نوع مطلب :مطالب مفید درسی و مقالات ،
Tips and Tricks for Learning a Foreign Language (part three)
5. Confusing related languages:
If you speak several languages from the same family, like for example romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, rumantsch, Catalan, Sard etc...) or Germanic languages(German, English, Danish, etc...), then you have probably faced the problem of mixing words, expressions or syntax. This, of course, is the other side of the coin, as these languages are so closely related that once you master one correctly, learning the others is a matter of months. Passive understanding comes especially fast, as most words are "transparent". But what about speaking right?
I too face this problem, being a native speaker of French and a secondary speaker of Spanish of Italian, and I wrote this page to share my thoughts and ways to cope with this problem. Actually, if some reader has any remarks or experiences to share on this, I'd be as open as a Baptist church on Sunday morning to hear whatever you have to say.
My method to cope with this is inspired from the way Pimsleur deals with closely similar words. When I encounter two words in two different languages that I tend to substitute for one another (like saying Questo coche me gusta in Spanish or Esta macchina mi piace in Italian), first I isolate the pair of conflicting words and then I repeat them side by side to contrast them and make the differences appear. In my example that would be :
· Este coche / Questa macchina
· Este coche / Questa macchina
and so on until you've got it. It's not bad to write it down, either. This usually works fine, but as I said, I'd be glad to learn your way of doing it.
6. Making Vocabulary Lists in your Mother Tongue
The French languages has more than 200'000 different words, in English there are more than 400'000. Even as one's own mother tongue, who can pretend to know them all ?
Beginning at age 15, I did something that may be useful for some of you, so here it is :
Realising that I did not understand some words in novels or "technical" books I read, I began writing every word I did not understand in a little piece of paper I used as a bookmark. Then, on a little computer I wrote the words and looked them up in the dictionary, writing on the second column their definition. I ended with about 700 words and stopped when no new unknown word showed up for months. Did I know every (non scientific) word in French then? Maybe.
Anyway, I think that any cultivated person who likes to understand what he reads should look the unknown words in the dictionary and why not, make a list. The list has no other virtue than helping you remember the words and motivating you to amass as many new words as possible as a kind of treasury. Of course, for new languages that would also be a fine thing to do, but if you speak more than one, a time consuming one as well.
My tips if you do this are :
1. Always have a piece of paper and a pen when you read
2. If you suspect a word to have different meanings in different contexts, also write the context.
3. If you don't find the word in the dictionary, just put it aside. When you find an exhaustive dictionary (like the Littré in French or the Webster's in English), look them up.
4. Keep your list updated and be proud when you write a new word in it : it will motivate you to look for new words
5. If no new word appears for weeks, no matter how difficult are the texts that you read, congratulations! You probably know more then 90% of the words that are currently used in your language. Give yourself a break and move to the next language.
7. Using the Internet to Listen to Radios in your Target Language
Using Real Audio, a little program you can download free from the internet, you can listen to hundreds of local an international radio stations from all over the world. Whenever you are online, you can switch your Real Audio Player on and let the language slip into your ears, a very good passive understanding training you can have for free.
How you can do it too
The first thing is to get the Real Audio applet (little program that can be called from your browser). The last time I checked, it was still free but you had to look hard into their site to find the free version. If you don't want to download it, you can still buy an internet magazine that comes with a CD and it should be there too. Clicking on the logo above should bring you to the right page for downloading.
Finding the right radio for you
Then, all you have is finding an online radio station that fits you. Some things you might look for in your pet stations include:
Of course you want to listen in your target language, so that's the most important thing.
Type of radio
Some are local radios (the most outlandish but some get boring quickly), others are national radios, more interesting because you get the feel of the country, there are many sending where people talk and the language will be more intelligible. There are also international radios, that is, radio stations that broadcast overseas in many languages for traveling nationals and people like us. These radios are usually the most convenient for language learning, with almost 100% talk in a very clear language, and topics of interest to foreigners.
You need a radio station that you can receive well, without interruptions. Some have powerful connections to the internet and you'll never experiment problems, but others are terrible. Experience is your best guide.
You should pay your first visit to the big international radio stations that broadcast in many languages. There are easy to use and broadcast probably in the language you are studying. As I'm mainly interested in Spanish and Russian speaking stations, there's a bias in my list, but If I were you I would look at least at the first three in my list :
The best online radio resources:
Deutsche Welle The German international radio broadcasts in 35 languages, with many interesting sending. More than 1400 people work there, they even have programs in Sanskrit ! They also have an excellent connection.
BBC World Service Excellent internet arm of the broadcasting giant, 8 languages, good connection. This is a place for mainstream languages but you have a wide choice and the sending are usually interesting.
The Voice of Russia Very good for Russian, with twice daily news where you can listen to Russian politicians like nowhere else. Also in Spanish and German. Good connection.
Radio Canada International Good, with programs in Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Chinese, and of course, French and English.
List of Spanish speaking radios What it says. The best one on the internet, it is updated frequently. If you're learning Spanish, this is the place to begin.
The Voice of America Quite "American" but a good place to find reliable samples of Arabic, Mandarin, Cantons, Czech, Vietnamese, Urdu, and many other languages in Real Audio.
Radio Free Europe For a long time the
8. Using the Internet to read Foreign Newspapers in your Target Language for free
You can read so many newspapers in so many languages on the internet that, once you get the trick, your main problem gets information overload. Here I list some of the best starting point:
Most complete list of newspapers from all over the world that maintain a website. Search by country and media type. Often offline, keep trying.
You can buy an electronic version of most newspapers published in Russia (PDF) and even place ads.
9. How to get Native Speakers Help you Improve your Target Language
If you are lucky enough to meet people who speak your target language regularly, be it on a trip or because you live in a multi-ethnic city, then you can probably have them help you to learn much more about your language. The basis is in the right attitude, and the exercise is very pleasurable. I've used it over and over in 4 languages and in many countries and it works really well, and is rewarding at the same time. Here's my advice:
When you meet people who are native speakers of your target language, at home or abroad :
1. Speak to people and smile and be open minded about having them correct your pronunciation or grammar. Show that you are genuinely happy that they correct you.
2. Master perfectly ( I mean nuances and prononunciation) the few phrases that make most of small talk : greetings, presentation of self, how and why you learn their language, where you come from, etc.... Click here for a list of the minimum phrases you should master perfectly.
3. Talk to people gently, looking them in the eyes and
listening to what they say. If they are a bit rude or expeditive, you have
maybe a chance to make them helpful for the rest of your days. Here's how: Once
I was in a little bakery shop in
4. If someone answers you in English or in another
language when you spoke in your target language in the first place, DON'T go on
in the target language as if nothing happened. The other person is making
efforts to be helpful by talking to you in English, or just want to show off
its skills (very common in some countries like
5. When you hear a word you don't understand, wait for the speaker to finish his phrase and then raise your hand with a smile and say Excuse me Sir but I did not understand the word XXX ? What does it mean? Would you write it down for me? , preferably in your target language, and give him a blank flash card. Of course a beginner cannot do that because people would not have enough time to teach him everything. But still they will almost always be willing to help for a few words.
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