Learning a new language is a tough endeavor. It takes time, consistent practice, and often a complete willingness to embarrass yourself. While language learning is always a challenge, the internet has given us a toolkit to make the process less frustrating and more enjoyable. The following services and practices will make your language learning process more effective and, combined with your hard work, will help you master a new language in less time.
Work on Articulatory Phonetics for Proper Pronunciation When Learning a New Language
This may sound really high-tech and complicated but it is simple once you get to understand what it means. There are some big terms that accompany articulatory phonetics, such as airstream process, phonation process, and oro-nasal process, but overall the term is meant to describe the use of mouth positions in word pronunciation.
Let’s get into the three terms a bit deeper:
- The airstream process refers to the source of air in the sound making process.
- The phonation process is how vocal cords behave during sound production (i.e., how they work to produce the sounds that form words).
- The oro-nasal process refers to the modification of air flow in the vocal track.
By studying and practicing these techniques as they relate to the language you are trying to learn, muscle memory will begin to take hold.
This will help the language seem more natural to speak.
I recommend watching videos of native speakers and observing the way their mouths move to pronounce the words. Try to replicate what they’re doing. Also, observe your instructor and anyone that you interact with while learning or speaking the language. Pay close attention to their breathing and pronunciation.
Immerse Yourself in Real World Situations, Even if Only Digitally
If mastering, or at least becoming conversational, in the language of a country prior to visiting is important, immersive online language lessons are the best way to go. They offer more than just instruction – you’ll converse with the teacher and practice real-world scenarios for grammar usage, pronunciation, and comprehension.
Live Lingua offers Skype lessons and a free resource section divided into resources for US Peace Corps volunteers, diplomats, and law enforcement officers working abroad. In addition to Skype language lessons, the Live Lingua Project is the brainchild of co-founders Ray and Laura Blakney. It offers free downloadable audio and ebook language learning tools in over 130 languages.
The Live Lingua Project offers direct links to the resources for each language. Their tools are a collection of public domain works from a variety of sources. Simply click on the language you are wanting to learn and browse the available options.
More specifically, the Live Lingua Project is broken down into three main categories:
- Peace Corps Language archive – the biggest collection of resources, offering tools for over 100 languages including many obscure languages such as Ibatan and Kwanyama.
- FSI Language Courses – A collection of tools created by the U.S. State Department for international diplomats.
- DLI Language Courses – Tools built for military and law enforcement personnel working in international situations.
The Live Lingua Project is perhaps the web’s most complete collection of free language resources, compiled by a top language school. Before signing up for any language lessons, check out this incredible resource.
DuoLingo turns the art of language learning into an interactive game. Their popular mobile and desktop apps take learners through lessons and quizzes based on ability level. Performance is graded and analyzed, with feedback tied to specific needs and progress happening at the pace of the leaner. Twenty-three languages are offered.
Users set a goal and time commitment. The program then provides daily lessons that help the learner progress into a basic conversation and then more in-depth language knowledge. Already know a bit of a language but want to master it? Take placement tests and jump to exactly where you need to be.
Busuu just might be the quickest way to get to a conversational point in a new language. Their mobile apps operate without an internet connection, allowing users to practice wherever they are without draining data. Lessons in 12 languages are available. Their service is very social, very interactive, and always engaging.
Basics including vocabulary, grammar, and simple sentences and questions are taught in an interactive and fun manner. Busuu uses fill-in-the-blank drills along with questions and quizzes. But perhaps the coolest thing about their service is the ability to have writing exercises reviewed by fluent speakers of the language.
This is an incredible way to receive actual feedback beyond an app marking an answer as right or wrong. A premium option is available for those willing to pay.
Memorize.com allows users to tailor their language learning process to be specific to what they need or want to learn. Users have the ability to create their own lessons and share them with others. Learning happens as the pages are integrated into the website’s system of instructors and professionals.
The goal is to help learners memorize the information by making it as useful as possible to their specific situation. The instructors and professionals provide the learning material. Students create pages to help them learn and memorize the information. The system is unlike anything else available – a truly valuable resource for interactive language learning.
All four of these resources are valuable on their own, but I always suggest trying them all to find the best one for your situation and learning style. Even if you plan to take lessons eventually, these resources are a great start for foundational language learning.
Learn to Recognize Cognates in the New Language You are Studying
Simply put, cognates are words similar to words you already know. For us English speakers, that typically means the English borrowed or adapted the word from another language. This is especially true in regards to romance languages because they are a ‘friend’ of the English language.
Cognates are great for boosting confidence. They’ll help you realize how many words you already know in the language you’re working on, which in turn helps you feel more comfortable putting together sentences in the language.
Another way to find cognate words is to identify roots within the word. Words with a Latin root will, in many cases, have the same or a similar root in different languages. Reading articles and books in your new language makes this painfully obvious if you take the time to notice.
Hopefully, these tools can help you get a jumpstart when learning a new language. The best way to practice is often by immersing yourself in the culture. Don’t forget to use your travel rewards credit card to help you earn points/miles and make the most out of your travels.