For many people, the idea of learning a foreign language is both exciting and intimidating, especially if the thought brings back memories of learning a second language in middle school or high school.
The truth is that learning a foreign language is a lot easier than most people expect particularly if you follow these tips which I have discovered after a lifetime of helping other people learn everything from Japanese and Arabic to German and French.
1. Make mistakes. The way to learn a new language is by making errors. That’s right; your success will come from repeatedly failing. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and you will learn more than you ever dreamed possible.
2. Look for words your native tongue has in common with the new language you want to learn. For example, the word for American is Americano in Spanish, Américain in French and Americano in Italian and Portuguese. Interesting is interesante in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese and interessant in French. The words for chocolate and café also fit this pattern. Recognizing words that are familiar to you will help you build your new vocabulary faster.
3. Take chances. When you attempt to speak a foreign language you run the risk of not being understood but this is a risk worth taking. After all, it is better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly! And when you visit another country you will find that the native speakers will appreciate your attempts to communicate in their language–even if you make a mistake or two.
4. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Practice makes perfect. Like any new skill you want to hone the more time you spend cultivating it the quicker the skill becomes part of you. Use your time commuting to work or relaxing at home to work on new material or reinforce the old.
I wish you every success as you master the language of your choice and begin enjoying the many benefits of being multilingual in today’s increasingly global world.
Mark Frobose, founder of Language Dynamics Inc., is a well-known keynote speaker fluent in four languages. He has recorded and published more than 50 foreign language works, including the Amazon.com bestsellers Behind the Wheel Spanish and Conversational Spanish in Nothing Flat.