5 Sneaky Ways to Learn a New Language

April 9th, 2012 by The JetSetter Team | Comments Off on 5 Sneaky Ways to Learn a New Language

Perhaps the most difficult part of becoming an expatriate is learning to speak the language of your new country. The general rule of thumb is that the best time to learn a new language is early in life. Past the age of, say, six, it becomes exponentially harder to wrap our gray matter around non-native words. As an aside, parents should do their kids the ultimate favor of teaching them at least a couple of languages early on. With the continuing onrush of our global culture, they’ll probably thank you for it later.

While we can’t ignore the fact that middle-aged diplomats and missionaries regularly teach themselves to speak a foreign tongue in a short period of time, usually under the tutelage of rote memorization and repetition, maybe there’s a better – read easier – way to acclimate ourselves to speaking in a different language, a method more suited to brains no longer running on youthful plasticity. Actually, there are several ways to go about sneakily learning to speak a different tongue. Here are five we noticed in a recent post at MonkeysAndMountains.com.

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1. Scrabble – Bet you never thought of this one. Try combining a traditional language course with a regular schedule of Scrabble playing. Yep, this tried and true board game is available in many languages, and might be one of the best tools around for building vocabulary. It should also help with recognizing letter patterns and better spelling skills. If you happen to be playing with native speakers of your new country, you might need to bring along a dictionary and consider modifying the rules, unless you like getting your lunch handed to you. A better scenario would be to cue up the Scrabble board with competitors at the same approximate skill level.

2. Cooking – What do most of us like to do? Well, there is that, but we were thinking of eating. Food! Glorious food. A big part of life is eating. Most of us do it on a regular basis, and what better way to immerse yourself in your new country’s culture and sample the cuisine at the same time than reading cookbooks? If your local bookstore doesn’t offer a

selection of cookbooks published in the language you’re looking for, head online, where you literally can find almost anything. Look for simple recipes with pictures, because you want to give yourself at least a snowball’s chance in you-know-where of being able to eat and enjoy your creation.

3. Television Subtitles – Subtitles are a great language learning tool, one that you probably won’t need for long but are an excellent way to get started. Watching television while simply listening to the audio in your new language is liable to be frustrating because you miss so many words it’s difficult to follow the storyline. However, with most modern television sets, it’s a simple matter to turn on the subtitle feature. Your comprehension factor should skyrocket and remove some of the barriers to listening to foreign language broadcasts from the get-to.

4. Read about celebrities – Yep, believe it or not, vacuous but unfailingly titillating celebrity magazines are not limited to the American culture. We don’t normally suggest expatriates in the midst of a foreign language submit themselves to the mind-destroying effect of this type of journalistic trash, but in this case, we have a good reason. Think about it. Magazines like People or Us are written at an elementary level, probably around fourth or fifth grade, which is perfect when you’re struggling to learn a new language. Don’t forget that college language courses require you to become a proficient reader in your new language first, so have at it and get some lowbrow entertainment at the same time. Many of the magazines you recognize on your local news stand print foreign editions as well.

5. Trivia – Who doesn’t love a good game of trivia, especially when it’s presented in the foreign language you’re in the process of learning? As with our other suggestions, unless you’re a proficient speaker looking to polish your skills, aim for a child’s version which might be more suitable to your current level of understanding. Not only will you get practice in building new vocabulary and reading skills, you’ll likely learn something about your intended country at the same time.

The real point with these five suggestions is to give yourself a break from the structured routine of a language course and spend some time with fun, different activities. Our brain tends to become resistant to learning when the approach never changes, so mix it up, play some games, and learn that language faster than you ever thought possible.

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