PREPARING TO LEARN A LANGUAGE

1. There is no such thing as a FOREIGN language. Learning another person's language is an extension of the ability which you already have, to communicate.

2. Several aptitudes are involved in language acquisition depending on the features of the target language. These skills can be developed and enhanced. Almost everybody can learn another language.

3. A Zen attitude toward language learning can make the whole process more pleasant and productive. This includes reducing your consciousness regarding the necessity for learning and allowing it to happen. In plain words, relax.

4. Your success in learning a new language will greatly depend on why you are learning it. If you don't have a real reason, you may not succeed.

5. You must be completely willing to make mistakes in order to stop making them.

6. Before you begin your language study, there are several things that you can do to be successful:
a. Examine the reasons that you are studying the language. If the motivation factor isn't clear, maybe you should study something else.
b. Learn as much as possible about the culture of the speakers of the language and see if you can deal with it. You don't have to be a gourmet to learn French, but if you are not able to get into the feelings, thoughts, patterns and behavior of the speakers of the language, you will always be limited. Agreement is not necessary. Some empathy is.
c. Expose yourself on a passive level as much as possible to the target language before you begin formal study. You have a subconscious tape recorder that is willing to absorb a great deal of language if you give it a chance. A good source is the short wave radio.
d. Get as familiar as possible with how YOUR language functions, including its structure and sound system.
e. Learn a little about phonetics. It will save you a great deal of time in achieving authentic speech.

7. While you are learning the language, the following may help:
a. Feel free to daydream in the target language. This really helps and can be done from the first day.
b. While you are speaking the target language, imitate (in your mind) a speaker of the target language trying to speak your language. This speeds correct pronunciation.
c. Use the target language as much as possible for communication. However, stop if it gets really uncomfortable, so you won't "burn out".
d. Remain aware that the language learning process never stops. Expose yourself to all forms of the target language; listening, speaking, reading and writing. Like walking in the rain, the longer you go, the wetter you get.
e. There will be a breakthrough point, when you start thinking in the target language. From there on, it's easy.
When you get discouraged, remember that half of the native speakers of your target language, whatever it is, are of below average intelligence.

Theodore A.(Ted) Klein, Jr.