Teaching a native English speaker how to read and write his own language has been an interesting glimpse into how we learn language. I’ve loved every minute of working with my student, and I’ve especially loved seeing him have little breakthroughs when he just “gets it.” There is no doubt immersion is by far the best technique for learning a new language, but what do you do before you get abroad? Here are five tips and techniques I’ve used for creating language immersion at home
Behold, the magic of office supplies!
Use post-it notes or a label maker to label things you see every day in another language. Your front door, your refrigerator, and the sugar in your pantry should all have a label.
Bake cookies in Spanish
Find a recipe you’ve been dying to try and translate it into your language of choice. If possible, head to a grocery store in an ethnic neighborhood and try to buy all the ingredients in your language. Writing your grocery or to-do list in a new language helps improve your vocabulary.
Learn while you work
Find newspapers in the language you’re learning, listen to podcasts and pop music, watch news, and sitcoms. You won’t understand most of it, and that’s okay. Your brain stores way more information than you’re consciously aware of, and getting in the habit of consuming media in a new language is enormously helpful. Listen at work or while you do the dishes. Hearing native speakers in more colloquial settings is far more helpful than the stilted pronunciations of textbooks.
Think like a child…
Remember when you were learning your native language? What helped you then will likely help you now. Pick up children’s books, or download audiobooks. The vocabulary and grammar will be simple, and you’ll likely already know the story.
…and then like a teenager
Change the settings on your most used Web sites and on your smartphone. You already understand how the site functions or how your phone works, so you’ll just be picking up on new technological words you probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
Try writing e-mails, if only to yourself, and updating your social media accounts in something other than your native language.
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