This is so cool. We have a hyper polyglot in our midst! Geraldine contacted us wanting to contribute to the Livemocha Blog. How lucky are we that she has shared her tips on how to learn multiple languages (at this point she’s got about six under her belt!)
Here’s Geraldine in her own words:
Hello Livemocha!! I am Geraldine from Bogotá, Colombia.
I was exposed to Spanish and English at a young age (I lived in the States for 4 years) which was a challenge. I could understand everything my parents asked or told me in Spanish but would only answer back in English. Nonetheless, I became fluent once we were back in our home country.
I came to study languages by chance. I majored in French (I thought it was beautiful) for a while and ever since then I made it kind of my mission to learn some of the most popular languages. While I was at college I started German and after coming back from my trip to Brazil in 2007 I decided I wanted to study Portuguese too. Most recently I have picked up Italian. My goal has always been to become a Translator.
I am one of those who thinks that speaking only English besides your mother tongue isn’t enough anymore. So, here are 10 Tips on learning multiple languages. They have worked for me for the past 8 years!
1. Effort, Patience and Perseverance.
Learning a new language can be rewarding or can go the other way round where you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall. That’s when you need to be patient and motivate yourself to move forward and not drop out. I would also throw dedication, determination and above all consistency into the mix. It takes time, if not years to become proficient in any language. There’s no such thing as becoming fluent in 6 months or less. Set small goals and time aside to reach them.
2. Lose the fear of making mistakes.
No matter how skilled you are at reading, writing or listening. At the end of the day your goal is to be able to communicate and get your point across. One of the main reasons people hesitate to speak in a foreign language is because they are afraid of making mistakes or because they think they’re not able to express themselves properly. It can become an issue and can get in the way of your language progress.
In my opinion, those who improve the most and learn faster are the ones that make an effort and put themselves out there even if their accent, pronunciation and grammar aren’t perfect.
The language that has frustrated me the most is German. It was the exception to the rule. I wasn’t bad at it but it was like I was impaired to speak. What did it for me was forced speech. It has gotten better although I’m still petrified when I encounter native speakers.
3. Focus on 1 or 2 Languages.
At some point I was learning 3 languages at the same time. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done or that it’s impossible but I don’t think it does you any good. You should focus on 1 language and acquire a certain level before taking on a similar one. Otherwise, there can be a risk of interference, more so when they are from the same language family.
4. Choose the right course for you.
I take my hat off to those who are self-taught and capable of learning a new language from scratch on their own. I never had enough discipline to do it by myself. What worked for me were language schools and intensive group classes where I could improve my skills, get feedback, collaborate and interact with my peers and was forced to speak.
It’s important to choose the course type that suits you the best since it will give you the necessary tools to build on your language skills. Decide whether you want private or group lessons and online of face to face classes. You also want to pay attention to the duration of the lessons, the total number of weeks, the number of students per class and the level you’ll reach at the end of course.
5. Be Systematic.
Use flash cards, make charts and lists or fill your home with post-its to learn vocabulary and phrases. Do whatever works for you! Being systematic, creative and resourceful makes language acquisition easier and a lot more fun.
6. Focus on Pronunciation and Accent.
If you want to speak a language well and clearly you should pay particular attention to pronunciation and review it regularly. Some online dictionaries such as dict.cc provide MP3 audio of words and others the phonetic transcription. It is nonetheless the most difficult part of a foreign language to acquire.
7. Spelling Check.
I have to say I’m kind of a spelling geek. When I’m not sure of a word, a conjugation, an expression or idiom I visualize it in my head. If that doesn’t work then I use Google, online dictionaries or language forums.
8. Technology meets Languages.
There’s no reason why languages should be boring or dull. Technology has done us a favor. These days you can find language pages on the web and on social networks, listen to music and podcasts, read blogs and newspapers, and watch movies or series with subtitles in the same language. I hope you use this kind of tools to increase your vocabulary and better your reading and listening skills.
9. Language Penpals and Language Cafés.
When I was studying French in college I started to feel left behind in my speech. So, what I did was search for a penpal on the internet. I used pages like Friends Abroad (now Babbel) and several others. Language Cafés and Tandem Groups are very popular right now. On CouchSufing.com, you can find a language group in your city where the users post their events and meetings. It’s the perfect informal environment to practice, ask questions, learn slang and expressions.
10. This last tip goes out to the teachers.
Your classes should be encouraging, fun, innovative, dynamic and motivating. I quit studying Italian because the lessons were based on a textbook and a CD Player. Not my cup of tea!
If you have any questions find me on facebook.com/princetranslations