Become fluent fast – 10 tips to help you become fluent

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How can you achieve fluency as quickly as possible?

At Confidence Learning Services, we often meet people who want to become fluent in the language they are learning. Here are 10 tips to help you in that process, no matter what language you are studying!

1. Fluent fast – Immerse yourself

It’s almost impossible to learn a new language, or at least to learn it rapidly, unless you begin thinking in that language. But how do you think in a new language you can’t yet speak?

Ingratiate yourself with the community and you’re halfway there!

The answer is to simply immerse yourself in it. Traveling in a foreign country allows you to continuously hear the sounds, rhythms, and inflections of a new language–spoken on the streets, in buses, on television, etc. Your brain will already start to process and interpret a new language.

Even better than simply traveling is being forced to “operate” in a new language by participating in a volunteer program, or working abroad. Best of all is being completely immersed with locals (such as living with a host family) and completely isolated from other native speakers of your language.

Immerse yourself with the locals, their music, culture, media, politics, sports, family, etc. Ingratiate yourself with the community and you’re halfway there!

2. Fluent fast – Forget translating: think like a baby!

How do babies learn language? Through imitation, repetition of sounds, and above all, by not being shy or self-conscious.

So what if your pronunciation is a little off, or you can’t remember the proper conjugation? Just start talking, even if it seems like babbling. Resisting the urge to translate everything into your native language can be the single fastest shortcut to fluency.

Rather than walking up to the restaurant or giving your host family a pre-memorized phrase for what you’re going to order, simply listen to how the locals order their food, and then imitate them as best you can. The same goes for greetings, small talk, etc. Watch their facial expressions as they say the words; study how they move their mouths.

Copy these expressions and sounds just like a baby would. Whether you understand what they mean exactly or not, eventually you will begin simply calling upon these sounds / phrases / words in appropriate situations. They’ll appear, as if by magic. This is the gateway to thinking in a new language.

3. How do you say?

Besides common greetings, the one phrase you should memorize and always have at the ready is the phrase is “How do you say that / what is that called?”

By being an inquisitive traveler, one who is always asking questions, you befriend the local people. You’ll find that over time they’ll open up to you, making it easier to initiate conversations. These daily interactions with the locals are your best teachers: set a daily goal for yourself of having X number of conversations each day–asking people about things you’re interested in, but don’t know the words for. Even if you can’t finish the conversation, you’re on the way.

4. Fluent fast – Write it down

After having conversations, jot down the things you remembered hearing but didn’t quite understand.

Then go back and use an online dictionary so that you can learn the meaning and the pronunciation. Look up the words, piece the conversation back together in your mind. Then, next time you have a conversation, use what you learned.

5. Fluent fast – Use cognates and draw links

Have you noticed that some words appear exactly the same across various languages? These are called “cognates.” Unlocking the usage of cognates instantly gives you several hundred more words to your vocabulary. For example, most words ending in “ion” in the Latin languages are the same in English.

For example: information / información, donation / donación

Similarly, words across different languages often share the same root word, so drawing on what you already know will make it easier (e.g.: cheese is fromage in French and fromaggio in Italian). Studies have also shown that when you have mastered a second language, your brain becomes becomes better wired to learn subsequent new languages.

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6. Fluent fast – Local TV, movies, music

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Watch movies, listen to music, sing songs, and browse newspapers and magazines. It’s fun and helps improve your pronunciation and comprehension.

You may struggle when trying to read words in your new language, but watching the subtitles on music videos and trying to sing along will help you learn new words and pronounce them more accurately.

TV Shows, Movies and music are invaluable language learning tools.

7. Fluent fast – Non-verbal cues

Beyond words, observe locals when they talk. Body language is important, as well as appropriate and inappropriate hand gestures. Learning to understand the Indian head bobble while learning Hindi or bowing while studying Japanese, combining body language with a new tongue helps you communicate better.


8. 
Fluent fast – Get emotional!

Emotive experiences often etch impressions onto our memory. Make full use of embarrassing / funny / angry experiences by linking them to the new language.

As a child, when playing with friends and counting in Spanish for hide and seek, I mispronounced the number “veinte.” I don’t even remember how I mispronounced the word, but I remember all my friends laughing at me, and I know the correct pronunciation of all my Spanish numbers now. Make full use of embarrassing / funny / angry experiences by linking them to the new language.

Needless to say, the embarrassment helped correct my pronunciation for good! Similarly, negotiating with shady cab drivers or nasty vendors also helps you learn numbers rather quickly so you don’t get ripped off.

9. Fluent fast – Start with friends, then branch out.

While individual classes can be highly beneficial for unsurpassed attention, group classes with friends can greatly aid learning. Having a friend to practice with helps you get better, and you can also learn from the different mistakes different people make.

On the other hand, venturing out solo in a foreign country forces you to speak with local people–say the person riding next to you on the bus, or standing in line at the market. It also prevents you relying on a friend with stronger language skills to do the talking for you in key exchanges such as asking for directions or buying food.


10. Practice at every opportunity before and after you travel.

Ever felt really “rusty” and lacking confidence in a language despite having taken classes or used it (or even mastered it) at some other time in your life? Languages are alive and require exercise. Find avenues to practice wherever and whenever you can.

If you’re interested in getting some help along the way with your language learning journey, contact us today for your free consultation at 1-865-226-9477.

Who learns languages best?

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What type of person makes the best language learner?

Recently, one of my clients in Knoxville, Tennessee asked me what traits our most successful clients at Confidence Learning Services had in common. I thought this was a fantastic question, so I figured I would share my observations. I’m not here to tell you whether men or women, Americans or Chinese, or doctors or engineers make the best students, but I hope the following observations will help you

5. People who learn languages best communicate with native speakers regularly.

This might be great news for you if you want to improve your accent, and you are the only one at work who is not a native English speaker. However, it might be difficult news for you if you are practicing English in a town in which not even the teachers are native speakers, or if you are in Knoxville, Tennessee trying to learn a language like Romanian. This principle holds true even if you are living in an English speaking country, but most of your interactions (with coworkers, family and friends) are with non-native English speakers, even if you usually communicate in English. The good news is, native speakers are just a computer screen away with many websites devoted to finding language partners. Additionally, if you really make an effort, you may be surprised at what you find in your own town. For example, even in Knoxville, Tennessee, there is a Romanian church that would probably provide great opportunities for language practice if you decided to get involved. But speaking with native speakers usually requires you to be…

4. People who learn languages best are outgoing.

That may seem harsh, if you are an introvert, and it’s actually a bit deceiving. You see, people who are outgoing will produce more language output. That means they will produce more correct output, and more errors, than introverts. However, errors are some of our best learning opportunities, and if you refuse to take a chance on what you think might be the word you need to use, you will never know if you were right or wrong. If you are outgoing, you will make a mistake and learn right away. So force yourself to come out of your shell a little bit, (yes, research shows a little alcohol helps). Say hi to people in the community. After all, you are learning a language so that you can communicate with others, right?

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3. People who learn languages best take advantage of every opportunity.

That means they go above and beyond their assigned practice. Sure, these students complete their pronunciation practice to learn the difficult English “th” sounds, but then they listen for that sound when they are speaking with friends. They watch for that sound while watching TV at night, and they repeat words with that sound when they hear them on the radio. If you are studying Spanish, you might start reading the Spanish list of ingredients on your food packages, or paying closer attention to signs that you see on the street in Spanish, or turn on the Spanish radio (yes, there are Spanish radio stations in most US cities, even one in Knoxville). Everything is a lesson to be learned.

2. People who learn languages best practice – a lot.

Yes, it sounds obvious, and while the majority of students do practice, you might be surprised at how many clients I have had who sign up for an Accent Reduction, English, or Spanish course but then do not complete the assigned practice. Some clients truly did not have the time in their schedule to make the commitment when taking into account work and other demands in their lives. Others simply chose not to practice, or to practice something else that they deemed more beneficial or interesting, rather than follow the prescribed practice. I usually recommend an hour of practice each day. Without fail, my clients who have demonstrated the most improvement have practiced more than an hour a day.

bilingual kid

And you’re never too young to get those practice hours in.

 

1. People who learn languages best know that attitude is everything.

The common attitudes I see among successful language learners are, “If others can learn this language, so can I.” and “What’s left to learn?” It’s important to remember that it is possible to learn English, Spanish, improve your Accent, or whatever your goal may be. After all, thousands of people have already done so, why can’t you?

It’s also important to remember that there is always more to learn, even in our native languages. We can always improve and grow, and as long as you keep this in mind, you aren’t likely to hit a road-block in your language learning experience.

Do you think you have what it takes to be a successful language learner? Contact Confidence Learning Services today to try out a free, one-on-one consultation in English, Spanish or Accent Reduction.