Want to learn an uncommon language?

20170125_0035221Uncommon languages, or languages less used or spoken on the world stage. Sure we all know someone who has taken an interest in Spanish or French for example. But what happens if you have an unrelenting desire to learn Romanian, Filipino Irish Gaelic or Korean? Well luckily enough this process is far from impossible, however there will be some extra struggles you will come across along the way. Depending on your location some languages might fit this category and some might not.

Here are some useful tips and ideas as to how to best proceed.

Have good and solid reasons as to why it is you have chosen this path. Are you planning on travel to the said country, are you going to do business with the country either on your or their soil, Have you held a burning interest for their culture or even using this as a means and method of reclaiming or rediscovering your own culture.

Personally I’m undertaking Romanian as I was born there (international adoptee) and as part of reclaiming my Romanian national identity feel I absolutely must bear the language. Whatever your reasons may be they must be strongly held reasons as every language learner has doubts at some point in their journey.

Have attainable goals As someone who can speak conversational Spanish and some level of Italian I can safely say that it will be hard to be successful in undertaking any language if you don’t have goals in place. These goals will need to be adjusted as time progresses if you are looking for high proficiency in a language.

My current ones are (at the time of writing) to have a basic understanding of Romanian for a trip to rediscover the country in March/April time and to know off by heart (or close to) the national anthem and football songs (with meanings) by March 26 when the first international match against Denmark is. I can expect these to change as time progresses.

Know what resources are available The chances are there are a lot fewer books, YouTube videos, seminars and language exchange partners should you be seeking a language which isn’t on the top ten of most spoken in the world. When starting out it might be helpful to gain an understanding of all the options available to you and knowing which ones your likely to prefer more.

Internet translators can help. While the likes of Google Translate and Bing Translator might be improving according to their developers claims, there can still be inaccuracies in these. I’d not usually advise a language learner to use something like this, but when resources including native speakers are potentially scarce sometimes you have to use these. Due to a higher likelihood of error its advisable to write one sentence at a time into the translator should you need to use one.

I’d advise that you do not record any translations created by these translators in any language progress journals you might be keeping. I’d also recommend that you be prepared to have a native speaker tell you the more natural way of saying something or even the correct way.

Singing If you have a particular passion for singing this might be a fantastic option for exposure to vast amounts of vocabulary and how words are pronounced. If there are set rules as to pronunciation this will help banish the pronunciation problems early on. The quickest way is to cut and paste the lyrics into a translation software and sing to them while keeping an eye on the general idea of the meanings. Any use of an internet translator has potential for error but it’s a good way of quick exposure to the language and embracing the culture and having fun while you’re at it.

Doing this everyday (if possible) and ditching the translators as soon as feasibly possible will expose you to new words, grammar and verb forms quickly. You will unlikely know how to place some of these in speech in the start but the exposure aspect is second to none.

Take instruction in a non native language Some of us are not new to the world of languages and if you possess a second language it might be an idea to take a flash card course in that language. That way you are keeping that language alive while actively pursuing your new pursuit.

Facebook and social media If you are a keen social media user why not “follow” some groups in your target language. You can keep up with current affairs in the country (ies) where the language is spoken and get to see non textbook examples. Of course its wise to have daily (or as close to daily practise as possible) as well as this.

If you are embarking on a journey of learning a language that is not one of the most common some people may question your judgement. Please understand that 99% of the time they mean well, even if you find their comments to be “unhelpful at best”

I can expect that in due time my proficiency in Romanian may one day be greater than that of my Spanish (most proficient 2nd language I have) as I feel its my language on a spiritual level. There is true and valid reason why I call it my sacred language.

limba mea este în inima mea

Samantha Eaton

La Reina Razonable

Music, a great addition to your language journey

20160612_004126Hello Dear Readers

While I initially thought of writing this as something that could complement my Role Plays article I realise this can be of easy benefit to everyone and both introvert and extrovert personality types.

I started learning languages back in October 2014 and have been hooked to some degree ever since. I have gotten quite far in my language journey and listening to music in the languages you are learning is a must for a number of reasons.

The first is it’s a fantastic way to learn and embrace the language outside of materials. The natural way language is presented in music. While I’m not against learner materials (far from it) its nicer to have a way of enjoying the language outside of “grammar drills” and to be able to feel as though “you’re not studying at all”.

I would go so far as to say I personally believe music to somewhat be better than television and movies for learning a language. My rationale is that the melody is enough to keep someone interested even if they don’t understand it all or only understand a small amount.

To listen to music effectively you will need to find a genre you like and find tracks of that genre. The “catchy effect” is good for learning new grammar as since its encapsulated in a song which you love to bits and have probably played on repeat.

The only limitation is the tracks you choose must have vocals and quite a lot of them, it’s also preferable that the vocals are easy to hear. I’d suggest in most cases voices that are electronically synthesised and difficult to interpret are not the best choice.

Singing and dancing to the music you take a liking to is another way to make it a part of you and visit language in a way that “doesn’t feel like learning”. Depending on how much confidence/time/other considerations you have this could make an enjoyable experience even more enjoyable.

With a foreign music you will be able to explore areas of another countries culture, perhaps many countries cultures depending on which langauge it is your learning.

In addition a liking of foreign music could potentially get the listener into taking up a particular dance style or instrument involved with more classical genre’s. If you are a learner who is deeply interested in the cultural aspect as well then this is no doubt something to consider.

While listening to music alone is not a substitute for talking practise, its somewhat possible singing might be at least to some level, since you are producing the language. You can talk to people who speak the language you are learning about your newly found interests in music whether you prefer to sing or not.

You may find new genres that do not exist (or barely exist) in your native language. I have come across at least 3 generes  in Spanish that don’t exist in the English-speaking world (as far as I know). These are Ranchera, Cumbia and Reggaeton and there could even be more? Its fun and refreshing to find something entirely new.

The only time listening to music in a foreign language likely will not help you at all is if you haven’t actually studied the language at all. No amount of listening to ten entire playlists in Italian will help your cause if you have not studied Italian for even an hour. This is something that can only be accessed by those who have done at least some studying.

In conclusion I would suggest music does not fulfil every aspect required to successfully learn a foreign language but it does cover a fair few

I’m grateful as to the music I’ve found and I’m confident that I’ve progressed faster with it then I would have done without it.

Samantha Eaton

La Reina Razonable

Role Plays, the Amber Nectar of Introvert Language Exchange

20150717_161412.jpgHave you ever been in a situation where you wanted to learn a foreign language and the language exchanges just don’t cut it for you? Are you exhausted from all the endless small talk and introductions that ultimately lead nowhere? Do you also get the feeling”I would like to be challenged, even taken slightly out of my comfort zone? Do you feel that even though you love the languages you are learning you are simply “not an open channel” or are “naturally resistant” to all the small talk?

If the answer is such a profound yes then I might just have stumbled across a workaround for this, a life hack if you will.

I myself am an Introvert and can profoundly answer yes to all of those questions. The question how do I go about solving this problem has been floating around in my mind one way or another for the best part of six months. I’m pleased it has been as the key to Pandora’s box is…..

Role Plays

These are brilliant because like many people on the introvert spectrum I do not enjoy opening up to people I do not know over the internet or endless amounts of small talk. Introverts usually have a naturally reserved quality about them. A role play comes in well as a substitute as you are effectively playing a character for the purpose of learning a language (both yours and theirs) while not actually having to open up to someone you do not know well enough to open up to or want to open up to.

Bonus points for the fact a Role Play has a creative and amateur dramatic element to it.

I remember a time when I had to do one in an unemployement seminar years ago. I quite liked it.

I have tried it recently in a language exchange and I noticed my “resistance to the experience” disappeared. It was slightly annoying that it was only in English with no Spanish at all but the key point is my usual feeling of “resistance to language exchange” was nowhere to be seen.

I’d suggest that should this sound like something you would like to try or do that you state this abjectly and upfront before the exchange. Should you need to have an all or nothing proposition regarding this subject. While this may initially sound harsh I can assure you its not because I’m in the belief that it’s for the betterment that both people should be relatively compatible and neither should feel obliged to language exchange with someone who they are grossly incompatible with. So honesty truly is the best policy all around in this circumstance.

In return the partner can request that you do things a certain way for them. I remember I was asked to explain the workings of the London Underground Oyster card and the Zonal System. This could have been role played but even without a role play element there’s no inner and profound feeling of “resistance” due to the fact that it’s an external subject and is not “small talk”, introductions nor is it asking me to “open up” when I do not feel ready.

I’d also like to state that even though there’s a “serious” and “stay on task” element involved due to the creative and amateur dramatic nature it can be an enjoyable pursuit with relative ease.

The only reasonable limits are your and your partners linguistic understanding. So there’s no point saying you are “one of the lead designers of the Ariane 5 space station” if either you or your language partner simply isn’t at that level. There is no doubt that so long as neither of you go over the top both of you will receive new vocabulary and grammatical understandings in your respective languages.

One thing I have noticed as well is some other language exchangers wish to form a friendship and start meeting people face to face really early on. Should you feel this is too much for you openly say something along the lines of “For the time being I am not looking for friendship or to meet face to face at this stage but may be open to it at a later stage, the language alone is my focus for now”. This means that should you feel a spark with this person you shall be able to pursue it at a later stage should you so wish.

If any of the concepts mentioned here have proved to be a help to anyone (other than myself) then I see this article as nothing less than an outstounding success.

I am a learner of Spanish, Italian and French and one day shall write articles when the time is right for me to do so.

Samantha Eaton

La Reina Razonable (Queen Reasonable)