Tuesday, January 7, 2014

5 Tools You Need to Start Learning a Foreign Language on Your Own Today

English: a miniature Danish-Norwegian-French d...
Mini Danish-Norwegian-French dictionary (Wikipedia)
by Erin N O'Reilly, PhD

1. Bilingual dictionary

Yes, you can use Google Translate or any other online translation service to help you get through a blog post or newspaper article.

But if your goal is to learn another language, you're going to want to own a physical bilingual dictionary.

Over the course of your studies, you'll dogear pages and underline definitions.

You will turn each page lovingly as an explorer, discovering how your new language describes the world.

Start your journey by taking a trip down to your local book store and browsing through the foreign language section.

2. Phrasebook

Okay, you just purchased a bilingual dictionary. Why do you need a phrasebook? This is so you can start speaking right now with native speakers. You want to select a phrase book that will give you transliterations (the alphabet equivalents in your native language for foreign words).

Also, look for a phrasebook that gives useful expressions to help start a conversation, such as, "Good morning. You're from Romania? I'm learning Romanian!" I know this sounds obvious, but not all phrasebooks are designed for the survival speaker, especially for less common languages.

You could use an app instead of a phrasebook if you have a smartphone. The key is to have something that's pocket-sized to easily carry around with you. Which brings us to the next useful item.

3. Flashcards

Flashcards are the age-old, tried-and-true method for memorizing lots of words quickly. Flashcards are a fabulous language learning tool because you can stick them in your pocket and take them out multiple times during the day to review.

You can buy pre-made flashcards with the 1000 most common words in almost any language. Or, you can hand-make your flashcards.

Before you scoff at the idea of making thousands of flashcards, note that many language learners find the physical act of making the flashcard just as helpful in remembering the word as actually practicing with the flashcard.

For those of you who are less inclined to physically write out cards, spend an hour looking into flashcard programs and apps. There are plenty of free and paid choices. Consider spending a few dollars on a flashcard app for your smartphone a worthwhile investment.

4. Grammar workbook

I realize that this will not make me popular, however, find a beginner grammar workbook for your new language. Use the purchaser reviews as a guide to help you choose one that is "straight forward" or "self-explanatory".

If you find grammar difficult to understand, that's okay. Consider this book as your guide to exploring the different grammar topics in your new language.

You can (and should) follow up the lessons and explanations in the book with online material that you can find by doing web searches. YouTube is a great supplement for grammar explanations in workbooks.

5. Free language courses

This comes in many forms. Start by visiting your local library to see if they have a beginner's crash-course on CD for your new language. Alternatively, visit the BBC, which offers beginner language courses in 40 different languages.

You can also do a search for introductory podcasts in your chosen language. The key is to finding auditory input to hear the way the language actually sounds.

That's it! You now have the five essential tools you need to start your language learning today!

Interested in learning more? Erin N. O'Reilly is a language coach specializing in second and foreign language learning strategies, helping learners at all levels reach their potential. You can learn everything about how to learn another language here: http://www.strategicl2.com.

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