I am surrounded by people who have always wanted to learn a new language properly but never did for different reasons. People in England often learn French, Spanish or German at school. However, many of them say that they actually cannot speak these languages. After years of learning French, they do not feel confident enough to go to France and order a meal in French. This is not their fault. Schools actually did not prepare them for the active use of foreign languages.
I have been in this situation too. I had learnt English at school before coming to London although it did not help me much. No one told me how to learn in order to be able to speak. I did know the theory but I could not say a normal sentence when I wanted to open a bank account. And I do not have to tell you that it was a nightmare. The good news is that it is never too late to learn a foreign language, know how to use it, become confident and therefore happy.
Today I am going to share with you some of my tips, which you can use for learning Czech or any language.
- Have a little notebook where you write new words on a daily basis. These words can come from films, songs, books or papers. Be curious and hungry. Words create your language. My magic formula is: read a new word, read it again aloud, translate it, write it down, go back in a couple of days and use it.
- Read and underline a lot. You can pick up a newspaper every day, read it and underline every single word you do not understand. When you have time, translate these words and write them down in your notebook. It might be frustrating at the beginning but I promise that you will underline less and less in the course of a couple of months.
- Listen to the radio. You might not understand at all at the beginning. I know – they speak too quickly and all the words sound just like one long sound. It will get better. What you have to do is to train your ear. This is a new language and because you did not hear it when you were a baby, it is difficult for you to recognize new sounds. It is not impossible though. Stay patient and be happy when you understand just key words. This is a long journey where little achievements count.
- No matter if you like folk, rock or pop, discover new music in your target language. There is a whole new music scene waiting to be discovered. Find a song and lyrics and sing along. Do not worry about the meaning because they are often poetic and trying to understand the words might put you off at the early stage of your language learning. Singing will help your pronunciation a lot.
- Find your role model. Do your little research and find a person you like. Your goal is to speak like them one day. It can be an actor, politician, philosopher or artist. Watch interviews and talks with them, pause the video after every sentence and try to imitate them. This is a real fun.
- Make learning practical. If it is a grammar topic you have just learnt or a new word, try to think about their practicality. For example, knowing the past tense helps you to tell everyone about your weekend and learning conditionals can help to make excuses. Never learn anything just because it is in the book. Your time is precious and you want to learn only useful and practical things.
- Stay motivated. When you feel tired and want to give it up, sit down and write reasons why learning a new language is incredibly cool. You will be better than your friends who do not speak any languages. You will surprise people who do not expect you to do it. You will discover a whole new you. You can be a different person in your new language.
- Advertise your learning. Once your friends and family know that you are learning a new language, they will support you. You might be called a Czechophile, Anglophile or Germanophile. That only shows that people around you respect you. You might receive cool gifts related to your language learning and who would not love a book, t-shirt or a funny card.
- Stop thinking in your first language. Many learners make the same mistake. They translate everything literally from their first language. This will never work. Languages are difficult organisms working on a different basis. Instead of being frustrated, observe people in different situation. What do they say? You would not say it in your language? Well, that does not matter. You are a new person now and you have to play by new rules.
- Praise yourself. We live such very hectic lives that we often forget to look back at what we have done. Open your notebook regularly and see how much you have learnt in a month. Every new grammar structure, word and expression are your achievements. If you like cakes, get a cake when you learn 50 new words. If you like new stationary, get yourself a beautiful new notebook every time you finish the old one.