1. Tips

Whether you are a novice or an advanced learner, there are always things, other than attending language courses, you can do to improve as a language learner. Drawing on the experience of teachers and other learn­ers, here are some useful tips and tools.

  • 'Practice makes perfect' is an ancient adage but it is as true as ever. A language does not appear mag­ically, it comes through lots and lots of practice. 'Practise, practise, practise,' advises Sandra from France.'I didn't become fluent until I started using the language in my daily life.

  • 'Don't be embarrassed. Many people, particularly as they get older, are reluctant to practise a foreign language because they feel shy or are anxious about making mistakes. 'People will not mock you if you make an error,' Simon, a British manager, assures fellow language learners. 'They will be pleased and impressed at your ability, even when this is still quite limited.'

  • Have fun and enjoy the experience. If approached like a dull and weari­some task, studying a language will not be effective and your motiv­ation will weaken. There are plenty of resources available that inject an element of fun into the learning process 'Language learning is not a test, you need to take pleasure in it,' suggests Cristina, a consultant from Italy.

  • Customise your learning experience. Everyone learns in different ways,so it is best to experiment until you find what works best for you. Plan your language learning in a way that suits you and your daily routine.

  • Use the language regularly. Like your car, failing to take your language for a regular spin can make it sluggish and rusty.

  • Be realistic. Don't try to learn everything at once. Set clear and realistic targets.

  • The past is no guide. Some people think because they did not manage to learn a language at school, they will not be able to do so in later life.However, lots of people who did not do well at school learn a language when they are older, partly thanks to enjoy­able and effective modern method sand a greater motivation to learn.

  • New thinking. Learning a language also entails learning to understand other ways of thinking and doing things.

  • Immerse yourself. Expose yourself to the target language as much as possible.

Brain gymnastics

There is a popular belief that learning several languages clutters your brain. However, evidence suggests that the more languages you learn, the easier it gets to acquire addi­tional ones. 'It helps if you know more than one language. You have a little head start on adapting, you can get your mouth around certain words and vowel sounds a little easier,' observes Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen.
Linguists have also discovered that knowing more than one language can benefit people in other areas, such as strengthening their reasoning skills and helping them to perform better academically. For instance, researchers have found that bilingual children are better at solving problems that include misleading information.
There are other advantages to picking up languages, accord­ing to celebrity advocates. The British comedian and Monty Python star John Cleese believes that 'learning a language makes our minds stronger and more flexible. Actually using it gives us an entirely new experience of the world'.

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