Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Language learning made easy

For an awful lot of expats, the idea of learning to speak the native tongue of their new home country can be an extremely daunting proposition. Many see learning a new language as a huge task which is best approached in an academic fashion. Whilst schooling is an excellent way of learning a language properly, if you only require the ability to converse fairly easily with the locals, you can stop worrying right now, it is not as tough as it seems.

Very few people realise that in order to be able to speak a language fairly proficiently, you only need to learn around 3,000 words. With 3,000 words under your belt you will understand 90% of the most commonly spoken words and phrases, meaning that during a conversation, you will understand nine out of every ten words, making it highly likely that you can guess at the general meaning of the word you do not understand. Learning 3,000 words does not seem such a daunting task, even at ten new words a day, it means you would be speaking fairly fluently within a year, certainly well enough to live your new life without resorting to hand signals!

2 comments:

Jessica said...

It sure would make for a very different experience if I lived in a country where I couldn’t speak the language. I spent a month in Asia, not speaking the language, and that was the closest I have come to that experience! I could tell when people were having a happy or sad conversation, or when they were mad, but I couldn’t enjoy conversations with people, or make jokes, or order myself food. I hated relying on my friend to get me by. She had to order my coffee, and ask how much the clothing I wanted was. She had to explain every conversation to me as I could only make out the words thank you, what, and hello/goodbye. It was an interesting month and I saw a lot of great sights and experienced a whole new culture, but I didn’t get to interact with the locals the way I would have liked to. I can’t imagine living in a country for over 2 years and not being able to communicate with the locals.

In addition to learning new words everyday I also think it’s important to learn a few new phrases each day so that you have context in which to use the new words you have learned. It’s also a great way to remember the word that you are trying to learn.

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