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The Key To Efficient Language Learning - Words + Sounds

Aug 18, 2007
First of all, this article is meant to emphasize on the importance of the words + sounds combination when learning a new language. This does not mean that the third factor that often comes into play, images, is not important. Actually, images are extremely important in any language learning process, especially in the beginning when you're trying to form a basic vocabulary.

But if you want to become a complete polyglot, speaking your secondary languages fluently and learning them efficiently, it's the sound + word combination that comes in most handy. Think about it - what good does it do if you know a language "on paper" and you can understand something read of spoken in that language, but can't speak it yourself? After all, the essence of learning a secondary language is achieving BOTH the understanding and making yourself understood parts.

Oftentimes, making yourself understood is a lot harder than understanding a language. There are a lot of people out there that state they "know" a language, but they can't speak it. That's because they only learnt using words and not sounds as well.

So let's assume you're just starting to learn German as a secondary language. As soon as possible (meaning from your first few lessons), start pronouncing the words you read and memorize. Say them out loud a few times and read them so you can hear your self. Of course, you won't get them right at first and it's normal. But at least you have a chance to see how your mind expresses that word in sounds. You may wonder why I consider this so important. Well wherever you live, you must have at least one foreign neighbor with a clumsy accent. The reason they have this clumsy accent is that they learn the language using the rules and pronunciation barriers of their own mother tongue.

In order to defeat this problem, you need to try and set aside your natural pronunciation rules when learning a new language. Try and memorize words after hearing them as well as reading them (language learning online is best for this scope since there are many interactive websites that offer audio covering to their text) since this will allow you to learn both their correct pronunciation and spelling. Our brain is also more used to picking up new words "heard" than read (as children, we build up most of our vocabulary through hearing). At this point, if you can also combine the word with an image - you can be sure that word is never coming out of your vocabulary and out of your memory.

Ok, this might be the perfect language learning pattern, but it's not always that easy to get to hear the words in the first place. Most language courses and online language lessons will simply throw you a list of common words in the language you're studying and tell you to memorize them robotically, without an additional image or audio extension. Try to avoid these websites and look for something interactive, something that gives you the written list AND the ability to hear them being pronounced. I found several websites that do this and although they're great to use, they are only available for a few major languages.

By the way, one common mistake when learning words through the sound + word system is becoming satisfied with half-measures. For example, you try pronouncing a word and it doesn't come out quite as how the audio source sounds and you say "it's ok, I'll perfect it over time". You won't, or at least not for all the half-measure words you've learnt. Try to get them to sound as closely as possible to the native speaker, since if these words get "printed" to your brain with a wrong pronunciation format, chances are it will be very hard for you to correct them later.

So if you intend to learn a foreign language with the purpose of making yourself understood, not only understanding what others say, learn not to think in your own native language! Some call this the "parrot method" since it simply involves copying what others say, mindlessly, just like a parrot.
About the Author
Increase your foreign language vocabulary at online language games at www.InternetPolyglot.com. The site contains thousands of lessons in different languages from English, Spanish, French, Russian to Hindi, Turkish, Ukrainian and many others.
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