I’m making a turn here in my posts. For the past year, I’ve written language learning tips, advice, and all kinds of ways to help you learn a language and improve on the skills you already have. Now I’m going to put my own advice to work and learn a language along with you so I can show you how I learn a language from scratch.
What Language Did I Choose?
First of all, choosing a language takes some thought. Some questions I usually consider are: Why am I learning yet another language? What language will I need? Are there resources available for the language chosen? Will I have the time to set aside for the lessons?
I’ve learned and studied quite a few languages over the years, so I decided the language I want to learn now has to be something I’ve seen, but never learned. A language that is not related to another language I am familiar with (not in the Romance family or Germanic family, etc.). I went to the Transparent Language Online website and looked at the list of languages they offer. And based on the criteria I need, Hindi was the winner.
Hindi is actually a major world language. It’s one of the top ten most spoken languages in the world, and it’s not related to any of the languages I know.
Before I Begin
There’s a situation I’ve seen many times: Someone learning a language goes to the bookstore, looks through the plethora of language books and courses, and proceeds to buy what they feel is needed – a book or two, an audio CD course, and a dictionary…maybe a phrasebook for good measure. Upon getting home, they dive right into it hoping to make sense of what’s before them.
In my experience, that’s a source of discouragement and, for many students, failure. So I learned early in my career that a language is not a thing that causes burden, but someone who wants to be courted and loved. Really? How can you do that? Glad you asked.
When I meet a woman, I don’t just dive right into a relationship and expect it to be serious right from the start. I want to get to know her first. Who is she? What does she like (or not like)? What are her interests, experiences, etc.? I want to be sure I like her enough to meet with her again.
In the same way, before I sit down and start learning a language, I want to know something about the language and let it convince me that I made the right choice in wanting to learn it. This is something every student should do before going out and buying anything.
First step, I go online to find and download a couple of e-books or e-magazines that are published in the language I’m learning. Then I’ll look for and download some audio files or bookmark a streaming radio website so I can listen to the broadcasts anytime I need. If I find some interesting articles, I’ll print them out.
Since I’m going to be using Transparent Language’s software, I went to “List Central” and downloaded some vocabulary lists for my Byki software so I can practice the words. (You can download the free Byki Express software at www.byki.com and get more lists at the List Central tab).
Now that I have these, I start with first listening to the audio files I downloaded. Why? I want to hear the sounds of the language first of all. What sounds are just like English and which ones are not? I also want to hear the rhythm of the sentences, how the words flow into each other, and what emotions are expressed in them. I will think about these things for any and all audio files I listen to or download now and in the future. This process helps me get used to hearing the sound of Hindi and get my ears attuned to the sounds that are not found in English. I’ll also see if I can somehow imitate the sounds.
Yes, that means actually trying to sound out aloud what I’m hearing. This step will help a lot when I get to the speaking part of the lessons.
Personally, I like to keep the audio going on a loop over and over in the background while I’m looking at other things. I won’t have the volume up so loud that it disturbs my concentration. Just low enough to still be able to hear it in the background. Why do this? The brain will keep listening to the sounds and it will sort them out as time goes on, which actually helps make the lessons on pronunciation and speaking less intimidating. Plus, it would be like there’s a conversation going on around you as in a real world situation.
While this audio is looping, I’ll look at the e-magazines and newspapers I downloaded or printed and look carefully at the text. How is it written? What do they use for punctuation? I also notice that some letters look similar to others so I’ll have to keep an eye out for these small, subtle changes.
I will be doing this for a day or two until I feel more at ease with how the language looks and sounds.
These are usually the first steps in my language learning journey. After a couple of days…maybe three from the way the Hindi script looks – I’m going to use the Byki software to go through the vocabulary lists and see what I can learn from that. I’ll be posting the results in the next article.
In the meantime, here’s a recap of what I do before I actually start learning a new language. Take note of these tips and use them when you begin learning a language:
- Go online – download or print a couple of e-books or web pages in the language you’re going to learn.
- Download any audio files or bookmark a couple of websites that broadcast streaming radio online in the language you’re learning.
- Download Transparent Language’s Byki Express software and visit List Central to download more lists for quick and easy vocabulary building
- Listen to the audio often to get used to the sounds of the language – try to repeat what you hear.
- Look at the e-books you’ve downloaded and examine the language’s script and structure.
- If there’s a non-Latin based alphabet, look at how the script is used in writing. Take note of any similar looking characters and see what makes them different from each other.
- Practice with your Byki Express software often until you’re comfortably able to move on.
As you go along, feel free to use any ideas or methods, anything you find useful that helps you with your lessons. I may be including some downloadable learning materials with some posts to share with you so you can implement them in your own lessons.