Targeted Development of Language Skills
Welcome, aspiring polyglot!
Thank you for reading Second Language Strategies. This post is public so feel free to share it with anyone you know who is learning another language.
Often the greatest barrier is the barrier to entry, lacking in a place to start. While this will not be a comprehensive step by step guide, it will be a free resource to those who are working towards acquiring that second, third, or fourth language.
Benefits of learning a foreign language
Many people know there are benefits to learning a second language, but few know specifically what those benefits are. To mention just a few of these benefits, bilinguals often benefit from increased neuroplasticity, cognitive control, cognitive reserve, and memory, especially as they age.
If that isn’t reason enough to begin the journey, perhaps the prospect of unlocking entire sections of the world may be. Irrespective of why, here is how:
Picking a language
This is basic, but it is also where most people get hung up and why they, eventually, give up. Picking a language to learn to speak can be likened to picking a language to learn for programming. The best way to choose which coding language to learn is to pick a project or something to create, understand which language will facilitate that creation, then practice, and mess up, until the mistakes stop appearing.
Coincidentally, this is also the best way to choose which foreign language to acquire. Pick a project, a country, a culture, understand which language facilitates integration into that culture, country, or project, and then practice, and mess up, until the mistakes stop happening.
Pick a deadline. Without a deadline progress is likely to be inconsistent, without consistency progress will halt entirely. Short term goals, vocabulary goals, writing ability, reading comprehension, these metrics are relatively easy to track; and they enable consistency as proof of concept is step one in building the confidence necessary to acquire a second, third, fourth, or fifth language.
Facilitate an immersion environment for second language acquisition
Immersion is by far one of the most effective ways to learn a language, but it is often impossible for many. See what the research says, here. With this in mind, how might an immersion environment be achieved without actually living in an area that would make it possible?
This is probably the most important aspect of teaching a new language and most language teachers never quite get it going. Here are some ways to get foreign languages up and around so that they will be inevitable in your day to day life.
Step 1: Place sticky notes around the house. Learn a new word every day and the other strategies listed will all become more valuable.
Learn to see key words and know what they mean and the correct usage, then add verbs and adjectives that compliment those words. “Sit” in the “chair”, “open” the “door”, etc.
Step 2: Listen to music in the target language. We will post recommendations weekly. These things will ideally help you with vocabulary words and grammar rules, but more importantly they should enhance your listening comprehension. Irrespective of learning style, the best way to approach a new language is by spending time immersed in it.
Step 3: Read and write. This may sound obvious, or boring, but reading and writing are not only beneficial for language expansion in a mother tongue, they are beneficial for advancing in a target language. Writing is a perfect strategy to help develop a better understanding of the target language. Putting an emphasis on this at the beginning will make speaking easier down the line.
Without introducing outside stimulus it is easy to get stuck in old ways. The average English speaker uses 800-1000 unique words per day, but there are ~100,000 words in the English language. Though the 800-1000 unique words being used is standard across just about every language, this is precisely why reading is so important.
Authors tend to use a thesaurus as they write, this gives the reader an opportunity to expand their vocabulary and escape the rigidity, and frustration, of fluctuating between the same words day in and day out. Combine reading with writing sentences out using the new words and progress will come.
Step 4: Speak. This is likely the most important piece of the equation. It is also the most difficult to facilitate. Unfortunately, the course I developed doesn't have much opportunity for speaking, but we are working to remedy that. In the meantime, for language learners who are working towards fluency, it is vital to find opportunities for speaking and listening from the beginning. Many teachers wait until their students feel comfortable speaking in the classroom and then wonder why no students ever end up talking.
Meeting people learning the same language or native speakers is a great option. However, it is not particularly an easy task. Duolingo is another option, they actually have a rather useful tool for practicing speaking and it is a free resource. A last resort that will always work is practicing in the mirror. It may seem goofy, but it works.
There are many strategies in second language acquisition to be considered, but there is no comprehensive guide, no tips or tricks to carry anyone across the finish line. Second language acquisition requires time, effort, and consistency. That said, it is something that anyone of any age is more than capable of accomplishing. For the reader, I will be here to help with that journey.
Disclaimer: I am not a teacher and have no professional educational experience. I am a polyglot with 2 C2s, 1 C1, and 2 B2s. Nothing here is guaranteed and all outcomes will be the result of the effort put forth by the individual.