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October 2019

Speaking and Understanding a Foreign Language Automatically

How to set your language skills on auto-pilot

Do you ever envy how well children can learn to speak and understand your target language so effortlessly? It seems that without even trying, they can speak fluently, while it takes us adults hours of study a week.

Indeed, the concept of learning a new language as a child does is the goal of many language learning applications. Rosetta Stone, for example, is famous for its use of images and association, teaching foreign language students the way a child might learn by interacting with the world. While this method may work better for some than others, the concept is a good one. But how else can we train our minds to push learning and comprehension into automatic mode? We’ll give you some tips and tricks in this article.

Developing the ear

The ultimate goal, put simply, is to develop an ear for your target language. What this means is that your mind becomes accustomed to the sounds of your target language. For most students, this can be best achieved with constant exposure. For example, visiting the country of your target language helps greatly in this regard. Developing an ear for the language you are learning makes it easier to comprehend native speakers, while improving your speaking ability, often without you knowing it.

Native speakers often don’t know the grammatical rules of their language; they just know the language. They know what sounds “off”, and they can usually choose the right grammatical structures and words based on their familiarity with their language.

In contrast, language students are constantly juggling grammar rules and new words. How are they to train their ears to the sounds of their target language?

Movies and podcasts

It takes a lot of listening to develop an ear for a language. What language students need then is to watch movies and listen to podcasts. Any form of media in which two native speakers converse normally can help. The problem with audio lessons is that they are often slowed down or feature awkward unrealistic conversations. While movies may be overdramatic, it’s this over-emphasising that can help you remember the musicality of the language.

Auto-mode activated

How does developing an ear for your target language help you learn automatically? When your ear is attuned to the language, you’ll start to hear what sounds right and wrong. Often, this cognizance will slip into your speech as well, as you choose correct grammar structures and words without even realising it. In other words, you’ll be learning much like a child does, though with audio instead of visual cues.

Developing your ear is a fundamental part of listening comprehension as well, especially if your target language uses a grammatical structure different from your native language. Translating sentences in your head may often feel like juggling, but with an ear for the language, you’ll be more able to break down meaning in real time.

What are some of your tips for training your ear to a foreign language? Let us know on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” telc English for more articles on language learning tips and tricks!