Tools for Learning a Foreign Tongue

Learning a foreign language is hard. Okay, that’s not always true. Sometimes, it’s relatively simple and easy. However, depending on certain factors, it can be difficult.

One way to help ease the challenge is to start early. Learning a new language when younger is easier because the brain hasn’t quite set itself into linguistic patterns yet. The young mind is more malleable and can absorb the new words and grammatical structure better.

If you’re not young anymore but are looking to learn even the basics of a new language, there are some things you simply must have. Some of these are modern and technological, but you’ll find that not all of them are like that.

The best way to learn a new language is to have someone else who speaks it fluently.

There are reasons this works. You have someone you can bounce your progress off of, who will hopefully be willing to correct your mistakes. You can hold a conversation and practice your skills. If they’re a native, you also learn how normal people talk.

This can be a huge boon in some instances – for example, most Japanese taught in a classroom is six-year-old-girl Japanese, designed to make the foreign speaker sound as harmless as possible. This is due to a culture where the wrong choice of words can be taken as aggressive, even if that was not the intent.

Anki – a Japanese word for “memorization” – is a great learning tool. It’s digital flashcards and relies on your ability to remember things. It takes a more game-like approach, so it’s informal.

The best thing about Anki is that you can use it to learn many things, beyond just languages. My nephew has used it to help understand high school physics, for instance.

An older strategy is the Pimsleur method. This will involve audio and is more concerned with speech and accent than rote memorization. If you’ve ever seen a program that has a native speaker say a word or phrase and asks you to repeat it, you’ve seen this in action.

My issue with this method is that it is a poor choice for some languages. Some languages rely on heavy use of body language to convey meaning. There are also languages where the writing system is different, so Pimsleur only gets you there halfway.

Finally, you can also look into a specialized tool.

There are various books and resources dedicated to specific languages. Whether it’s how to do Chinese calligraphy or swearing in German, there’s a reference out there somewhere. Depending on what language you want to pick up, you could have a wealth of options ready.