Here’s 10 tips from Hungarian polyglot Kató Lomb on what not to do when learning a new language:
1. Don’t wait to start learning a new language, or returning to language learning, until you’re planning a trip abroad. Instead, try to connect with people who communicate in the language and visit your country but don’t speak your language. These could be relatives or friends. If you accompany them and show them around the city, their gratitude will help strengthen your knowledge of their language. They will enrich your vocabulary, and they won’t pay much attention to the mistakes you make.
2. Don’t expect the same behavior from your fellow countrymen. Don’t practice a foreign language with them because they will notice your mistakes or, at best, give you meaningful looks if they are better at it than you.
3. Don’t think that learning a language with a teacher in a course, no matter how intensive and in-depth it may be, is an excuse to avoid independent work with the language. You should try to browse illustrated magazines and listen to radio programs or recordings from the very beginning.
4. When browsing materials, don’t obsess over words that you don’t know or structures that you don’t understand. Build your understanding based on what you already know. Don’t automatically reach for a dictionary if you come across one or two words you don’t understand. If a phrase is important, it will reappear, and its meaning will become clear; if it’s not important, you won’t lose much by skipping it.
5. Don’t hold back from noting your thoughts in your own words and using familiar expressions. Use simple sentences. Words that you can’t remember at the moment can be replaced with words from your own language.
6. Don’t let the fear of making mistakes discourage you from speaking. A stream of words triggers a chain reaction: context will guide you in the right direction.
7. Don’t forget about numerous expressions that fill the conversation and sentences that allow you to start a conversation. It’s great to be able to break the ice with a few phrases that are always at hand and can dispel the initial embarrassment that comes with talking. You can start with expressions like “My French is a bit uncertain” or “I haven’t spoken Russian for quite some time,” etc.
9. Don’t let newly learned structures and expressions hang in the air. Secure them in your memory by fitting them into other new contexts: into the sphere of your interests, into the reality of your life.
10. Don’t be ashamed to learn poems and songs by heart. Good diction plays a more important role in speech than just correctly pronouncing individual sounds. Verses and melodies impose certain restrictions. They require some sounds to be pronounced in them for a long time, and others for a short time. Their inner rhythm leads people and helps them avoid intonational pitfalls in their native language.
Source: Kató Lomb, “Polyglot: How I Learn Languages”.
Article originally published at sekretypoliglotow.pl in Polish. You can find it here.