Tips to becoming fluent in a new language
Learning a foreign language can be challenging and difficult, and requires great commitment and motivation. It is, however, one of the most enriching and rewarding skills that can be acquired over a lifetime. There are proven benefits to learning a second language, for example, improved intelligence, memory and concentration, as well as lowered risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Fluency is the ability to express oneself easily and coherently in real time. Accuracy is the ability to be correct and precise, and it means that one is communicating without any grammatical, vocabulary, tonal or any other errors. The ultimate goal when learning a new language is to use it fluently, as accuracy can be improved and developed over time.
There are a number of ways to improve fluency. Firstly, immerse yourself with native speakers as much as possible. Listen to them in their natural contexts and if you are unable to do this, watch movies and television shows in the language you are learning, or listen to audio books and music in that language. Another option for immersing yourself in a foreign language is to stream radio from a country that speaks it, or tune into a television station from that country on DSTV. Find avenues to practise wherever and whenever you can. Having a friend to practise with can help you to stay motivated and focused. Practise speaking every day and try to learn new words and phrases every day. Encourage native speakers to correct you wherever possible.
Be prepared to invest a lot of time and dedication into learning a foreign language. Students are likely to stay motivated over the long-run if they have a good reason to learn the language. The problem that many beginners encounter is that they become too focused on reaching a perfect end-stage that they get discouraged and never get past the early stages. Become comfortable with making mistakes and try not to be perfect. Think in the language as much as possible, instead of thinking in your native language and then translating. Try to improve and remember specific grammar rules so as to avoid incomprehensibility or vagueness when communicating with native speakers.
When choosing a language course, remember to look for a course that focuses on all the language skills like reading, writing, listening, grammar and speaking. Read books, magazines, and other material in the target language whenever possible. Write something in the language every day, for example, a short sentence summing up your day, a diary entry, or an article. Memorising lists of vocabulary can be quite challenging and very boring. A great way to build vocabulary is to learn vocabulary that is relevant to your life and things around you. You could start off by writing your “to do” lists and shopping lists in the language that you are studying. Practise by giving commands to your dog, labeling household items, and playing memory games.
Social media platforms are another excellent way of interacting with native speakers, as users are able to interact with each other over the internet. Web blogs are one of the many forms of social media, and provide a platform in which people can express issues related to their lives and different viewpoints that they may have. Blogs address a wide range of topics and are used in many different ways, which makes this platform an excellent means to practise your language of choice.
Try not to leave long gaps between courses or take a semester off, as you will forget your language at an alarming rate. If you are planning to go on holiday, take some exercises with you so that you can do these throughout your trip. Consider booking your next trip to the country where the language you are learning is spoken. If you are serious about learning the language and getting direct pleasure from what you have learnt, you need to go where that language is spoken. Above all, you need to enjoy learning the foreign language and never stop having fun while learning.