Think of all the times you’ve been abroad on holiday and you’ve managed to conduct even the simplest of transactions in the local language. It felt good, right? I always feel slightly empowered when I’ve said hello, please or thank you in a foreign lingo and it goes such a long way with the recipient.
Just think how cool it would be to rattle off your order in the restaurant without having to whip out the old Berlitz phrase book or worse, point to the menu in shameful ignorance. I wish I had stuck in more with languages at school. At 15 I really couldn’t see past a copy of Smash Hits or who was topping the charts of the 80s and didn’t put in the effort to do better. Une grande erreur.
Maybe you’re thinking about brushing up your language skills and maybe you fancy a bit of parliamo Italiano? This week, I’ve had a look at how and where you can do part time and short courses to get you up to speed. I guess all you need to do now is choose what language you want to learn? French? Spanish? Italian? Chinese?
Maybe you just want to get to a decent conversational level or perhaps you want to take a higher level course for business reasons. There are lots of online courses available but one that caught my eye is Duolingo and who seem to offer just about every language you could want to learn.
They have over 30 languages which can be done in bite-sized lessons so you’re not overwhelmed or bored quickly. You can take a short test when you register to gauge your proficiency level before you begin. Berlitz – you’ve probably heard of them – have language schools in London, Oxford, Manchester and Edinburgh but also offer online learning in the form of private tuition, online groups or flexible lesson with a mix of self-study and one to one coaching.
Closer to home, I spoke to Sandra Crowther, director of Discovery Language School in Dundee andshe told me a little about what they do and what you should consider when deciding to learn a language: “At Discovery Languages, learning languages is our passion. Learning a new language is very exciting, but it can also be daunting and frustrating.” She gave me these tips on how to make the process smoother: “Think about why you want to learn the language.
Get a notebook for your language journey and write down the reasons. Perhaps you can’t speak any other languages or you have family who speak another language. Then think about your goals. Where do you want to get to? It may be to read Molière in the original French. It may be Mamma Mia...Is it time to get your head back into the books and learn a new lingo? to speak with your partner’s family.
You may have to pass an exam. Do you have a vison of what you want to be doing with your chosen language? Write it all down. Refer to these lists whenever you are feeling tired and reluctant to study. It reminds you why are putting your effort into this.”
She added: “How do you want to learn? In a group? One-to-one lessons? Selfstudy? This depends on how you learn and again what your goals are. Sometimes people are reluctant to learn in a group so they take one-to-one lessons first to increase their confidence. Others need the camaraderie of a group to help them learn. Self-study is great for motivated and dedicated learners, but lots of us need the structure of a regular organised lesson to help us progress.” “What about apps? There is a plethora of apps out there to help you learn a vast array of languages.
These are good for learning vocabulary and sentence structure. You can’t ask questions however, so a good option is to use an app and write down any questions that you have and then ask your tutor in class the following week.” “Use a variety of multimedia. Listen and read as much as you can. Radio and TV is now more accessible in foreign languages than it ever was before. For TV and films, turn on the audio in your chosen language and put the subtitles in English. When you have progressed, turn the subtitles into your chosen language, and eventually aim to turn the subtitles off. Arguably, it’s always going to be better if you are speaking the language daily in a country where it is spoken.
Sandra said: “If you can, take a trip to a country where they speak your chosen language. Get out there and speak it.” It’s never too late to learn a new skill and it’s never too late to follow your dreams. Who knows where it will take you but at least you’ll be able to speak the lingo now. Au revoir et bon chance! Special thanks to Sandra Crowther, Director of Discovery Languages. For more information go to www.discoverylanguages.co.uk