A hundred years ago if you wanted to learn a foreign language such as Chinese or Japanese, you had no choice, it was all paper, pens & lots of drilling. Nice funky pictures, but not much in the way of chit-chat.
Luckily for us things have really changed. You can forget all the pronunciation killing textbooks, just head over to YouTube or iTunes for some real learning fun.
Where to begin?
When you start to learn a foreign language, what you need are some basic phrases, a few key words and lots of listening practice. Forget the grammar and boring stuff, do a quick search for some simple videos or free podcasts. The trick is to listen to your new language on the way to work everyday. Even if it’s for only 5 minutes, a little bit everyday is like money in the bank!
Then once you’ve got a fair few phrases mastered, you fire up Skype and do a language exchange to get your speaking up to speed.
What’s a language exchange? Well, for example, if you want to learn to speak Japanese you link up with a Japanese person who wants to speak English. You arrange a time to meet up for say 40 minutes each week. Then you spend half the time speaking English, so they can brush up their skills, and half the time speaking Japanese, so you can try out all those funky new Japanese phrases you’ve learnt! As you’re using Skype it doesn’t matter if you’re in LA or Sydney, anywhere is the right place, you just find the right time. You might want to have a few topics on hand to talk about such as hobbies, sports, TV or even the weather to start you off..
There are plenty of sites out there to arrange an exchange, just do a Google search and you’re bound to find some. As with anything on the net, be a bit careful as there are some weirdoes out there. But on the whole there are lots of people who are in the same position as you, they just want to learn a new language and practice with a native speaker. You get to meet a friend, maybe a place to crash if you ever decide to visit and the best bit is that you are learning a foreign language for free!