How would you go about learning a language?

I have no idea how such a ‘lazy day’ could be so exhausting but there we have it! I spent the day with Lloyd, a friend of mine from college, enjoying the sunshine alongside the quay, looking in knick-knack shops, playing board games…
Anyway, during the day a question came up, and a question that I often get asked “How do you learn langauges?” Well, I wish I knew. The thing is that I am widely considered a ‘language nerd’ which is something I would protest that I am not. I can think of many people who are a lot more capable with languages than I am. I guess that, by language nerd, they simply mean that I enjoy languages and possibly that I’ve learned them in a slightly unconventional way. I learned German through sitting with a dictionary and translating things. It happened. It was an accident. I’ve had French classes for about 12 years yet I still struggle.
That said, I have found some useful things to help in the language learning process (other than one, they are all quite general);
  • Byki – this is a piece of flashcard software. I get the express version when learning a new language because it’s incredibly useful with the pronunciation. It’s also possible to play the words and phrases slowly and to be tested on your spelling of the phrases. I have never used to paid for version but that’s more because my learning style isn’t structured than because there are flaws in the program.
  • LanguagePod101– This comes in various languages and is basically a free podcast. I used this when learning Japanese to compliment my GCSE classes in school. It was more useful than my school classes and particularly if you’re wanting to learn over a longer period and at a slower pace. It might be a bit too slow for some people. The added features that you get through paying for a subscription are fantastic and, especially for a language like Japanese with a different alphabet, I would think about getting them. You get a free trial of the premium features so you can decide for yourself.
  • Heardutchhere.net – This is a website focused around learning Dutch. I don’t think the lessons are that good as they don’t work as my brain does. That said, the recordings of words, lists of vocabulary, and general information is invaluable.
  • Mnemnosyne – this is another flashcard program in which you create your own lists. It tailors your revision session to fit previous progress and I find it really useful for vocab learning. Actully, I use it for a lot of subjects and reasons.
  • Interpals – This is a website with an aim of finding penpals. You can also find language exchange partners. I have been a member of this site since 2007, I think, and, although you get the odd perv, it’s a wonderful place to share culture and to practice languages. You’re not going to learn if you don’t practice after all!

As for my Dutch learning… it’s not going so well. I can, more often than not, memorise the word but my pronunciation is not good. I can’t get the ‘g’ sound… I either sound extremely angry or like a slowly deflating balloon. On the plus side, no matter how much I may struggle with languages I still managed to conquer the world today, beating Lloyd in the board game Risk!
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