I wanted to take a moment today and talk about a strategy for learning new languages fast.
I’ve been learning languages for the past 12 years. I started by learning Russian. Then, when I met my wife who moved to Canada at the age of thirteen from switzerland, I started learning german & italian. She speaks three languages fluently.
My approach with russian was straight forward as I worked in a fabrication ship where half of the employees were imigrants from Russia. I didn’t start by picking up a book on russian that was full of vocabulary, grammar rules and phrases. Instead, I learned by asking my co-workers how to say something that I could use and then I would use it with them on a daily basis. Sayings like ‘How do I do this’, or ‘how do I say this’, ‘where can find this’ and so on.
From there I started asking more vocabulary specific questions. After a few short months I was speaking half in Russian and half in english at work. Eventually though, it was time to take my russian to another level and start with a tutor. Fortunately, the wife of one of the Russians I worked with was a teacher in Russia for many years. I started taking lessons with her on a regular basis.
After 2 years of working at that job I finally left to pursue a trade in another industry. I stopped using and learning russian for about three years until there was a family in our neighborhood who moved from germany to Canada. Their native language was russian but they also spoke german well. They however didn’t speak any english at the time. L
This was great for me! I now had a chance to use my russian again and learn more. Initially I was very unpracticed and found it difficult to recall much of what I had learned. So, I started my studies again and practiced with them. My approach this time was to use a flashcard program that had thousands of russian phrases. I practised everyday, making a concerted effort to use as much as I learned with my new russian friends. Today, my russian once again is unpracticed and difficult for me due to the fact that I Don’t use it as much.
With german and especially italian, I took two very different approaches. My german I learned fast, again by learning phrases instead of vocabulary. My advantage this time though, was that my wife spoke these languages fluently as well. More importantly, her family spoke only german or italian and lived in those repective countries. So, I had lots of native speakers to practice with.
When learning italian I stopped learning by phrases and started learning grammar rules and vocabulary. For years it was a slow and painful process. I asked myself, why does italian seem to be much more dificult? Then I realized it was because my method was impractical.
Once again, I changed my method and started learning phrases instead of words and grammar. I often get complimented on my italian, especially when speaking to italians outside of italy. I am by no means perfect, but my ideas are expressed much clearer and I am well understood.