How To Learn Languages?

The easiest way to learn a new language is to live for a while among the speakers of that language — without an interpreter, without a dictionary and being forced to speak the language in order to survive! Guaranteed, you will learn the basics in a few weeks… and in a few months your new [...]



How To Learn Languages?

» Posted on Apr 27 2010

The easiest way to learn a new language is to live for a while among the speakers of that language — without an interpreter, without a dictionary and being forced to speak the language in order to survive! Guaranteed, you will learn the basics in a few weeks… and in a few months your new language skills would be acceptable.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the opportunity to spend weeks or months away from home just to learn a new language. Even if we have the necessary time, we seldom have the willingness to do it. And even if we would do it, there is something called the least resistance: we would desperately seek somebody who speaks our language to act as an interpreter for us. It is in the human nature.

Let’s take a look at some more realistic scenarios of learning a second language.

The traditional way for quite a long time was to find an institution in your town that offers language courses for your interest. This could work well for big(ger) cities but folks in smaller places don’t have a lot of choices when it comes about the variety of languages.

There are also quite good books, language manuals for almost every language. However, there is a big problem with learning languages solely based on books. You may get to the level where you can even read and understand a newspaper or a magazine in a foreign language… but very unlikely that you will master the spoken form of that language. And let’s face it: languages are primarily spoken by people. The written form is just a representation of the live language. This is a huge issue, so we will dedicate another article to the read vs. speak question in the near future.

As the technology advanced in the 20th century language books started to have audio supplements, like cassettes, discs (CDs and DVDs). In the same time there were big shifts in the methodology of teaching and learning foreign languages. Simply put, the old-school that we inherited from the medieval monastery schools of teaching Latin for monks has been replaced with more adequate methods for the modern times.

The old school was all about memorizing hundreds and hundreds of words and studying the “grammar rules” while also memorizing declension of nouns and conjugation of verbs. (You don’t want to go there…) While it worked for ‘dead’ languages of which there is no use in real life, it became obvious that for acquiring living languages we needed new methods and technologies.

The modern methods of language learning emphasize the oral (or spoken) aspect of the language and instead of stand alone words they teach phrases, sentences, situational dialogs. The primary goal is not to make you able to read some classic literature in your new language (which, by the way, was an illusory goal!) but to enable the student to speak on a basic level.

In the last several years the internet and related technologies helped the language students a lot. Audio products like podcasts, downloadable files on our computers, iTunes and audio-books on our mobile devices — they all became our aid in the language learning process.

Probably, the best combination of the traditional and new methods are the online language courses: you get the structure needed to learn the language gradually and there is also the benefit of the live audio examples to enhance the pronunciation. Look for our recommended online language courses!

If you prefer to be enrolled in traditional live classes, see our recommendation:
Language schools worldwide – Reviews and price comparison of language courses

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