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The Top Five Tools to Help You Learn a Foreign Language

The Top Five Tools to Help You Learn a Foreign Language

Learning a language is not always the easiest thing in the world to do. Maybe you are currently in school, and you are having difficulties with a language program you are taking. Or, maybe you graduated long ago, and still remember those horrible days of language classes when you just couldn’t get a full grasp on the material. No matter what the reason for your trouble with learning a new language, there is no reason to despair.

It is actually quite easy to pick up a new language, as long as you are using the right tools. Here are our top five picks for tools that will help you to learn a foreign language.

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1. Podcasts

If you have ever tried to learn a language and you have used recorded lessons, you know just how difficult it can be to really learn that language. The recordings are rarely natural-sounding, and they can be difficult for beginners to understand. A great alternative is to listen to podcasts. These learning tools are fully accessible, and you can easily listen to a podcast while you are on your way to work. Look for podcasts that are directed towards language learners. Coffee Break Spanish and Talk to Me in Korean are popular podcasts that will help you to learn these languages.

2. Text to Speech

Sometimes, you need to have visual and audio cues to help you learn a foreign language. Text to speech software gives you just that. It lets you have written text, and hear it being read aloud. Panopreter has created this easy to use software for Windows users, and it uses natural voices so it doesn’t sound like a monotone robot. It will convert text to mp3 and wav audio files, so you can listen to the files at any time. Tools include toolbars for Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office Word, word highlighting, keyboard shortcut keys, and more.

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3. Song Lyrics

One of the best ways to learn anything is to put it to music, and this includes languages. Find music you enjoy listening to, and really listen to the words and try to repeat them. You can easily find songs with lyrics on YouTube, so you can read and say the lyrics while you are listening to the music. You can also find lyric study guides that have been created by teachers, which will help you to advance your language learning. The really good songs will stick in your head, and you will remember them. If necessary, get yourself a language guide so you can learn what the words mean.

4. Learner Community Websites

There are loads of great sites that you can use as study resources, and they offer lessons in a number of foreign languages. These sites include Busuu, My Language Exchange, Italki, and RosettaStone, and they offer great learning resources. You can connect with people who speak the language you wish to learn, and there are community spaces for chatting, where you can even correct writing and speaking, and have yours corrected. Learning a language through natural conversation is one of the best, and easiest ways to really learn the nuances of that language.

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5. Online Newspapers

If you really want to dive right into learning a foreign language, start reading foreign language newspapers. You can find newspapers online from all over the world, and in every language imaginable. Start out by reading shorter advertisements and photo cut lines (captions), and then move up to the longer articles as your language reading skills improve. As you advance, keep moving on to more difficult articles, and editorials which often contain local slang.

Featured photo credit: Foundry via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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