The Encyclopedia Britannica defines language as a “system of conventional spoken or written symbols used by people in a shared culture to communicate with each other. A language both reflects and affects a culture’s way of thinking.”
We often interpret the world around us through the prism of our cultural roots and language categorises our experiences. For example, in Dyirbal, an Australian aboriginal language, balan is a lexical category coined to refer to women, fire and other dangerous things, as well as exceptional animals. This illustrates the fact that languages reflect communicational needs specific to their people and learning a language implies embarking on a long and exciting journey that will enhance your communicational skills and raise your cultural awareness and sensibility.
We know by now that language, defined by the people it serves, shapes their interactions with each other and the world around them. It is clear then that language training is not only a matter of memorizing a series grammar rules and repeating topical vocabulary. Although these are key activities that should not be overlooked, acquiring a new language equals learning a new skill for life. You need to understand surface concepts and structures but also have to discover aspects you can connect with. Familiarise yourself with its culture, food, people, places… Connect with your new language and discover a new passion. Give yourself the chance to use your new skills as often as possible to make the language learning process as effective as it can be.
Here is a list of tips to help you during your language training course:
Study out loud: by doing this, you engage your auditory memory. You may be used to relying on your visual memory when reviewing notes and reading textbooks. As strange as it sounds, this new form will keep you motivated and help you with pronunciation at the same time.
Do little and often: do not be tempted to go through your notes at the last minute. Learning a foreign language requires perseverance. It is more effective if you practise a few minutes each day as it is easy to lose a new skill due to lack of use.
Take intensive courses regularly: by treating yourself to a few intensive language training sessions every now and then, you will see results faster and have the chance to recycle and consolidate the areas you have learnt in your extensive training.
Enjoy the cultural experience: whether it is eating typical food, watching local movies, following a sports team or visiting the country whenever you can, make an effort to include aspects of your new language in your everyday life.
Recycle: try to review old material and combine familiar information with new topics. Language learning is a cumulative process.
Keep your perfectionist side at bay: too much attention to detail can hinder your progress. Aim for communicative competence rather than lexico-grammatical perfection. Mistakes are part of learning. Accept them and focus on getting your message across, understanding what happens around you and – above all – enjoying a journey of discovery.
Bearing in mind and applying these advices during your language training course will greatly help you to learn quickly and efficiently.