BY ANDREW MCDONALD
Believe it or not, there are easier ways to learn a language than the rotelike repetition of stock phrases in your chosen lingua. An activity all too reminiscent of the classroom for many. Learning a new tongue can, should, be fun, enjoyable and, if not easy, much less difficult than first imagined.
Maybe the biggest tip anyone embarking on the journey of picking up a new lingua can be given is to know your reasoning. If you are at liberty to choose whatever tongue you like, opt for the one which you feel most passionate about. In other words, the language which fits in with whatever culture you have a love for or the place you like visiting most.
Perhaps you have great interest in French cinema, German opera, Russian literature, Italian football, Chinese history, anything. Sorry if some of those seem a little stereotypical but the point is, find whatever gets your pulse racing and go with it. That way, not only do you have a clear motivation to keep going, but, once you get to grips a little with the tongue, you have a way to learn through doing something you enjoy. For example, listening to music, watching a film or reading sports news.
Duolingo is a handy little app. OK, it’s unlikely to get you fluent enough to hold full, stimulating conversations but it’s great for practising words and phrases and, given it’s phone-based, you pretty much always have it with you. It has short lessons, tests and even more advanced features such as stories and language-learning podcasts.
There are some excellent sets of books accompanied with audio available. One of the best has to be the Hugo In 3 Months series. Typically consisting of twelve to thirteen in-depth self-study lessons, it has enough to take you from the very first steps to having the confidence to start using your chosen lingua in a variety of settings. There are other options out there if Hugo doesn’t float your boat. As an example, people who prefer to learn using aural-only material can do worse than seeking out the Michel Thomas edition for their target tongue. Ask in a bookstore or your local library for the language-learning resources and see what works for you.
At the end of the day, nothing beats practice with native speakers. If it’s French you want to learn, there’s a good chance Alliance Française has something going on in your area as it has a network of centres around the country. Equivalents like the Goethe-Institut (German), Instituto Cervantes (Spanish) and others have bases in Dublin which may be able to help you. You may even find a local group which meets on a more informal basis.
As explored last week, language learning brings more benefits than simply picking up new phrases. It has the ability to change your life for the better in so many different ways. Make it your objective for 2022!