The Basics – Learning a Language

1. Learn How the Language Works

 This is a very important step in learning any language, but you may not always think about it. You should learn how the language works. When I'm talking about this, I mean everything from verb conjugation to noun agreement and everything in between. When you're learning a language you need to look at things from a very big picture perspective and learn as much as possible about grammar before moving forward with anything else. Trust me, if you skip this step, then your progress will be put on hold for quite some time because understanding how the language works is key when it comes to actually speaking and writing a foreign language fluently. Even if your goal isn't fluency, but just knowing enough of the foreign language to get by while traveling or being immersed in that culture (in which case most people are satisfied with being able to understand what 95% of people say), still knowing how things work will come in handy for so many other reasons outside of actually using those words and phrases out loud! While I was studying Arabic last year one of my classmates told me she had been studying Arabic for seven years without ever learning verb conjugations. The multilingualism she thought she had was all in her head, because when it came down to actually speaking and writing Arabic, there were a lot of errors that she made. If you're not careful you could find yourself in the same situation.


2. Learn How Words Are Pronounced


This is another very important step in learning a language. You should learn how words are pronounced before moving on to learning how they are spelled and used (in other words, learn phonetics). For example, in English there are many sounds that don't exist here in America such as the [j] sound as heard at the beginning of "jam" or "jeans". If you don't know how it's pronounced then you won't be able to say these words properly! The same goes for all foreign languages and dialects (regional variation). When I first started my journey learning Arabic I didn't know any dialect yet, but I did know some basic pronunciation rules from studying Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) so when people started talking to me using slang or any other form of expression besides MSA I was able to understand them even though they weren't speaking MSA. The same rule applies to me when I'm speaking English. I can pretty much speak any dialect of English, but I usually stick to a certain dialect depending on where I am or who I'm talking to. For example, if someone from the south sounds like they're speaking with an accent, then that's what kind of grammar and words they'll use when talking to me! The same goes for almost any language or dialect you learn. You don't necessarily have to learn how every word is pronounced in all of its different variations (regional pronunciations), but at least know how some common words are pronounced so you don't butcher their language!


3. Learn How Words Are Spelled


When it comes down to learning how words are spelled in a foreign language there are two different ways you can do this: phonetically by ear and simply memorizing each word one by one without knowing why it's spelled that way (this is what most people do). Learning how words are spelled phonetically only works for languages that have similar spelling rules as your native tongue (English). In other words, if your native tongue is German then learning Spanish phonetically probably won't work because Spanish has many more silent letters than German does so the pronunciation of each individual letter will be slightly different which will confuse you even more when trying to pronounce Spanish correctly! When learning Arabic abroad we were taught both MSA and colloquial Arabic at school.


It's true that most people don't know every single word in their native tongue phonetically and they just memorize words one by one, but there is a right way to do this. You should learn words in the same order they appear in the dictionary or alphabetically depending on which alphabet you're using. For example, if you're learning Arabic, then make sure you learn how to spell letters (how each letter sounds) before moving on to actually learning how to read words. When I was studying Arabic I learned how to write letters first because it made memorizing them so much easier! It's also very important not only knowing this step exists, but actually taking advantage of it when you start learning a language. As for my own experience with learning languages, I usually start with pronunciation and move on from there depending on what situation I'm trying to accomplish such as speaking with an accent or speaking fluently…etc!


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