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Monday, May 7, 2012

Change Your Life – Learn a New Language


One of the best things you can do is to learn a new language. It's a challenge that can be fun, rewarding and best of all, life changing. For most adults, learning a new language is quite difficult. In fact, research has shown that as a person ages, his ability to learn a new language becomes more difficult. But don't listen to research! There are other factors that contribute to the ease or difficulty in learning a new language aside from one's age. In this age of globalization, it is easier to reach out to peoples of different cultures, races and creeds. One way to connect with them is by learning their mother tongues.

There is a Czech proverb that describes what it is like to learn a new language. It goes like this - Kolik jazyků znáš, tolikrát jsi člověkem. This translates to this:

“You live a new life for every new language you speak.
If you know only one language, you live only once.”

What a wonderful way to connect learning a new language to living. How often has it been said that learning the language of a new country that you are planning to visit makes you appreciate the foreign country’s culture and the people better? And the easiest and fastest way to assimilate the people, culture and customs of a new country is to properly learn how to speak that country’s primary language, whether you are going to stay in the country for a short or a long time. It is especially true if you are planning to study, relocate or start a business in another country.

The road to learning a new language may not be easy. But if the burning desire is present in you, nothing will stand in your way to speak, read and connect using a new language.

Why learn a new language

There are several reasons why a person chooses to learn a new language. One would be going to a foreign country. Some people migrate, take jobs or travel to foreign countries where the language spoken there is entirely alien to them. Those who migrate to a foreign land or are assigned to a foreign country usually find themselves at a disadvantage if they do not understand the language of the native residents. Even tourists will have an easier time if they know a few useful words and phrases as this facilitates their interaction with locals.

Learning a new language, whether for the purpose of integration or just to get by, is essential in order to be understood and to understand. Plus, most locals appreciate the efforts of people who try to speak to them in their native tongue.

Clear communication is the key to any good relationship. How can one communicate well if there is a language barrier? For example, a woman married to a husband who speaks a different language or dialect can greatly benefit from learning the mother tongue of her husband (and vice versa, of course). It is not enough that they have a common language (for example, that they both speak English). When marrying someone, a person does not only marry her partner but also her partner's family, culture and way of life. Learning her husband's language will help strengthen their bond. Plus, she will not be in the dark as to whether she is the topic of conversation or not.

Personal development and professional growth are two good reasons for learning a new language. On the personal side, when you are exposed to a new language, you will also learn about the cultures and people who speak that language you are learning. You will also have an opportunity to interact with other people who speak the same language.

In terms of professional growth, knowing a different language makes you more marketable when you decide to look for new a job. Within your current place of employment, you will be more likely to be tapped for foreign assignments and other opportunities.

Deciding to learn a new language can be for personal, professional or even practical reasons. Learning a new language can either be a want or a need. There are probably hundreds of reasons for acquiring a new tongue. Whatever your own reason or reasons may be, know that learning a new language can only be a positive event in your life.

Here are some tips on learning a new language:

Select a language of interest

Your choice of which among the many different languages out there to learn is critical. Ideally, people learn better if they have an interest in what they are learning. Unless you are 'forced' to learn a specific language because it is required in your studies, in your job or due to your personal circumstances (marriage to a foreigner), it is best to choose a language based on a culture, a place, or a people you are greatly curious about or interested in.

For instance, you may be into Japanese anime. By learning the Japanese language, you can better appreciate anime books not only for their pictures but also for their words. If you are interested in fine French food, wine and art, study the language of Napoleon Bonaparte.

If you are unsure as to what language to learn, start with a language similar to your native tongue. For example, if you are a native English speaker, you can choose German because these two are closely related languages.

Choose the learning method that you are most comfortable with

Learning a new language can be done by attending language classes. You can also learn through printed books, audio books or video tutorial. Personal tutorial sessions are also available. When you decide that you are ready to learn, choose a medium that works for you. Some people learn better in a classroom setting where there is an instructor, classmates to practice with, and homework that reinforces the lessons of the day. Others fare better with personal or one-on-one tutoring. Then there are those who can easily pick up a new language through self-direction using audio books, videos and other multimedia forms.

Make sure that the learning method you select is convenient for you. If, for example, you have to drive for an hour just to get to your language class, you may eventually find this inconvenient. This will then make attendance to classes more of a burden on your time and even on your wallet. By selecting the learning method or tools most appropriate for you, half the battle of learning a new tongue would have already be won.

Master the fundamentals

If you are not comfortable with the basic grammar structures, rules, vocabulary or phonetics, don't move on. In a classroom or one-on-one tutorial setting, clarify with your instructor or tutor areas where you are still a bit shaky and ask for more drills. In other methods, repeat lessons that you found challenging and find someone who can help you better understand your lessons. Moving to more advanced topics without mastering the basic can be detrimental to your goal of acquiring a new language.

Be creative in learning

Don't expect that you can learn a new language by simply attending class or doing your required lessons for the day as prescribed by your audiobook or video tutorial. Find books, magazines, movies and other materials that use the new language you are learning. If you are a beginner, start with easy to read children's books or translations of your favorite short stories or novels. That way, since you already know the story, you can simply follow the translation without getting lost.

Visit websites that are written in the language you are trying to master. Go to informative sites that explain the culture of the country or the people who use this language. Find travel sites and be an online tourist. Practice word recognition when visiting various websites. You may want to start with Internet sites with lots of pictures, useful information and fun facts. This can make new language learning more fun and entertaining.

Watch films subtitled or dubbed in the language you are learning. You can also look for popular songs that have been re-recorded into the language you are learning. This is a good way to listen to proper pronunciation of words without worrying about not understanding what the song is all about.

Practice, practice, practice

The old adage 'Practice makes perfect' is so apt when learning a new language. You need to practice what you learn. Talk to people who speak the language you are learning. If there is no one close to you that you can converse with, find someone online who is a native speaker of your new language. Start by looking for them in your social network group or Internet community.

At first, it may seem daunting to learn a new language. But see this as an opportunity to learn something new. Knowing a language different from your own will help you build a connection with people who come from a different culture, who have a different history, or who live a lifestyle that may be alien from you. Expose your self to new experiences through language. Acquiring a new language can change your life for the better.

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