Bonjour! Parlez-vous français? Ouais, moi aussi! J’aime les chatons, aimez-vous les chatons?
I could probably keep going for three more minutes talking about cats or the weather before scrambling for my pocket dictionary. I’ve been taking French for around a year and a half, starting in my sophomore year of college. My university, like most, requires three semesters of a foreign language.
Upon starting college, I decided to drop Spanish(which I had been taking for around three years) and move onto French(one I had no experience in) after my parents moved to a French-speaking country. I figured it would help me out with chatting up those cuties over seas, oui? Little did I know, c’est très difficile (it’s very difficult)!!
So, whenever I go visit my 10-year-old sister who has been living in a French-speaking country for three years, I’m always shocked that she is basically fluent. The trick is, she is fully immersed. I’m not. I’m in America where for one hour, three days a week I am in a french class. That means I’m being taught a language way differently than how I learned my first one! I didn’t this of that language as homework, nor did I have a dictionary to read from. I had to use it to survive!
I know way more grammar than my sister, but does that really make someone good at speaking a language? No! I needed to find ways to fake immersion so I could really grasp the language. I needed to find out how to make the language a necessity. How can you do that? Well, move to a different country is an option, not not everyone can do that! So here are some tips and tricks to help you fake living in a different country so you can learn the language of your dreams more from your home town.
Seriously, sing in French, Spanish, Italian—whatever your language of choice is. My process is to listen to the song a few times and then look up the lyrics in its original language. If I don’t know some of the words, I look them up in a translation dictionary or research the English translation of the song. After that, start memorizing! I usually pick a nice pop song with a beat and a super simple chorus, so while I’m boppin’ around in my car or dorm, I’m also learning. An awesome perk of this is Spotify has amazing playlists for songs in foreign languages! They actually even have audio lessons for languages, but anyone can search and find awesome music that they like in a different language. Let me tell you, French grunge in on point.
Duolingo, Mindsnacks, Memrise, (How to) Pronounce. There are tons of fun learning apps. It can be hard to sit down and force yourself to look at a foreign language vocab list, but how easy is it to play on your phone. These apps are super cool, and most of them are free! Duolingo helps you move along at your own pace. With every activity it offers help in case you don’t know the vocabulary. Mindsnacks creates fun games that help with spelling, vocab, and sentence structure. Sometimes I keep practicing because I just want to level up! Memrise is perfect for visual learners. This app has little doodles to help you remember the language you’re trying to learn. Maybe you struggle with pronunciation, the app for you is (How to)Pronounce. This application is super simple, it just helps you pronounce the words you’re struggling with!
Yes, talking to people in a foreign language is going to be very helpful. You have to overcome speaking anxiety, so talking with friends should be comfortable. You could get together with other people in your class, or maybe there is a transfer student to befriend on campus. If you really don’t have access to someone near by, use HelloTalk Learning Exchange. There you can be a student and a teacher, help someone learn English while you polish off your Russian.
There are tons of ways to help your mind think in whatever language you’re hoping to learn. Try looking up hard vocabulary words in a dictionary of the same language. You can choose to put your Facebook in a different language, or even put some games in a different language. Don’t be afraid to sound a little silly! Learning a new language is hard, but also super fun. If you have other ways that help you learn, leave a comment and let us know!
You can find my published article here on Thelala