A Danish friend of mine recently asked me how I managed to learn Danish so well and so quickly when I was living in Copenhagen. Humbled by this question, I decided to write down a few tips, strategies and thoughts I have about language learning. So here it goes:
– Take intensive language classes. I took a Danish language course that met 3 hours a day, 4 days a week. Yes. 12 HOURS OF DANISH A WEEK! It was hard and at first, I didn’t feel like it helped, but I was pretty functional after just a few weeks of classes.
– Live with locals (or date one!). – This sounds obvious, but many people move to a new country and end up spending little or no time with the locals. The more time you interaction with locals, the more opportunity you’ll have to practice your new language skills.
- Along with living with the locals, I strongly recommend you avoid making friends with people who speak your native language. This sounds obvious, but it is human nature to stick with what is familiar. This means finding people from your own country to be with. I get it. Its a little piece of home while you’re abroad. But isn’t that why you left? To escape home? My strategy while living in Denmark was to limit myself to one (yes one!) American friend. The rest were natives to Denmark, Norway and Sweden. It was the best idea I ever had and I’m thankful I stuck to it.
– Watch movies (in your native language or the local language) with subtitles. Hearing words and reading them help make connections in your brain. For advanced language learning, watch a movie or TV show in the local language with local language subtitles. This will help you make the connection between the way the language you’re learning is spoken and written. In some languages (like Danish) there seems to be little connection!
– Find a language partner. Finding someone to practice speaking with will be beneficial because they will be patience with you since they are interested in your language development. LIkewise, you may also be able to help them improve their language skills in your native language. You could also find a Conversation Group where expats and foreigners can find a safe place to practice the language. I often use MeetUp.com to find groups. I have never been disappointed.with the groups I’ve found.
– Read children’s’ books. This sounds silly, but books for children and adolescents are easier to read and can help build your confidence. I personally have used audiobooks as well as visited a local library to find books that seem simple (I’m talking basic here). Likewise children’s’ movies that you have seen before (i.e., Harry Potter, Disney movies, etc.) can be fun and also easier to follow.