A different language is a different vision of life. - Federico Fellini

welcome

     Hello visitor, and welcome to Lengua, a detailed guide to language acquisition. In today's ever-growing, interdependent, international society, we can no longer afford to remain monolingual. Cultures and ideals are blending together, and new innovations in technology lets us connect with each other in ways that weren't even thought possible just a few years back. Learning a foreign language isn't just a hobby or a favourite pastime; it's a necessity.

     However, traditional language learning is flawed. It's boring, repetitive and is too much of a hassle. The tedious chore of memorising thousands of vocabulary words and bare-bones grammar concepts just doesn't work, and is a sure-fire way to make sure that you never become fluent in a second language. At Lengua, we don't teach you a foreign language, but how to learn a foreign language; the natural way.



updates

9 March, 2013 - After a few weeks of construction, we're finally OPEN!
21 February, 2013 - Added a brand new feature; Lengua Foreign Exchange Programme under Extras! Feel free to check it out, it's one of my personal favourite things about the site ^^ Also, we've been designated as A Site To Watch at Always Connected! Thanks Turnip!
20 February, 2013 - Received 2 gorgeous new link back buttons! I'll be slowly adding content throughout the next few days and will hopefully have this guide completed by the time I leave for Cusco.

getting started

why learn a foreign language?

Learning a foreign language will introduce you to an exciting multilingual world, and help expand your world view and understanding of different cultures & customs. There are millions of reasons to learn a foreign language, and here are just a few:

language families

Although languages across the globe are diverse and vary considerably, many of them actually come from the same roots. Because of this, instead of just an endless array of dialects and speech patterns, we see them grouped into different language families. Some of the major categories are:

Altaic: Altay, Even, Evenki, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Nivkh, Oghuz, Turkish, Uzbek
Baltic: Latvian, Lithuanian, New Curonian
Germanic: Danish, Dutch, English, Faroese, Frisian, German, Icelandic, Low German, Norwegian, Scots, Swedish
Indo-Aryan: Asamiya, Bengali, Bhili, Bhina, Bihari, Divehi, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Khowar, Khandeshi, Kohistani, Konkani, Lahnda, Mahl, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Pahari, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Sindhi, Sinhala
Niger-Congo: Akan, Bemba, Dagbani, Defaka, Ewe, Fang, Kirundi, Kimbundu, Kongo, Makhuwa, Mossi, Sango, Senufo, Sukuma, Swahili, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Umbundu, Zulu
Romance: Aromanian, Asturian, Catalan, Corsican, Dalmatian, Emilian, Franco-Provençal, French, Galician, Italian, Leonese, Milanese, Neapolitan, Occitan, Picard, Piedmontese, Portuguese, Romanian, Romansh, Sardinian, Sicilian, Spanish, Venetian
Semitic: Amharic, Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Lebanese, Maltese, Soqotri, Syriac, Tigre
Sino-Tibetan: Cantonese, Mandarin
Slavic: Belarusian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Macedonian, Polish, Russian, Rusyn, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Sorbian, Ukrainian
Uralic: Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian, Karelian Komi, Mansi, Mari, Nenets, Saami, Udmurt, Vespian

     With no shortage of languages here, the question you probably have now is: Which one should I learn?

     To be honest, there's really no right or wrong answer. If your dream is to move to Paris, try learning French. If you're fascinated by middle-eastern culture, maybe Arabic. It really all depends on your personal preferences and goals. I will admit that some languages are a lot more helpful than others, but hey, if you find it interesting, then go for it. Also, one of the best things about languages families is that once you learn one, it becomes easier to learn the others! You'd be surprised how much Spanish a French-speaker can understand, and vice-versa. Languages such as these are called mutually intelligible, meaning that they can understand one another without too much hassle. But this doesn't just happen within languages/dialects, in can happen within whole language families as well! Let's take the Germanic languages for example. Here's a short welcoming introduction taken from a well-known resource site:

*Example excerpted from Page F30

Velkommen til Wikipedia!
Wikipedia er en encyklopedi på over 200 språk, som skrives av frivillige bidragsytere fra hele verden.

How much of that did you understand? Being a Germanic language, you'll probably notice many cognates from the start. Let's take a closer look and break the sentence structure down.

Velkommen - Welcome
til - to (think till)
encyklopedi - encyclopedia
over - over
språk - language (think speak)
skrive - write (think scribe)
av - of
frivillige - volunteer (think free-willing)


From that, we can deduce that it's welcoming us to a volunteer organised encyclopedia translated into 200 different languages. You may have had to work a bit to figure it out, but overall it wasn't too grueling, right? This is just the beginning to a whole world filled with diverse different languages and cultures, and learning a foreign tongue gives you the key to exploring it.

methods

     Now that we've got you convinced, let's take a look at some of the methods used to learn a foreign language.

When I learned to speak English, I basically did so through immersion. It's the best method. I read a lot of books, watched a lot of television (mostly cartoons), and just practiced; then, too, I was young. Then, when I taught myself Al Bhed (fictional languages count, right?), I don't know, I just studied a lot. Memorisation, memorisation, memorisation! With Hindi, I'm still learning, and the same thing applies: diligence in memorisation. Get a picture dictionary. I know that it sounds silly, but children's tools are very helpful! Listening to music in the language is very helpful as well.

-Spinelli(lunar_veil)

plain memorisation & traditional classes

Ah, the classic way we "learn" languages in school. Unfortunately, as good as our teacher's intentions may be, this is also the least effective method. It's boring, tedious and takes huge chunks of time. Even once you've memorised words, they can easily be forgotten in a few weeks time. Grammar rules can be learned through class materials, but the necessary tools (vocabulary and idiomatic usage) will come from independent study and practice in a native environment. Classes are easily used to infinitely postpone making the thousands of mistakes necessary to achieve fluency. In boxing, they say "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." Well, in language learning, we could just as easily say that "everyone has the perfect conversation in mind until they speak to a real native."

total immersion

Arguably the most effective way to learn a new language, a total immersion is cutting yourself completely off from your native tongue, and fully immersing yourself in the language and culture. One of the best ways to do this is to study or work abroad. From the first day you arrive, you'll immediately pick up on vocabulary, slang and idioms, and continue to excel at a rapid pace. However, costs are expensive and can be a bit of a hassle.

semi-immersion

Similar to the concept of a total immersion, a semi-immersion brings the language into your daily life. Try cutting out labels of vocabulary words and tape them to their corresponding objects. For example, if I wanted to learn Spanish, I'd make a post-it with the word Lavavajillas, the Spanish word for dishwasher, and tape it on to the dishwasher, so everytime I use it, I think the word lavavajillas. Also, try changing the settings on your social networking sites to the language that you're learning. Read foreign books, listen to foreign music, watch foreign channels. This is the closest method to a total immersion, but is much more cost-effective.

computer software

Alright, so we've all seen that overpriced, overly-advertised computer application with the yellow box. I've tried it myself, and I'll admit, it's definitely not bad. However, although it claims to offer a total immersion, it's more or less a semi-immersion that goes away after you've finished a lesson. Also since it is sort of an immersion, grammar concepts and slang are poorly explained and often misunderstood. If you decide to use this sort of method, I'd highly suggest using additional resources such as grammar books and such to aid you.

which method is for me?

Personally, I believe that a total immersion is the absolute best way to learn a new language, however I realise that not everyone has the time or resources to do so. The best way is to use a mixture of the different methods and maybe even add your own special touch! If you love socialising, try joining an organisation or club dedicated to the language or culture. If you love to cook, try taking some cooking classes or looking up traditional recipes. There isn't an exact way to learn a language, it's all about what works for you.

practise

Once you've decided on what language to learn and how to learn it, now you need to practise it. This can be hard for some, because not everyone has the time or dedication to actively practise their linguistic skills. However a key aspect to attaining fluency is consistent practice and effort. Remember; What you put in is what you get out! Now, I completely understand that it can get boring at times; I was like that at first as well. The problem was that I wasn't motivating myself and quickly lost interest. It's not just about practising the language, but practising it efficiently an effectively.

My native language is german, I've learned English and Latin in school and I've got to say my Latin is practically nonexistent. I think I never got a grip on it because there isn't really a chance to speak it. On the other hand I think my English is pretty good and in my opinion there are two reasons for that. One is that there are a lot of opportunities to speak English, and two that the English speaking part of mankind seems to be very kind and encouraging towards people trying to stumble their way through their language.

- Krissy(kissy_08)

stay motivated

I cannot stress this enough. Losing interest in the language will hinder your progress, making sure that you'll never achieve fluency. Try listening to foreign music often, or maybe put up a poster in your room of a famous landmark of that country. No matter what, be sure to stay focused and keep your eyes on the prize.

practise often

Use the language as often as you can. Try going to specialised restaurants or cafés, or if there are none in your area, find a penpal. On neopets, switch your language settings and go on the boards to converse with natives. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Like I've stated earlier, each of the thousands of tiny mistakes you make only help you to progress and move forward. I know it sounds cheesy and cliché, but in this case, you really do learn from your mistakes.

establish a routine

Develop a schedule and stick to it. If you like to exercise a lot, try practising for just 15 minutes everytime before you run, and while working out, plug in your earphones and try listening to foreign music or radio broadcasts. Once you start to get a groove going, it will feel like less of a hassle. No matter what, just try to include language learning into your daily routine.

find a penpal

Penpals are relatively easy to find now that websites and social networks have made it so easy to communicate with others across the globe. Generally, you'll be conversing with a native speaker(preferably) or another student eager to learn a new language just like you. If you have trouble finding a penpal elsewhere, Lengua has it's very own Foreign Exchange Programme! Combining this along with other techniques can be highly effective and is almost as good as a total immersion in terms of learning pace and efficiency.

tips

don't get discouraged

So what if someone can't understand what you're trying to say. Or perhaps you can't remember a certain word. Or you're not sure how to pronounce a vowel. Stay optimistic. Don't let those little things get to you. Being confused is a natural part of the learning process, and it's the comprehension and analysis of our errors that really pushes us ahead.

be consistent

Practise as often as you can, and as consistently as you can. Try to stay with your daily routine as much as possible. Even just taking a few weeks off can majorly hinder your progress and cause you to forget months of knowledge and hardwork. This doesn't mean you should be constantly working at all; even just listening to foreign radio or watching foreign TV channels will help you retain significant amounts of information.

look up words you don't know

Buy a foreign language-to-english dictionary, or ask a native friend. There are also thousands of resources on the internet such as online translators(USE CAUTIOUSLY AND SPARINGLY), online dictionaries, language communities and more.

have fun!

Learning a language is an eye-opening experience that exposes you to a whole another culture and lifestyle. Enjoy it! Don't stress out about it or overwork yourself; it should be enjoyable and fun. If you're getting bored with a practise technique or method, try changing it up a bit. Try new things, and step out of your comfort zone a little. The learning experience is an adventure, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.

putting your skills to use

think in your second language

Studies have shown that when people think in a foreign tongue, they tend to make more informed, rationalised decisions than people who only think in their native language.

become a volunteer

If you really love your second language and culture, then try to bring more of it into your daily life! Become a member of a cultural organisation(such as the Alliance Française if you're learning French) to help spread awareness of the culture and hopefully convince others to study the language as well.

go abroad

There are many foreign exchange programmes available for people looking for language immersion. If you're a student, you might get the opportunity to live with a native host family and attend a local school. Even if you're an adult, many charity organisations offer sign ups for volunteer positions all across the world.

common myths

myth: It takes years and years to become fluent

Absolutely not true at all. It all depends on how much effort you put in and how motivated you are. When I studied abroad in Australia for 3 months, I became fluent in English just after 10 weeks of being there. Some of my friends achieved fluency in even less time than that. You just need to keep working towards it and practise as much as possible.

myth: learning a foreign language is tedious and boring

No, only if you make it so. There are tons of fun ways to learn a foreign language and bring another culture into your daily life; it isn't all flashcards and textbooks! Try watching foreign movies, do recreational activities with foreign students, play charades in the language that you're studying, the possibilities are endless! Get creative, and even try to think of your own ways to make it interesting for you.

myth: you will always have a foreign accent

False. Although you can't expect to speak like a native overnight, consistent practise and studying of phonetics & pronunciation can lead to spectacular results. Perhaps you won't be indistinguishable from a native in the end, but you are likely to achieve clear, pleasant pronunciation that will give native speakers something to wonder about (for example, Michal Wojcik's accent is confusing for some native speakers — they think he's from an English-speaking country, but they can't tell which one).

myth: studying pronunciation is not important

Dead wrong. Pronunciation is perhaps one of the most neglected subjects in foreign language learning. In fact, many teachers will just let their students carry on unless they utter something completely unintelligible. If you think your pronunciation is superior since you can speak and be understood by your teacher and fellow language learners, you may be in for a nasty surprise when you travel to a foreign country and try to communicate with natives. So really, don't think you can communicate well in a foreign language until you've tested your oral conversational skills with native speakers. Once you've smoothed out the rough edges of your accent, throw in some idioms and slang, and keep working on pronunciation until you sound almost like a native speaker.

myth: If you didn't learn the language as a child, you'll never be fluent in it

Although there are hypotheses about a critical period of language learning(age 0 to 12), this simply isn't the case. It may be harder at times since you're brain is so wired to your native tongue, however there is currently no scientific evidence that proves that adults cannot master a foreign language.

faq

Q: So do you speak any foreign languages?

A: Of course! Why else would I write a guide to help others accomplish what I did? I speak fluent Castilian(Spanish), French, Catalan and English, and am currently learning German, Norwegian and Latin.

Q: How long did it take you to learn all these languages?

A: For me, it varied from a few weeks to a few months. When I did language immersion programmes in other countries my pace was much quicker, but generally it never took longer than a year or two.

extras

lengua foreign exchange programme

Here at Lengua, we offer a sort of foreign exchange programme & penpal service where users can practise their language with native speakers, right here on neopets! Below, you'll find a list of hosts, who are native or fluent speakers of the designated language. If you find that one speaks the language that you're learning, feel free to contact them! The goal of this feature is to get as much practise and experience as possible, so please limit speaking in your native tongue to a minimum.

exchange student hosts

Fàbregas - English, Castilian(Spanish), Catalan and French
Annie - English
Summer - English, Chinese and Cantonese

become a host

Want to help others learn a language and make new friends? Feel free to apply to become a host! There are no rigid requirements, only that you completely fill out the designated form.




sitely

Content compiled be me, Fàbregas. Although I realise that not all of this is my work, I spent a considerable amount of time putting all the information together, so please don't take off large chunks without credit. Thanks!

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