My Tips and Tricks to Learn a New Language

May 11, 2018

  Children in a classroom from the back looking at the teacher standing in front of a white boardBeing a new student in English, I think it’s a great idea to ask about what brings us together – that is to say, the experience of learning a new language. I am actually a language teacher myself. For the past eight years I have been teaching French in different countries including France, South Africa and finally the Netherlands. As a result, I am always very curious about the way we memorize words as well as how we dare to interact in a foreign language. In the past I have learnt Spanish and English. I have also taken introduction classes in Arabic, Lingala (which is spoken in Congo) and Zulu. When I moved to the Netherlands I took a few Dutch classes as well.

1- Observe and listen carefully

The first tip I would give is to observe and listen carefully. I often picture myself in the role of an investigator when learning a language. Any opportunity is good to listen to people, observing the typical gestures they use and listening to the words they repeat. I remember when learning Zulu that I kept on hearing the word “sebenza” which means “to work”. Once I understood what it meant I kept on using it as much as I could.

2- Watch advertisements

The second tip would be to watch and analyse advertisements. They are based on short, catchy sentences. I find them quite easy to memorise, given that they consist of associating a good design with a relevant picture to serve the purpose of the message.

3- Ask people

When it comes to speaking, if I am at a party or attending a social event, I take great pleasure in meeting someone who is keen to share a bit about his or her mother tongue. It is great to have the chance to ask such a person about words and typical phrases. It is even better when they agree to correct me if I need it.

4- Writing new words

As for building up my vocabulary, I enjoy writing new words down. While doing so, I try to build as many connections as I can. Being quite a visual person, I do find mind mapping very useful. As a result, I draw a lot of small maps, writing down the verb in the centre of it and linking nouns, adjectives and so on.

Two young friends whispering secrets to each other in winter5- Speak!

What’s exciting about finally speaking a language is that you get to measure your own progress effectively. It’s a bit like finally going on stage after spending hours rehearsing. It might work, or might not. There is always a bit of excitement associated with it. You have to react, be quick and always be ready! At this point, any strategy can help – this is when tricks come into action!

6- Find help from other languages

If I don’t remember a word I rephrase my idea, use clear examples or even mimic things. I must confess that I sometimes make it up. I use French or Spanish to find my inspiration and try to create new words … It might sound like a lucky strike, but I found out that complex adverbs and concepts can be quite transparent in English.

7- Speak fast!

The last trick I will reveal is, for me, the funniest. When I am not too sure of a sentence and don’t want to get caught red-handed, I pronounce my sentence quickly enough so that the person I am speaking with won’t notice. When it works, it is wonderful! When it doesn’t, I am left with someone with a puzzled expression on their face and the right to try it again. To conclude, I would say that it is one of the most enjoyable adventures I have ever experienced. One cannot get bored while learning a language. There is always an undiscovered area to reach. As language is the mirror of society, the final tip I would give is to remain curious and always open-minded.

Aurelie Reynier, Kickstart Student