Language can best be viewed as a communication style. When asking ourselves how to approach a language we need to first understand how to communicate. The main areas of communication are speaking, listening, reading and writing. You likely already possess communication skills and now we will discuss how to take these skills and apply them to another language.
Undeniably, speaking a new language is going to be a challenge for many reasons. Every new language has new sounds that your mouth is not familiar with. What should you do? The first thing is to identify all the foreign sounds. Use google and search “What sounds exist in (target language) that don’t exist in (native language)?” Once you have this list, practice making these sounds and have a native speaker listen to you and give you feedback. The second thing is to improve your listening skills. Why is that important?
The way you hear a language will influence your speech. This is why people have accents. Often a person learning a language will not be able to say a sound correctly because they are not hearing the sound correctly. You must listen until you can hear the correct sounds. A guitar player who has played long enough can hear when a string needs to be tuned. If you are saying a word that is “out of tune” and you don’t know why, the reason is because you can’t hear it. The more you listen to a language the easier it will become.
Reading in a foreign language can boost and destroy your confidence all at once. The best approach is to take the “Bedtime Story” approach. Just as a mother reads stories to her children in a clear and slow voice, you should find audiobooks that do the same. Over a few weeks you will find yourself recognizing words. It’s possible that you won’t understand much, but focus on what you do understand. Using your finger and following along with the narrator will help boost your reading tremendously. It’s okay to read the same passage more than once, but do not get stuck on catching the meaning of every single thing.
Keep it simple. The shorter your sentences are, the less likely you are to make a mistake. Another rule to follow is to only use words that you are comfortable with using. The benefit of living with the internet is that everything we write can be proofread by another person. Writing doesn’t have to be scary and you don’t have to tackle it alone. Find someone that is a native speaker that will correct your mistakes when writing. Once everything is corrected, you can go back and compare it in order to learn from your mistakes.
If you struggle in any of these areas in your native language that may come across in your target language. As you actively improve your foreign language, your mother tongue should also not be forgotten. Learning a language is strenuous but the joy of communication outweighs the learning process.