One of the many hobbies I indulge in is learning foreign language. As a native speaker of Bahasa Indonesia, I’ve been learning English and Mandarin since 7 years old and have been using both of them in my daily life ever since. I’ve learned French, Japanese and Korean in my University years. Now, I have varying degree of proficiency for these languages and have visited the countries that speak them (except for Korea).
Language learning is a life-long learning experience. Feeling that I should continue brushing up all the foreign languages I’ve learned to a new level, I decided to make a summary of the Do’s and Don’ts when learning a foreign language.
1) Get the basic right –> attend a proper language class. Work on all grammar and pronunciation aspects from the very beginning. Increase your vocabulary bank steadily as you learn the language and know how to look for new words and its meanings. Nowadays, everything is made easy with online translator, but there’s a limit to how accurate the translator is. So we still need to know the basics.
2) Practice listening –> my method: watching movies or dramas or listening to songs (take note of the lyrics) in the language that you’re learning as much as possible. When attending a class, just listen carefully to what and how the teacher speaks it. I recently watched this Korean drama, You From Another Star. Very entertaining and hilarious. Highly recommended. One of my favorites so far. Other than that, I used to watch many Japanese (still with English subtitles) and Taiwanese drama (with Mandarin subtitle) and of course all the English movies or TV series without any subtitle.
3) Start small with the aim to visit the country and if possible, start learning foreign languages as early as possible (when you’re still 5 or 6 y.o.) –> the brain will absorb more when language learning starts from a very young age. It’s easier to acquire near-native pronunciation too.
4) Participate in language exchange with native speakers, practice speaking –> here. I’ve done some exchanges in Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese before. Just meet fellow foreign language learners from this website.
5) Teach the language –> teaching is also a form of learning. When you’re an advanced learner of the language, you’ll know how to dissect and analyze the language because that’s what you’re used to do. So when it comes to teaching it, you can help your students on the basic knowledge. For the pronunciation, you’ll need to encourage them to listen more to native speakers to get the tone right. Of course, if you’ve used your 2nd language for most of your life, lived in the country where it’s spoken and have developed a neutral accent and the right tone, you can always be the role model for your students.
1) Give up -> persevere, persevere, persevere. Be patient. Don’t expect yourself to master the language in 1 year or more. The best way to master a language is to be exposed to it day in and day out, by living in the country where it’s spoken. But not all of us can move to the target language country as soon as we develop an interest in its language and culture. So we have to learn it for the sake of the future possibility or just out of pure interest (for fun) in our own native country. I learned English and Mandarin when I’m still back at home in Indonesia. The perseverance paid off. I’m using them daily now. French and Japanese, I’ve used them when I traveled there. Korean, I’ve yet to use it real-time, it was still basic Korean with words that I pickup from watching dramas.
2) Be too hard on yourself –> go slowly and try not to learn more than 2 languages at the same time. You’ll get confused when trying to switch language and doing review.
3) Be afraid to make mistakes –> always practice out loud in the classroom. Make mistakes. Talk to your teacher. Talk to strangers while you’re traveling in the target language country.
4) Focus too much on direct translation –> at one point of time, once you’ve passed the beginner level of one foreign language, it’s important to start THINKING in that language, rather than just translating them words by words from your native language. I know it’s easier said than done. But if we make a conscious effort to stop translating in our head, we’ll be more fluent eventually.
5) Stop learning – your language ability will boost your confidence. You’ll become more open-minded and culturally sensitive. Ultimately, you’ll be a better person and who knows how far your language ability can take you.
So folks, I fell in love with languages when I was 7 years old. I’m still in love right now.
How about you? How many languages do you know? Have you learned any foreign language recently?
*Here’s my previous juvenile post on how I fell in love with foreign languages.