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Second Language Learning: Use Social Strategies to Learn

written by: Bright Hub Education Writer • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 1/30/2013

Most people trying to learn a new language do better with some help from the people around them. This article teaches you to find help to reach your language-learning goals. These social strategies can help!

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    New Strategies

    These methods, techniques, tricks and tips are all strategies that revolve around and involve other people! They may involve other people in a minimal way but often require actually having some -gasp!- meaningful interaction with them, while studying and learning your second language. Well, this is for Roll-Up-Your-Sleeves and Get-Your-Lips-Dirty learners, intent on getting their second language!

    Social interaction learning strategies are all variants of three basic techniques: Cooperating with others, asking questions and empathizing with others.

    Cooperating with others provides a rich potential for second language learning, as you, The Learner, cooperate with peers (linguistically speaking here) or cooperate with people proficient in your chosen New Language. Offering some form of help, volunteering, defining what to do, when, with whom, how, how long... this is a powerful catalyst for structured learning and practice. It also has the potential to build bridges of understanding, friendship and mutual trust that can last a lifetime! I wholeheartedly endorse this cooperative learning technique.

    Can you make mistakes? Yes, you most probably will, but it has been my experience, in 14 non-English-speaking countries, that the people are so pleased that you're trying to meet them in their language, that they will cheerfully overlook honest mistakes along the way. And you're genuinely offering to help, what could be better than that? Cooperating with natives who speak and give freely of what you want to acquire is an ennobling learning method, so avail yourself of this whenever you can!

    Asking questions, asking for help, asking about the history of a place, the nature of people in an area, the jobs and professions and hopes and fears of the people you're learning with and learning from. This is a fruitful and rewarding effort, as with a small, practiced utterance you get to listen to an outpouring of explanation on your chosen subject. You can ask for verification ("Is this the road to Seoul?") or ask for clarification ("Does this bus stop at KimPo or go straight through to Seoul?") Too, you can ask for correction: "Is it allowed to say 'this phrase'?" -- to which your partner will respond, "Yes, that's fine" or "No, we'd use an idiom" or "No, we rarely say it like that, but do say this." You can ask the person to direct your immediate learning experience.

    And then you can empathize with others, sharing the human experience with them, in their linguistic mode and fashion. What a compliment to them! This technique leads to cultural understanding as you become aware of the thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears of theirs. They transform from being props in the movie playing around you, changing into real three-dimensional humans. An added benefit here, and one often overlooked when finding reasons to learn a second language, is that you will better understand your own culture and your mother tongue when you reach to understand someone else's, in THEIR tongue.

    So get up and dance, in your chosen Second Language! You have the power, you have the opportunity of a lifetime! Carpe Diem!