Five Great Tips for Successful ESL or Foreign Language Learning

Five Great Tips for Successful ESL or Foreign Language Learning
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The challenge of learning English or another foreign language is a considerable one, no matter how much of an edge you might think you have. Discouragement and frustration can set in at almost any time. While some foreign languages are much easier to learn than others, it’s still an onslaught to the senses and skills of every language learner, regardless of age, race, gender or national origin. Still though, there are quite a number of “tricks” one can successfully apply that will ease the process and even make it more interesting and fun.

1. Sing Songs in the Foreign Language

So you’re a music lover, are you? Great! Then get some songs – even a couple of catchy “kiddie” songs too – and learn to sing them in the target language. Poems, rhymes and raps are often good too. (Good grief! Did I just say “Raps”? Yeah, I guess I did, didn’t I?) Okay then, but get into the rhythm of the language by practicing and singing some the more popular songs of your particular age or social group. The Internet can be a fantastic tool for helping you along with this. Try a few local radio stations online in the target language that’ll have you crooning away in absolutely no time at all. For starters check out Live 365 or Omni Radio which both feature live radio stations of the world by country, region, genre or language. Be sure to download both the songs and lyrics, if legal, to help you along with the process.

2. Write a Foreign Language Pen Pal

Hey, here’s a novel language learning method I’ll just bet you haven’t tried lately. Write regularly to someone who’s a native speaker of your target language. Don’t hand me that “noise” that you’re not a teenager anymore either. That doesn’t matter. You can find willing correspondents from every age group and social strata online nowadays. From teachers, doctors and other professionals to, yes – you guessed it – teens and “kiddies, online foreign language Pen Pals can be a real boon for the foreign language learner. They can provide not only language practice, but insight into the culture and customs of the language-related country as well. Try the great site featuring Pen Pals in more than 125 foreign languages at My Language Exchange Another good one is the site at Shared Talk which features 113 languages in 171 countries.

3. Listen to CDs or Cassettes in Your Car or Portable Player

Using an audio-based language learning series such as “Speak in a Week” you can effectively listen to audio tapes or CDs while you drive or commute by bus, train or car pool. Given the number of hours many spend in their vehicle, a substantial number of active / passive language exposure hours can be “racked up” in a relatively short period of time. With only a couple of hours or so per day minimum commute time, in the course of a year one might easily accumulate up to a thousand hours of language learning through listening time. This is roughly the equivalent of eight to ten semester-long language courses in a college – not too shabby for time that is often otherwise “wasted”.

4. Get and Use a Bi-Lingual Dictionary

Although bilingual dictionaries are not available in absolutely ALL languages (yet), they are available in many if not most foreign languages. These specialized types of dictionaries can be extremely useful aids in foreign language learning in a number of ways. If a print version is unavailable, you can always go online in your quest and may even come up with a useful aid or guide at no cost. While many vocabulary words can be figured out and used in context, some abstract concepts may prove trickier than others. Especially in the case of false cognates; words which look, sound and / or are spelled alike in two different languages, but do not have the same or similar meanings in each language. For example: “Embarrassed” (ashamed) in English as compared to “Embarazada” (pregnant) in Spanish. Or “intoxicada” (food poisoned) in Spanish vs. the less sympathetic “intoxicated” (drunk) in English. It’s not infrequent that an employee will tell his / her boss, “I didn’t come to work because I was intoxicated” meaning stomach upset from bad or partially spoiled food. Don’t try this though with your boss, in English!

5. Use Vocabulary Practice Cards

Lexis and vocabulary are said to be the “building blocks” of language. The more vocabulary and lexis that you know, the more “fluent” you are in a particular language. The ability to convey precise ideas and shades of meaning through the selective use of words distinguishes the ultra-educated and intelligent from the illiterate and uneducated in society. Writing vocabulary on cards with your first language on one side and the matching foreign language word on the other is a unique way to acquire vocabulary during the course of a normal day. That is if you carry a stack of these cards with you to quickly “review” during “found moments” during the course of your day, such as when standing in line, waiting for traffic signals, or numerous other “idle moments” we all normally experience daily.

An Easier Path Awaits You

Dip into the ranks of these five useful foreign language learning tips to help to smooth the way in the daunting task of mastering another spoken tongue. It’s still going to be a challenge, to be sure, but with these tips and others from this series, you’ll find the road of foreign language learning an easier, more enjoyable one to travel.