Tips For Learning A New Language

linguisticsLearning a new language is both challenging and extremely rewarding.  There’s nothing better than traveling to a country and being able to converse with the native residents in their own language.  Not to mention being able to read signs, menus, and other written texts is extremely helpful!

But how does one go about learning a new language in this fast paced and busy world?  We barely have time to relax let alone learn an entire language.  Thankfully there are some language learning programs out there that can give you a classroom experience right in your own home!  You can even learn at your own pace, and take it on the go with you.  There are a few top programs out there such as the Rocket Languages series and the Rosetta Stone series which is always quite popular.  However, the Rocket Languages series seems to give you a bit more bang for your buck, as this review states.

However, once you decide on a program, what can you do to help improve your learning ability?  There are definitely a few things that you can do in order to speed up learning and improve retention of what you’ve studied.

Do A Little Every Day

Consistency is key when learning a new language, so set aside time each day to learn.  Even if you can only do 15-20 minutes one day, it’s better than nothing!  Plus, doing it every day will keep your momentum going.  Skipping a day leads to skipping two days which leads to skipping a lot of days.  And then all of a sudden your language learning software is sitting collecting dust!

Start a calendar and aim to check off every day!  Putting the calendar on your wall will keep it front and center in your mind, giving you the motivation to keep going.

Watch Movies In The Language

This is easier if you’re learning a more popular language, however if you can find movies in the language that you’re learning then go get them!  When I was learning Spanish I would watch all the Spanish movies I could get my hands on.  It got me used to hearing the language spoken, and soon I was able to pick up phrases and understand what they were talking about.  You can turn on English subtitles or turn them off if you want to make it more immersive and challenging.

Read Magazines In The Language

Another method of practice and immersion that’s fun is to get magazines in the language of your choice.  Once you’ve got the basics down you will find that it’s pretty easy to read!  It also helps reinforce what you’ve learned.  When I was learning Spanish I would get People Magazine in Spanish and would read it here and there.  I found it to be fun and incredibly rewarding because I was actually USING the language!  I also got a few books in Spanish such as The Alchemist.  It was challenging but I found that it really helped in terms of grammar and remembering vocabulary.

Bilingual Agitation In Canada

battleaxeOne of the biggest places where the fight over language seems to rage the strongest is in French Canada.  Montreal is a hotbed of language cavaliers who are intent on preserving French, much to the chagrin of city planners and residents.  It’s almost too much!  This excerpt from an article written back in the 80’s illustrates the problems that had come to fore:

Not all of the agitation has been verbal. This spring, for example, hooligans systematically went through a commercial district in the West End of Montreal (where many Anglophones live) and spray-painted all the English signs. The vandalism — similar to what had occurred in the suburban town of Mont Royal a few months before–elicited ambiguous comments from politicians. Some of them wondered whether those who had the temerity to post illegal signs could properly complain when they were defaced. Bourassa, for his part, suggested that Anglophones might have to consider accepting their reduced linguistic rights under the status quo to preserve “social peace.”

This cavalier attitude toward individual liberties is not a new phenomenon. Earlier in the year the Conseil de la langue francaise, a government body, announced plans to send language spies into stores to check up on merchants and clerks. Posing as ordinary shoppers, the spies were to determine whether the business people spoke the right language or made illegal sounds. An out-cry over the proposed scheme caused it to be abandoned, at least for the time being.

In another attempt to subordinate the rights of the individual to the needs of the majority, Quebec’s National Assembly last year passed a Cinema Act that severely restricts the freedom of theater owners to screen films in English. Intended to force distributors to dub movies in French, the legislation stipulates that unless prints of the French version of a film are made available in sufficient number, only one English print is to be allowed in the province. This too aroused strenuous protests, convincing the government to delay putting the act into effect.

Bourassa would prefer to turn Quebec’s attention from such divisive matters to what he considers his forte, the economy. But thanks to his opponents’ efforts, the language issue continues to dog him. In fact, his problems in this regard are likely to be exacerbated in the near future by a long-awaited ruling of the Canadian Supreme Court.

The case to be decided has to do with Law 101, specifically with the section of the law that makes English signs illegal. Several plaintiffs have challenged this on the grounds that it violates guarantees of freedom of expression contained in the Canadian Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Recently the Court of Appeals, Quebec’s highest tribunal, ruled unanimously that the provision was unconstitutional when applied to bilingual signs. Two of the five justices contended that even unilingual English signs were protected by the Constitution.

Waller, Harold M. “Linguistic liberty in Canada.” The New Leader 71.13 (1988)