one day, “Your Japanese is better than my best friend’s!”
…. I think he was lying about the last “grade” but it was still fun to not worry and just relax about my language level. It helped me learn even faster since I was able to accept the reality that I was learning and enjoying the process.
Remember your passion, food, and trying not to worry! See how you can make these tips work for you.
What's your passion when it comes to learning English?
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