Beginning to learn a language?

by Language Learner on October 1, 2011

When you first learn a new language, it’s good to learn the basics by listening and verbally repeating. Just listening and repeating- skip the reading / writing for now. It is true that this is a little more difficult at first.

Usually, if we learn a new word, we want to write it down so that we can memorize how exactly to pronounce it. And usually we like to write it down in a kind of “karaoke language” – meaning, the way it`s spoken, in a phonetic way.

While this is indeed helpful when it comes to memorizing vocabulary, it also manifests an accent right from the beginning. If you fine-tune your ears so much that you memorize words by listening, you will also memorize the way the language sounds, the tonal patterns and the subtle nuances that often make a foreign language difficult to learn.

Again – this is not the fastest way if you just want to pick up a few phrases to be understood. But if you want to be able to speak really good, and get to know a language on a deeper level, then it’s worth it.  And in the long run, this approach is much faster.

If you can, record yourself when you repeat a word or phrase, so that you can also listen to the way you say a sentence and the way a native speaker says it, and compare the two. Most of the time you will find that at the beginning, there are differences in the way you sound – and these are sometimes difficult to recognize when you speak, but if you listen to a recorded sentence that you spoke yourself, and then again to the same sentence spoken by a native speaker, this really helps.

An old Persian proverb goes like this: “Everything is difficult before it becomes easy.” And the same is true for beginning to learn a language. At first, it can be overwhelming, especially if you are learning a language that is very different to your own. If for example you are native English speaker, and you learn Spanish – that’s quiet easy compared to learning a language like Chinese or Thai, which are practically not related.

Think about the way kids learn a new language: they just listen and repeat the sounds they hear. And this way, they become naturally fluent.

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