Learning the Language

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Learning a new language so when you first arrive in Ireland it can be tough. Even though your English may be good, understanding the accent and realizing how fast the Irish speak is overwhelming.

Here are few steps to help you along the way.

1. Learn the right words the right way.

Learning a new language means learning new words and lots of them. A lot of people think they can’t remember all the words so quit before they even start but here’s the key, you absolutely do not need to know all the words of a language to speak it (and in fact, you don’t know all the words of your mother tongue either).

You can take advantage of the Pareto principle here, and realize that 20% of the effort you spend on acquiring new vocab could ultimately give you 80% comprehension in a language—for instance, in English just 300 words make up 65% of all written material. We use those words a lot, and that’s the case in every other language as well.

2. Similar Words

Starting a language from scratch is pretty much impossible as a lot of words you already know mean the exact same thing in another language. For instance, Romance languages like French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and others have many words in common with English. English initially “borrowed them” from the Norman conquest of England, which lasted several hundreds of years. Action, nation, precipitation, solution, frustration, tradition, communication, extinction, and thousands of other -tion words are spelled exactly the same in French, and you can quickly get used to the different pronunciation. Change that -tion to a -ción and you have the same words in Spanish. Italian is -zione and Portuguese is -ção.

3. Expand your vocabulary with mnemonics.

Sometimes repetition isn’t enough (maybe that’s the reason so many Irish can’t speak another language). For this, I suggest coming up with mnemonics about your target word, which helps glue the word to your memory way more effectively. Basically, you tell yourself a funny, silly, or otherwise memorable story to associate with a particular word.

For example: a cat as claws, at the end of its paws.

4. Listen to a local radio station

When you first start listening to radio broadcasts, the radio announcers may sound like they are emitting a stream or storm of sounds and not individual words. In time, you’ll hear familiar words repeated and will learn to distinguish them. Language teachers call this “acquired competence.” Even listening to music will help you pick up the language quicker.

5. Watch TV in the language

This may be the first time in your life when watching television is your homework. Take advantage of the opportunity!

Even if you don’t understand every word, you will get the gist of what they are saying. The pictures will also help you understand what the context is and what they are speaking about.

6. Interact with others

Whether it is your host family, friends, teachers or the local shop keeper. The best way to improve your English is by speaking with people. This will help with understanding the accent and in putting your vocabulary to use. Try test yourself and don’t use your native language for a few days.

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