While learning a new language in the end is beneficial, the road towards fluency can be long and difficult.
Amongst the never-ending lists of new vocabulary words and countless pages of grammar rules, there also exists a component of foreign language that cannot be so simply taught: comprehension. Indeed, you won’t get very far with a native speaker if all you have to fall back on are memorized phrases and random strings of vocabulary. The art of speaking a language fluently depends on understanding the subtleties and voice that makes the language uniquely its own. While this may be intimidating, don’t give up just yet; you may still improve—even if some days it hardly feels like it. Here are some tips that might help you in your quest for linguistic success:
Make Listening to Natural Dialogue a Priority
In order to get a real ear for the language, actively listening to natural dialogue between two or more fluent individuals is key—e.g. not just yourself or others around who are also struggling with the language. Also, while it is not a bad thing to listen to music in your target language, it should not be the only part of your auditory training. There are certain distinctions during a conversation that one must be able to make in order to comprehend without trying. When speaking your own native language for example, you do not have to consistently run through every word in your head for its definition—you just know it automatically! For those wanting to reach fluency, this should be their main goal: automatic comprehension and readily understanding the context of conversations from this.
Use the Resources You Have Available To You
Today, there are many foreign language resources available for use. Many resources are available with the mere click of a button, such as online foreign language dictionaries, YouTube videos, and free online language lessons, much like these Spanish listening resources. You only need know where to look before your learning can soar to new heights! Furthermore, some of the best language learning programs on the market, such as Rosetta Stone and Mango Languages, are available for free through public libraries. Even without these programs (which can be quite costly as an individual), making a daily effort to watch a few YouTube videos of your target language can go a long way in word recognition and comprehension.
Talk It Out
The part of language development that many learners dislike most of all, is making a fool of themselves in front of native speakers. However, while this may be painful, the only way to truly learn a language well is by using the language in everyday life. If you do not have a friend or teacher who speaks the language, you can usually find small cultural hubs in your town where the language is spoken. Find a Meetup of others in the area who are either in need of practice or just wanting an opportunity to speak their other language with someone. Even if the group’s skill level is well beyond yours, even attending for the purpose of listening (which we previously determined as super important!) and occasionally participating can benefit you. Try learning conversational questions and answers and using them with native speakers. More often than not you can find that people will be very helpful answering questions about their language and pleased just to hear you make such an effort.
Read Out Loud
One of the best ways you can learn a plethora of new words and help your mouth grow accustomed to the words is by reading a book aloud in the language you want to learn. It helps even further if you have already read the book and are then able to associate the words you’ve already read with the different language, or at least development a sense for the context.
Dialogue–both for listening and participating—is an important aspect of foreign language comprehension. There are many resources available online to help with comprehension if you do not have access to native speakers. Only through comprehending and familiarizing yourself with the natural flow of the language will you ever reach fluency. With these tips go forth and seek the new voice you’ve been hoping for! Learning a language is intimidating but well worth the time and effort.
Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She also loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise–especially if they allow her to research new topics to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out seeking an adventure.