I thought maybe I should address the elephant in the room right from the start. Now this is the one tip you will see everywhere and the one everyone that is serious about learning languages will agree with. You will see it or hear it everywhere because it works.
Use it. It is as simple, and as complicated as that.
Let me expand a bit.
So why does it work ? There are many reasons why everyone swears by this « method ».
First, because being used is the purpose of a language and the reason of its existence. Do you need a knife if you’re not going to cut anything ? Do you need a car if you live on a 200m² island ?
No, you don’t.
As human beings, we think, we talk, we communicate, we express ourselves, and for this we need a language. This is why deaf or blind people have a language of their own, this is why art exists, this is why dictators delete words from the dictionnary when they don’t want the people to think, and so on.
If you learn a language, I’m guessing your purpose is to use it to some extent. Even just for yourself. I study Tolkien’s sindarin and Neo-Sindarin. Will I use it everyday ? No. Do I need it in my everyday life ? Also no. But do I have a use for it even if it is ONLY for myself ? Yes.
(coming soon : how conlangs can help you learn and understand « real » languages).
The second reason why this tip is so popular is because almost any piece of advice you will get concerning this topic will eventually be related to using it. As you will see in other articles, I have so many methods or little tricks, but at the end of the day, using it is always the foundation of it all.
So how do you use your target language ?
I thought you’d never ask !
Think about your childhood. No, further.
When you were a toddler or even a baby, did your parents handed you textbooks ? Did they explain in depth grammar concepts so you could talk to them ? No. That sounds like non-sense, right ? So how the hell did you learn how to talk and communicate ?
By using it. Even just passively.
First, your language was crying and laughter. But as your surroundings kept talking to you, you picked-up some words. Then, as you learned mor of them, you started constructing sentences. If you made mistakes, they would tell you the right way. Maybe they bought you educational toys, maybe not. But this whole time, did you think once that you were learning a whole new language (because that is what you were doing) ? No. You were using it. You were using what became your mother tongue.
How you can start using your target language depends on the level you’re at, but it is never too early.
However, I know that taking the first step, no matter where you’re at can always be a bit tricky.
Now this article would be so long if I went into great details. The following tips are just very general ones that I will further explain in the next article.
If you have absolutely no knowledge, or if you know just a few words or sentences. Try listening to natives talking in your target language. Notice the sounds, the way they pronounce, repeat sounds that you hear. Maybe find a small text in your target language and try to read it witht he right pronunciation. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand. Then, paste it onto google translation and hit the speaker button to hear your mistakes. Repeat simple words. Do all of that until you are familiar with the melody of the language.
Listen to music in your target language. Read the lyrics, read the translations.
You would be surprised how much of a language you can learn through songs. It helped me a lot. I mean, a LOT. And with so many aspects. Until one day, I was sitting in class and I told an example to my japanese teacher. I had heard it from a song and he proceeded to tell me that this was beautifully constructed japanese. I was so proud because I had figured that on my own, with music.
If you know a bit of grammar and vocabulary already, try not to read the translations. Read the lyrics and see what you can understand of the story. Listen to songs WITHOUT reading the lyrics and try to catch as many things as possible. Nowadays, I still listen to songs I’ve known for years and have these « oh my god, I just got what he said » moments.
Don’t get discouraged : at the beginning (yes, even if you have good grades at school) you will feel like you don’t understand anything. This should never, NEVER, stop you from keeping at it. Because even if you feel like there is absolutely no use, you could not be further from the truth.
Even just passive listening will make a difference in the long run. And sooner than you expect it, what you find impossible now will be a real piece of cake (trust me, I’ve been there before). I remeber the day I first started watching movies in English I always had good grades in English, always. I chose a movie I had already seen coooountless times (one of the Harry Potter movies) and pressed play. I could not understand what they were saying even though I knew the story and what was being said. I thought I was stupid and that what we learn in school is absolutely useless.
Now, I watch movies, series, youtube videos, things I had never seen before directly in English and I have no problem with it. I wouldn’t be there if I had given up the very first time.
Stay tuned for much more detailed ways of using your target language according to the level you’re currently at, the article is coming next week.
(also coming soon : how I used english doing things I loved and improved DRASTICALLY and FAST)