How to Become Fluent in a Second Language

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Most of us have taken a course in Spanish, French or other foreign language in high school or college. However, how many people actually know how to speak the language as a result of that course? Unfortunately, many people who have taken extensive courses in a second language often need to visit the country where people speak the language.

Here are some factors you can take into consideration when trying to learn a second language:

1. Make it a point to be around people who speak the language you are trying to learn. In many communities, there are a variety of ethnicities and languages. If you are trying to learn Spanish, try to attend meet up with groups who interact in Spanish. If you are trying to learn another language, contact your local refugee relief and register to volunteer. There may be people in your community who speak the language you are learning, and while helping them integrate into the community, you are also gaining a valuable skill.

2. Visit a country where the language they are learning is the primary language spoken. When learning a totally new language, it is best to avoid any enclaves of English speakers. For example, you do not learn much Spanish if the only place you visit in Mexico is Cancun. Visit an area where you are forced to use the second language. Nothing like ordering the dish on a menu completely wrong to make a word or phrase remain in your memory forever.

3. Play music in your target language. The music makes it especially easy to learn a language because words are often repetitive, and are sung at a slower pace than in normal spoken conversation. Many times you can find lyrics for some of the most popular songs online. Ask a native speaking friend to help translate the lyrics, or check a dictionary.

4. Read books and magazines in the language you are trying to learn. It is good to start with illustrated magazines because the images often help to place unknown words in context. In addition, articles are shorter and have less information to process. As you gain in language proficiency, start reading books that were originally written in the language you want to learn. Avoid their translations.

5. Always keep your dictionary by your side. Thus, when you read or hear a word you do not recognize, you can immediately find it.

6. Use an electronic system to ''speak'' into the dictionary, in addition to their paper dictionary. This is important because this way you learn to pronounce words you're familiar with.

7. Practice your target language every day. Interact with people who speak the language and be sure to listen to some music in the language. It is important to hear and speak the language every day. Reading and writing are skills that could come a little later in the process. First, it is absolutely essential that you gain exposure to listening on a regular basis.

8. Leave your inhibitions behind. If you are too worried about how it sounds speak the language, and are afraid of making mistakes, it will become more difficult to learn. Fluency in a second language requires a degree of risk taking. Yes, some people laugh when others, or those who are learning, butcher the pronunciation of a word. As a learner, you must realize they are having some fun, and it's nothing personal.

9. If possible, watch television programs in the language. If this is not a possibility, try renting movies made in the language. You may want to see subtitles at first because it might be fun to try to find mistakes in translations, but over time you should be able to do without the subtitles.

10. Learn the culture that forms the language you are studying. Once you begin to have an understanding of the culture, you will understand different idioms and peculiar phrases, find it easier to talk to people and begin to understand why language is structured the way it is. You choose the subtle nuances that no textbook can ever capture.

Learning a language is a time-consuming activity and do not expect instant results. While you are taking classes, you should make the most of the experience. Incorporate those activities that really help you absorb the language and make you feel comfortable in it. Above all, have fun learning something new. Studies show that people who enjoy themselves and don’t feel embarrassed earn new languages faster!
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