I'm going to let you in on a secret....I speak six languages, well enough to get by in a professional environment. I'm fluent in three of them...and with a little work, I can add a fourth to the same level of fluency (when I use the word fluency, I take the meaning a little further...all the way up to having no foreign accent when speaking). One of them is Spanish of course, and since I was spending the last year in Korea, you can rightly assume, Korean...
How do I do it?
Well, that's what I'm going to share with you in three installments. This is because language learning involves an understanding of three components: personal makeup/attitude, understanding of how languages came to be, and language groupings. After all this, I'll give you a cheat sheet to use in your language learning that will skyrocket your learning speed!
Let's first start with personal makeup. What I'm talking about here is what you believe you can do. If you think learning languages is hard, then it'll be hard. If you think it's not fun, and just boring, or an aside to what you'd prefer to be doing, then you'll fail miserably. If your thinking feeds speed, then you think that language learning is fun, exciting, a great way to increase your financial quotient, and most of all...easy...then you're right, too!
Language learning and improvement is an all day experience! You use words when you think to yourself. You use words to philosophize and plan. You use words when you play games and goof off. So why do most language learners think that learning languages is done only during a 30 minute or one hour study or class event?
When you take the time to assess what you can incorporate into your day-to-day toward your language learning, you halve and quarter your learning time. And it makes it 'REAL', and much more fun!
Take for example the news. You can watch the ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News or the BBC, or you could get a cable/satellite subscription to a channel that provides the news in the language of your interest. Now with online access to many channels and foreign language periodicals you can improve your vocabulary and grammar by reading foreign language newspapers online!
When you rent a DVD for the evening's entertainment, do you just get the latest from Hollywood, or do you search out a film produced in the language of your choice? Because of independent film production and the advent of so many new technologies to shoot movies of near-film quality on digital video there are a multitude of films in Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Malaysian, Thai, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, Bengali, Vietnamese and of course, German, French and Russian to name just but a few...
As for food, do you go to Burger King, or the nearest restaurant in your town with cuisine of your target language? And it's pretty cool when you've made a new friend with the owner as a result of interest in their native language. Ron Kinney, a friend of mine in Honduras, who was a photograher for Reuters in Tegucigalpa, told me he learned how to speak Spanish through his years working in a restaurant before leaving to cover the war in Central America.
Remember it's all about making it fun and interesting...and most of all remember that language came about as the result of experience. Words came to being as a way to describe what the habitat, food, culture, politics, and all the other day-to-day events in a human being's life were like and for us to navigate through society. More about this in PART II, which will help you in your language learning adventure!