In today’s interview blog post Portuguese polyglot Nathalia from PolyglotNerd.com tells us about her language learning strategies.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I’m a Brazilian girl who always loved foreign cultures, travel and languages. When I was a child I collected news from others countries. My dream country was Spain, therefore, Spanish was the first language I learned, I studied it when I was 13 in a language school. The second language I learned was English, when I was about 18. I watched endless hours of American television and somehow I ended up learning. After that, I stopped learning languages due study and work. About 3 years ago I started to learn French and I decided to really dedicate myself to my blog, as a way to motivate myself.
What languages do you speak?
My native language is Portuguese, as I said I speak English, Spanish and French. Right now, I’m studying German.
Do you dream in a foreign language?
I used to dream in English before, but not anymore. In rare occasions I dream in Spanish or French, this happens usually when I study the language for more than 4 hours or when I’m living in a foreign country.
What do you think of constructed languages? Would you be interested to learn one?
I think they’re great idea. I’d like to learn Esperanto; I heard that it is an easy language to learn and that learning it can help to learn others languages. But, I have two reasons to not learning it immediately: first, there is no real culture linked to Esperanto; second, I have a long list of languages I’d like to learn and Esperanto is not a priority.
When you learn a new language do you always follow the same strategy?
My first two languages I learned in very different ways. Spanish in a language school and English watching movies. But, I believe that the two most important things that help me with these languages were: emotional connection and making them part of my life. With French I studied alone, without contact with French people and without an emotional connection with the language, therefore iit took me a long time to feel comfortable speaking to a French person. But, I’m trying to learn with my mistakes, I don’t have a perfect strategy, but I follow some guidelines I created to myself: first I learn the pronunciation, after that I try to acquire vocabulary. I always listen it a lot and later I’ll try to speak with a patience native speaker.
Do you have a favorite language?
For me, languages have personalities, there is no language I’d use in all situations. Probably, my favorite language is Spanish. I love to listen to music in Spanish, for me Spanish sounds more emotional. I also love the rhythm, it’s perfect to dance. English for me is a practical language, every time I search for an information, I do that in English. If I’m speaking to a foreigner, no matter the nationality, I’ll speak in English. French for me is a “special” language, only to be use in special occasions or important discussions, it’s full of culture and personality.
What would you recommend a new language learner? How to get started?
First, choose one or two methods, you don’t need 10.000 materials. Don’t give up, at the beginning I always have a feeling I’ll never be able to understand anything. And, start by the pronunciation, it’s the hardest thing to correct later. Also, forget the grammar, you can check it later.
How has speaking multiple changes changed you as a person?
I’m a shy and reserved person, so I’m very quite person. But, to speak a language, well, it’s obvious, you have to speak. So, learning a language made me a “less shy” person, that’s the first thing. The second thing, made me more open and tolerant to different people and cultures. I have a feeling that I’m more tolerant when I visit a country or meet foreign people than some monolinguals.
Do you travel more now since you’ve learned a lot of languages?
This is the story of my first travel: I did one semester in a English language school in Brazil, and for me was a waste of time, and that was exactly what I told my father. So, I convinced him that, instead of paying me a language school for years, I’d save the money to spend one summer in US, so I did it for 2 years.
The result: Two years later, I was in US, I had a J-1 visa, that allow me to work in US during that summer and was perfect. The money I saved helped me to get there and my small salary helped me to cover the expenses while I was there. And, of course, I practiced English.
Also, recently, I spent 2 months in France, only studying, I believe that without this, French would never stuck in my head. So, yes, I travel more and I use language learning as a good excuse.
Do you watch movies to practice your languages?
As I learned English watching TV, I always say that it’s possible to learn a language with the help of movies. I believe that after the A1 level we should start to use movies in the learning process. It’s a good way to test your knowledge and to see how the language works in a real situation. Nevertheless, just watching movies won’t make you a language expert. I have a method for watching: first, I’ll watch the movie only for entertainment; then I’ll look for the original subtitles and watch it. If there is any unknown word, I’ll take a note (usually I print the subtitles). After that, I extract the audio and listen to the audio, if the audio is difficult I’ll read along, if is easy I’ll only hear. That helps me a lot.
Have you ever started a new language and then given up for some reason?
Yes, Japanese. I started when was in University and gave up. I don’t remember the exact reason, probably lack of focus. But, having the perspective I have today, is something I regret. I plan to study it again, someday.
To learn more about Nathalia please visit her blog PolyglotNerd.com.