Today we look at another important aspects of learning a language and becoming fluent: ACTIVE STUDYING.
In this series we are providing you with an effective strategy to pick up a foreign language.
If you followed the first 5 Tips, then you are already miles ahead of most other learners who tackle language learning without a smart learning strategy!
Bravo (or Brava if you are a woman)!
While passive listening (Tip #5) is helping you with the sounds, the cadence, the overall melody of the foreign language, while training your brain to also understand broadly what's being said, today we talk about actual active studying. This is, purposeful and focused learning!
You have to actively and purposefully analyze the foreign language, comparing it with your own.
Find bilingual material (preferably written) and start comparing the foreign language with your own language, line by line, word by word.
The goal here is to identify the role of each word, the meaning of each element and how it was modified to accommodate such role.
A good source of such bilingual materials is a product called Assimil (please do not spend your money on Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur, please…).
If we read this (in Italian):
STUDIARE ITALIANO È FACILE E INTERESSANTE
and the English translation says:
STUDYING ENGLISH IS EASY AND INTERESTING
There is a lot of good grammatical and semantic information here! Don't let it go to waste!
The first observation we could make is that while in English we are saying STUDYING, in Italian we are saying STUDIARE.
Perhaps you could make up a rule in your mind that when we use a Gerund (“studying”) as the subject of a sentence in English, we will use a plain infinitive (“studiare”) in Italian.
ITALIANO clearly means ITALIAN.
È is the exact equivalent of the English IS, that is, the third person singular of the present tense of the verb TO BE!
FACILE means EASY. Maybe this is a new word for you. Of course you would also assume that, being an adjective and ending in -E, it will be the exact same form for the feminine….
E means AND, but we knew that…
INTERESSANTE means INTERESTING and I'm sure you could have guessed it.
And that's exactly the point of this methodical, active, focused approach.
The more you analytically observe the foreign language, the more you get to know it and understand it.
This approach is based on the vastly studied approach called Comparative Linguistics.
Basically, starting from the correct idea that you are already a language expert (since you are fluent in your native language), this approach has you understand how the foreign language works like no other method.
And once you know how the language works you can understand it and speak it more easily!
It does require effort, but if you are serious about becoming fluent in a language, you know that you have to put in the time.
My goal here is to help you put the time into what matters!
Find websites that offer their content in your native language, as well as your target language.
Sure, their content won't be designed for language learning, but this is still a pretty valid approach.
Depending on the language you are learning, you might be able to watch block busters and movies that you are already familiar with, in the foreign language!
That's because many cultures have the habit of dubbing movies. That is, revoicing all actors so that they speak the local language.
Italy, France, Germany and many Spanish speaking countries do this.
This is what you would do:
1. Watch a short scene (2 – 3 minutes in your native language)
2. Become very familiar with what they are saying, to the point of knowing by heart what they are going to say next
3. Now switch to the same scene in the foreign language
4. Actively try to understand (the sounds, the words, the grammar)
5. Turn on subtitles in the foreign language to check your theories!
Where can you find movies in the foreign language?
– DVD's often come in multiple languages
– online streaming services (like Netflix) from the country whose language you are learning
– Local cultural organizations promoting the foreign culture (Dante Alighieri, Alliance Française, etc)