‘How to master a foreign language???’


Some say that the ability to speak many languages improves social skills, and makes it possible to love others better. However farfetched this statement may or may not be – fluency in another language is often an advantage. Therefore, having gone past the ‘Why should I learn?’ question, the next step is finding answers to “How should I learn?”

I certainly do not claim to have all the ‘hows’, but I am able to share a thing or two. The other day, my colleague, who has managed to master five different languages, gave me what one might consider a basic advice, yet to me it was rather powerful. “You can learn any language, even Arabic”, he said. Subsequently, he added that without practice it is impossible to learn, or to retain any type of fluency or knowledge. Therefore, in my own words, do as little as you can, but do as much as you can. Be consistent until you can say:

  • “Qui, je parle Francais”,
  • “Si, hablo Español”,
  • “Ja, ich spreche Deutsch”,
  • Da, ya gavaryu pa ruski,
  • Or whatever else…

I am learning Spanish. It is a very different stage in my life compared to my childhood/teenage years (while ‘battling’ with English). I am a wife, a mother, a writer, and I have a day job too. ‘Aaaaaaa!’ You might be thinking. ‘Why add more? What’s wrong with you?!’ Well, if you aren’t, I do question myself sometimes… Nevertheless, I have a strong conviction that the Spanish language is one of “my languages”.

However, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that I can no longer run around attending lessons, like I used to. Nor do I particularly want to share my income with private tutors at this time. Therefore, plan numero dos was needed. Some of its ingredients have already been mentioned in the previous post and the ones that haven’t, will be mentioned here.

At this stage of my learning, I understand quite a lot while my speech although still quite basic doesn’t stop me from ‘speaking it’ whenever the opportunity arises. When it does, I usually explain briefly that I am learning still & that glorious patience is required. People are often willing to help if you ask them politely, therefore be brave enough to speak it even though you’re faaaaaar from fluent. Ask questions. Don’t be concerned about looking (sounding) silly. We all start there.

Surely, many people may not have the time to seat with us for hours explaining grammar, concepts and all. If you have a friend who will do that for you, that’s great. However, if not – use books, youtube, google, language apps, whatever. These are some of the resources available for free (or just about). Be creative & use whatever you can.

  • Google – if you know how to write it – drop this foreign phrase or word in the search engine next to the translate command.
  • YouTube – limit these films, random videos & all… C’mon – look out for grammar & vocabulary lessons instead…
  • Books – If you don’t want to give your coin away – check out the library (bring the book back though) 😉 I felt blessed having come across a book sale the other day. I got myself a lovely Spanish/Beginners/Intermediate book by Collins. However, don’t be cheap. If no sale is available treat the purchase as an investment & pick up the book. It wants you to have it. 🙂

OK, fine. Mastering a language may be easier for someone who has opportunities to travel, or for someone who lives in a metropolitan city e. g. London, New York, etc. However, everyone can learn. Whatever opportunity you get – make the most of it.

Holidays: Let your intention be to rest and to learn. If you are studying French – holiday in France or Cameroon for example. Don’t go to Poland, ma Cherie – unless of course you’re visiting family there (like I do :)).  Especially if your opportunities to travel aren’t many – kill two birds with one stone (not literally though) 🙂 I’ve recently taken a short vacation in Barcelona (check out a few highlights from my trip in the video below).

There are many languages that I would like to learn. However, I prefer to keep my focus reasonably narrowed until I’ve reached the level that I am satisfied with – one language at a time. Having said that, if you have all the time in the world or you’re an absolute “polyglotic” genius, go ahead and study three or more languages at once, by all means.

Ooo! Important one – don’t be jealous of the progress of others, rather celebrate your own. Don’t envy that brilliant colleague of yours who has the best tutors, the best brain plus the best quality nuts to get the brain functioning at its peak (lol), even though he did master the language in six short months. Good for him – Yeay! 🙂

Never give up! The most challenging of times are those when you feel like you’ve put the effort & the time in, and yet have made hardly any progress. Let me tell you – NOOOO! Dooon’t give up!!! The progress is taking place, little by little.

Aaaand last, but not least – BE PATIENT. I cannot stress this one enough. If you are not surrounded by native speakers – it might take years before you become fluent. That’s OK though. Let it take as long as necessary. Isn’t it better to be able to say “Qui, I speak French” in 6 years from now, than to continue saying “I can’t speak French 😦 ” for the rest of your life?

Summary of what’s needed:

  • Belief that it’s possible, consistency, practice,
  • Creativity – plan numero dos, tres, cuatro (if need be),
  • courage to speak it, and to ask questions,
  • resources e.g. google, youtube, apps, books
  • Holidays – two birds, same time – remember?
  • Focus, patience, gratitude for your progress
  • And never give up attitude… Yeay!

So, whether I will take my own advice and finish my ‘course’ remains to be seen. Regardless, I hope that you will take it (the advice) because… IT WORKS 🙂

Published by

Monika Ribeiro (writer/poet)

I write because I have to & love to… Writing helps me organize thoughts, understand life & address vital matters in a constructive way. I hope this blog satisfies your intellect & your soul at the same. Be inspired...

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