It can be tedious to learn a language. There will always be a certain amount of rote memorization required. However, there are also many little techniques for more easily learning a language. Labeling things around the house in the language you want to learn comes to mind. Listening to tapes while in the car is another. Then there is a technique I used to learn Spanish.
How I Quickly Learned Spanish
I studied Spanish books for six weeks before going to Ecuador. I didn’t speak a word of the language during this time – a big mistake. Still, I was able to converse with the locals in the hostel in Quito the day after I arrived. Within a few days I was discussing philosophy, politics and more with Ana, who is now my wife.
How did I learn a language so quickly? I didn’t really. I had a very limited vocabulary when I arrived in Ecuador, and a very limited vocabulary when I left. However, I could use what little Spanish I knew to express myself. This I credit to a habit that fortunately is also a great technique for learning a language.
I have conversations in my head. I think of what I am about to say, and have always played out future discussions in my imagination. I found myself doing this in Spanish too. The result was that I learned how to speak the language quickly, and say a lot with few words.
Learn To Think In A Language
People imagine that they have to be fluent to think in a language. This just isn’t true. You can choose to think “I am walking to the store,” so there is no reason you can’t think “Yo estoy caminando a la tienda,” as soon as you know those six words. If you don’t know the word “caminar” (to walk), but you know how to say “Yo voy a la tienda,” (I go to the store) you can think that. Alternately, you can look up a word or two as you get “stuck.”
One reason this is a great way to learn a language is that it helps you remember the words. Repetition works, and saying the words, even if only in your mind, works better than reading or hearing them. When you make a point of translating your thoughts into your new language, you are always practicing.
It is more than just good practice, though. Putting your thoughts into your new language forces you to learn not just words and rules, but also specific ways to express what you want to say. We all talk about different things and have different interests, right? A doctor might want to know how to say “where does it hurt?” while I may want to ask where the mountains are. Often, you learn what others think you should know. This helps, but your thoughts are uniquely yours, and when you think in your new language, you are learning exactly what YOU need to learn.
Speaking a language is perhaps the best way to learn it, and thinking it is just speaking it in your mind. You’ll learn your most important words, expressions and sentences quickly if you are thinking them continually. Another tip: Carry a language dictionary with you to use whenever your thoughts stop flowing. This is a powerful way to learn a language and start speaking it quickly.
Steve Gillman has been working on his Spanish with his wife Ana Blum, a native of Ecuador. Together they have built a website where you can get free lessons in Spanish. Visit: http://www.TheSpanishLesson.com
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