Practicing Your New Language Tips

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Is every excercise fit for me?

Practice in your own style

One person will find it easier to learn by listening to a language, while another will have to see the written words. Be sure to have a lot of variation in ways to practice, types of exercises, ... Just remember learning has to stay fun. Why don't you try to learn your new language by playing word games?

How do I know my spelling is correct?

Let others read your writing.

I know, it's scary to let others read your work. But find some penpals that speak your new language. Send them letters, postcards,... . Reply to forums, chat on the net, write e-mails or even start a website in your new language. Let the world know you're learning a new language and correct your spelling when needed.

What do I read?

Read, read and read

Do not only practice speaking a new language, but learn to read the foreign language. You can start with children's book in your new language, move on to books for youth, to continue to books of your own interest or books you have already read. Read websites in your new language or even a newspaper. Another benefit of reading a lot in your new language, is that you will be able to speed up your writing ability in this foreign language too. Try out that new recipe, that you found in your new language. Grab every chance to practice!

Do I need to understand my language to be able to listen to it?

Enjoy hearing your new language

Even if you don't understand a lot of your new language yet, enjoy hearing it. Listen to it and her rhythm. Listen to songs, the radio. Try to grasp the meaning of the lyrics and check it on the internet to see how much you already understand. Take it one step at a time.

What if I make a mistake?

Don't be afraid to make mistakes

When learning a new language it is normal that you will make mistakes. Try to practice in a 'safe' environment, a place you feel safe and with people you are comfortable with. They won't laugh when you make mistakes and will help you by correcting you.


Learn the alphabet and phonetics

As soon as you have decided to learn a new language, you should adopt the alphabet and the sounds of the letters as soon as you can. Try to find someone who speaks the language to help you, or look for online courses that offer CDs you can order. Once you have audible material, go over each letter slowly, one by one, until you can discern each sound when you hear it. If the alphabet is similar to that of your mother language, it won't be difficult to recognize the subtle changes in phonetics. However, if it is a completely new alphabet, you must immerse yourself in the pronunciation, be willing to change the position of your mouth, the tone of your voice, and memorize each different letter or dipthong (a combination of letters commonly used to create a phonetic sound) until you feel comfortable with the new vocal sensations.

How can I practice my new language?

Talk to kids

Yes, talk to kids. It's a very efficient way to learning a new language: make a conversation with children who speak a foreign language. They won't mind if you make a mistake and they use a simple vocabulary with everyday words. When you learn all the words a child uses, you will be able to make a simple conversation in your newly learned language.

Can foreign films help me in my language study?

Foreign Films

Watching foreign films is not just a great way to get practice listening to your new language. They are also a wonderful window into the larger cultures you will encounter via your new language. Learning a new language is just part of the picture. If you not only know the language but can discuss what are considered the cinematic masterpieces of a particular country or culture, you are more likely to impress people “over there”. Today there are many, many opportunities for viewing foreign films. Most college campuses have some kind of foreign film program that is open to the public. Some larger metropolitan areas even have movie houses that show foreign films. Even subscriber movie services like Netflix offer hundreds of titles. If you need some advice in selecting a film, try Tom Wiener's "The Off-Hollywood Film Guide: The Definitive Guide to Independent and Foreign Films on Video and DVD".

Should I join a foreign conversation group?

Join a Conversation Group

Many larger metropolitan areas have significant ethnic populations. San Francisco's Chinatown is probably the best known, but many other cities and towns have smaller pockets of immigrants and the communities they fashioned after coming to America. Organizations from advocacy groups to social clubs can be found all over the U.S. Finding one might be a challenge, but often a call to the reference desk of your local public library will help you find what you need. You can also take matters into your own hands and place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a native speakers or speakers of your language with whom you could practice. Universities and college are a good place to find students from other countries who would not only enjoy a chance to help you master their language, they might also appreciate the opportunity to form some ties in a land far from home.

Can I practice my language on the Internet?

Foreign Language Online Discussion Boards

No native speakers of your language in your vicinity? No time to go looking for them? Check out foreign language Discussion Boards. These are places where you can practice your foreign language, but they are also intended specifically for language students, and so things are geared down to a learners pace. There is also more emphasis on culture, idioms, and other nuts-and-bolts aspects of learning a language. The Internet features a number of foreign language discussion boards, many of them are free and offer opportunities to “converse” in scores of different languages.

What is the advantage of corresponding with a foreign pen pal?

A foreign pen pal

Learning to write in a foreign language is a challenge, something many non-native speakers never really master. But exchanging letters with a foreign pen pal is a great way to practice and learn from a native. In exchange, you will receive letters from a foreign correspondent who wishes to improve their English. This is a kind of foreign exchange that helps all parties. Besides, having an acquaintance in a foreign land can be a useful thing to have in case you want to find out more about what is going on, and hear it from someone who is actually there. So where do you find foreign pen pals? Once again, the Internet comes to the rescue with lots of free services to help you find a letter buddy.

How can I make the most of my language study when I travel?

Learning on the Road

To make the most of a vacation abroad where you really get to use your language, you need to get off the beaten path. Go to the usual tourist sites and instead of getting to use your hard-won language skills you'll end up talking to other Americans about baseball. You can do that at home. Instead, you have to get outside that “tourist bubble” that includes most of the people in that country who speak English. You have to go a little bit native. This can be challenging, but the rewards for your efforts will be a richer experience, much cooler stories, perhaps a new friend or two, and an unvarnished look at how people live elsewhere.

Are ethnic restaurants a useful supplement to my language study?

Ethnic Restaurants

Some ways of interacting with a foreign culture are arguably more fun than others, and ethnic restaurants are definitely one of my personal favorites. You can enjoy trying a new cuisine even if you have no intention of ever visiting the country in question. But if you are learning a new language, you really should try to become familiar with the food and drink of the culture. It adds a dimension to your experience that brings depth and texture to your experience. Don't just go once, go several times. And make an effort to find truly authentic establishments. Ask around and find out where local speakers of your language go to enjoy their own cuisine.

Can listening to foreign music help my language study?

Foreign Music

You may have heard that American popular music can be found on radio stations and home CD collections in the farthest reaches of the globe, and it's true. The reach and impact of American popular culture is immense. But many countries have their own artists who commonly sing in their native language. The styles sound like American pop, often with an admixture of local styles, but the language is more and more likely to be the local one. These are a great way to learn the flow of language, and learning to pick out the lyrics of a song is great practice for your ear. The Internet is now a great source of information on the music scene in places where your new language is spoken.

I'd like to practice my language by watching movies but foreign films bore me. What else can I try?

Domestic Movies with a Foreign Twist

Although foreign films are a great way to get some listening comprehension practice and learn about a foreign culture, not everyone is into the foreign film scene. If you're bored by Bergman and confused by Kurosawa, here's a trick you can try. Most popular DVD movie titles have alternate dialog tracks that dub the movie in different languages. If you're learning Spanish or German of French chances are you can just turn on that sound track and enjoy old favorites in your new language. You won't learn as much culture that way, but you will ge some decent listening practice.

Can I start a foreign language conversation group?

Start a Conversation Group

If you decide to start a conversation group, use an ad in the paper, an internet bulletin board, a poster at the local library… whatever will get the word out. As you proceed, here are some things to keep in mind. First, keep the group small if you can. Too many and it becomes difficult for people to get in enough “talk time”. Second, try to have it at the same place. Someone's home will work, or perhaps you can find a room at a local club or church that you can use. Third, have something to eat and/or drink. One way to do this is to have the group meet at a local bar or other public establishment where food and drinks are served. Finally, remember to keep it fun. If it isn't fun, people will stop coming.

Should I look for ethnic festivals I can attend in my area?

Ethnic Festivals

If there are any sizable ethnic groups in your area, find out if they have any public celebrations. Practice speaking German at Oktoberfest, or Spanish on cinco de mayo. Some ethnic groups tend to base their activities around a particular church, such as a Greek or Russian Orthodox church. Festivals like these will give you a lot of opportunities to explore the flavor and texture of a culture, and best of all, it's an excellent way to find native speakers with whom you can practice. Consider that if they are participating in a festival that celebrates their ethnic heritage, they will probably be delighted to meet someone who is learning their language.

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William Pirraglia