I read a fascinating article on the guardian recently that explored the concept of being bilingual. Although I was born in Manchester, I actually grew up on the island of Corfu until my parents divorced when i was 9. Since moving to the UK, my Greek has become a lil rusty but my summer vacations always grease the wheels. In light of John le Carré's article, I thought I'd share my top tips on learning a foreign language.
#1 Immerse yourself in the language and culture. I always have hellenic radio stations playing when I'm cooking and surf Greek news sites. In the run up to summer, I also watch reruns of cheesy 90's sitcoms such as eisai to tairi mou and to kafe tis xaras on my lunch break. You'd be amazed how much seeps in when you're constantly exposed to the language.
#2 As lame as it sounds, I get Greek word of the day emails. Also when a national holiday approaches, such as carnival or Saint Patrick's day, I get a dedicated vocab list emailed to me which is ace.
#3 If you're in the early stages of learning, or brushing up, ain't no shame in watching children's cartoons. They speak significantly slower and follow much simpler storylines. Lord knows I have multiple Greek Disney dvds that I rotate when the slog of winter is over and the countdown to summer begins.
#4 Create unconventional methods to help you remember certain key categories. For instance, my high school French teacher helped us learn months by singing them to the theme tune of Coronation Street. It's been eight years and I still find myself breaking into 'jaaaanvier, fevrieerr...' That has to be the most northern sentence I've ever written.
#5 If the language has its own alphabet, you may find it useful to attach alphabet stickers onto your laptop!
#6 My final and most paramount tip is:
DON'T BE AFRAID TO SPEAK THE LANGUAGE AND FUCK UP.
Yes - it's daunting, yes - you'll get tongue tied. But shit, at least you're trying! Also don't be discouraged if you're plateauing - hey, the fact that you've reached a stage where you can converse at all is an achievement in itself! There's something rather brazen and endearing about speaking a language you're aware you haven't entirely conquered... yet. & On the off chance that a native mocks you, respond with "oh, would you prefer to speak English instead?". Usually they don't.
I'm actually on Corfu at the moment, as summer is in full swing and the feta isn't going to eat itself. I actually asked my girlfriends for their advice on the subject at hand. They said move to Greece and get a Greek boyfriend. Their words not mine - although that doesn't sound like such a bad idea...
“To have another language is to possess a second soul.” Charlemagne