Learning a Language Part 3/3: Putting it All Together

Welcome to the final segment of our 3 part summer series on learning a new language! Part 3 puts together everything you learned in parts 1 and 2, and includes more tips for mastering the basics. Like parts 1 and 2, this guide was written by our guest, David Anthony. I hope you enjoyed our summer series!
(Catch up with part 1 and part 2)

Part 3:

So now you’ve got a language to learn, and the resources to learn it. Great! How do you go about putting it all together? Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today. If you only take away one thing from this article, it needs to be this: You can’t learn to speak a language without speaking it.

I know, it sounds very intuitive. Many people put off speaking for as long as possible, and this isn’t going to get you very far. Don’t be nervous, just go out and speak. Speak as much and as often as possible.

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The very first thing you need to do when you start out is start to learn the most useful vocabulary first. Ignore grammar, ignore learning the writing, just sit down with a phrasebook and learn how to say greetings. Learn how to ask about prices, learn some numbers, learn any culturally relevant phrases. This gives you the bedrock that you’ll build on. By ignoring grammar in the beginning, you can get to speaking sooner and learn some whole sentences. Once you move on to learning grammar, knowing these sentences will reinforce the grammar concepts. As you get more familiar with the general structure and sounds, start to incorporate more grammar and vocab into your study. Here’s a list of the 625 most common words in everyday communication. This is a good place to start, as it gives you the most bang for your buck vocabulary wise. When used in conjunction with a good overview of useful grammar, you’ll make fast language gains and quickly find yourself being able to make whole sentences easily.

As you move past the simple vocab and grammar into more intermediate territory, it’s time to get a little more creative. This is also the more fun part of studying a language, as you can understand much more than you could at the beginning. Now’s the time to start really getting into some more higher order vocabulary and grammar. I like to use news articles, tv, music, and any other media in your target language. Find something that’s interesting to you, and start reading or listening. When you find a word or phrase you don’t understand, look it up and try to make a note of it so you can work it into your study rotation.

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There’s a widespread misconception that young children learn languages better than adults. This is false. The reason it seems that way is because children constantly practice, and they get a lot of repetition. To apply this to us as adult learners, this means that you need consistency and intensity. Consistency is the most important study tool you can use. Try to study every single day. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes before you go to sleep. A few minutes every day is better than 5 hours a day once a week.

The other half is intensity. Although 20 minutes a day is better than nothing, becoming fluent with that little study is virtually impossible. That’s why many people have “studied” a language for years, and never make it past the most basic phrases. To reach a B2 on CEFR, which I personally think is the lowest level one could claim fluency at, you need anywhere from 600-1800 hours of study, depending on the language you’re learning. Basically, you need to be willing to put in the time if you ever want to reach fluency. Don’t let it discourage you, you just have to be willing to put in the work. People who learn languages quickly don’t do it because they’re doing anything differently, they’re just studying consistently and speaking as much as possible. There’s nothing wrong with dabbling in a language. Plenty of people just want to know a few words, and couldn’t care less about fluency. I’m not telling you to not do that, just be aware of what your goals and aspirations with the language are.

The last thing you need to do is push yourself. Find things that are challenging to read or listen to. Try to express a controversial opinion in conversation. Discuss politics and religion, even if you don’t feel ready. Learning a language is like exercising. You need to push yourself to see results.

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All of this might be a little discouraging, but it’s not meant to be. In fact, it’s quite empowering. All you need to do is put in the work and practice as much as you can. The rest will fall into place. Study every day, speak as often as you possibly can, and push yourself. You’d be surprised by how quickly you can become conversational in a language just by doing some hard work. There’s a million other things out there that are much more in depth than this article. If you want to get more detail about how you should go about studying, I would check out Gabriel Wyner’s book Fluent Forever. He goes into much more detail about some study techniques and tools that I personally found very useful. He’s also the guy who put together that useful 625 list! I hope this article helped you out. Feel free to contact me with any questions you have about language learning.

Thanks for reading! Are you multilingual? What are some of tips for learning a language? Tell us about it in the comments below! Did you enjoy this post? Share it via Facebook or Twitter. And, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Disclaimer: if you follow the Amazon links in the body of this post and make purchases through them, I will receive a small compensation from Amazon. This compensation comes from Amazon, not from you, and the price you see through my links is the same as the price you would see otherwise. However I have no association with Wikipedia or Gabriel Wyner. In an attempt to bring you the best content, we linked to the sites that we felt were the most relevant, compensation notwithstanding.

Images:

http://ods.matera-basilicata2019.it/en/open-talks/iaconesipersico-education-and-communication-open-source/

https://www.rhodes.edu/content/multicultural-affairs

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Learning a Language Part 1/3: How to Pick A Language

Welcome to the first installment of a new summer series: Learning a New Language from our guest author, David Anthony.  David is a senior at North Carolina Central University, a novice computer programmer, rock-climber, and huge language nerd.  This series will explore the how-tos of learning a new language on your own, no college courses required.  The first of three articles will focus on choosing the right language for you.  Look out for new installments on the last Sunday of every month. Enjoy!

PART 1:

Want to know what you can do right now that will make you richer, smarter, and sexier? Fluently speaking a foreign language! I know a lot of millennials and travelers dream of being able to order in a Mexican restaurant in perfect Spanish, or debate Descartes in flawless French. While I can’t promise those results, this guide should help you get started on the path to fluency much faster than traditional methods. Nothing I’m mentioning is voodoo or snake oil, but it’s not obvious to most people when they’re trying to learn a foreign language. It sure wasn’t to me when I first started learning.

My name’s David, and I’ve been studying foreign languages for close to 9 years now. I’ve taken language classes in high school, as well as studying on my own using various methods. As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m also on my way to India with the Critical Language Scholarship. In terms of languages I know in descending order: English is my native language; I’m pretty comfortable in Swedish and Norwegian, conversational in German, and I used to be conversational in Russian and Serbian, although those have atrophied quite a bit. I’ve also casually studied at least a dozen others, including Urdu, Japanese, and Egyptian Arabic. Perhaps not an impressive list from a polyglot standpoint, but enough that I feel qualified to write up this 101 style how to guide.

So, I think the first question that needs to be answered is “Which language should I learn?” The answer: whichever one you are passionate about. Don’t get swept up in whatever “sounds beautiful” or will be most useful. The most useful language is the one you know well. Say you want to learn a language so you can be more competitive for a job in business. Chinese, Hindi, and German are all obvious ones that come to mind. But what if none of those interest you? What if you’re really interested in learning about Cambodian culture, and would rather study Khmer instead? That’s totally okay. If you’re truly passionate about it, you’ll make quick strides and will develop fluency much more quickly. Fluent Khmer is better than phrasebook Chinese on your resume. The same rule applies if you’re just learning for personal reasons. When you learn a language, you’re really learning a culture. Languages don’t exist in a vacuum. Find a specific, concrete reason to learn a language. Don’t be discouraged if it’s a smaller language. Using the Khmer example from earlier (and I’m betting you probably didn’t even know Khmer was a language), Khmer has 16 million native speakers. Even though it’s a “small” language, there’s absolutely no way you’ll ever run out of people to talk to. If you’re willing to work hard enough, any language is an attainable goal.

Next post, I’ll dig deeper into some resources you can use to get started. In the future, I’ll also start talking about some tactics for learning quickly. Hope you enjoyed the post!

Thanks for reading! Are you multilingual? What made you decide to learn another language? Tell us about it in the comments below! Did you enjoy this post? Share it via Facebook or Twitter. And, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Destination: Montréal, QB, Canada

Montréal: A quick look

Language: French, but English is widely spoken
Currency: Canadian Dollar (Exchange rate is close to 1:1 with the US dollar)
Drinking Age: 18*
Public Transportation: Metro and bus
Passport: Yes!
Vaccines: Routine

*In Canada, the drinking age is set by the province. If you’re traveling to Montréal, but visit another province on your trip, please note that the drinking age may be higher.

Before you leave:

  1. Use Airbnb! I am in no way associated with Airbnb, but am simply a very satisfied customer. It’s a great way to stay in the city without paying sky-high hotel prices.
  2. If you’re driving, make sure you arrange to have a parking space. Parking is limited, and not guaranteed.
  3. Learn a few words/phrases of French. Yes, they speak English. Yes, they are nice about speaking English. However, the official language of Quebec is French. A little effort will go a long way; remember, you’re visiting someone else’s home town. If you learn to properly pronounce just a few simple things, the locals will be impressed. My suggestions are “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” “goodbye,” and “excuse me.” If you want to go a little farther, learn simple phrases as well. Duolingo is a good source for learning a language.

Once you get there:

There are many cool places to visit in Montréal!

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The best way to get around is public transportation. Montréal has a well-established metro and bus system and I highly recommend it. Parking in the city will be extremely difficult, and you’ll probably end up paying more and walking more to drive than you would to take the train or bus.

I have not visited everything I’d like to see there, but here are my recommendations…

  1. The Montréal Biosphere.

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    The Biosphere is a huge sphere with an environmental science museum inside. Great for kids, but fun for adults too; my husband and I had a blast and we’re in our 20s.

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    The biosphere was originally part of the 1967 World’s Fair, Expo 67. It is located on Saint Helen’s Island in the Saint Lawrence River. After being closed for 14 years (from 1976-1990) due to a structural fire, the Biosphere was purchased by Environment Canada, who turned it into the environmental science museum it is today.

  2. Mount Royal

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    Montréal is named for Mount Royal (French, mont Royal), which is basically a big hill. It’s a park now, with amazing views of the city! The public bus system takes you most of the way up the hill (mountain?) and into the park. When I visited, we took a picnic lunch, which we ate on a park bench, surrounded by tourists taking photos of squirrels. Then we trekked the rest of the way up the hill to the peak. You step out onto a huge marble stage with a guardrail and the best views of the Montréal skyline.

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    You can also visit several small museums dedicated to the history and environment of the hill (mountain?).

  3. The Olympic stadium

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    We didn’t actually go inside, but the metro stop next to the stadium has some memorabilia from the 1976 Olympics (we happened to be there for the 40th anniversary) and there’s a display outside the tower with facts about the Olympics.

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    The tower is very impressive (it’s the tallest leaning tower in the world) and just seeing it from the outside was good enough for us.

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  4. Old Port/Old Montréal

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    Old Port (Vieux-Port in French) is a neat area to walk around. I’m partial to old towns, and Old Port doesn’t disappoint; it has the old buildings, the cobblestone streets, and the historical sites (like the Notre Dame Basilica). Walking and cycling along the river is a popular activity, especially when the weather’s nice.

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    There’s also a stretch of your typical touristy shops and restaurants in the area, so it’s a good place to pick up some Canadian themed souvenirs. (If you’d like to get Canadian maple syrup though, I would recommend just stopping by the grocery store; it’s significantly cheaper, and they still have the cute little maple-leaf-shaped bottles.)

  5. Notre Dame Basilica

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    Well, it’s a beautiful catholic church. While it is impressive, it is very much like other Catholic churches of that time period (1820’s).

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    I don’t regret going, it wasn’t expensive, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. There’s also guided tours if that’s you’re thing. It’s a quick attraction that’s worth checking off the list if you have time, as it’s right in old town. While you do not have to dress up, I would recommend against wearing sleeveless tops, short shorts, or short skirts.

  6. Jardins Gamelin

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    This is a very cool outdoor bar space. We saw all sorts of folks, young and old, enjoying being outdoors, listening to great music, dancing, and having a good time. Families, 20-somethings, and older generations came together to enjoy Saturday night. It’s also near a string of other bars, which were generally populated by the college crowd.

  7. Quartierdes speciales

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    Quartierdes speciales is a hip downtown area that’s popular with the college crowd. There’s an active nightlife, with pretty much any kind of bar you can imagine. You can find everything from a traditional Irish pub to a vegan organic bar.

  8. Get maple syrup ice cream.

    It’s delicious. It’s Canadian. You’re a tourist. Best place to go is Le Glacier Bilboquet.

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    There are several locations around the city, and the one we went to was a fun little shop near the Farmers Market. They also have plenty of other flavors if you’re not into maple syrup.

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  9. Les Délices de l’Érable is a maple themed shop that has a ton of different maple syrup flavored/scented items, but their biggest seller is maple syrup flavored gelato! It’s located near Old Port, so it’s an easy break from walking around all day. It can be a bit expensive, but it’s definitely worth a look!

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  10. The science museum

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    The museum was closed when I was there due to a worker’s strike, but it looks legit. It’s also located in Old Port, so it can be a break from the weather when you’re walking around.

Montréal is a cool city, and I would highly recommend it.

What city would you like to see a travel guide for next? Let me know in the comments below. Did you enjoy this post? Share via Facebook or Twitter and follow me for more great content like this!

Sources:

Image, Mount Royal https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Royal

Image, Biosphere https://www.mtlblog.com/lifestyle/everything-you-never-knew-about-montreals-biosphere

All other images are my own.