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How to Learn a Foreign Language with a Language Helper

Are you serious about learning a foreign language? Here are some techniques that are off the beaten path, but that really and truly work! These techniques are used by experts who have written the first materials for languages that have been previously been unwritten. But you might find them fun and extremely useful in learning even foreign languages that have been written down for centuries. Ready to begin? Let’s go!

1. Get a language helper. There is simply nowhere else to start. Unless you have someone to interact with in the language you desire to learn, you won’t get anywhere of consequence. For starters, you need to find someone to help you. The best person is someone who is a native speaker of the language. Better yet if they are easy-going and flexible, willing to help you learn their language, and glad to make new friends. You will do best if you find someone who you are comfortable with and who you would love to get to know no matter what language they speak!

So where on earth do you start when looking for a language helper? Of course there are always newspaper and internet want ads. You could advertise on Craigslist or even for that matter. But who knows what kind of potential helpers you might turn up that way–you could get a gem or you could get a dud.


2. Common courtesies first. Before anything else, learn the basics. Greetings, farewells, and other kind words are essential. Find out how to say hello to someone you’re meeting for the first time, as well as someone you have known for a long time. Make sure you find out if there are certain actions (hugging, bowing, shaking hands, etc.) that might accompany greetings. The best way to do this is to ask your language helper, if possible, to bring a friend along; then the two of them can act out traditional greetings, farewells and other exchanges. As you observe these interactions, take careful notes of body language, as well as facial expressions and tone of voice. Sometimes these small things can make a world of difference in how your words are interpreted by the hearers! explains some of the nuances of learning a new language, so that should come in handy in a lot of situations.

How will you become comfortable with these basic phrases that are used all the time every day in the language you are trying to learn? The answer is, Practice, practice, practice! Best is if you can practice with your language helper, a native speaker of the language you’re trying to learn. Get him or her to pretend to be different people–a distinguished professor you’ve never met before, an old friend you’ve known for ages, etc. Act out the scenarios until you are comfortable with the situation (Don’t worry, it will take many times of practice, but practice does make perfect…even if it takes a long time!)

3. Get your body involved. Some of the first things you will want to learn are action words. Elicit the information you want by actually acting out the actions you want to learn. For example, stand up out of your chair. Then ask your language helper, “How would you tell me to do what I just did?” Do the same thing for sitting, walking, running, jumping, etc. This same elicitation technique can be used for learning any actions that you can simulate in the classroom.


4. Take a trip. If you study a language in isolation, or even with one language helper, you might lose sight of your eventual goal–to really be able to communicate with people in real-life situations. So if it’s possible, visit a situation where the foreign language you’re learning is actually used! It’s quite possible you can find an opportunity locally. For example, if you’re learning Korean, try to find a local Korean market or restaurant, You might ask your language helper to recommend a place for visiting…and if your language helper is willing, he or she might help you practice a particular script ahead of time for that particular place.

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