Languages

Learning languages is cool. Remember James Bond in: “You only live twice?” When Miss Moneypenny hands him a course in advanced instant Japanese he looks at her pitifully and says: “Don’t you know I studied modern languages at Oxford?” Surely he didn’t study all 7000 living languages. As a language junkie myself I only mastered a small number: German, English, Spanish and Gaelic with native proficiency, French and Italian with working proficiency and basic colloquial knowledge in Portuguese, Russian and Irish.

I am also a qualified language tutor having taught a Gaelic language class at the University of the Highlands and Islands according to the Ùlpan method as well as a total immersion community education class.

My top 10 language learning tips:

Everybody learns differently, but all of the things below were very useful to me:

 

1) Prepare little sheets of paper with a list of vocabulary when you come across it. You can have one in your bathroom, one in your pocket, etc. Whenever you’ve got a minute take it out and learn a few words.

2) When you revise your vocabulary in public do it silently. At home speak out loud. This trains your vocal cords which aren’t used to pronouncing the foreign sounds. It also helps to develop your “ear” for languages, i.e. to remember the sounds.

3) Converse with yourself. Build sentences with the words on your vocabulary list. Reciting a list will never make you a fluent speaker. Practicing to build sentences will. Don’t worry about them not being correct. When you don’t know a word put it on your list and look look it up.

4) Immerse yourself in the language by listening to the radio. You can download the Tunein app to your smartphone and listen to a radio station in almost any language. Find music you like in your target language.

Venetian language sign on a Prosecco farm: Who invented the wine is either in heaven or near ii
Venetian language sign on a Prosecco farm: Who invented the wine is either in heaven or near it

5) Find somebody who wants to learn your language and converse with them on Skype regularly. You can find like-minded people on the “Mixxer.” Don’t be put off if some folks don’t respond. Keep going until you find someone who does.

6) Say what you can say! Don’t look for the exact translation of a sentence in your mother tongue. You will get frustrated by so many words you don’t know. Unless you’re doing a translation of scientific text, all you need is to say something appropriate: Say what you can say!

7) A bit of grammar doesn’t do any harm either.

8) Do not be afraid of making mistakes. I have made mistakes that still make me feel embarrassed. So what?

9) Book a holiday in a place where the lingo is spoken.

10) Don’t ever give up!

Amongst my favorite sayings are:

Vor Gott sind eigentlich alle Menschen Berliner (Theodor Fontane).

Before God all people really are Berliners.

Cho sona ri bròg (Scottish Gaelic saying). As happy as a shoe.

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Deutscher Journalist in Scotland, BBC Correspondent Broadcast languages: ENGLISH, GERMAN, SPANISH, SCOTS GAELIC Interview languages: FRENCH, ITALIAN, PORTUGUESE Colloquial language: RUSSIAN TV Journalism Lecturer, Religious Correspondent, Travel Photographer

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