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How to Learn a Second Language Easy and Effectively

Updated on November 29, 2012

Learn the Way Children Learn

If you look at how children learn to speak and to write their own language, you will notice than the focus is in having them learn the ABCs, to look at pictures of things like places, animals and people- including those pictures that express emotion, like being happy, sad, mad and so on to help them make sense of the world.

Also, children in early elementary levels are taught to begin slowly by pronouncing vowels, identifying syllables and then reading words. This is taught with phonics: learning short and long vowel sounds, the use of diphthongs and diagraphs as well as the silent R, the use of special consonants, and other spelling rules. Here children learn when and why a vowel is pronounced a certain way, and why words are written the way they are. As they advance to higher grade levels they begin to put sentences together, to learn adjectives, verbs, prepositions and so on. What all this means for us, is that, as adults, we try too hard to learn a new language the "adult way", which more often than not, ends up being ineffective.

The way children learn a new language is effective because it provides a “proven” method for learning a new language. So don’t think of the new language as a “new” language. Instead, immerse yourself in it, start completely from the beginning, like a first or second grader does.

Learn without translating:

I often have students who want me to translate to them most of what I am teaching them. For example, when I am conjugating a verb with them, they want to see the same verb conjugated in Spanish. According to them, this helps them understand what the different tenses really mean and how they are being used. But this is just an example, I usually do not get into verb conjugation until my students have mastered basic ABCs and phonics. Why translating word for word doesn’t this work? Well, learning a new language is in itself a feat, adding to that the complexity of putting two languages par to par and trying to translate every part of it makes it even more complicated, and for that matter much harder, if not almost impossible to achieve. So I keep repeating to my students that it is easier and more effective, leaving the mother tongue completely out of it. I do give them some instructions in Spanish of course, but the use of the mother tongue is minimal.

Use pictures to learn the meaning of words:

Pictures speak a million words.They are so easy to understand and make sense of that using them to teach or learn a new language is a must. I use pictures with my students on every tutoring session. They see the picture and I have them read the definition of it underneath it. Doing this helps them know the word, how to pronounce it and how to write it in one simple step.

Read daily to become familiar with the language and its usage:

Reading is always a good learning tool for improving your pronunciation of words, for improving your writing, for building your vocabulary and for learning how to express complex thoughts. I have my students read a small passage at every session. We do this at the end of the session so that they can sit back and relax (not too much though) and listen, as I read it to them. After this, I ask them to read it back to me, checking their intonation and correcting it as they go. Some students have a hard time pronouncing the English language and they are not able to recall the pronunciation of certain words within one sentence. So I pace myself so that they can follow me as I read two or three words at a time. Another reason reading is such as good learning tool, is that reading makes you aware of how the language is used and how entire phrases are put together. Verbs change tense, prepositions come between words, adjectives and adverbs add flavor to the writing and so on. All this helps the reader to become familiar with the language.

Read short, children stories:

I recommend short, children stories for beginners and intermediate level students because the structure is simple. There is use of adjectives and almost no adverbs, simple tenses are used, and repetition of pronouns and nouns make it easy to see how the language is used.

Immerse yourself in your target language:

I cannot stress enough how helpful it is that you listen to the language you are trying to learn on a daily basis. Go online and watch clips, watch shows or anything where your target language is being used. In this way you will learn the proper pronunciation and become familiar with its use.

Watch movies and shows so that you can hear how the language is used in normal conversation:

Begin at second grade elementary level and slowly progress to third and fourth grade curriculum as confidence with writing, pronunciation and familiarization, and mastery of grade level is achieved: I am not saying that you are unable to learn a language as other adults do, but hear my advice, learning a language as children do is much easier and effective, than trying to though it up as an adult. Leave your mother tongue out of it and you will learn faster. Try it!

Concentrate on verbs that dominate the tense of other verbs:

For example, if you were trying to learn English you would concentrate in mastering these three verbs: To be, to have and to do.

Why these three verbs?? Ok, this is very important. The reason is that in the English language these three verbs- rule! Ok, sorry, back to serious, but I did mean that. To be, to have and to do dominate the English language- For example, they can be auxiliary or main verbs and in this sense, they help other verbs to change tense (except: to do)

Take To be and to have for example:

To be: I am, you are and so on- “I don’t need to teach you that I know.” My point is that when you try to express time/tense- these three verbs dominate the other verbs, and without these verbs you cannot conjugate verbs.

Let’s use the verb to shake- and how it's tense is changed by to be and to have

I am shaken (to be)

I have shaken (to have)

I will be shaken (to be)

I have been shaken (to have and to be)

I had been shaken (to have and to be)

I will have been shaken. (to have and to be)

Do you see!

To do: as both, aux and main verb.

Does he like to do any cooking?

Do you like to do cleaning?

I do not like to do anything.

As main verb only

I am doing the dishes.(Main verb - doing)

Quiz yourself on specific areas throughout your studies and do not move forward until you master the material: there are many websites out there with terrific material for learning any language, but remember, the most important thing is to keep it simple, very simple.

Apply this method to learning any language.

To have and to be

I am shaken
to be
I have shaken
to have
I will be shaken
to be
I will have been shaken
to have and to be
I have been shaken
to have and to be
I had been shaken
to have and to be
I will have been shaken
to have and to be


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  • Impostora profile image

    Dust 6 years ago from Anaheim, Ca

    I am glad that you find it helpful Seeker7. If you have any advise on how to improve it, or any questions concerning the content, don't hesitate to ask. :)

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    This is an excellent hub with great advice on how to proceed when learning a new language. I hope to learn a couple of languages in the near future, so have bookmared this hub as a favourite to refer back to. Many thanks for sharing. Voted up!