When I lived in Italy, occasionally me and my friends would speak Italian to each other, in public, with the worst American accents we possibly could. It was fun, and occasionally we could get a couple of people of people to laugh at us on the subway in Milan, but in retrospect, I wish I had spent more time learning to sound like an Italian.
A few years after I had returned home, one of my friends, Massimo, who knew me from Italy, came to visit the United States. He complimented me on my Italian accent. My accent had actually improved since I had left Italy. Why? Because when I got home, I actually practiced my pronunciation and accent.
That was over ten years ago. Today, there are many more tools out there that can help us with our pronunciation. In this post, I talk about one of my new favorite one.
There are a lot of people online giving out free advice (and occasionally, not-so-free advice) about how to learn a new language.
Many of them are saying a lot of the same things. You'd expect that, right? Two people who know what they are talking about would generally say the same things if talking about the same subject.
One of the things I've seen several times from several different bloggers is this: focus on only one language at a time. And I believed them. But my experience during the past two weeks has me questioning this piece of advice.
May 1, 2014: I started learning Esperanto. I studied for six weeks, and got good enough to do a 3-minute video presentation about my hometown.
June 20, 2014: I started learning Lao. I studied for 11 weeks, with the goal of being able to have a five minute conversation by August 31st. That deadline came and went, and I still haven't had my five minute conversation yet. (Though I've had several 20 second conversations.)
What what wrong? Well, there are probably several things I could have done better. But I think the biggest reason is that not all languages are created equal.
So, most of us have been there. We get excited about learning Spanish or French or some other language. We buy a book, or heaven forbid, some overpriced software. We imagine ourselves sitting outside a cafe in Paris, reading the Le Monde newspaper with the Eiffel Tower behind our back and the cool Parisian breeze in our face.
Then a couple of days go by, or maybe even a couple of weeks, and our goal of learning a new language gets quietly forgotten.
How do you become a consistent language learner? Here's one idea.
Sometimes when you can't find the resource that you need online, you create your own. So I created printable Lao flash cards. And since they are useful to me, I'm sure they've got to be useful to at least one other person on the Internet.
Get them here.