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The Most Effective Exercise I Ever Used to Learn A Language

By Edited Jun 9, 2014 2 2

Once you have learned the basics of grammar and conversation and are trying to move into a more sophisticated level of the language it can be difficult to find materials that will help you continue to progress. However, if your goal is any degree of mastery you don't want to abandon your lessons at this point, so you need to find some different strategies.

If you are living in a foreign country and can afford it, it is good to continue to meet with a tutor on a regular basis and work through some of the vocabulary you need for general conversation and business, such as politics, literature, science or whatever hobby interests you. If you are living in your own country, this method is doubly useful because it keeps you actively learning.

Your first goal is to speak fluently enough to deal with everyday situations in an idiomatic way, but beyond that you probably want to learn to communicate with people about ideas. Many people give up their language study once they can function, but that is a mistake unless you have no interest in going beyond that. If you are meeting with a tutor weekly, however, you run the risk of going over the same topics and vocabulary repeatedly, and this becomes dull quite quickly.

To avoid this dullness and create a structured program of development my tutor and I started translating simple sentences from my son's First Grade Reader. Since I was not yet thinking in my target language I was forming sentences in English mentally and translating them anyway, and this technique allowed me to focus on finding the appropriate vocabulary and idiom, rather than things to talk about, and it also guaranteed that we were exploring a range of subjects. As well as translating the material, we also developed the habit of discussing the topic afterward and that further expanded my grasp of the vocabulary and idiom.

At the beginning, it was very helpful that my tutor spoke some English as we painfully worked through the First Grade Reader and moved onwards. These readers had a wide range of simple sentences, and I had many opportunities to form sentences along similar patterns while slowly increasing my vocabulary and the range of tenses in which I was confident. By the time we reached the Fifth Grade Reader I had a wide range of useful vocabulary, grammatical skill, conversational power and correct pronunciation.

Our next step was to move into 'Readers' Digest' and 'The Economist' which were a source of sophisticated grammar, and more complex idioms as well as varied vocabulary. By this time, I was having no difficulty conversing with professionals and officials on a variety of subjects outside my own specialty without sounding like a barbarian or an ignoramus, and I credit this to the steady practice that I had and the wide variety of material which we had worked though together.

At the outset, my sentences were very anglicized, but I gradually began to think in the local idiom, and by the time I was translating and discussing articles from 'Readers' Digest' and 'The Economist' I had developed the habit of thinking in my target language and my words sounded quite natural.

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Comments

Feb 10, 2011 9:46am
Lynsuz
Good article. ^5
Mar 26, 2012 1:20am
aksem62
it's not easy work to study language.
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