Wednesday, 18 August 2010

How to set the gears in motion...

Many of you have come to this blog salivating over the thought in becoming proficient in another tongue, however how can one achieve such a formidable feat?

The list is long of those who have achieved great success in learning several, or many languages. But how does one approach such a task.

Firstly, having gone through the process of learning foreign languages myself I can suggest a few methods that will keep you all in good stead when embarking on your first mission to acquire a new language.

One of the foremost problems I have come across when learning a foreign language is the uncertainty and doubt that runs through the eager pupils' minds when faced with such an apparently insurmountable task.

To leverage oneself I would suggest calmness, good material, patience and desire.

Firstly, I would suggest that the pupil should delve into bookstores or browse online to acquire a quality course book... this course book will be used as your main crutch, outlining the course of your learning process. I would personally suggest finding a copy of the Assimil foreign language learning books, along with others such as... the Teach Yourself or Colloquial series. (For a detailed outline of each courses' strengths and weakness, please refer to polyglot Professor Arguelles' site for thorough video reviews on self instructional material, in addition to a wealth of other interesting musings.) Another seasoned language instructor, whose audio-only course I would highly recommend, is the late Michel Thomas, whose personal brand covers languages from French to Arabic, Russian and Mandarin. Michel Thomas' famous formula for language learning can be seen in action in a BBC documentary. Another major benefit of Thomas' method is that he gets you talking instantly, boosts your confidence incredibly and calmly and collectedly walks you through grammar without any burdensome technical vocabulary.

Indeed, language success can be described by a simple formula written by the famous Hungarian polyglot Kató Lomb in her magnificent book, "Polyglot, How I Learn Languages", which can be found in PDF form here.

Invested time + Motivation
--------------------------------- = Result

Kató like I myself am, was a great advocator of reading to improve foreign language proficiency. She warned of the dangers of the novel/magazine etc. becoming boring, and advised to only look up words if they could not be deduced from context. She stated... "What is important will sooner or later emerge again and will explain itself if necessary... It's much more of a problem if the book becomes flavourless in our hands due to the many interruptions than not learning if the inspector watches the murderer from behind a blackthorn or a hawthorn."

I, myself usually begin with LingQ, a marvellous website by Steve Kaufman that provides a huge cache of articles/stories/interviews all with accompanying audio and highlighted words, that when hovered over, reveal their definitions... this I have found invaluable, deleting any need of a dictionary.

I simultaneously follow my LingQ endeavours devouring any of the target language material I can find, Wikipedia is useful for access to material in both your native language and acquiring language. Blogs and Facebook prove to be valuable assets allowing you to see naturally used, daily dialogue.

Like the Greats of the past, Cardinal Mezzofanti and alike, I find that translation using a bilingual text is an excellent way to acquire a new language. The YouTube sensation Luca, whom provides constant hope, also is a great advocator of this approach and it has kept him in good stead through 10 or so languages. I highly suggest you read his outline and watch his multilingual videos.

An ample and timeless children's book has been employed many a time, as it is fairly simple, enjoyable, illustrated (to provide some meta-linguistic context) and easily found in many foreign languages for comparison. The novel "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, is consequently one of the most purchased books ever... Fortunately, it is easily found in many languages online in PDF format by a simple Google search... to save time, here are copies in French, Spanish, English and Esperanto.

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