It is sometimes rather hard for us to learn our second language, especially by using so-called “classical” methods. On the other hand it is a big joy to be able to communicate with people all around the world (what I am doing now;-) ), to travel without being lost in foreign countries and without being dependent on others, to listen music and to understand (at least partially), to watch movies in original ...
In this short article, even though not native speaker, and maybe not free of mistakes ;-) I would like to share with you few of my experiences, things that worked and continue to work for me and maybe will work for you too and could help you:
1. People learn languages by HEARING. Yes, look at the children, they do not read books, do not speak. They can hear and are exposed to the language by their eyers. It means that at the beginning is very important to listen, and it is important all the time after all. And to listen the language you are learning very often. Grammar rules, reading, speaking … are secondary, not so necessary. Maybe later. The time will come. The natural way to learn language is to listen to it! If you start with other methods too soon you will harm your learning process. I studied “classical” way and it was not very helpful. I realized that it is not the way and I started to use my MP3 player slightly differently, listening (for me interesting materials for witch I had transcript) = known text. I listen it every day (even now), repeatedly, sometimes I pay attention, sometimes I do not care that it is playing at all (it is in the background), it is just speaking, like a radio playing, who cares, just sound on the background. I use only 1 head-phone not to separate myself from „real life“. It goes over and over and it makes me
2. THINK IN ENGLISH. Yes, my brain learns to think in English this way. English becomes for me so familiar. And it is crucial for better (instant) understanding and speaking. Without it you cannot be fluent, you will always do translation in your head form and to your mother tongue. It is too slow and counter-productive. So, it is better to forget your mother tongue while using foreign one. Lend to “switch”
3. SPEAKING should start later. Listening creates good foundation for speaking, but in my experience it is not enough. After about 2 years of this kind of hearing I was able to understand quite well, even native teacher was surprised ;-) But to say something (to speak) was a real struggle:-( for me. And I found that it had at least two reasons – 1. I was not accustomed to my voice speaking in English and 2. I did not have very good ACTIVE vocabulary.
So, what to do with it? In this phase (not too soon) you need really to speak. But it is difficult. I know. I was in this situation and fortunately I found a method (originally not intended to be a learning tool for foreign languages) special exercises which are used by professional speakers and spokesmen. I started to practise them in English and after few weeks my speaking improved dramatically! :-) At the same time I realized, that important thing is TO BE ABLE TO SAY IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE WHAT YOU ARE SAYING IN YOUR MOTHER LANGUAGE “normally“. The other is not so important. You have some vocabulary you use in your mother language and you need it in your second language too. At school they teach you usually other things, other vocabulary = not necessary material (for you). And they do not differentiate between active and passive vocabulary. They force you to learn words as if they were all for an active usage. But it is not normally the case. You do not need to use every word actively, you need to understand many more words than you use. But back to this method - I call it now „Brain Speak Activator“ - because it ACTIVATES your natural speaking abilities (both in English and in your mother tongue), the knowledge you already have inside of you (the reason why it is so important to listen fist) and learns you to think in „target“ language (meaning English in our case), to be familiar with your voice in English. It teaches you to speak instantly without inner translation and think in English. I am not author of this method – I have tested it on myself, I gave it the name and I would like to help others to use it (with permission of and cooperation with the author of this method, of course)
So, what to say finally. First you need to improve understanding, always! Without understanding there is no communication. So, my recommendation is: START TO LISTEN. It does not take very much time. You do not need to sit and just listen. Do other activities at the same time. At the beginning it will be strange for your but it is only question of time and habit. Find topics you are interested in. Find materials with transcript in English. Find unknown words there, look up them in dictionary but do not learn them normal way. Just from time to time look at the text. Listen native speakers if possible. REGURLARY. In my case, I listen Eckart Tolle daily – see my web – you will find his picture there:-) on right side. So, even though is our method focused on SPEAKING, basis is listening. Then Activate it, use Brain Speak Activator or similar activities and you will succeed! Good luck!