Learning a second language can be a very stressful and arduous task if you let it. Somehow, the words you learn in the books don’t seem to apply very well to real life situations. Those small and seemingly un-important elements the show a person to be in command of not only the language, but the culture of the people who speak it cannot be adequately expressed by words on paper.
So, how do you learn these little secrets of mastering the ability to articulate yourself in another language?
Here are 5 proven techniques that will help you improve your English without even trying, if you are learning to speak English as a second language. Do they really work? Yes. I’ve tried them myself as I’ve had opportunity to live somewhere where English wasn’t the primary language. I found it to be a fun, exciting, and painless way to learn both the language and the culture. The culture is simply learning the way the natives express their own words. The genuine accent, facial expressions, hand gestures, sighs, moans, groans, laughter, smirks, and other things that go along with everyday conversation.
Regardless of how extensive or not your vocabulary is, if you master the ability to “sound” like you know the language and can speak it, people will be more than generous to assist you.
1. Watch Movies!
Watching movies is always a fun thing to do. In order to get the most out of your movie watching experience, if your vocabulary is limited, watch a movie in English that you are very familiar with in your own language so you always know what’s going on. Try not to translate as you go because you lose blocks of conversation this way. Instead, watch the picture and listen. Hear all the words, but determine what’s going on by the pictures you see and the words you’re hearing that you already know. Believe it or not, other words will sink in too, and so will the accent and everything else that went with what you saw and heard.
As your vocabulary grows, expand your movie selections to other movies you’d like to see but are only available in English. Try to be able to see the film more than once if possible.
According to the location and type of film you intend to view, you will be able to experience different accents, and other cultural expressions of the English language. Pick and choose the things that you think will suit you best. If it doesn’t work out, pick and try something else! Have fun with yourself and your efforts.
2. Watch Soap Operas
The place where extreme expression and limited vocabulary meet! This is such a fascinating way to learn a foreign language. Every accessory that goes with the expression of a word is demonstrated on a soap opera. “Outrage” expressed with a word, facial expression or two, and perhaps even a subsequent face slap, all of that being understandable in any language. “Love”, another universal subject, or violence, good versus evil can all be discerned quickly and easily on a soap opera. Plus, soap operas are naturally designed to allow anyone just tuning in to pick up the story quickly. The characters are easily loveable and deliciously “hate-able” so you turn to it again and again to see what’s going on, and not only improve your English each time, but reinforce what you’ve already learned.
3. Read the Comics/Funny Papers
Very non-stressful! Pictures with words, or words with pictures, however you want to look at it, it’s a great way to learn! For each thought presented there are words that match a picture, and vice versa. It doesn’t matter if you read comic books, or the comics in the Sunday newspaper, read whatever will make you laugh and cause you to enjoy learning at the same time.
4. Read Children’s books
If you know any little kids between the ages of 5-8, try reading one of their books to them. Usually little kids know their favorite books by heart, so if you stumble a little, they’ll be able to help you.
If you enjoy this method of improving your English, and you find yourself to be pretty good at it, then try reading a few Dr. Seuss books. The rhyming will challenge you, but once you master it, your pronunciation of English, and your delivery will have been considerably refined and improved.
5. Take a service job like waiter or waitress; bartender, or sales person.
This type of job can be done if you have a decent vocabulary of verbs, and know how to say “I, we, she, he, they”, etc. The only other thing necessary is a working vocabulary of things relevant to your specific tasks and goals.
For example, as a breakfast waitress, you want to be able to ask if they want their eggs, “scrambled or fried”, if they want “more coffee”, if everything is “alright”, do they want “anything else”, and the total of their bill in their own language!
If you sell real estate, you’ll want to incorporate words like “mortgage, loan, co-sign, 30 year fixed”, etc.
If you sell shoes, you need words like “how does that feel”, are they “too tight, too loose, to short in the toe, to big”, etc.
The longer you work at your job, the more your working vocabulary will improve.
6. Learn these two sentences and you’ll be set for life . . . seriously!
“How do you say (blank)”, in English (Spanish, French, etc.), and “What is that called?” (Point if you have to, and smile too). Smiling is a universal language. Once I learned how to ask these two questions, I was on my way to being conversant in the language of my choice!
I could use my limited vocabulary to ask the question and then when I got my answer I would repeat it a few times to make sure I was saying it correctly, and “BAM” I had a new vocabulary word. And, because I asked my question to the best of my ability in the native tongue, the natives realized my sincere desire to learn, and helped me!
7. What happens if you make a mistake?
Nothing. The world won’t come to an end, and you haven’t embarrassed yourself to the point where you can’t show your face again. Just apologize if that’s what’s called for, or laugh at yourself, make the correction, and count it as a learning experience.
Once I was in a restaurant and I wanted to ask the waiter for a “to go” box, however, I was speaking to my kids in English, and trying to think of what I wanted to ask for in Spanish, and I promptly and incorrectly asked him for a “house to go”. He looked at me kind of funny, but he was very courteous, and didn’t laugh until I laughed.
I’ve committed other language faux pas as well over the years, all of which have been a learning experience, and if given enough time, will become a humorous story as well.
About The Author
Kim Rogers has lived and worked in the Caribbean, Denmark, and along the Mexican Border. Kim has developed 101 Words that will make You Sound Smarter Right Away! To read more got to http://www.soundsmarternow.com