Many people complain that they cannot speak the language they are learning because they have no native speakers around them to practice with.
However, there is a very easy way to circumvent these odds. I managed to start speaking Spanish without having any natives around me to practice with and you can too.
Let me show you how!
#1 Buy an album
Both with Spanish and with Arabic, I first listened closely to the music before starting to learn the language. I didn’t listen to the music just for fun or entertainment. It was active listening. I was listening for the sounds, what sounds occurred most often, any repeated sounds, etc.
You can either buy a regular album or an mp3 album. However, the important part is to make sure you have access to the lyrics. Print them out if you don’t have them in paper form.
Music is incredibly important in your language learning journey for several reasons.
- It trains your ear to hear and listen to the language.
- Through this exercise, you learn the correct pronunciation of words and sounds.
- Listening often to music in your target language will help you memorize words and sentences.
- Listening to music while understanding the words and sentences will help you internalize grammar rules and sentence structure without much effort. You build a “sixth sense” for the language
- Melody helps to memorize words and even entire sentences!
Listen to the album as much as you can. Read the lyrics, try to sing along (I don’t care if you think you can’t sing). PRACTICE! Repetition and consistency are key! With time, you will find you can follow along, that your pronunciation improves and, hopefully, that you even start to be able to sing the song by heart! That is what we are aiming for.
The aim is to feel very confident pronouncing the language and knowing that one pronounces it correctly. When I officially started learning Spanish, my teacher once even asked me if I spoke Spanish at home because my pronunciation was so accurate!
I knew it was owed in large part to the fact that I was listening to Mexican music.
You can do it too! Just make sure you don’t buy too many albums at first. Treat it like a language learning manual (which it is!) and focus on these songs first. When you feel confident with that album and feel you can sing almost all songs off by heart, then you will know it’s time to get another album!
#2 Buy a dictionary
I know we have access to Google Translate and all that jazz, but be a serious learner and at least get your own hard copy. Get a bilingual dictionary to start with. A medium-sized one is fine.
Don’t bother with big dictionaries. You can get a small pocket one if you wish, but I would save those for emergency uses during travels.
If you’re serious about getting to learn the language, send your mind and brain a signal by getting a decent, medium-sized dictionary.
#3 Try to understand the lyrics
Now that you have your album and your dictionary, try to understand the lyrics. Guess the meaning of the words FIRST and THEN check with your dictionary (or Google Translate if the word doesn’t show up in your dictionary).
Guessing FIRST and checking SECOND is very important in language learning because:
- It helps develop your sixth sense of the language and pay close attention to the context and
- It boosts your confidence in your learning ability when you get it right
Self-confidence is very important in language learning, because it will enable you to learn more easily and quickly.
Don’t worry if your guess is wrong. If it is, see where you made the mistake and if you could have found the meaning if you had thought a little harder. Sometimes the right answers seem obvious afterwards.
#4 Find texts
You can do this in several ways. I started with the texts I got from my teacher in class. I would read every new text aloud 3 times per day.
This is an excellent exercise for many reasons. You get nearly all the same benefits that you get from listening and singing to music:
- Listening to the language (makes listening comprehension easier)
- Internalizing sentence structure and grammar rules
- It trains your mouth to pronounce the language
- You memorize words and entire sentences with time
I remember when I first started learning Arabic, I started out exactly like I had with Spanish because it was my only option and I knew it worked.
Of course, when starting out, you usually get the texts with basic dialogues. So because I read them out loud every day, I eventually memorized the different lines.
When I met an Arabic speaker and they started speaking to me in Arabic, the lines were often the same as I had read and repeated in these dialogues! So not only did I understand much of what they were telling me, but I was able to pick the right sentence to answer back!
It always made me laugh when they said I spoke Arabic well, because I knew full well I was incapable of stringing a sentence together! All I was really doing was reading my lines!
But hey, it worked. So there!
You can choose from two resources here, depending on your level of French and what you are aiming to use French for.
The first option is to go for dialogues. Here is my list of favorite manuals to work with when teaching students to listen and speak French. They all come with CDs, so that’s great.
- Grammaire en dialogues (by CLE International):
- Compréhension orale (by CLE International):
The other option you have, are online magazine or newspaper articles. They are great if you have an A2-B1 level and/or you need French for work. The vocabulary you find there will probably be more helpful to your situation.
Make sure to print the articles, so you can highlight words you don’t know and carry it around you to practice, reread, etc.!
Make a file and over time you will be surprised and encouraged to see how much you can already read and understand! Keeping a visual track of your progress is very important.