Keys to Learning A Foreign Language: Learn Faster Through Play

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We each have our preferred way of learning, but oftentimes learning another language focuses on doing one thing at a time. By getting our whole person involved, we increase the senses involved and expand the avenues available to learn and retain information.

One method to learn another language is to hear a spoken word or sentence and then to repeat it. While it’s good to hear and repeat correct pronunciation, that is a very slow way to learn. In addition to listening and speaking, you can enhance this drill in a number of ways. Show the word or sentence in written form and you include sight. If the student also writes as they hear and speak, you’ve added touch.

Another way to learn is to read. But if you are just reading, you only have one sense involved, sight. Try reading out loud. Now you’ve added speech as well as hearing, as you listen to yourself reading. If you can, try to get up and walk around as you read and now you’ve included your whole body in the process.

Here is another fun technique. Get yourself a balloon and a partner. What you’ll do is get a list – the alphabet, numbers or the 100 most common words, for example. Your partner will say a letter, a number or a word in the new language, and you will bounce the balloon into the air with your elbow as you repeat what they said. As the balloon reaches its highest point, your partner will say another. Again, you will repeat after them as you bounce the balloon back into the air. You involve your body (touch) as you listen (hearing) and repeat (speech), all the while keeping your eyes on the balloon (sight). It is almost guaranteed that you are going to feel silly and childish, but that is just the point – children are experts at learning language.

As we improve, there are variations to make the balloon game more challenging, and to increase or reaction time, so we aren’t over thinking our responses. For example, our partner can read a letter or number or word in our language, and we have to repeat the corresponding number, letter or word in the new language. As we master that, our partner can read their part in either language, and we have to respond in the opposite. All while keeping the balloon in the air and getting our whole self involved in the process of learning.

Conjugating verbs is another challenge in some languages, but it is an essential skill. For an enhanced method to learn conjugation, please see my article on how you can get your whole body involved in learning verb conjugation.

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