19 May, 2013

Learning a foreign language

It's been a long a time since I blogged. Hhhmmmm!! Life of a student! Anyway, within this period of silence, I have been learning (some, in fact, very little) Chinese. It's been quite interesting, and I've realized that learning Chinese, generally, is not different from learning any other language. In fact, I think Chinese is easier to learn, as far as grammar is concerned. If you don't agree with me, try German, or French. Even English! :-). However, aside the general similarities, there are a few peculiarities in every language that one must take into consideration when learning a foreign language.

Anyway, I have observed that, to successfully learn a new language,
  1. Learn a few phrases or sentences applicable to your immediate  environment or circumstances. For example, if you are a student, you may consider starting with the school, classroom, or dormitory environment. As a tourist, you might consider, how to book a hotel, etc. However, in all situations, I suggest you start with basic greetings and responses and introduction. The goal is to begin to have simple conversations as early as possible. It will boost your morale.
  2. Depending on your needs and the time available, you may learn about the writing system of the language. (Does this apply to Chinese?) This will give you the independence to teach yourself, afterwards. Even if the symbols (alphabetic or otherwise) used in that language are similar to that of your native language, note that, their sounds may be different.  Although, I recommend  this to be the second step, it can be postponed, depending on circumstances.
  3. After learning a few sentences and phrases for simple conversation, you may move on to some simple rules of grammar. This will help you to begin to form your own sentences.
  4. Learn more vocabulary and expressions, to aid you in forming your own sentences. In fact, you may decide to precede step 3 with this step or have them go together. If you have learnt about the writing system of the language (step 2), reading more books will be of help.
  5. Listen more, especially, to native speakers. Here, television or radio programmes in that language will be of help. Don't be too ambitious, start with programmes made for beginners. The Internet will also be of help. This step will help you to adapt to the way native speakers speak. In addition, you will also learn expressions that cannot be learnt from textbooks.
  6. Grab every opportunity to practice speaking the language . If you have very little opportunity to do so, you may consider the "Crazy English" option. 
I guess this will suffice for now. In my next blog, I will talk about the Chinese language, and the peculiarities, as far as learning it is concerned. I will blog specifically about Putonghua or Mandarin.