Friday, 22 April 2011
Last time we spoke about the way in which successful language learners work smarter not harder, by thinking about how they are learning - they develop strategies to make the whole process easier.
Learning Spanish, for example, could be easier than you think, especially if you consider what you already know. You actually more than what you might give yourself credit for!
There are many words that are common in both Spanish and English because both languages have their origins in Latin (this is the case with Spanish more than English) and the English language has also been influenced by French, which is also a Latin based or Romance language.
Some Spanish words look very similar to English ones (these are usually known as cognates*). In some instances the only difference is an accent mark in Spanish – which affects the pronunciation of the word more than the meaning. Here are some Spanish words - the English equivalent is obvious!
chocolate área gas melón hotel teléfono
This is especially true with words ending in –al where the meaning is the same in both languages: animal, central, hospital, personal are a few examples.
You can also understand the meaning of a lot of Spanish words simply by changing how the end of the word is spelt:
Replace –ción with –tion
circulación = circulation
identificación = identification
vacación = vacation
Replace –ario with –ary
aniversario = anniversary
itinerario = itinerary
vocabulario = vocabulary
Replace –dad with –ty
comunidad = community
publicidad = publicity
universidad = university
So the next time you look at a Spanish newspaper or website look out for words that could be cognates and check them in a dictionary – you’ll be surprised at how much you really know.
*Just a word of caution. Some words are known as false friends because they may look the same as an English counterpart but they actually have a different meaning. The good news is that only a minority of words are false friends!
Friday, 1 April 2011
When it comes to language learning many people are put off by the level of commitment required to be a successful learner. After all, it does take a lot of time and effort to master a language well enough to communicate.
People commonly refer to “easy” or “hard” languages to learn, but the reality is that no language falls into either these categories. There will no doubt be aspects of a new language which are similar to our mother tongue but there will also be many differences which might require a bit more work on our part.
Different learners struggle with different aspects of language learning and this is down to several factors:
- · Motivation (“My boss says I need to learn Dutch go get that promotion”)
- · Previous educational experiences (“I was never good at French at school!”)
- · Existing knowledge (if you’ve mastered French, for example, then Italian should be relatively easy since they are both Romance languages)
However, you can make great progress by working smarter not harder. Successful language learners don’t necessarily spend more time studying the language than you or me. They do however, tend to spend more time thinking about how they will learn. By taking time out to consider different learning strategies, they end up working smarter not harder, and with good results.
Over a couple of future blogs I hope to mention some strategies you can employ to make your language learning for successful.
Do you have any suggestions about what works well for you? Why not add a comment and share your ideas. Some of your suggestions may feature in future blogs!