Ever wish you were fancy enough to speak fluent French? If you are like me and love the not-so-fancy anime, Japanese manga/anime is your go-to comfort zone, which means Japanese culture and language is a huge deal and learning it is big on your Itch List. But personal experience tells me, learning a new language is not easy. When you are a kid, it comes naturally. I do not even remember trying to learn my mother tongue (Manipuri), the local language (Bengali), the common language (hindi) or the formal language (English). But as we grow up, it gets harder.
Today we have Pallavi Singh, writing a special post on tips to learn a new language and how to make the whole process easier and smoother. She understands our dilemma, “It always goes well until it starts to build up and appears like a strange cobweb of sounds somehow being connected and made sense of. It is the “reward time-gap” or the difference in time when you actually start until when you can start to make connections with fluent ease that is a major discouraging factor for a majority.”
Here are a few tips to keep in mind she recommends, while learning a new language.
1. Make time to do the things you want to!
Any and every language requires practice – loads of it! Adult life means no escaping from tasks and errands which can rob away personal time to pursue things one is passionate about. Realistically speaking – only embark upon learning the language if you think you can devote “sometime” to it. It does not have to be a lot, it only has to be “some”. It is like a big painting – you draw the sketch and colour it one by one. It would only come altogether and look pretty if you fill it.
2. Reward yourself
Remember when in school; you’d get a gold star and/or a smiley face when you made less mistakes? You still need those to stay uplifted and motivated. It is not childish; it is rather a very effective way of boosting morale. I buy a free beer for my students who attain 10 gold stars in a month – it is not a lottery but something to look forward to; something they would only receive “if they submitted all the assignments”.
3. Find a support system
Everyone makes mistakes; especially if they are beginners. A lot of people do not exhibit maturity when it comes to appreciating someone’s enthusiasm and labours. They do not realize that even a small sentence in a foreign language requires quite a thought. Well, form your own “conversation group” where you can try, hesitate, fail or succeed in conveying your thought; but not be laughed at.
4. Realistic expectations
Patience is a virtue. Do not start watching TV Shows, movies or reading newspapers/magazines in the targeted foreign language right after your first few classes! It would only dishearten you. Take baby steps, a strong foundation is a must.
5. Learning has to be fun before anything else!
Find a teacher who makes learning fun and not a task. A lot of Instructors employ a very “rote-memorization” approach to learning a language. They discourage questions and snap easily when confronted with curiosity. List down things you do every day because “you want to” and not because “you have to”.
Whether you are practising from self-help books or the internet, the important message remains – never give up. On a concluding note Pallavi adds a crucial observation, “Everyone has a different method of learning and internalizing concepts. Finding that specific method is the key. While some prefer sheets and sheets of exercises, others prefer “hands-on” approach to learning a language. No matter what you eventually decide to do; the best advice from me would be “Keep Itching to Learn” and you’ll get there! ”
Pallavi Singh has taught 100+ Expats, including Mr. William Dalrymple, an acclaimed Historian and Author, over the span of past 4 years and is currently retained by the American Consulate in Mumbai as an official Hindi Tutor for their staff and family members. She has also been a speaker at TEDx talks, regarding Language serving as a Social Inclusion Tool. You can get in touch with her here and here.