Tag Archives: Language

The hardest step: Dare to speak in a foreign language

Here, I could tell you about my own experience. I have recently given classes, as a French teacher.

The classes took place in a restaurant owned by a French guy, in a very friendly atmosphere, and were followed by about 20 persons. One of the thing I have noticed during those classes is that the shyness was not the main reason preventing people (Americans) to talk in French.

Many people had facial expressions showing how few they were ease with speaking in front of people, but they did the effort.

Why? Because they knew that their French skills were better than others’ ones, therefore they had no problem to try to improve them, even with 20 people staring at them.

Oppositely, people with weak French skills were ashamed to try to speak, and to communicate in French, even if they were the ones who needed it the most.

You might be put in the same situation while having experiences abroad. Indeed, it is very hard to perfectly master a foreign language, only a very few people are able to do it, often after many and many years learning, reading and speaking it.

Not to try is the worst mistake you could possible make. It won’t change the status of the problem, it could even make the situation worst.

On the other hand, to dare to speak in a foreign language means to give you the opportunity to learn it through the most efficient way. In addition to the listening sills improvements, you will develop the ability to speak faster and to be more reactive.

To be able to fluently speak a foreign language means that you will give you the best opportunity to discover the local culture as well as possible.

Indeed, you won’t be ashamed to speak to a random person anymore, what implies that you won’t hesitate to ask any question you might have, and consequently, find the most appropriate answer to it, thanks to the most appropriate person to answer it.

As soon as you feel confident, what is in general traduced by the ability to be understood anytime, independently of what you’re saying, the foreign country in which you are doesn’t look like so… foreign anymore.

Because this is the final aim, to feel like at home, abroad.

Why study a foreign language?

What does ‘study a foreign language’ mean?

Nowadays, more and more people speak at least two languages; it is not an ephemeral trend but an essential way in our changing world. Everything (from people to information) is closer and closer connected thanks to Internet but also thanks to our ability to move and our ever growing desire of knowledge.

Studying a foreign language can be boring (especially in French schools). When you are young, you do not care about English, French, German, Spanish etc, you only know that you are waiting for the break whereas your teacher is trying to obtain from you a word in that incomprehensible language! When you grow up, you begin to understand why knowing a foreign language could be interesting: for egocentric people , it is a way to speak about themselves “I can speak English, Spanish, Chinese blablabla” ; for adventurers, it is a way to communicate with locals; etc.

Firstly, the main aim of studying a language is communication. Human beings love to communicate, to tell their stories and adventures, to slander, to share knowledge… Then language is closely linked to culture, so learning a foreign language also means learning about a foreign culture. And learning more about another culture will make you more open-minded, more able to critic, to compare, to understand people. In our current world there are at least 6,700 different languages with their own history. This means 6,700 ways to communicate but most of us do not speak these 6,700 languages and lot of people speak only one language. In accordance to that knowing only one language seems to make you narrow-minded.

Ten reasons to learn a foreign language

1. To increase your understanding
According to Federico Fellini, an Italian film director, “A different language is a different vision of life.” And he is right! Learning a foreign language will open your mind to another culture. Maybe you will not search to learn more about this other culture but no matter it will increase your memory capacities.

2. To improve career chances
Did you know that around 52% of Europeans can speak two languages fluently whereas only 9% of Americans can? It means that Americans can only work with countries or people speaking their language but also their adaptability in other countries is limited: how can they understand other people if they cannot speak their language and therefore their culture. To know foreign languages does not mean only that you can help your company to trade but also that you are clever or open-minded.

3. To increase native language ability
”Those who know nothing of foreign languages, knows nothing of their own.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said. How could you say your language is the most beautiful if you cannot compare it with others? Moreover learn a foreign grammar will make you more awake about the one of your own language.

4. To sharpen cognitive and life skills
Richard Riley, a former US Secretary could say that “We have strong evidence today that studying a foreign language has a ripple effect, helping to improve student performance in other subjects.” To know different languages improves and encourages critical reflection, you have two words with a same meaning, it makes you aware of the outside world. It forces you to open your mind.

5. To improve chances to get into college or university
Nowadays it is almost unthinkable to speak only one language; if you want to study you need to know at least two languages. Moreover, the more languages you know more it shows your willingness  to communicate, your intellectual capacities for example.

6. To appreciate international literature, music, and film
Movies, books, music everything can be translated. But, unfortunately, when you read poetry, a translation will not give you the exactly feeling, the jokes in the pronunciation etc. Can you understand the sarcastic tone of Oscar Wilde in German as good as in English? I do not think so. How much gets lost in translation? Even in movies, translations are often bad and when you are watching a movie in English with subtitles in your language it is easy to note the differences of meaning.

7. To make travel more feasible and enjoyable
When you go to another country it is not only to visit but also to discover the peoples culture. To know their language will make you able to talk with them and so to know and understand  this foreign culture better. And if you are lost (especially in the countryside) it is better to know the native’s language or at least have the basics down.

8. To expand study abroad options
Obvious reason, you might think. But do you know that in Germany, in France, in Italy etc more and more universities offer classes in English and so people could think that with English they can go everywhere. I agree for universities but not for the daily life.

9. To increase understanding of yourself and your own culture
Knowing another language and another culture gives you the opportunity of having an outside perspective about you and your culture. It will make you multicultural and give you a new view, a new way to see yourself.

10. To make lifelong friends
“The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.” Henry Boye said. Wa all like to have ‘foreign’ friends, we learn so much from them. But how could you have them if you cannot speak with them.

Thus, studying a foreign language it is not only learning about others or giving you more opportunities for your future but also learning about you.

How to learn a language in just weeks

How to learn a language in just weeks

When you want to study abroad, you need to learn the language, otherwise you will miss out on the best part! Here are are 6 tips that will help you to learn the basics of a foreign language within just a couple of weeks!

1. Free Podcasts

Search for free language podcasts and listen to them where ever you go, in the car, bus, while you exercise, do dishes and in bed before you are going to sleep. You don’t have to memorize it, just get used to the pronunciation and try to remember the words without any pressure.

2. Connect with native speakers

languagePut up an ad on craigslist or find people in your network that are native speakers of the language that you want to learn. Invite them for a cup of coffee once a week and ask them to talk to you in the foreign language. Depending on your knowlege of the language, you can answer in your native language or try to throw in the words that you already know in the foreign language.

3. KISS - Keep it simple, stupid

Try not to focus too much on grammar, rules, pronunciation and exceptions. Yeah, thats right – no grammer!!! Always remember, when a foreigner comes up to you and asks you something like: Where find toilet I? You will still understand what he or she means, right? After you have a basic grasp of the foreign language, you can start concentrating on those issues, but it is more important that people will understand the basic meaning of what you are saying than perfect grammar use, don’t you agree?

4. Important words

Make a list of 150 very important words and expressions that are essential for everyday communication. Look them up in a dictonary and study them, so you know them by heart! Believe it or not, 150 words will get you further than you imagine.

Examples are:

language1- Where is…
- Can you repeat that, please?
- Thank you
- Please
- Can you speak slower?
- Can you help me, please?
- I want to go…
- How much is this?
- hungry/thirsty
- buy
- go

Write them on flash cards and put them into categories, such as: Which expressions can I use on the road, at home, in class, with friends, etc. If a word fits into several categories, write them down several times and put them into each category. You can also write these words on Post-its and put them up all over your room. I always put some in the kitchen and bathroom over the sink and read them, while I was doing dishes or brushing my teeth.

5. Watch movies with subtitles

Watch movies in the language that you want to learn and read the subtitles. Try to understand as much as you can and get used to the language. After you have seen the movie a couple of times and know the story, try it without subtitles.

study-language6. Read books/stories in the foreign language

Buy a book that you already know very well in the language you want to learn and read it. Try to read it slow and understand as much as you can. If you don’t understand some of the words, try to guess their meaning from context and only look it up, if it comes up several times and you still don’t know what it means. Add this word to your study list!

The most important thing about learning a language is that you are committed and try to get as much exposure to this language as possible. It definetly does NOT mean to burry yourself in front of your desk and study vocab and grammer for weeks and weeks. Speak the language whenever possible and try not to be afraid of mistakes. The person you are speaking to will appreciate you effort and will think highly of you!

I hope these 6 tips will help you to learn a foreign language in an interesting, interactive and practical way. You will not learn stupid expressions from textbooks that you will never need, but words that you will use every single day while you study abroad and connect with local people there.


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