This post is part of our ongoing exploration of the 64 Arts; specifically Art #46: Foreign Language.
Hands down, one of the best ways to learn a foreign language is through an immersion program. In this sort of sink or swim environment you have no choice but to develop your ear and at least a rudimentary grasp of the vocabulary and grammar or starve in the process! Of course, for those of us lacking the funds for an extended stay abroad, creating our own immersion program can be a bit more involved, but not impossible by any means.
Start with some basic language education–either your rusty High School French or a program like Duolingo–just so you’re not starting from square one. Then, start incorporating media in that language into your entertainment routine:
- Forgein movies without subtitles (or at least not English subtitles*). Television shows that you’re already familiar with are also a good option–the point is to start equating dialogue with vocabulary.
- Read books in your chosen learning language. I had a copy of Goethe’s Faust back in middle school that had the German on one page and the English translation on the facing page–I didn’t learn German but I did pick up a few tidbits. Foreign-language magazines can be found in larger bookstores as well as online and might also give you some practical practice
- Set your default language on your computer or browser to your immersion language: obviously this wouldn’t be a good idea for your work computer, but at-home browsing could give you some interesting opportunities.
- Ask a fluent friend to speak only in their native tongue with you. Another blog I follow–The Swiss Life–is written by an American ex-pat in Switzerland and she and her husband only speak German at home during the week (if I’m remembering correctly) to improve her comfort level with the language.
I’m sure there’s something I’m forgetting–perhaps radio? There are certainly podcasts available in many languages and many Internet radio stations from different countries or even enclaves throughout the US that cater to non-English speakers. I suppose even songs and their liner notes/lyrics could help, too! Basically, the more input the better, whatever you’re most comfortable with and can arrange ready access to.
*Making the assumption, of course, that my readers are primarily English speakers, based upon the browsing data.