Emily is the Area Advisor for Home-School Tutoring Cornwall and Isles of Scilly. She has had extensive experience of working as a modern foreign languages teacher, as well as being Head of Department in two secondary schools.
As well as running Home-School Tutoring Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Emily works as a French, Spanish and English translator, post editor and proofreader, as well as tutoring individual students locally and further afield in the ski resorts of France and Italy. https://www.homeschooltutoring.co.uk/location/cornwall-tutors-truro-camborne-camelford-falmouth-newquay-st-ives-wadebridge/
Here are her top tips for learning a foreign language – enjoy!
1. SET YOURSELF A REALISTIC GOAL
The first thing you need to do is ask yourself is:
WHY do I want to learn this language?
It could be:
- for a qualification
- for work
- for a holiday
- or to go and live in another country
Have some kind of motivation for learning the language and set yourself a specific and realistic goal.
Emily says: “I have a lot of clients who come for language tutoring for business or work purposes. I have a few that come to me and say that they just want to brush up. I say that’s fine, but we need to have some kind of idea of what you want to achieve in six months. If they say fluency I say no! There has to be a purpose or use.”
2.DO YOUR RESEARCH
Before you commit to learning a language – source the resources and support that you need.
Do your research. Find resources that fit you best with your lifestyle, your learning style and the time that you have available…
You don’t want to be three weeks into learning a language and then you don’t know who to ask or where to turn for help..!
Take a look at some of these: https://www.theintrepidguide.com/top-language-learning-resources/
3.MAKE IT FUN!
Emily says: “When I’m tutoring I always make sure they have something else to access on their weekly language learning journey – not just a textbook – for example a podcast or a soap opera or an app on their phone. There are so many great free apps and resources available online and on social media.”
Choose things that you like doing and topics that interest you! For example:
Podcasts – listen to topics and discussions that you are interested in.
Here are some great ones:
- 101 Series – Innovative Language
- Creative Language Learning Podcast with Kerstin Hammes
- News in Slow ( in French, Italian, Spanish)
Film/TV series ( start with English Subtitles then move over to subtitles in the target language )
Easy reading novels or articles.
- News in Slow ( in French, Italian, Spanish)
Join a local conversation class.. Meet people for a drink and practice your new foreign language.
4.BUILD THE BLOCKS – LITTLE BY LITTLE
Learning a language is very much like building a house! – IT IS A CUMULATIVE PROCESS!
Start with the foundations – and make sure you have some kind of grammar textbook.
Or start with vocabulary learning in different vocabulary groups that relate to your goal or your interests.
Put in the time- little and often! 20 minutes three times a week is a good start or even daily. It should be regular, sustained learning and practice.
Emily explains: “I learn new things every day as I complete my translation work – I’m coming across new specific and technical vocabulary that I’ve never learnt before.”
5. COMMUNICATION IS WHAT YOU NEED!
- It’s really important that you focus on speaking.
- So even if you’ve got nobody to practise with – practise with yourself, your partner or children or even practise with your cat or dog!!
- Try to find a native speaker person of the language you are learning, who maybe wants to improve their English in exchange for helping you with your studies.
- In cities there are people on every corner who will do free language exchanges.
- For total beginners, focus on the communication of what you are saying rather than being correct all the time.
Emily says: “Some people prefer to focus on the reading skills when they are beginners but I think that speaking and learning to listen and understand is equally as important.”
6. DON’T GIVE UP!
IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOT GIVE UP!
Remember you will gradually improve with practice and perseverance.
You are never going to be fluent unless you live in that country for a length of time. “I always advise clients that language fluency only comes with extensive periods of time immersed in the language and culture of any given country, coupled with formal in depth study and practice of the language in question.”
Even in our own native tongue we are always improving our language and vocabulary – written and spoken, because we speak it, listen to it, read it and practise it every day.
Emily always tells her own Spanish GSCE students, who are disheartened: “you are not going to be able to speak Spanish fluently from just studying for your GCSE…it’s a life-long journey!”
7. DON’T BE SCARED!
Once you have decided that you want to learn the language, that mindset will carry you through.
Perhaps you have tried before to learn a language and gave it up. Once you make a firm decision to achieve, and set out your goals, you can achieve them.
Follow the tips above and take it step by step…
Have confidence that you can do it and, most importantly:
Are you local to Cornwall? Why not try ‘Cafe Polyglot! https://www.cafepolyglot.co.uk
‘Cafe Polygot’ is a monthly meet-up open to any nationality that lives in the area or nearby. Anyone is welcome to just turn up and socialise and communicate in the language of their choice. When you arrive you find a table labelled with the language of your choice and take it from there. There are currently groups in Falmouth, Penzance and Truro.