Thursday, December 9, 2010

Language Learning (Part Two)


In part 1, I talked about language fluency as a product of incorporating the new language in your life, not just learning the language mechanics and application of grammatical concepts.  
Now, in the second part of the series, we will look at the first of many practical tips and suggestions every language learner should embrace--not just because I say so--but because they are tried and true. They are also the concepts behind all language learning programs out there.

Immerse yourself in the Language.


You want to learn English?
Then read English. Listen to English. 
Speak English, and above all, write English. 
The rest of this post will tell give you a list of No-No’s, what to steer clear from when trying out this language immersion approach.
    Do NOT read Junk.
When I advise you to read for language acquisition purposes, I will urge you to only read material written by native speakers--or writers at a near-native level. Refrain from reading awkwardly composed fiction or non-fiction written by someone who is merely translating their thoughts from their mother tongue into English. As a rule of thumb, you should stick with material published by renowned publishing houses.


Do not zpeak Inglish Wiz Your Cousins (unless your cousins are cool Americans or funky Brits).
This one has always baffled me. People ‘practicing’ a language by speaking to their immediate family members or friends who are no better than them. The sight of mamas in malls instructing their kids to “bleaze go get ze rice” makes me cringe. Why don’t you just tell the poor kid to fetch you a bag of rice in Arabic? Do you really think this enlightening conversation will turn the kids into a Hemmingway?


Do Not Bother Reading something that bores you.
You should choose a topic that genuinely interests you. Don’t just pick up any generic language learning book and start reading it. These usually are workbooks. It’s true that they have ‘comprehension’ passages, but that is not what I want you to use for reading material. Choose a topic you’re passionate about: a hobby, a certain genre of fiction you like, or even politics. Your interest in the topic will make it more likely that you continue reading, and you will find out that you retain better the sentence structure and syntax. You will begin to ‘echo’ your favorite writers unconsciously as you begin to absorb how to build sentences and use words precisely where they belong.


Read Thoroughly.
Read thoroughly and read well. Don’t skim over the material. Highlight sentences which strike you as pretty. Underline words that are new to you. And, oh, by the way, the dictionary IS your best friend. You have to look up words as they cross your path. If you find yourself not reaching for the dictionary at all during your reading session then maybe the material you’ve chosen is too easy for you. Get out of your comfort zone and look for more challenge! 

If you are looking for specific reading suggestions, email me with your general interests and I’ll give you a few examples of reliable material you can use.  

Next time we will talk about the listening and speaking components of the language immersion program.
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