Some people believe there’s a special gene needed to learn and know several foreign languages. The truth is, knowing 5-8 languages is not a gift, but comes from years of hard work and practice. If you’re a student of foreign languages, here are 4 must-follow rules for you to succeed:
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Strategies for Learning Languages
1. Learn right words in a right way
To learn a new language means learning new words, many new words actually. Some people think they have a bad memory, and they give up learning foreign languages as a result. But the trick is simple here—you don’t have to know ALL words of a language to speak it. You don’t know all words of your mother tongue, do you? But you speak it fluently anyway! For example, 65 percent of written English materials include 300 words only; these words are used very often, and the same scheme works for all other languages as well. Just find these frequently used words on every topic, and learn them to speak a foreign language better.
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2. Learn cognates
Cognates are words from your mother tongue that have the same meaning in a foreign language you learn. For example, some Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian and others) have many cognates with English: action, nation, solution, tradition, communication, and hundreds of other English words with the “-tion” ending sound the same in French, for example. Change “-tion” for “-ción” and you’ll have the words with the same meaning in Spanish. The ending “-zione” works for Italian, and “-ção” – for Portuguese. Many languages have words with the same roots that sound different a bit. There are lots of websites devoted to cognates where you can understand the nature of this linguistics phenomenon better. Check Cognates.org to see the most common matches in 5 languages; if you are interested in a list of cognates of any particular language, you can visit these resources:
- Quizlet – for Italian cognates;
- Spanish Cognates – for Spanish cognates;
- French.Love to Know – for French cognates;
- Learn-Portuguese-Now – for Portuguese cognates;
- Wiktionary – for German cognates.
3. You are not obliged to travel
One more reason why people shy away from learning foreign languages is their inability to visit countries where people speak these languages. Believe us, there is nothing in the air of other countries which would make you speak the language out of a clear sky. Sometimes people have been living abroad for years, but they do not learn the language of the country they live in. If you need to dive into the foreign language, you can do it through the Internet. To listen to talks in foreign languages, you can use Tunein.com with more than 100 000 radio stations from all over the world; to watch videos, check YouTube Trends Dashboard; to read texts, use news services of different countries (CNN Español, France24, Deutsche Welle and others).
4. Enhance your vocabulary using mnemonics
Mechanical repetitions are not enough to learn languages. Besides, there are some words in every language that can’t be remembered, no matter how often you repeat them. Mnemonics is used for such “stubborn” words: you come up with some short and funny story about a word, and you remember it with the help of associations. You can come up with such stories alone or use special resources, such as Memrise for example. Users create different stories here, and you can use them or come up with your own.
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More useful resources where you can learn languages online:
- Grammairefrancaise.net — a very good website with lots of information and exercises to check your progress. Everything is in French.
- Bbc.co.uk — a video course from the BBC. All explanations are in English.
- Laits.utexas.edu/fi — videos, audios, grammar and phonetics exercises to improve your French.
- Ikonet.com/fr — an interactive resource where you’ll find exercises, tests, dictionaries, video, and audio lessons.
- Polyglotclub.com — here you’ll find French people who speak English and can help you practice your language skills.
- Auberge.int.univ-lille3.fr — a website that helps you practice spoken French and listening comprehension. This resource will be interesting for those students who plan to study in France. Grammar exercises can also be found here.
- Lingus.tv — a video collection for all levels of understanding. There are also texts and Spanish-English translations of video dialogues.
- Recursosdidacticos.es — a collection of voiced texts that are divided by genres (plays, stories, poems, etc.). You can start with mas leidos (most read) or mas valorados (top rated) texts.
- Spanishgrammarguide.com — an easy-to-understand textbook of Spanish language. You do not have to download or buy anything. This resource will be perfect for those students who can read Spanish and know some basic terms, such as “a noun” and “an adjective,”already.
- Dirae.es — a very interesting dictionary that provides an article with all meanings for every Spanish word.
- Cvc.cervantes.es — texts from Instituto Cervantes, divided into 3 levels. Grammar and lexical explanations are included.
- Webs.racocatala.cat — a very interesting website where you’ll find grammar, vocabulary, exercises, dictations, tests, games, proverbs, songs, and videos in Italian.
- Dizionario.rai.it — a dictionary of spelling and pronunciation.
- Book2.de — a very good vocabulary of 100 different topics. Two variants are available: with and without translation. There are also many other languages besides Italian.
- Facebook.com/impariamoitaliano — a collection of useful materials, links, and exercises. The community is updated regularly .
- Oneworlditaliano.com — links, texts, exercises, news… A student learning Italian will find much useful information here.
- Nej.wz.cz —”the most” facts in Czech. For example, the Czech longest word is “nejneobhospodorovávatelnější”.
- Kurz Češtiny — video lessons for beginners.
- Czechprimer.org — learning Czech in pictures. No ads.
- Czechclass101.com — audio and video lessons of the Czech language for beginners. Transcriptions and test tasks are also available here.
- Travlang.com — a website in English with detailed thematic sections.
- German.about.com — grammar, exercises, and training for developing listening skills andcorrect pronunciation.
If your goal is to know several foreign languages, you can start learning them all at once; but it would be better to focus on one of them first. Start learning another language only after you’ve achieved a basic level in the previous one. To speak a foreign language, one should practice it and improve their skills constantly. Once you’ve learned how to speak a foreign language fluently, these skills will stay with you for a long time!
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Do you have any great resources to add to this list?