To many English speakers, learning a foreign language can be a confusing business. The same is true for people that are trilingual; meaning that, in addition to knowing and being able to effectively communicate in English, they are well taught and fluent in their native tongues as well.
Languages that closely resemble or gave rise to the widely spoken English language (like Spanish) for example are a lot easier, but owing to the mind being used to trafficking in English alone, then a lot of overlap of words is expected. This happens as a result of the mind trying to accommodate this new unknown language and failing to do so will resort to substituting words that are homologous in appearance and pronunciation.
Some students encountered this problem a lot when they tried (and succeeded) in navigating away from a language class (French) that they were having trouble with to another which in their mind’s eye would be much simpler (Spanish). Their reasoning was that since Latin is one of the mother/sister languages to the English language; then it was bound to be much simpler with a lot of borrowed nouns and etymological roots of many English nouns. Turns out, they were right; this new language did turn out to be more to their liking. But then arose the case of getting the tenses right, pairing the right words with their articles became as challenging as it was intriguing; this, because of the interesting fact that Spanish (unlike English) has both masculine and feminine words.
Getting in on trade secrets like these is one of the main reasons that the students ended up staying in the Spanish class anyway. Since they were already fluent in English, this new language gave them the morale to build up their vocabulary by looking up words they were sure they recognized in English. Their searches usually were positive 87% of the time. By doing this, they came across other words that did not rhyme with English word pronunciations and before they knew it, they were learning Spanish and passing their written trials.
Like any student that has learned a foreign language before knows writing the language and speaking it can be two totally different things, many of the words are heavily accented making their pronunciations completely different from what is written down. When speaking the foreign language that you are studying or intend to, it is of utmost importance that you pay attention to the accents on the words; it is these accents that will help you get the correct pronunciations.
And try as much as you can to communicate to other students in the class in the language option so can you can loosen your tongue and get used to the idea of speaking in a new tongue. This will form the basis of the first tip you need to know if you’re ever to learn and communicate fluently:
This cannot be emphasized enough as it is opposed to just regular class work of constructing sentences and finding out the meaning to words and their tenses that will get you speaking the language. This way, the learning process becomes fun and confidence built. Our Spanish professor insisted we make simple profiles of ourselves in Spanish and then present this before the class.
Audio tutorials are also a great tool to use as they are interactive and ideal for group settings. Playing these tutorials in your language speaking group will provide the perfect atmosphere for speaking practice as re-enacting the scenarios depicted in these resources and making slight improvisations along the way boosts confidence. Mistakes in group settings are considered humorous and hence totally acceptable.
Experimenting with new words and looking for their simple applications to medium length sentences will train you to master your basic conversational skills in areas considered basic, such as greetings, courtesies, asking for directions and so on. This might save you a lot of embarrassment next time you find yourself accosted by a Spanish-speaking national and you can’t even put a sentence together simply because you didn’t get enough practice in.
A certain level of role play may be required here in order to get you completely into the mindset of the language block that you are covering. Immerse yourself into the culture of the people that speak the language. Surround yourself with foreign language speaking buddies. If there are any foreign cultural exchange centers near in your town, then checking one out is highly recommended. Cultural centers usually have a fully equipped book and/or media library. In them, you will find every bit of info on the language, culture, etiquette and correct use of language in formal and informal settings.
Getting accustomed to a foreign culture while in your own country or town will compensate for not being able to travel there physically, though this might not be too big a problem as many culture centers have foreign administrators that are more than happy to indulge you in a conversation in his/her own language for fluency reasons.
When you think of it, the language that you are most comfortable communicating in had to be learnt at one point; let alone your native tongue commonly referred to as the “mother tongue”. If you discard the notion that it is not a requisite for you to learn a foreign language, you will find that being open enough to make room for a foreign language may in equal measure open up avenues of consistent culture exchange programs for you. With this skill, you will now have acquired a new station in life; that of the global citizen. Plus, it’s lots of fun.
Having done all the above and feeling confident that you can hold your own against a host of tourists that don’t speak English and might be looking for a guide across town; our further advice is that you don’t stop there. Continue practicing, continue learning. Get on online foreign language forums like Livemocha, Busuu or on android apps like Speaky and Tandem.