Knowing more than one language is always good for your career, especially if you are working in healthcare—but not everyone is good at picking up foreign languages! If you are one of those who struggle with languages, how can you do something different to make the process of picking up a new tongue easier?
Languages cannot be learnt without putting in a lot of time and effort. After all, you spent years picking up your own native language as a baby! Here are some tips that really work.
Join a reputed language course, if you have the time for it. Pick one that emphasizes hands-on learning, rather than one that goes by a textbook-style of teaching. Reading and writing become easier once you have started speaking the language, to whatever extent you are able to. Try to talk to your classmates, and get your tutor to correct your mistakes.
If you are not joining a course, you can ask those who speak the language well to give you constructive criticism. Remember what they say, and the next time you use that word, make sure you follow their suggestions. Do not wait till you have achieved fluency in the written language to start speaking- you may never feel confident enough to start! The more mistakes you make, the faster you will learn. And unless you try to use the language, you won’t make mistakes.
Immerse yourself in the new language. If you are already in the foreign country, this will be easy. All you need to do is pay attention when people around you speak, or try to pick up the written word by reading signboards, notices, or newspaper headlines. Use every opportunity you can to learn a new word. One technique that you may find useful is to learn a word a day—and consciously use it in your conversation as often as you can through the day, till it becomes a part of your new vocabulary.
It helps to have a learning partner. If you are in a foreign country, you can pick a language-exchange partner who wishes to learn your language, while you are trying to learn theirs. Talk to your friend in his or her language, while they respond to you in yours! This is also a good way to make a new friend when you are abroad.
Watch foreign language films with subtitles in your language, if that’s possible. This will help you to understand the spoken word far more easily, as when emotions and expressions are linked to words you will find it easier to remember their meaning. In much the same way, songs help to learn the pronunciation very quickly. If you like to read books, get hold of some foreign language editions of your favourite books. If you are in the habit of keeping a daily journal, why not try writing in your new language!
Do not try to be perfect. Remember, even native speakers of the language may not be perfect themselves! Greater accuracy in grammar and syntax will come over time.
Never neglect homework. Your teacher may have asked you to read a passage, and you may feel you understand it already. However, reading it once again will help you to pick up the finer nuances of the language that a first reading may not have allowed. Do all your homework and assignments with conscious and sincere effort.
Finally, however busy you are, make sure that you put in some effort every single day. It’s all too easy to forget a new learning unless you are continuously exposed to it!