I think today’s title is pretty self-explanatory! Rather than write too much this time, I wanted to show by example. One of my hobbies is of course making videos about my travels and giving advice that I think people may find interesting (like How to take as much as you like in your hand luggage, What is RSS and how is it useful and more recently, How to start learning Italian). That would be an interesting hobby in itself, but since I like learning and practising languages, I’ve combined both and actually translate most of my videos to all languages that I feel that I speak fluently. I can continue doing this in any country of course, so it’s been one of the many great ways of maintaining a good level in all of my learned languages.
But I have just decided to take it an extra step and apply it to languages that I am learning…
The International Youth Congress of Esperanto – video in Czech (with subtitles)
I had promised to make a video in Czech at the end of my stay here, but I am going to break that promise and deliver one right now!! I recently spent a week with hundreds of Esperanto speakers, and since it happened right here in the Czech Republic I thought that I might as well make this video in Czech! Not just so that I get to practise, but also since I sincerely think (well, hope) that Czechs will find this video interesting.
I am still far from fluent, but I also believe that we should never wait until we are “ready” before trying something with languages, since that day may never arrive if you put “ready” on an ever rising pedestal. Even though I’m still not so comfortable with my Czech, I decided to ignore such unhelpful thoughts, and any embarrassment I may feel, and show the world how “bad” it currently is!! I also wanted to share the wonderful experience of my Esperanto week with you all anyway! Without further ado, here is what Czech with an Irish accent sounds like:
(You can also watch this video in Esperanto; I promise that I speak that better!!)
Considering I’ve only been studying Czech for about 6 weeks, I’m pretty pleased with how I am speaking! Some of you may have been curious to hear my current level anyway, but hopefully a native actually understands what I’m saying Of course, this is no reflection on actual fluency level, since speaking in a quiet room to a microphone, with a script that a native proofread and corrected for me, is a far cry from having a natural and leisurely conversation! But that will come soon enough
Make speaking the language more interesting
We all have plenty of pastimes and I’m no exception. No matter where I am, and I have found that doing things I normally do anyway in the language I wish to practise has been the best way to encourage me to really speak it. Of course, if you’ve applied my most important advice for speaking a language you’ll be doing this anyway. But let me give a couple more examples to illustrate what I mean.
Back when I was really getting into Spanish and looking for any chance to practise it, someone suggested that I read the newspaper daily. I tried this for several days and it was not helping; I was bored and the political vocabulary was discouraging me; this was quite a bad idea for one very simple reason: I don’t read the newspaper in English! I never have. I get my news from other sources. This is one of the many reasons that I don’t like the standard academic approach. I never find the material that they teach to be personally relevant. I don’t care so much about the examples and articles that they give, and sometimes the words that they suggest that I should learn are words I would not usually say (even if they are common).
So think about what you actually do in your free time and try it entirely through your acquired language! I’ve played chess in Italian, read computer and men’s health magazines in French, taken dance lessons in Spanish, windsurfing lessons in Portuguese, flirted with pretty girls in Esperanto and chatted in MSN and Skype in Irish Gaelic. Whether my level was good enough or not for any of these activities was never an issue because I enjoyed doing them all and would do them anyway even if I wasn’t learning any languages. This makes it more fun, so when you do have to learn a word your motivation is completely different than it is for something you aren’t so interested in. It also makes it more natural, which is the whole point! It’s natural for natives, so why shouldn’t it be natural for learners too? It’s true that to have full command over a language, you need to learn vocabulary that you may not use so often, but until you decide on reaching that stage, why not learn everything you need specifically to live and enjoy your life?
If you are into wine tasting, or political discussions, or attending concerts of particular types of music, then why not try doing that when abroad too? It’s a much less touristy thing to do in many cases and the best part is that you will have common interests with others going to these meetings/events who will likely be locals! It’s an excellent way of making friends in a new place, considering that you aren’t just focussed on the language, since you are doing something else that you enjoy anyway. I’ll be trying this myself and looking for such groups in Prague to expand my social circle to locals that I would get along with and share interests with (rather than just looking for any local friends, just because they speak the language). You can find such events advertised in weekly event magazines, online, in university advertisements billboards etc. in many major cities. If you aren’t living in the country itself, then you can start with online equivalents (such as Yahoo groups about your interest, but in the language you wish to practise etc.)
Do you also combine your hobbies and past-times with your language learning? Do share in the comments, and give us all (including me) some more inspiration and ideas! Oh yes, and let me know what you think of my Czech
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If you enjoyed this post, you will love my TEDx talk! You can get much better details of how I recommend learning a language if you watch it here.
This article was written by Benny Lewis
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