Lessons in Language Learning: Part Two


The Turtle Ate My Homework: Handy Tips on Learning a New Language  Part Two

The turtle ate my homework: useful tips on learning a new language
The turtle ate my homework: useful tips on learning a new language

In my last post on Lessons in Learning a Language, I provided those handy links to sites to get you started on learning a new language. This post focuses on the down and dirty, I mean handy, tips to help you learn.

I’ve been learning languages for years, and have been introduced to many different ways in learning them, from online, lists, to  total immersion, but not everyone can take off to their country of choice for months to learn a new language, so here are some handy tips for learning that new language of your choice before breaking out your passport:

  • Lists. My high school French teacher used to assign a daily list of twenty words to memorize with a quiz the next day. I would prop my list on the plants in our window sill in the kitchen and wash dishes while memorizing the words. It worked.  If you find yourself doing a mundane chore that does not require your complete attention, go for it! Learning a list while on an exercise machine like a exercise bike or a treadmill would be great too. They even have an app (of course there is an app!): Memrise, where you can use electronic flash cards to help you memorize your words. And it’s FREE! Flashcards are how my kids learned their multiplication facts. It’s proven and it works.
  • Start with the Basics. When I lived in Greece, I took lessons. I had a fantastic teacher (Annette 😉 who started me on the same things her younger daughter was learning in school: the ABC’s (or Alpha, Beta & Gamma’s as the case was). It was the best way to learn, especially as the alphabet was completely different! We worked up to numbers, colors and so on.
  • Check out a kid’s language book in the library. Don’t spend a fortune- check out the foreign language section in the library. You can use the adult section, but for easy understanding, start with the basics and hit the children’s area of your library. The kid’s part of the library always has  a Spanish section, and the language selection (near the fairytales) usually has the basics of Italian, German, French, Spanish, and if you are lucky, much more. You can use those books to make your daily (or weekly) list of vocabulary words.
  • Though I still wash the dishes,  my days of single-tasking are well behind me and I tend to forget where I put my shopping list, so the list- system no longer works for me.  But I do listen to music. I-tunes has made international music extremely accessible. My niece, who has Japanese on her language to learn list,  listens to Japanese pop. I’ve downloaded Vanessa Paradis (French) and Eros Ramazzotti’s NOI (Italian) among my favorites. I can listen to them everywhere. Chances are, you know the lyrics to your favorite songs without even thinking about them, so try listening to songs in the language of your choice. Pretty soon you’ll pick up on the words.
  • Watch a movie. What, homework- watching a movie? A lot of kids I knew in non-English speaking countries picked up their language learning skills by watching TV! Their favorite show would come on in English and they had to read the subtitles in their language, or learn the English! Some kids will do anything to get out of reading!  Most movies (DVDs) have a language preference in their Selection/Set Up features. You can usually choose Spanish, French, and sometimes others- My Big Fat Greek Wedding has a Greek sub-title option. Use a movie that you know pretty well and you can follow it. Those movies that the kids watch 100+ times are a good way to start them off too! Finding Nemo in French, anyone?
  • Label it. Just as some parents teach their youngsters words by labeling their doors, windows and everything else in their house (you know who you are), put those sticky notes to good use for your foreign language and label away, then you can push open the porte (door) and clean those fingerprints off the mur (wall). Add pronunciation if you have to and the gender (la, le, etc) if needed.
  • Use your words. Hah hah, isn’t that what we tell our kids- or should I say, les enfants ? Yes, speak- go out and talk Spanish to the guys at Pepe’s, order your gyros in Greek at the Greek place, visit an Indian supermarket for some fresh turmeric and a chat in Hindi. They will be amused, and will probably correct you in some pronunciation- but you learn that way. I jot things down in Greek just to keep remembering how to write those letters! It’s a case of use it or lose it.
  • Connect and learn on Social Media. You don’t have to chat one on one with unknown strangers (that could be creepy), but you can join social media in your chosen language. Follow a foreign blog, or even easier, on Instagram and like a page written in that language. Keep it clean, folks! I follow a Gotland Instagrammer from Sweden. Everything is written in Swedish. Sure I have to look things up, but that’s what Google translate is for, right? I also follow a Facebook page about Things to do in Paris in French and a couple of others in Greek. Did you know the HUFFINGTON POST has a Greek version? I do now!

So go forth, collect knowledge, make lists, connect and drag the kids along for the ride. They may even thank you in the future.



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