How to become fluent in a foreign language
Improve your listening skills
- Listen to native speakers in natural contexts as much as possible.
- Focus on the unique sounds of the language, including the inflection patterns.
Improve your speaking
- Practice speaking every day.
- Practice the sounds in the language which are most difficult for non-native speakers (for example “ra” and “tsu” in Japanese).
- Record yourself speaking, then play it back and compare your inflection and pronunciation to that of native speakers.
- Think in the language as much as possible, instead of thinking in your native language and then translating.
- Speak as native speakers usually are doing, using idioms and linguistic shortcuts, instead of imitating a textbook, which is often excessively formal and repetitive.
- Study the grammar. Grammar books try to explain the rules of the language. The sentence ‘This that same is’ consists of English words, but isn’t grammatically correct.
- Make strong efforts to improve and remember specific grammar rules, so as to avoid incomprehensibility or vagueness to native speakers. ‘Thinking’ in the other language will also become easier and more frequent.
- People who speak only one language often assume that the rules of their own language apply to all languages, or that these rules are almost the same everywhere. This is not the case at all. Learning a language requires more effort and commitment than just learning lots of foreign words.
- Crash courses often try to play down the importance of studying the grammar. Attempt to opt for a foreign language class, where the teacher may be more adept in helping you better understand grammar rules on a personal and more efficient level.
Improve your reading
- Read books, magazine articles, and other “real life” material whenever possible.Based on vocabulary you have learnt, attempt to translate or at the very least, get a gist of the contents’ meaning or aim.
- Read some material in the language every day.
- Make a list of new words as you come across them.Guess the meaning based on the context, visual or auditorial clues before looking them up in a dictionary.
Improve your Writing
- Write something in the language every day.This could range from a short sentence summing up your day, to a full-page diary entry or article.
- Imitate the words of what you’ve read.
- Study the literary conventions of the language thoroughly.Sometimes the written version of the language is radically different than the spoken version.
- Make mistakes without worry. It’s good to make mistakes because you can learn from them, and be much more likely to correct them in future instances.
- Attempt to learn the language from a mix of factors; for instance, learn how to master the language in both formal and informal registers, to be able to develop a wider approach to different audiences/people and situations.
- List, manage and add notes on all of the necessary vocabulary, grammar rules and extra information of the language in a notebook or digital notepad for future reference and revision opportunities.
- To improve memory of vocabulary for revision, include images (visual or mental) that associate best with specific words. Simply viewing the images used in real-life situations may result in you being able to quickly remember the word associated with the image used.
- Expand your knowledge across various media. Learn the linguistic structures of a newspaper/magazine article, formal/informal letter, casual conversation or even advertisements to widen your grasp of the language, as you are available to encounter these forms of media on a daily basis.