Today’s blog is a post by Ivy Li, who is a Mandarin language Teacher at my sister school in Hong Kong, Stamford American International School. Ivy is a lifelong language learner herself. She is also fluent in Spanish and knows basic French and Japanese. She is currently working on Cantonese as well. Being an enthusiastic linguist and language educator, Ivy is passionate about exploring and implementing innovative ways to learn languages effectively through educational technology. I was so impressed with the way Ivy openly shares her learning to the global community that I wanted to share it with the world. Today, Ivy shares her advice on learning a foreign language.
We all know “practice makes perfect”, but how can we practice a foreign language when no one around us speaks it? Thanks to the Internet, many high-quality online resources are easily accessible nowadays for us to build a perfect immersion environment on our own.
YouTube is the biggest supplier of listening resources. Start with music you like. Many classical songs or rhymes have several versions in different languages. See the “Are You Sleeping” song in Mandarin, French, and Spanish. Many channels, such as Pinkfong Chinese, make bilingual versions of a wide range of songs covering different topics, such as body parts, seasons or festival-themed songs. Intermediate or advanced language learners can look for videos of local TV shows in that language. The most important part is not to understand everything in the video, but to expose yourself to the phonetics of that language with topics that interest you.
Besides listening, make sure you “see” the language often, because literacy is an important accelerator for language learning. Go to Pinterest and download elegant vocabulary posters or flashcards designed by various educational institutions. Label everything you can in the apartment, or play “Pictionary” in another language with your friends. Don’t forget to tie the foreign culture with your language learning. Mark your calendar and celebrate the festivals of that country. You can Google different traditions related to that festival and the stories behind them.
Recording is also a function that should not be missed on your smart devices, and it is very helpful and efficient for speaking practice. If you are too worried to speak to a native speaker face to face, try to record yourself first. Imitate a short dialogue and compare your pronunciation with the original soundtrack. You can secretly practice as many times as you want without getting embarrassed. Many apps embed this function as well. I am currently using an app like this to practice Cantonese!
There are many resources you can take advantage of to get regular exposure to a foreign language. Keep exploring until you find what works best for you. And don’t forget to share with other language learners!