Welcome to this course from Radio Lingua in which we’re going to be giving you some tips and advice on learning a language. Over the course of these weekly episodes we’ll provide you with a series of tips and ideas which you can put into practice straight away.
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Episode 01 – Enjoy the journey![audio:https://radiolingua.com/thevault/rlnclub/lal/week01/langtips-01.mp3]
We’re assuming you’ve already taken the fantastic decision to learn a language: perhaps you’re just starting off and you’re taking the first steps in the new language, learning some basic greetings and how to communicate with people you meet while travelling. Or perhaps you’ve already been learning for a few months or even years and you’re looking for some suggestions to take your learning that bit further. Regardless of where you are in the learning process we hope that you find these episodes useful and enjoyable.
Perhaps I should start by telling you a bit about me. If you listen to any of the Radio Lingua language courses you’re probably already familiar with my voice. I’m Mark – I run the Radio Lingua Network and I’m the teacher for a number of courses. I’ve been teaching languages for around 15 years now, both in “real” classrooms, and virtually through online courses. I have to admit to being a bit of a language geek – I love learning new languages. My university degree is in Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese and in my time I’ve picked up some German, Norwegian and Catalan. More recently I’ve become interested in Japanese, Mandarin and I’m currently concentrating on Russian as I’m going to be travelling to Russia in the next few months. I tend to have at least one language on the go most of the time, and I hope to share some of my own methods for learning languages, along with ideas from other learners and teachers with you in this course.
One of the things I love most about learning languages is the fact that it never ends. There’s always something else to learn, whether it’s a new area of vocabulary because you suddenly need to deal with a broken-down car in Portugal, or a new expression which you pick up while talking to German friends in a café. Not only that, but language is constantly changing, particularly when it comes to colloquial and idiomatic language. The ‘cool’ phrases I picked up in France when I lived and worked there are no longer particularly ‘cool’, and the phrases I’ve picked up more recently while chatting to friends will become dated too. Some learners find this never-ending learning process daunting, and this leads me to the first piece of advice I’d like to share with you about language-learning.
If you’re enjoying a good book, or watching an exciting film, or if you’re having the holiday of a lifetime, you don’t want it to end. You enjoy each page of your book, each activity of the holiday. So with language-learning you need to enjoy the journey, without worrying too much about the destination.
Much depends on your own motivation, something we’ll definitely be talking more about in future episodes. If you simply want to pick up enough phrases to get by on a weekend trip to Paris, then your journey will be fairly short. But if you’ve learned those phrases and can use them on your trip, you’ll find you get so much more out of your experience: the locals will appreciate your efforts, and you’ll end up consolidating what you already know, and very likely learning more. If you’re aiming to become fluent in a particular language – perhaps you’ve bought a property in Spain or Mexico and you’re planning to move there when you retire – then your journey will be much longer, and you can enjoy every step of the way: each successful interaction with native speakers will take you a step further and help you build your confidence.
One thing which can affect the ‘journey’ is when you get it wrong – when you make a mistake. Some language-learners worry about making mistakes. This is actually something we regularly hear from listeners to our language courses, and it’s why I wanted to tackle this issue in the first episode of this course. I would strongly suggest that you don’t think about mistakes in a negative way: becoming confident in a language means that you’ve built up the experience of listening to the language, reading authentic examples of the language, and interacting with native and non-native speakers. If you think of your language-learning journey as walking along a path, each mistake you make will simply take you a few centimetres off the path. However, you can always learn from your mistake and thereby build up the experience and develop your confidence, and get back on the path. I remember my father was in Italy once and was keen to try a particular ice-cream cake in the bakery. Not quite sure of the word for “cake”, he guessed it would be similar to the French word we often use in English too – gâteau – and proceeded to ask for “un gatto di gelato”. This seemed to make sense, but in Italian “un gatto” is not a cake, but a cat, so he was actually asking for an ice-cream cat. So it’s quite possible to enjoy making mistakes too – indeed I’d suggest that it’s one of the most likely ways that native speakers will engage with you and react well to your attempts in the language. We all have examples of funny mistakes we’ve made when speaking other languages, or mistakes non-native speakers of English have made when talking to us. If you’d like to share your stories, please feel free to post a comment on the website!
So, the main message of this first episode of our course is simply to enjoy learning the language – the journey – and don’t worry too much about when you’ll be able to do everything you want to do in the language – the destination. Treat any mistakes you make as natural steps in the learning process, and remember that sometimes you learn even more by making a mistake and the subsequent interaction with the person you’re talking to.
In the next episode of our course we’ll be looking at some practical ways to plan your learning and suggesting some useful tools you could use as you learn. Until then, thanks for listening.
Download audio (mp3)[/amprotect]