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  • Writer's pictureMark Abere

How to teach yourself another language


One of my favorite hobbies is learning a language. The beautiful thing about learning a language is that… you’re never done. Like most hobbies, you can only keep getting better.

My interest in Spanish developed in an aberrant manner. From a young age, I was always intrigued in languages and its semantics. It's crazy how much of one’s identity is held in a language.

Oddly enough, in my household I am not the only one who loves languages. Everyone in my household holds at least two languages under their belt. My brother, the language guru, (who I will post video links on later) has found a way to master Spanish, naturally knows English, and is now learning French. My sister also has learned Spanish and is trudging her way through the top to become fluent. My mother knows three languages, all from Nigeria. My father, is also bilingual (very typical for immigrants). My family continually shows me the importance of language acquisition, and encourages me on a daily basis.

As a future healthcare provider, I have seen the importance of effective communication firsthand. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to do mission work in the Dominican Republic and Honduras and have volunteered a great deal here at local dental clinics in Alabama. All of my experiences in the clinical setting have shown me the importance of being able to communicate with your patients. In Alabama (and a lot of other places in the United states) there is a huge population of Hispanic patients that cannot speak English. Yes, it is very easy to pick up the blue phone and request a translator. However, there’s an organic element maintained when the patient feels that they can confide in you without a third party. Of course this is not always possible; however, it’s something that propels me daily to master Spanish.

I can go on and on about the importance of language acquisition but I’d rather help you guys out a little and share some resources that have really helped me. I hope to post a video later by the end of the week just to have something to track my progress.

I’m still a beginner, waiting to cross into that intermediate level, but here are a few tips that’ll help you master any language:

 

1. Purpose

When choosing a language to learn, you have to have an purpose. Why am I learning this language? How will it benefit me? Do I plan to ever travel to this area and use the language? Are there people I can practice with? (the answer to this for most Romanian languages is yes, but this will be discussed later). Once you’ve realized the purpose for something, it instantly becomes important to you, making it difficult for you to quit. Remaining steadfast and consistent is just as important as practicing your accent or acquiring vocabulary. Practice makes perfect.

 

2. DuoLingo

I bless God for this app. (baha) Dramatic I know, but its an app that is very very useful. The good thing about this app is that if you cannot speak outloud for the speaking portions due to your location, you can hit a button and you’ll be given other exercises to do. This app is also delicious because it starts of with the basics. I mean the very basics. I’m talking man = hombre. If you want to skip all of that, you can take a placement test and they’ll put you where you are supposed to be. You can’t use this app, solely, and expect to be fluent. No. It’s a great reinforcer and does a great job of introducing you to a language.

 

3. Reading is essential.

If you want to get good at a language, you have to read. This is what separates the babies from the adults in the long-run when it comes to language acquisition. You can start off with childrens’ books and move your way up. For Spanish, I’ve found that this website is awesome for short reads

If you are in a time crunch, open up a short article and learn some thing! After short articles, you can move up to short novels and then longer ones, etc.

 

4. PRACTICE!!!!

I’ve learned that I cannot be shy to practice. And that means with natives, with people that are learning, with teachers, random bystanders… anyone. Your friends may look at you weird and say things to you (stop showing off, omg stop being annoying) blah blah, but it has to be done. The best language speakers tend to be those that are not afraid to embarrass themselves or make mistakes. To master a language, you have to crave excellence. These are tips that I’ve gotten from my brother as well. Virtually anyone that is fluent in a language will tell you that this is one of the most important aspects.

 

5. Grammar

Probably one of the most annoying things about language is learning grammar. I mean think about it; learning grammar in your own native language was annoying! (at least for me it was). Couple the frustration of learning direct objects, indirect objects, with the untested waters of a new language and you have extreme frustration. However, there are some sites that make it easy for you. One of them is www.speakspanish.com.

This site has quizzes and quick blurbs about the different aspects of grammar. Its very good and has helped me grasp a few confusing concepts. I still use it. (still a beginner)

 

6. News, Movies, Series, podcasts

All these are great ways of increasing your comprehension. Language acquisition can be broken down in to two aspects: input, and output. By watching movies and other things on tv in the language you wish to attain, you increase your ability to understand what’s being said to you. With Spanish, what makes it difficult are the various accents. Some regions speak Spanish extremely fast, while some cut out various parts of the language that may make it seem unintelligible. Watching TV sharpens your knack for recognizing these things.

If you don’t have time to watch TV, there are podcasts! You can play these in the car or even when you’re walking. There are many types of podcasts for various languages. I know for a fact that there are so many that Apple has available that it can be discouraging trying to choose. Not to fear! The one that I’m currently using can be found at www.spanishobsessed.com with a lot more resources. The cool thing about Spanish obsessed is that they transcribe everything; so if you’re like me and like to have things written out, you can easily access them for FREE! They have resources for all levels. They have resources for beginners who have never heard Spanish before, beginners who want to relearn, intermediate and even expert. The list goes on.

 

7. Hello Talk

The cool thing about the world today is that everything is literally at your finger-tips. If you are looking for someone to speak to and practice with, with the right apps, the person is waiting for you talk to them. There are so many people that want to learn English and are willing to help you with Spanish in exchange for assistance.

I stumbled on hello Talk (a free app for iphone ), and have met plenty of people that are nice and only want to practice speaking with you. Of course, if you are weary, you can set your settings to only female, or male. The good thing about this app is that it has means of correcting mistakes you make. It also includes instant translations for words you don’t know or phrases you aren’t sure about. It’s an all around a great way to practice all the things you’ve learned (output)

In all, language takes a lot of practice and hard work, but with the right system, you’ll gain a lot of ground in no time. As I find other things that work for me I’ll continue posting them for you guys to enjoy. As I said, I’ll post an introductory video very soon. (Constructive) Comments are always appreciated.

Questions, comments concerns? Contact me!

-TGI

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