With all the free time you have on your hands now, why not use that time to try something new? To learn a life skill? A new language perhaps? Every language on this planet is beautiful, from Mandarin to French to Arabic. This is not just a pastime either, being able to speak another language will open so many doors. Whether that is having an extra skill compared to other job applications or making new friends across the globe, it is extremely useful to learn another language. Here are a few tips that may come in handy with your language studies.
Start with the alphabet – Understand how letters and phonetics sound as the letters you see will not always be how they are pronounced in English. For example, the letter ‘w’ in German is pronounced as a ‘v’, so the word. So, the word ‘Wo’, which means ‘where’, would be pronounced as ‘Vo’. There are also some languages where some letters do not exist. For example, I am currently teaching myself Korean and what I have learnt is that the ‘F’ sound does not exist in their alphabet. As you can see by my examples, it is very important to understand the alphabet as it will help you decipher how words are said.
Drilling – Now drill all these sounds until you know them. This is a technique I use when teaching myself Korean, I drilled the alphabet until I was confident that I knew it. This includes writing the word down in a line over and over, every time you write the word down say the pronunciation in your head or out loud. Another useful method is the ‘look, cover, write and check’ technique. With this method, you are actually having to think about how the word is written or structured.
Learn the sentence structure – Not every language has a sentence structure just like yours. The basic sentences structure in English is subject + verb + object/adverb/adjective. However in German, for example, when there is a compound verb the second verb goes to the end of the sentence. Similarly, when I have been learning Korean, the structure of the sentences is subject + object + verb. It is important to understand the structure as it will help you know which words to say when in a sentence.
Learn basic conversation – Once you have the alphabet cracked and the sentence structure, learn some basic lines that you will use most frequently. Start with learning the different ways to say ‘Hello’ and conversational phrases like ‘How are you?’. However, in some languages, there are informal and formal ways to approach someone, as well as only being able to use them to the appropriate person. Once again I will use Korean for my example, when I started learning the language I found out that the word ‘annyeong’ is an informal way to say ‘Hello’ and a greeting you would only use to people who you are close to. On the other hand, the formal way to greet someone would be to say ‘annyeong-haseyo’.
Do not spend too long practising – If you spend hours on end trying to learn a language like you are trying to crack the Da Vinci Code then you are going to fry your brain. What is even more concerning is that you will not be retaining any of the information. Spend around 30-45 minutes every day teaching yourself and then stop. Also, it is easier to fit short bursts of learning into any schedule and it may not feel like a burden or a chore. Thus, being able to have a language session at least once a day and you will make a lot of progress doing so.
Take things slow – Try not to move on to something different every time you decide to learn the chosen language. Spend a week or two going over the same topic, whether that is connectives or sentence structure. If you move on too quickly then you are not going to retain anything that you have learnt and it would be a complete waste of time. If you are serious about learning your chosen language, create a schedule of the things you need to learn.
Use apps – It is one thing to look online at language-teaching websites and learn from them, but it much easier to download an app on your phone. You can then take the lessons with you where ever you go, which is actually really good revision to use the app when you do not have your notes with you.
Treat it like revision – This may throw you back to your younger years of study, but using these techniques are useful. When I say throw it back, I mean techniques like creating flashcards with a word or phrase on one side and its translation on the other. The more you do, the more you will remember and it will become easier every session. This is the most rewarding part of learning a language when you start to realise that all the work is paying off and you actually begin to recognise words or phrases.
Watch and listen – What better way to learn than listening to native speakers? I learnt a tip from Tik Tok and I cannot remember who I learnt this from, so this next sentence is not my idea it is someone from Tik Tok. When learning Korean, watch Korean reality TV and not dramas or films. Reality TV can show you the slang they use when it is appropriate to use a certain word or phrase and the tone at which it is said.
Instagram – Now this one is a little unusual and unexpected, but has played an extreme part in my learning. What I do is search ‘Germany’ in the Explore search bar and then look at people’s posts and try and guess what their caption says. Then when I think I have an idea or I can fluently read what it says, I press the ‘translate’ button underneath and see if I am right. As I said, it is a weird one but like with my previous tip it helps with learning any slang or different ways to say something that an app, website or book does not teach you.
I hope some of these tips help you in your language studies, when you really invest everything you have into the learning, it can become quite fun and interesting. If you have any useful tips that you use or would like to share your experience with learning a language, let us know on our Instagram page @thestudentaspect