What is the best way to learn another language?
Welcome, aspiring polyglot! With much of my content being aimed at targeting the public education system I want to take a minute to discuss how to empower people to learn a new language using methods that adapt to their individual learning styles. The reason I think this will be helpful for homeschooling is that each child's education will look different and more options is always better than less. That said, here is one of the most powerful tools anyone learning languages could ever have.
Learning Languages With Tours
When I was traveling abroad, I probably toured 30 museums, 100 churches, and many, many other culturally significant places from battlefields to riverways and peeing statues.
The best part about tours, whether they be a museum or a memorial site, they usually are offered in multiple languages. Not just that, but choosing your target language rather than your native language is free. When I first started with it I realized that it would be a great way to understand the local language while also being able to hear a native speaker, or native speakers, discuss things that were important to the country I was living in at the time.
Tours give you the opportunity to connect with the local culture while simultaneously using that information as a resource to bolster your language learning. Because most of the tours are now digital, you have a unique opportunity to take advantage of this access to native speakers. If they are live classes, even better. That means you can ask questions and practice words, grammar, and speaking yourself.
While I think this is beneficial for people of all ages, I think high school student age is probably the group that will get the most out of the experience. Learning through context clues and hints that are given by the exhibits (and the explanations that are also written in English) can make the experience that much more enjoyable. However, it is easy to default out when doing tours like this, so try to remain engaged as much as possible without reverting back to the language with which you are the most comfortable.
Always Ask Questions
One of the easiest ways to create a connection with a native speaker is to ask them questions about things they enjoy. If someone is giving a tour, asking them questions about the material, irrespective of what it is, will be beneficial. It will get you to speak, you will have someone personally teach you, and you will have fun doing it. Sure, the first time it is a daunting task, but every time you do something difficult it gets easier. Sharing the fact that you are working on your language learning will also likely have an effect on how the tour is treated. You may get special information you may not have otherwise received, you may make more friends, you may just get to speak more/
In line with asking questions is being well informed. You should ask questions, yes, but you also need to be informed so that you are no asking about things that have already been covered. Reading everything will help you avoid this when talking to native speakers. For the most part, all of the information you are going to need is written, in your native language, somewhere in the place you are touring. From that information you can develop new questions and, possibly, even become a resource to other language learners around you. Free online courses are great and can help a lot, but there is little that can replace the on the ground experience of speaking to a native speaker that is completely free as well.
With all that said, there is something about these tours that I think is overlooked and it is really important. Tours are a time to focus on the things you are already interested in, as I am always saying, focusing on what you are interested in makes language learning more sustainable.
An Excuse to Treat Yourself
The great thing about places that offer tours is, most of the time, they offer them because they've been requested by someone. Yes, it is possible that you will have to pay for the tour or for the entry to the museum, but this is a great reason to treat yourself.
Why shouldn't you get to see Mona Lisa at the Louvre?
If you're already in Paris, why wouldn't you go tour Notre Dame de Paris?
Why shouldn't you tour the most epic WWII museum in Bastogne?
Don't you want to see the Sagrada Familia before the construction is finished?
Bond with your Family in a Foreign Language
Taking these trips as a family is incredible because it gives you a chance to experience language learning together. Doing difficult things together always forges deeper bonds. Not just that, but showing your child or children that you can do it will help them to believe that they can do it. Children don't listen, they imitate. Be the example you want them to follow and they will.
My family was lucky enough to travel to 4 different countries over three weeks several years back and, while there, we probably toured 30 different places in 3 different languages. Now we have those memories to cherish for the rest of our lives. Language learning is something I encourage all parents to share with their children. At the end of the day, the way parents educate their children is paramount to the success of future societies.
Ingrain the Memories
One of the aspects that is most important to language learning is memory encoding. The long and short of it is that the more senses that are stimulated when a memory is created, the stronger that memory is and will be. That is why certain smells or sounds can often trigger feelings of nostalgia.
The way we leverage this as language learners is by ensuring that every time we are working on our target language we are also incorporating additional senses. Listening to music and reading lyrics. Speaking while out on a walk in nature where you don't have to be afraid to make mistakes. Asking questions to native speakers during a museum tour in a foreign country with your family. All of these things add additional stimulus that helps with memory encoding and can pay off in the short and long term for anyone studying a new language.
Using the language in the real world and in day to day life is important, but can be difficult to simulate online. Not just that, but real world experience allows you to develop mnemonics that you would not have otherwise thought of had you stuck exclusively to language apps and flash cards.
Places you Don't Expect
I recommend checking out places around you that offer tours. The best part about museums is that even in English speaking countries they always have bilinguals and audio available in several languages, one of which is hopefully your target language. So if you are struggling to find a way to get real practice, look for some places that offer tours near you and see which languages they are offered in, you might just get lucky and make a new local friend to practice with, or better yet a resource for your family moving forward. Whether its churches, old towns, history museums, art museums, or anything else, it is worth making the effort to see what is out there.
If I could look for each one of you, I would, but I can't. I hope you will, though. I am also hopeful that anyone who seeks to use this method to enhance their homeschool programs will. There is so much to learn and having the ability to make it happen in a second language is incredible. Take advantage of it as much as you can, all while developing deeper and more meaningful bonds with the people in your life. That is why I recommend looking for places around you. There will be something that is interesting to you. Even if there isn't try it once or twice, you may have more fun than you think.
There are strategies that can accelerate and enhance your language acquisition, but they all require work on your part. Accent work is a "trick" but it is also a lot of work and demands consistency for quality results. I can give you the roadmap, but I cannot learn the language for you.
Becoming bilingual is difficult, but you can do difficult things and be great. So go do difficult things and become great. Here I’ve given you some of the tools, but in the end, there is no comprehensive guide, no tips or tricks to carry anyone across the finish line. Language acquisition requires time, effort, and consistency. That said, it is something that anyone of any age is more than capable of accomplishing. I’ll be here rooting for you and watching your progress.
For more content find me on Twitter or Instagram. If you are struggling to get speaking in your target language, try out Pimsleur free for 7 days using this link. I look forward to seeing everyone’s progress in the months and years to come.