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How to effectively learn another language

By Edited May 20, 2014 4 9

So you're looking to learn another language! This is the place to start!

People looking to learn a second often hope to find a short-cut to becoming fluent. The fact of the matter is that learning and become fluent in a second (or third) language takes effort and consistency. Fortunately for all you language lovers out there, there is a beautiful resource that not many people know about. It's free and it is what YOU need to start mastering languages. You've probably heard that the best way to learn a language is to be in the country surrounded by native speakers. While that is true to a point, there is a joy that comes from also understanding why the language works the way it does.

http://fsi-language-courses.org/ is the home for language courses that were developed by the Foreign Service Institute. As the website states, they were developed by the United States Government and they are in the public domain. At this website you can learn everything from Amharic to Yoruba.

To give you a basic idea of how you'll be learning the language, I'll give you my example of when I started to learn French.

On the left side of the website I found the language I desired to learn, which in this case was French.

Under French, you find various options such as:

Introduction to French Phonology, French Basic, Le Monde Francophone, Testing Kit - French and Spanish and French Fast Courses.

I chose French Basic.  On the next page, you are given a couple of tools to help you study. First and foremost, the Student Text. This is usually a .pdf that you can open or download, and it is your best friend! It has all that you need from grammar explanation to practice dialogue.  Below the Student Text link are links to the tapes for each unit. That's right, this was done so long ago that they used tapes, but we are fortunate to have great people in the world that have taken the time to convert those tapes to mp3s. These you can also download. These tapes are equally essential to your learning of a second language.

So with the Student Text open and your headphones on, you're ready to go! The thing I loved MOST about this is how it just throws you right in. In the first unit of this specific course it gives you several phrases, and gives you time to repeat it back. Right after that it takes you to a dialogue between three people. You listen to the dialogue and then you get a chance to say the lines for one of the characters. You take turns saying the lines for each character in the full pace of the dialogue. This was totally intimidating to me, but after trying it I realized how genius it really is.  

In the text to the right of the phrases of the conversation are the translations and below each phrase are the words in the phrase broken down to their separate translations. It's beautifully set up and goes at a great pace. In this specific course that I started, Each unit (there were 24 in total) consists of dialogue and then a few grammar points. Again, all of this was developed by professionals.

I got really excited about this, but feared that I wouldn't be able to dedicate as much time as I would like. Like most of you, the most I could often muster in a day was 15 to 20 minutes, but I'm sticking with it and it just keeps getting better!

This is my example trying French. I know that this works because I have seen the results come for me and they came fast. With just 15 minutes a day of this you'll start seeing results fast. They start off subtle, but the more effort you put in, the more you start to realize how much you are really learning.

One last thing I recommend in addition to this is getting something you can listen to in your car or at the gym. For example, you could get a recording of Harry Potter in the language you want to learn and listen to it for a bit each day. After practicing with the text and tapes, you'll start to realize that you're recognizing some of the words being said. Then after some more time, you'll be recognizing entire phrases! This is where it gets really exciting!

Again, I know that this works. I urge everyone to do this, as learning another language increases the amount of  people you can influence and help. I wish you the best of luck in your efforts, and I know that they will be well rewarded!



Nov 18, 2011 2:00pm
Nice article, keep them coming.
Nov 18, 2011 2:39pm
Once you learn a second language, it is easier to learn more. This was definitely true for me and computer programming languages. It also helped me with Spanish. I learned some French in school and found Spanish to be fairly easy.
Nov 18, 2011 3:00pm
Great article! It is true that if you learn a second language then the next ones will be very easy to learn.
Nov 18, 2011 5:30pm
A way to learn quick is to go somewhere where there is no choice but to learn the language.
Nov 18, 2011 5:39pm
This is so true. It makes me sad when I see some people that are around where I live and are just shy and afraid to make mistakes, so even though they are in another country they never really experience the joy of learning another language.
I appreciate the comments!
Nov 18, 2011 9:50pm
Nice article! This is a great resource.I will use it when I practice my languages.
Nov 20, 2011 4:42pm
Great help for those wanting to learn another language.
Nov 22, 2011 9:03pm
Another tip I have on learning a language is by the use of associative memory. This, I believe, is used by rosetta stone software. They have images that match certain phrases. This creates a neurological network that makes it easier to link terms with images. Nice Article!
Nov 23, 2011 6:11pm
Yeah! That one is also a matter of just doing it consistently. It's like how I know people that have learned English just from video games and watching movies. You just gotta stick with it!
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