Studying grammar books and having conversations with native speakers are classic ways to learn and practice any language. However, these are certainly not the only tools which you should have in your toolkit. Here we will look at some practical and easy exercises which you can follow to speed up your language learning process.
1. Label everything
Invest in some post-its and start labeling everything in your house. For example, write the word ‘Refrigerator’ on a post-it and stick it onto your fridge door. Do the same for the stairs, the oven, the windows, until everything in your house has a post-it on it. Well, maybe not everything (you might not want to stick a post-it to your child, for instance), but most things. You may already know the words for these objects, but forgetting words is easier than you may realise and you will have a much better chance of retaining the words if you’re looking at them, or they’re looking at you, everyday.
2. Learn a Movie
Yes you’ve read that title correctly. They say that watching movies in your target language is a great way to learn and to practice, but is watching a movie just once really that beneficial? This approach is all about repetition.
What to do:
- Choose a movie that’s in your target language.
- Watch the movie with subtitles and then without.
- Download the movie’s screenplay from on-line and print it off.
- Read through the script, highlighting any words which you do not know, then learn them.
- Watch the movie again, this time reading along to everything being said.
- Break it down scene by scene and start learning off by heart from the script the dialogue of the film.
This one is a great way to get you speaking in your new language. The list above is just a suggestion as to how you can go about this method. The main aim is to learn the film off by heart, and to start speaking it out loud. Repetition is key here, so pick a movie you don’t mind watching 24,235 times.
A good place to find movies to do this with is on IMDB, which lets you search movies by language and genre!
3. Write poetry
Poetry is perhaps one of the most under-appreciated of all the arts. Once a much revered and romanticised profession, poets of late have struggled to remain relevant in an age where people simply don’t have the time to ponder the more abstract ways of looking at life. But that doesn’t mean that it can stop you from dabbling in verse. Writing poetry in your new language is a good way to start thinking about how a language can be used creatively, and how you as a speaker can put your own identity into the words which you choose. Another bonus is that thanks to a term called ‘Poetic Justice’, nobody can ever tell you that your poetry is grammatically incorrect.
4. Listen to radio/podcasts
Radio will never die. I’m sure of it. It has been around for God knows how long and has served humanity to no end. Now with the internet, it’s easy to stream radio stations from almost every country in the world for free. Another bonus is that radio presenters are required to speak clearly, after all they are professional speakers. If you’re idling around the house, driving in your car or going for a walk, try to always have some ‘talk radio’ or podcasts going into your ears. You may not pick up on everything being said but getting the brain used to hearing a language is very important. Also try falling asleep with the radio on, it might trick your brain into dreaming in your new language, which is a definite bonus!
Go to www.tunein.com and search for radio stations by geographical location.
5. Talk to yourself and think in your new language
Talking to yourself is generally associated with going crazy. It’s not exactly ‘normal’ to have a full blown conversation with yourself in a public place. People will probably look at you a bit funny. But hey, people, who needs them? A great way to practice pronunciation and fluidity with your new language is to talk to yourself out loud. It may seem weird at first, but after a while you will get used to it. The benefits of this approach are that when you are talking to yourself you are more relaxed and less frightened about making mistakes. Also, as all languages are different, they require different movements of the mouth, and therefore different muscles to be used. These are muscles which we might not use in our native tongue, but that we need for our new one, so they need to be exercised.
If you’re learning a new language but constantly thinking in your old one, then you might find that you will have a hard time thinking of the words when a real life situation arises. A good way to combat this is to start thinking in the language which you are trying to learn. When you wake up in the morning start thinking about everything you have to do that day, and when you’re falling asleep at night think back on the day in your new language. You won’t have to worry about making mistakes in front of people, as it’s all in the privacy of your own mind.
6. Play MMO’s
Gamers have developed a somewhat questionable reputation as of late. Thanks to some over enthusiastic hobbyists and even professionals (yes, there are professional gamers!) who have taken their love of gaming to the extreme and caused a topic for debate in the media, gaming can be an altogether healthy and enjoyable pastime. MMO’s (or Massive Multi-player Online Games for you and I) are when you play the same game as a bunch of different people from all over the world, communicating to each other with headsets or by typing. This has proven to be a great way to practice and learn new language skills.
While playing these MMO’s, you will be constantly having to plan with and help other players while speaking in their language. It forces you into ‘real life’ situations where you must survive using language. Think about it, you’re a lot more likely to remember the expression ‘Watch out!’ when one of your teammates is being attacked by a seven foot alien than you are if they are walking into the path of a banana peel. Just remember to come back to reality every now and again.
Some popular MMO’s that I can suggest for you are World Of Warcraft, Second Life, and EverQuest.
7. Play Scrabble
This one doesn’t need much of an elaboration. Scrabble is a popular board game where players must use their ingenuity to make words out of random letters. It’s great practice for your vocabulary as it forces you to constantly try and find words which can be used, also learning new ones from your opponents. Plus, it’s fun!
Scrabble is available in 29 different languages including English, Arabic, French & Hungarian. Visit the Scrabble website for more information on the languages which are available.
These are just some of the ways which you can practice your new language. Try them yourself and see if they work for you!
About the writer:
Jimmy Monaghan is an EFL teacher from Ireland who is currently based in Malta where he is working at the Elanguest English Language School. He enjoys spinach, long walks on the beach and writing short biographies about himself for websites.