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Tricks for Mastering a Foreign Language


learning languageMost people would agree that one of the most visible elements of culture is language.  Language barriers can be a major hurdle for expats taking on new assignments and for companies working with overseas partners and customers.  In either of these situations, mastery of a common language is often the first thing people notice.  For expats, learning a new language quickly can ease transition stress and help the family foster connections.  In business, language mastery can help develop critical relationships, ensure expectations are met, and ultimately affect whether or not projects are successful. 

In a recent article by the BBC, experienced expats provide many tips on how to learn a language in a relatively short amount of time. While expecting to master a language in two months is unrealistic, necessary language skills can be attained in just weeks, allowing new learners to have social conversations at work or order things at the market. The keys to picking up a language quickly are confidence and practice. Benny Lewis, an engineer, has mastered seven languages, from Spanish to Mandarin. His secret is compiling “a script of sorts for himself so that he can respond to simple queries from strangers.” Basic conversations are crucial in the first steps of learning a language. Realize that when first learning a language most people will often sound like a caveman and say things like “me want go dinner.” This is completely okay. When native speakers hear this, they will often be patient with you and try to communicate back or correct what you have said. Confidence is a significant component to successfully learning a new language. Having the courage to speak to someone and say even small sentences will improve your level of communication. The more confidence you have, the more you will practice, and the better you will become!

A second, and equally important, tip is to immerse yourself in the language. Everything from watching a favorite movie in another language to listening to the radio can help you pick up vocabulary or speed in your sentences. Even before you leave for your new destination, there are ways of immersing yourself such as through Meet-Up groups that practice language (almost every major city has one). Italki.com and lang-8.com are other social ways of working on your language skills. One school in Vermont has taken language immersion to another level. Middlebury College has a fantastic language program in which students are required to take an extra-curricular activity in the language they are studying.

Another tip that Lewis suggests is learning the language and vocabulary first and then the grammar. Lewis recommends “using podcasts at sites such as radiolingua.com or languagepod101.com as particularly useful in picking up grammar and dissecting the language.” Capture

For more on the article visit http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20150302-secrets-to-learning-a-language