Second language strategies to use the tools that may trip up other language learners
Welcome, aspiring polyglot! Whenever you are trying to learn a new language you are going to see words that sound identical. Fortunately there are ways to use these pitfalls to your advantage. Irrespective of your learning style, collecting little victories early and often is vital for successful second language acquisition. Homophones and homonyms are going to be difficult to manage, but when you approach them with the right mindset they are powerful tools.
Before you understand the correct usage of the new words you are learning, you are likely going to mix some things up. That is nothing to be ashamed of and you should not be deterred by the minor errors you make. The difference between a good language learner and a great language learner is the ability to continue on through mistakes. Self evaluation is important, but skills are honed through repetition and constant progressive overload. Whether you are writing or speaking, mistakes are your friend. Even if those mistakes are so correct that they are basically the same word.
Using homophones to learn new words
Homophones are words that sound the same, but have different meanings. Think of read and red, lead and led, bear and bare, ate and eight, and many more. There are many ways to take advantage of homophones when you are learning foreign languages and the first is to ensure you learn both words. Chances are you will use the word again, especially if it came up in a conversation where you were thinking of what to say yourself.
Taking the time to write down both new words and their definitions will help you avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. Aside from learning a new word you will learn a new way to spell things. Pay attention to the way the letters interact with each other and ask yourself how the words sound the same even though they are spelled differently.
Every time you learn a new way to spell something you have the opportunity to increase you understanding of how the alphabet of your target language operates. The alphabet is probably one of the most important things to understand when you are learning a foreign language. Having a strong foundation and understanding of how letters interact can make your listening comprehension all the more effective. Knowing how to spell the words you hear is rather helpful as you can remember words and look them up later if you are afraid of asking someone what the meaning is. More importantly, though, you can follow any curiosity you have.
As always, it is vital to maintain a healthy curiosity. If you can follow your own questions you will find yourself spending hours diving into subjects in your target language language. The fastest way to learn a new language is by using it. Being curious and asking questions is the perfect way to practice until you are able to speak fluidly with other people. For more tips on how to channel your curiosity, check out this previous article:
Develop language skills using homonyms
In the same way homophones can trip you up and serve you, homonyms can enrich your second language acquisition. Just as you can learn two or more words by diving into homophones, you can learn two or more words by diving into homonyms. Homonyms are words that are spelled the same and potentially pronounced the same, but that have different meanings. For example:
Address and address
Bat and bat
Rose and rose
Right and right
Object and object
Record and record
These exist in every language. Learning them in your target language will help you reach a conversational level sooner. Using pattern recognition in conjunction with homonyms will open you up to learning how to craft sentences with ease. Once you start having conversations, or while you put an emphasis on listening comprehension until you can hold conversations, you can learn to add these words into your vocabulary in different contexts.
The reason homonyms are difficult is because you think you already know the meaning of a word only to find out that it has multiple meanings. Worst of all, those meanings are often wildly different. With that in mind, the best way to remember what you are learning is to speak and write. When you hear key words in different contexts you can teach yourself to use them. Copying people is a normal step in second language acquisition. You have to learn from someone and you will notice the difference in your ability almost immediately when you speak with multiple people.
Different people use different language. If you are always listening to and speaking with the same person you are going to find yourself struggling to speak with other people. It is easier, certainly, to always stick to the same person because it is more comfortable, but if you want to develop your language skills you need to push beyond this. Not only can you get used to someone's voice, you can get used to their vocabulary. That is why people often use the same slang as the people they spend the most time around.
Asking questions when you hear things you do not recognize is the final step. Admitting you do not know everything is never fun, trust me, I know. But you have to risk being bad at something if you want to be great at it one day. Unfortunately, this is especially true for learning a foreign language. If you can get to the point mentally where embarrassment triggers a subsequent high, second language acquisition will come easily to you. Embarrassment comes from taking an emotional risk and screwing up. Focus on the fact you were courageous rather than the outcome itself.
Focus on discerning the meaning of each word. If you are writing everything down from the beginning you will find that speaking is easier because you can actually recall the words you learned. At the same time, if you are speaking from the beginning you will be able to practice the new vocabulary in real life situations. Comprehensible input is vital, but adding these things into your routine will pay dividends. In fact, if you compare the homonyms and homophones of your first language with those of your target language you might find even more you can explore.
The overlaps you find between your first language and a new language may shock you. Mastering your native language is key to developing your language skills. How you speak your first language is going to affect your communication strategies in your second language. Consequently, the more grammar you know, the more vocabulary you know, the more writing you do will all play a part in the outcome of your second language studies. You might even find that the new words you are learning play a part in grammar structure depending on the context.
Many of the things that can stop you in your tracks when you are learning a new language are also tools that can be used to enhance your language acquisition experience. Learning about homonyms and homophones is huge because you give yourself access to several more vocabulary words without having to memorize new methods of pronunciation. You will need to work in time to learn grammar rules as well, but having a vast base of vocabulary words in your new language is vital. Using these two could be pitfalls as tools to develop your language skills in your target language is game changing.
Whether you think grammar or vocabulary is more important, you need to focus on both throughout your language learning experience if you want to develop your language skills to be well rounded. Learning a foreign language is no easy feat, it will be difficult irrespective of how you approach it. But you can do difficult things and be great, so continue to do difficult things and be great. I will be here by your side endeavoring to do the same.
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