Last week, the war of words between the EU and Britain over Brexit took an unexpected turn – when Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, elected to deliver his in French instead of English.
Addressing a conference in Italy, Junker claimed that “slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe", and said he was going to make his speech in French because "I want the French people to understand what I am saying about the importance of the EU.”
The majority of Britons would not have understood what followed, because only 15pc of people living here can hold a conversation in French. That all might be about to change, however: according to new data, there's been a surge of interest among Britons in learning a foreign language since the EU referendum vote last summer.
Languages app Lingvist analysed its user base in the nine months prior to the vote on June 23 2016, and compared it with activity in the nine months since. Researchers found that the popularity of Spanish courses is up by 427pc, and French courses by 342pc.
“With Brexit around the corner, the growing concerns around how the UK will be able to bridge the language skills gap have been brought to the fore,” said Lingvist co-founder Ott Jalakas.
Putting aside matters of employability, teaching yourself a new tongue is an invaluable skill: it can increase your mental health and general intelligence, not to mention make holidaying less stressful.
Here's how to go about the task in super-fast time. Bon chance!
Read, watch or listen to foreign news reports
Narguess Farzad is a senior tutor in the Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East at SOAS. She believes that a surefire way to supercharge your learning curve is to follow the news in a foreign language.
"As part of self-study, tuning into the same items of news flashes across all global networks can be useful, especially in an era when the internet gives us access to endless apps and websites," suggests Farzad.
"Take, for instance, the story of the Harambe the Cincinnati gorilla, and the toddler who fell into his moat. This news was reported in countless languages across the world and, once you know the story, you can try to read it or listen to it or watch the video reports in the target language you are trying to learn."
The same can be said for adverts – from national television advertisements to personal ads in local papers. "These tend to be easy to follow and are a satisfying way of using very basic vocabulary and grammar that you have already learnt."
Embrace the possibilities of technology
"Apps now allow anybody, anywhere to practice languages at any time," says Luis von Ahn, a Guatemalan entrepreneur and founder of popular language-learning platform Duolingo.
"Instead of having to sign up for a one-hour class and commute there every day, you can now learn whenever you want – if you're waiting for the bus, if you're bored at home, or if you just have a few minutes to kill. This convenience has fundamentally changed the way people learn, and has gotten millions of people more engaged in learning foreign languages."
Duolingo, for example, has over 150 million users worldwide. "According to our estimates about half of them would not be learning a language if it wasn't for us - because they wouldn't have the time, the money, or easy access to language classes."
"Technology itself has also helped speed up the learning time of a language," von Ahn continues. "Because we have so many users, we can find out the most convenient and effective ways to learn a particular new language in a matter of days. If we take the next 50,000 users that sign up to Duolingo, teach half of them plurals before adjectives and the other half adjectives before plurals, and then measure which ones learn better, this helps us help them."
And von Ahn may be right. A study from the City University of New York found that using platforms such as Duolingo for 34 hours yielded the same results as taking a one-semester university course in the same language - something which takes significantly longer than 34 hours.
Listen to songs and watch films in your target language
"I also encourage the use of songs," says Narguess Farzad. "In fact, I learnt a lot of my English through English pop music long before coming to live in the UK. The lyrics of Terry Jacks’ Seasons in the Sun taught me a lot more than all the Janet & John English books! And then I learnt that the song was originally written in French and was sung by Jacques Brel - and so found yet another linguistic link."
Farzad is right. In 2013, a study from the University of Edinburgh discovered that adults who sang words or short phrases from a foreign language while learning were twice as good at speaking it later.
It was suggested that by listening to words that are sung, and by singing them back, the technique takes advantage of the strong links between music and memory.
"Also," adds Farzad, "try watching films as another way of consolidating your language learning process. You can start by watching dubbed versions of originals, such as The Sound of Music or Finding Nemo dubbed into Persian or French or Russian and then move to soaps and thrillers produced in the target language."
Visit the country or mix with native speakers as often as possible
"There aren't many shortcuts that I would recommend," says Dr Ana de Medeiros, Director of the Modern Language Centre at King's College London, "but clearly one of the more beneficial methods of learning a new language quickly is to immerse yourself in the culture."
This works better if you already have some rudimentary knowledge of the language. "But, by changing your environment, and actually studying intensively in a country or region where the target language is spoken, you will encounter the words and phrases in very natural situations - which will be very helpful."
"Of course, each student benefits from different approaches, but the best thing is to aim for this repeated exposure to the language you are trying to learn, and engaging in regular speaking practice sessions with a native speaker. Remember, learning a language is very different from simply learning a few choice phrases."
Practice speaking with your imaginary friend
Jimmy Naraine is a business coach who travels the world helping prospective entrepreneurs and businessmen make the most of their potential. Part of this, the Polish-born Naraine says, is expanding your language skills.
"A trick that I'd suggest is that when you are walking on the street simply pull out your phone and pretend that you are speaking to someone on the other end. But, and here's the catch - just use this time to practise your foreign language."
"Your initial thought may be that people will think that you're being weird, but how can that really be the case? How often do you pay attention to what people passing you on the street are saying on the phone?"
"After all, there is background noise, lack of context and everyone is minding their own business. You can take advantage of this situation to practice speaking your target language. And, the beautiful thing is that you can say whatever you want as most people won't even be able to understand you."
"I use this strategy almost every single day and, let me tell you, it makes great use of time that would otherwise be wasted and helps my language skills tremendously."
Follow recipes and instructions in your target language
"I would also suggest following recipes and cooking instructions to further your language skills," says Narguess Farzad, who gets her students to try simple exercises such as making a banana and pineapple smoothie.
"By working our way through the steps logically and attentively, I can teach my students the concept of imperative verbs - peel the banana, cut it, add milk, blend for 40 seconds, and so on. You will also learn about various noun-adjective relationships when reading instructions - ripe bananas, full-fat milk, etc," she says.
"Occasionally, and especially when the recipe books have visual aids, we don't even have to resort to dictionaries. The recipe trick helps push forward your understanding of your target language as you are challenged to go away and use the same verbs and adjectives in different contexts, thus ensuring through repetition that the learner remembers the vocabulary."
"And that is the most important trick in learning languages - to training your brain to remember patterns and associations and to learn incrementally - even when you are learning at speed. Always go back to incorporate what you have already learnt into what you are learning today."
Adapt your attitude and overall lifestyle to show enthusiasm
Caroline Campbell, the Director of the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies at the University of Leeds, believes that the best way to speed up your language-learning experience is to incorporate educational opportunities into your everyday life.
"By making studying your target language part of your daily routine," says Campbell, "finding a time in the day that suits you and sticking to it, you will give yourself the best chance of learning quickly and effectively."
She suggests putting post-it notes around your house with new vocabulary on them, or finding out what your learning style is - audio, visual, kinaesthetic - and incorporating elements of that into your learning process.
"You could also invest in a small notebook, or just use your phone, to store new vocabulary. Then, and this is key, refer to it little and often throughout the day. Whilst you're waiting for the bus or tube, or for a friend to arrive, you can be studying - and it's amazing how well this technique works," says Campbell.
"Finally, the most important thing to get right is your attitude. Don't be afraid to make mistakes - they're often the best way to learn. Don't set unrealistic goals, and, overall, just have fun with the language and enjoy learning it. By assimilating the language through mini tests, quizzes, puzzles or games, you'll challenge yourself, have fun and be fluent before you know it."
By Jonathan Wells
9 MAY 2017 • 10:56AM
27 Octubre 20170 Comentarios