Tuesday, 19 September 2017

How To Learn A New Language

Hi lovelies! As many of you will know if you are a regular reader of my blog, I'm currently learning German! In my summer goals, I said that it was my aim to get better at my German speaking and writing, and I've been working on this throughout the last few months. I thought that it would be good to share with you all how I'm learning a new language, and hopefully it will be helpful to others who are interested in learning one too!

I've always been fascinated by foreign languages! They sound so interesting and since I was a kid, I have wished that I could speak in a different tongue. I have loved listening to songs in different languages for as long as I can remember. The Eurovision Song Contest is a big passion of mine (I finally went to watch it live in 2016 in Stockholm! You can read all about it here). Music is one of my main inspirations for learning a new language, that and my interest in the traditions and cultures of other countries. I went to an Italian language club after school in Primary and in my early teens, I started becoming more and more obsessed with Japan so I would listen to J-Pop and watch anime with subtitles. I would always think to myself how awesome it would be to be able to watch these shows without the need for subtitles and after learning some basic Japanese, greetings and numbers, to use when writing letters to my Japanese penpal, I decided to learn more. I used websites, books and language course CD's back then and learnt a fair bit of Japanese this way, but I didn't continue when I needed more advanced lessons because I was young and couldn't afford to pay for access to online courses, etc. I gave up after that for years and put my desire to learn a language fluently to the back of my mind, until last year!

How To Learn A New Language

In the months leading up to the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, my friend began learning Swedish since that's where the show was set to be held after Mans Zelmerlow won for them with the song 'Heroes' the previous year, and we were planning to visit the capital for the contest event. As well as this, the Melofestivalen is the show that Sweden hosts for every Eurovision to chose their preformer, it is amazing and I'm pretty sure watching this inspired my friend to learn the language even more! Seeing how well my friend was doing with learning Swedish with the help of a language app, I was encouraged to give it a go myself. You may be curious about why I decided to learn German. I just love the way it sounds! I was first intrigued to learn the language when I was 15 and I heard the German metal band Rammstein for the first time; I loved them and still do! I was also interested in the Germanic roots of the English Language, passed down by the Angelo Saxons. Plus, I have wanted to go to Germany for so long and it would be fantastic if I could communicate with people there in their own language :)

So, how have I been learning German?

(1) Duolingo 

Duolingo is the language app that my friend started learning Swedish on so downloading this onto my iPhone was my first step towards learning German. The app is great! It helps you learn German phrases both speaking and writing/spelling through a variety of 'games'. They aren't really games in the traditional sense but I can't think of what to call them, haha! There's one where you have to match the correct English word to the German word, and one where you have to fill in the gaps in a sentence. There's also speaking 'games' and this helps you learn the correct pronunciation of the words. There are different sections/levels to complete that contain a specific theme, such as 'food' or 'animals', etc. It's an easy and effective way to learn a language, and it's free! The app lets you set a reminder and a goal to for example, spend 10 minutes on the app each day. I definitely recommend Duolingo as a starting point!

(2) Pimsleur Language Program 
A few months ago now, one of my friends gave me access to his Pimsleur German Language Program and I am super thankful! The Pimsleur program focuses only on the speaking side of learning a language, and involves a 60 day course where you are supposed to do a lesson a day. Each lesson is around 30 minutes long and are intended to give you the ability to communicate the basics if you were to visit a country where the language you're learning is spoken. I really like these lessons, because of the way they break down the individual words to help you learn to pronounce them correctly and also because of the way they repeat the words. Another great thing about each of the lessons for me is the structure. Usually at the start, you listen to a conversation and then during the lesson you learn what was said in that conversation and how to speak it yourself. You are supposed to do a lesson each day for the method to have it's full effect, but I've been dealing some difficult things since starting the course and so I've missed days and had to re-do some. Once I get things back on track, I'm sure that I will get so much better at my German since I've learnt so much already just from this program alone! I'm not sure how much it is to buy but you can learn more on their website.

(3) A Language Notebook

I wasn't sure exactly how to title this section, but basically what I mean is that I think it's important to have a designated notebook when you're learning a new language. Even if you are using apps to learn, you should still record your newly learnt words and such on paper, and revise what you've learnt as you would when studying at school/college/university. Writing things down helps them to stick in your memory and it's true that practice makes perfect when it comes to learning a new language. The more you practice your writing, the better. I also like to write down the phonics of a word, breaking it down so you can jot down how to properly say it.

(4) Youtube Videos 

There are so many videos on Youtube to help you when you're learning a language and I often use them to help me learn how to say a word correctly. Something that can get a little confusing when you are learning a language is how to pronounce words which have a diaeresis. You may not have heard of this terminology before, but these are basically the dots that appear on top of some of the letters in foreign alphabets. In the German Language, these dots appear above the vowels and are known as umlauts. If a vowel has these dots above it, the way it is spoken changes and I had to use Youtube Videos to teach me the difference between a standard vowel and an umlaut vowel. It is very handy to hear people speak the words and to repeat them, and what's great about Youtube is that there's a mixture of language videos by native Germans but also others, so you can see how it is pronounced by several accents, etc. 

These are umlauts!
(Source: Google Images)

(5) Google Translate

I don't know what I'd do without Google Translate, and I use it all the time because it's much quicker than looking through my German dictionary. I mostly use it to search the correct spelling for a German word that I can speak but I don't know how to spell yet so that I can jot it down in my notebook. With German and of course many other languages this is important since a lot of words are written completely different to how they sound like they would be to someone who's first language isn't German! I also use Google Translate to check if I am spelling my German correctly when I am revising it. I will just type a sentence into the German to English translater and it will tell me if I'm writing down what I'm supposed to be. 

So here are the methods that I am using to help me learn German and so far they are working :) I have picked up quite a bit although I still have a long way to go! I love how with modern technology, there are so many sources like apps and websites to aid you on your language-learning journey! It's turning out a lot easier to achieve VS when I was trying to learn Japanese 10+ years ago. If you have any tips of your own for learning a new language, please let me know in the comments. I am always looking for new ways to help me out!

I wanted to end this post by sharing with you a tweet I posted about Duolingo. As many people who use the app will know, it sometimes likes to teach you some very random phrases, including 'I am a banana' apparently! It's definitely easier to remember something when it made you laugh so I can't fault them, hahaha!

Thankyou for reading!

Have you ever learnt a new language?

Also, I'm curuous about which languages you learnt at school? 
For me it was French, and I still remember so much of it!


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