Guest post by Dr. Michael Pasquale: How to learn a language.

Sep 23, 2016 8:03:00 AM / by Dr. Michael Pasquale

Special guest post from Michael Pasquale, Ph.D professor of linguistics at Cornerstone University.  Read in his words: why learning a new language can seem like a daunting task, but you can be successful if you follow a few simple ideas. 

First, we need to reframe what it means to be successful in another language.  We often like to compare ourselves with those we most often see, that is, native speakers of the language.  However, let’s not focus on ‘native-like’ proficiency and instead recognize the idea of fluency in conversations.  Consider a language as a checkerboard and each square representing a particular linguistic context, such as greetings, describing self, ordering food at a restaurant, etc.  

 

checkerboard.png

We often think of language learning as mastering the entire checkerboard.  However, even native speakers of a language are not proficient in every single box the same way.  Some are able to talk about topics like civil law, biology, or philosophy better than others.  If we focus on fluency at the conversational level, and not on native-speaker mastery, we can meet short-term, realistic goals as language learners.  You can learn to communicate and grow within each box, for example, how to greet someone appropriately in the language.  Fluency in this case would mean being able to speak and respond in a culturally appropriate manner without having to stop and look up such phrases.  Success in the small things will lead to confidence and success in more and more linguistic contexts.

Second, language learning must be interactive. Language learning needs to be an active, not passive activity.  Even if you are learning the language by yourself, there are techniques that you can follow to help you gain fluency and confidence in the language.  Speak out loud and imagine yourself participating in a dialogue (speaking both parts if necessary).  Picture the scene in your mind and write in a journal possible words and phrases related to that scene.  Make it as real as possible.  The best practice, of course, is to practice with another speaker or engaging with the language in real-life.

Finally, language learning should be fun!  Be creative and think of entertaining ways to use the language.  This can mean singing songs, watching videos, or playing games.  Don’t be afraid to laugh at your inevitable mistakes.  Consider them to be learning opportunities.  

Successful language learning is done through interactive communication in conversational situations in a way that is interesting and fun.   Mango Languages is a great tool to learn a language in this way: through conversations, interaction, and fun.  

Try Mango

Topics: Language Learning and Culture

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