Monday, August 20, 2012

How To Speak Like A Native

There are many times in my life that I studied another language and felt like I could not understand how it was spoken in a natural setting. It was very discouraging. In my second year of high school french I met some French people downtown Seattle. We became fast friends. When they spoke French I could not understand much of what they were saying. 

This problem is resolved in a couple of ways. First, one must become familiar with slang and common expressions that are not learned in an academic setting. This often means that one must familiarize themselves with idioms. Second, one must learn to improve their listening skills when listening to native speakers. The key is to listen to the language spoken at normal speed. When we listen to the language in class or language learning programs we have the freedom to stop, rewind, and listen again. This is not an option in the real world.

I recommend listening to the radio in the language you are studying. Listen carefully, this will help you improve your accent, it will help you achieve fluency, and it will help you understand others.

When I was in high school I started watching Spanish soap operas, or telenovellas as they are called. I asked my father if I would be able to learn Spanish by watching these programs. He said no, and I was probably wasting my time. Today I know that is not true at all. Although I would like to emphasize that television is the appetizer - not the main course of language learning. But television and radio do one fundamental thing that may not be achieved in class - they acclimatize the listener to the beat of the language. Listening repeatedly to these programs will help you reduce your accent. You will be able to reproduce the speech closer and closer and closer to the native speaker the more you listen. 

Do not break Rule Number One. Set aside time every day to listen!!! I listen to Chinese when I am walking with the boys, this is my time. Find your time to listen, and no matter what, do not interrupt your time with anything else. Do not make any excuses. 

To start the process, here are some links to International Radio Stations:

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