Learning New Languages

So I can speak 2 languages fluently (English, Vietnamese) and a handful of others languages that aren’t quite fluent yet. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about it lately and so here’s just my 2 cents on learning languages. Personally, growing up bilingual, I’ve had an advantage to picking up things I guess. My dad spoke Russian fluently (he lost it after time though) and studied it for some time so as a youngling I knew a word here or there. 

I really love languages. I think the first step to learning a new language is understanding why you want to learn it. I love language because communication is such a basic human skill. To form a bunch of sounds to meanings and communicate? It’s so cool! To unite the world in peace, I also think there needs to be a huge level of understanding. Speaking the same language usually makes that much easier and personable.

Another thing is invest yourself in the culture. Learn about the cuisine, traditions, holidays, rules, mannerisms, all of it. It’s super important to know about a country’s culture when learning about their language because they just go hand in hand.

Example: In Korean there’s levels of formality. To say hello formally, an elder, stranger, teacher, acquaintance, etc, you would say “안녕하세요” or “annyeonhasaeyo”. (You could even go more formal and say “안녕하십니까” or “annyeong hasimnikkha” but I haven’t heard that used often.) To say hello informally, to a younger sibling, close friend, or junior, you would say “안녕” or “annyeong”. You’d need to understand Korean customs, society, and mannerisms to know the different between “formal” and “informal” as it can be really tricky.

So how do you pick up languages? Well I suggest taking a class in school. If you don’t go to school or just want to pick it up on your own, there’s a lot of online courses you can do or private tutors you can hire and have “Skype lessons” with. I’ve found Skype lessons and podcasts are great if you can’t find a teacher in your area. Start listening to the music of the culture, watch tv with subtitles in that language, try reading children’s stories, talk with someone in that language. It’s totally okay if you aren’t fluent and stutter a ton because the more you speak, the easier it will get!

Example: I’ve been learning Spanish in school for about 5-6 years now (middle school counts right?) and I still stutter a TON. I’ve taken to listening to Spanish artists like Jesse y Joy, Melendi, Reik, and Shakira. I’ve also been watching Spanish Youtubers/Vloggers with English subtitles and what not. Just completely immerse yourself. Listen to Spanish music while you’re doing homework or working out. Listen to Podcasts (all over Youtube) while trying to learn the language and write down the dialogue. Go back and see if you got it right and see if you can translate it. As you go through the day, translate common phrases in your head into Spanish. So as I’m brushing my teeth, I’ll think about how “Cepillarse los dientes” means “to brush your teeth” and I’ll try to conjugate it too. Me cepillo los dientes, tu cepillas los dientes, se cepilla los dientes…..(I usually fail at conjugating tbh.).

So that’s how I learn languages. It’s so so so helpful having a handful of Spanish-speaking friends to ask for help and try to (keyword here is try to) speak with. Are there any tips and tricks you guys have?

-PN

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