I have always been into languages since I was younger. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, I grew up speaking Spanish, and then English as a second language. Since my high school didn’t offer any foreign languages courses at the moment, as soon as I got to college, I had my sister teach me a little bit of French, and I also enrolled into an Italian course during the summer.
I found my Italian course to be fun because the teacher used various techniques to have us experience the language, such as movies, music, and practical exercises. By the end of the course, the teacher took us to an authentic Italian restaurant managed by Italians, and the only requirement was that we had to address them in Italian. When the class was over, I enrolled to get more advanced courses of Italian, but what helped the most were those fun things we did with my first teacher, and I would like to share them with you.
Music works wonders when you are trying to learn or improve your skills in a foreign language. One of the first things I did was to find nice Italian music. There are some popular singers known widely like Andrea Boccelli, but also, there were others like Nek, or Laura Pausini, which were also popular singers where I live. They had discs in both Spanish and Italian; I bought the Italian versions, which were really easy to follow since I already knew the songs in Spanish.
It really helps to find the lyrics of the Italian (or any other foreign language) songs and try to read them while the songs are playing to learn how the words sung are spelled and pronounced correctly. If the compact disc doesn’t come with the printed lyrics, it is typically really simple to find the lyrics to any song using the Internet.
Renting out Italian or French movies and then, using subtitles in the foreign language to be able to read along, helped me learn the correct spelling and pronunciation at the same time, just like the music. Some great Italian movies I watched, and I would personally recommend are Life is Beautiful, Ciao Professore, and romantic comedy Il Postino (The Postman). Other popular Italian movies are Cinema Paradiso, La Dolce Vita, and La Strada. My all-time French favorite movie is Amelie. In addition, I have watched American movies and sitcoms all my life which has helped me improve and gain a deeper understanding of the English language.
Reading one of your favorite books in a foreign language can be really challenging but also, highly rewarding. My sister bought me the Italian version of the Little Prince from author Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It was an easy read and quite entertaining. I knew the book well, so it was a fun and light read. The point to this strategy is that it should be fun and motivate you to keep learning the language.
The Little Prince was a great pick because it was appropriate at the time for my Italian language skill level. Once, I got a better understanding of the language, I was able to select more age appropriate books for myself with a higher difficulty level. An acceptable variation is to read magazines about your favorite subjects published in that other foreign language.
The Internet now facilitates to read news, articles, or even entire newspapers or magazines in a foreign language. In addition, it allows you to practice with others through public chat rooms and forums. These should be used when you are more fluent, but it is a great resource to meet interesting people from other countries and practice at the same time. Internet provides online dictionaries, and translators that will also demonstrate the correct pronunciation in many different foreign languages.
Travel & Practice
By the time I was learning Italian, I used to work with a popular cruise line in Puerto Rico that received Italian and American passengers all the time, which gave me the opportunity to practice both English and Italian. Working in the tourism industry can be a great way to practice your foreign language skills, and earn money at the same time.
Another fun way to learn and practice a foreign language is to visit a country where it is spoken. I still have my homework to visit Italy sometime; however, long before I learned Italian, I visited Paris and had the opportunity to practice what my sister taught me.
When my sister taught me French, she made me write, read books and listen to French music intensively before I got in the plane. When I got to Paris, I was able to at least be functional, ask for directions, order my food at the restaurants, or ask for any other needs and understand the people. It was a great experience being in Paris for 11 days and learn the culture attached to the language. By having to actually communicate in French helped me learn a lot more vocabulary, phrases, correct my pronunciation and have a wonderful time there.
When I wanted to become fluent in English, I enrolled for a year in a University in Virginia, worked part-time there, and then, moved to Florida for a while and worked there too. When I put myself in that situation where I was had to listen, write, and speak the language every time everyday, I finally got a deeper understanding of the language.
There are many ways learn a foreign language easily while having fun. Doing the things you like, such as travelling, watching TV or a movie, or maybe reading a celebrities’ gossip magazine, can be really helpful to gain that foreign language understanding and improve your skill level. There are many other fun ways to do this, please share with us any other fun ways you know, or that you have used and were not included here. Farewell, Ciao, Au revoir, Adiós!
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