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Study a Foreign Language With Pizzazz

Try these tips for putting some zip into language learning.
 

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Memory and Memorization
Vocabulary
Listening and Speaking

Bring a far-off land closer to you. Once a week, host an Italian (or French, Spanish, etc.) table in the lunchroom. Invite anyone who'll agree to converse in the chosen language.

Consider starting an after-school language club. Play board games and cards while communicating in American Sign Language or your language of choice. Find a teacher who is willing to sponsor it and you'll practice while relaxing and having fun.

Connect with a pen pal who's a native speaker of the language you're learning. You can both write in one language or you can practice writing in the language you're each learning.

Make flash cards. Some ways of studying are tried and true because they really work. It's more important to be exposed to a little bit of new language every day, say for 15 minutes, rather than cramming in a marathon 2-hour session before each weekly quiz.
Fold an index card into fours, then cut along the lines to make mini-cards. Put a word or phrase in English on one side and the translation on the other. For something different, draw or cut out a picture from a magazine for the English-language side. Use an empty rectangular mint tin to store your cards and break them out on the bus or even between classes. A few minutes here and there will really add up.

Label your room. Get some colorful paper and bright markers and transform your room into a great big study aid. If it's French you're mastering, the desk is tagged "le bureau." If you're studying Spanish, the window gets the sign, "la ventana."
Ask a parent if you can expand your naming frenzy throughout your home. If it's Italian you're learning, you'll be asking if there's more "formaggio" (cheese) in the "frigorifero" (refrigerator) in no time.

Sing a song! It's time for homemade Karaoke. Check out the world music section of your favorite music store. From traditional folk tunes to the latest international pop sensation, listening to music and singing in a new language is a fun way to practice. Look at the liner notes for lyrics or try to piece the words together just from listening.
Record your voice as you sing, and then play it back to listen for the correct pronunciation (and to determine if you should seriously consider a career as a foreign language rock star!) Form a band for your next language-class project and dazzle your classmates with your considerable multilingual talents.

Watch TV. Um, excuse me? There's actually a reason to flip on the tube during homework time? Well, only if it's okay with your parents, but you can make a valid argument that watching TV in another language is a helpful way to develop your ear for pronunciation.
Check out your local channel listings to see if there's a news broadcast — or a game show — available in your chosen language. Commercials can be especially fun to watch.

Check out the library. The best part about the library is you never know exactly what you'll find there. A well-stocked school or branch library might carry books-on-tape, magazines, CDs, or even movies in the language you're studying. Don't forget about good old books. If you're wild for Harry Potter, checking out J.K. Rowling's books in Spanish could be majorly entertaining.

Go there! This is the ideal. There's no better way to learn a new language than to go to a place where the language is everywhere. And there are ways to accomplish this that don't include winning the lottery.

  • Ask your teacher if he knows of any student exchange programs where you go live with a family in another country for a few weeks and then host a kid from that family.
  • Ask your teacher or principal if they'd consider a student trip to another country. Your class can raise funds for it with car washes and bake sales.
  • See if your parents will help you research summer programs or language camps abroad.
  • If you live near a border, suggest French Canada or Spanish-speaking Mexico for your next family vacation.

However you approach learning a new language, mix it up! The more varied your study methods, the more interesting it will be. The ultimate aim is to begin thinking in your new language, rather than having to translate everything word for word. Had any dreams in French lately?

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