How to learn a language fast – maximising return on investment

Today I would like to share a little known fact from the world of languages. In day-to-day interactions, we often use no more than 100 words. To maximise return on investment, you have to focus on acquiring the basic vocabulary ie it’s probably not going to matter if you don’t know the Chinese word for aardvark (土豚or “tu tun” for those who must know).

The key to language mastery is knowing how to string different words together (we call these ‘rules’ grammar). Here are 4 key tips on how to learn a language fast.

The 80/20 rule. In the English language, the most common 25 words make up about one-third of all printed material, and the top 100 most common words make up about one-half of all written material.

At the bottom of this article, I have reproduced a list of the top 100 most commonly used English words (thanks Wikipedia). The key words may vary depending on language, but most likely you will find that it’s only the relative ranking of the key words that change, and the top 100 most commonly used words would be pretty similar across languages. Focus on what matters.

Don’t get too stressed over mistakes. The point to remember is no native speaker expects you as a non-native speaker to speak their language perfectly so don’t get too worked up over whether you have the word order 100% right. Remember: the aim of communication is to get the message across. Unless you’re planning to be a United Nations interpreter, the locals will most likely not care if you make a few mistakes here and there. Memorise the key vocabulary first. The rules matter, but without the vocabulary, you have no ammo.

Know what to talk about. This is related to point 1. It takes a lifetime to master a language, so as you can imagine it’s not

easy to work out the order in which we learn topics. We asked our clients what they needed to know when travelling overseas and came up with a long list. Unsurprisingly, knowing how to order a beer and telling a good-loooking girl she’s beautiful ranks pretty highly. At Euroasia, we teach language learners the important stuff that you can use everyday. Here is a sample outline of what we expect to cover at the most basic beginners level.

Unit 1 – Greet people, give your name and ask how people are.

Unit 2 – Ask and answer questions about your job; you will also be able to ask about and give your phone

number.

Unit 3 – Say where you come from and give the language you speak.

Unit 4 – Talk about the people in your family and say how old they are.

Unit 5 – Tell the time and give days and months; you will also be able to ask for a ticket on public transport.

Unit 6 – Say what you like or don’t like, and also talk about your freetime activities; you will also be able to say what the weather is like at the moment or at particular times of the year.

Unit 7 – Ask about something in a shop, understand and talk about prices, and also describe clothes.

Unit 8 – Talk about different meals, also food and drink; you will know what to say to buy these things from a shop.

Unit 9 – Order a meal in a restaurant, book accommodation and check in, also know how to talk about simple problems.

Unit 10 – Talk about where places are in a town, ask for directions and understand simple instructions for getting somewhere.

Constant practice. Learning a language is all about persistence. Much like going to the gym. No pain, no gain. Attending a class on a regular basis makes a huge difference (which is why language schools still exist despite language software and internet courses having been around for the past two decades). Ultimately, to improve you would need to practice speaking the language.

p/s: Check out thelanguage courses at Euroasia.We offersummer school programmes starting 5 Jan and 18 Jan, with regular courses starting 31 Jan.

Top 100 Most Commonly Used Words

  1. the
  2. of
  3. and
  4. a
  5. to
  6. in
  7. is
  8. you
  9. that
  10. it
  11. he
  12. was
  13. for
  14. on
  15. are
  16. as
  17. with
  18. his
  19. they
  20. I
  1. at
  2. be
  3. this
  4. have
  5. from
  6. or
  7. one
  8. had
  9. by
  10. word
  11. but
  12. not
  13. what
  14. all
  15. were
  16. we
  17. when
  18. your
  19. can
  20. said
  1. there
  2. use
  3. an
  4. each
  5. which
  6. she
  7. do
  8. how
  9. their
  10. if
  11. will
  12. up
  13. other
  14. about
  15. out
  16. many
  17. then
  18. them
  19. these
  20. so
  1. some
  2. her
  3. would
  4. make
  5. like
  6. him
  7. into
  8. time
  9. has
  10. look
  11. two
  12. more
  13. write
  14. go
  15. see
  16. number
  17. no
  18. way
  19. could
  20. people
  1. my
  2. than
  3. first
  4. water
  5. been
  6. call
  7. who
  8. oil
  9. its
  10. now
  11. find
  12. long
  13. down
  14. day
  15. did
  16. get
  17. come
  18. made
  19. may
  20. part

Source:The Reading Teachers Book of Lists, Third Edition; by Edward Bernard Fry, Ph.D, Jacqueline E. Kress, Ed.D & Dona Lee Fountoukidis, Ed.D.

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Summer school – Learn a language in January 2012

Language learning is an aspirational goal that ranks highly on many New Year resolution lists. It’s an especially worthy endeavour for avid travellers wanting to maximise their travel experience. You've probably heard stories from Kiwis who have returned from their “Overseas Experience” lamenting the fact that they would’ve enjoyed themselves more if they could speak the local lingo.

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These days travel is not the only driver of foreign language learning. Increasingly Kiwis realise that knowing a foreign language gives them a distinct edge in dealing with clients and suppliers from other cultures. Job seekers also realise that employers value people who speak more than one language. Language learners also demonstrate to potential employers that they are proactive enough to make the effort to learn a foreign language.

In expectation of a surge in interest from people wanting to learn a language to kick off 2012, we are offering a range of summer intensives.

Courses for beginners are available in Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, German, Italian, Korean and Russian. 

No previous knowledge of the language is

required. By the end of this course, you will already know enough to “get by”: you will be able to cope with the most common everyday situations by asking and answering simple questions. and you will be able to understand people when they speak to you about the situations covered.

Kickstart 2012 with a language boost. Sign up online now.

January 2012 language intensive – 10 sessions over 4 weeks

5-26 Jan 2012

Duration: 4 weeks, 10 sessions; Tue & Thu 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM, Sat 9:30 AM-12:30 PM

Session 1, Thu 5-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 2, Sat 7-Jan-2012 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Session 3, Tue 10-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 4, Thu 12-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 5, Sat 14-Jan-2012 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Session 6, Tue 17-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 7, Thu 19-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 8, Sat 21-Jan-2012 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Session 9, Tue 24-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 10, Thu 26-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Cost is $649 (inclusive of all materials, no hidden costs).

Beginners language course (2 weeks)

5-14 Jan-2012 OR 18-28 Jan 2012

Duration 2 weeks, 5 sessions (Tue & Thurs 6:00-9:00pm, Sat 9:30am-12:30pm)

Session 1, Thu 5-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 2, Sat 7-Jan-2012 9:30 AM – 12:30

PM

Session 3, Tue 10-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 4, Thu 12-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 5, Sat 14-Jan-2012 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Cost is $368 (inclusive of all materials, no hidden costs).

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As an adult, can you learn a language the same way that you did as a child?

Not entirely, because children’s acquisition of

language is closely linked to the development of their brains. Some language courses try to imitate the child’s learning processes as closely as possible, but others recognise that as adults with knowledge of one language already we can’t go back to that language-free state we were in as infants.

Adults will always relate their second language to their first. Most adult courses recognise that, while we have lost the abilities we had an infants, we have acquired an understanding as adults which can be exploited to make language learning easier.

Check out the range of foreign language courses at Euroasia.

FAQs previously covered:

1. Why is it a good idea to learn a foreign language

2. What does learning a language really involve?

3. What’s the best way to learn a foreign language?

FAQs coming up:

5. Some ads promise instant/magic results?

6. How long it will take me to learn a language?

7. I don’t understand grammar; we were never taught it at school?

8. Is it easier to learn a language if I go to the country?

9. Which language should I learn?

10. Are some languages harder than others?

11. So which languages will I find easier than others?

12. Which is the most popular language?

13. Can learning a language be fun?

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Language learning questions we get asked daily

At Euroasia, we get asked a lot of questions about languages and language learning. So we’ve decided to compile a list of frequently asked questions. Over the course of the next two weeks, we will be releasing one question and the corresponding answer every day. If you have a question that you would like answered by us, feel free to comment.

We start the series with this question:

Why is it a good idea to learn a foreign language?

We might add… when everyone else speaks English. Well, here are some of the main reasons:

  • Actually, there are many more people in the world who don’t speak English than do!
  • Just think how much time and effort those who have learnt English have put into their studies; shouldn’t we make some effort as well in acknowledgment of this?
  • Even learning a limited amount of the language can make a huge difference to

    the benefit derived from a trip overseas.

  • Learning a language is often a key to understanding a people and a culture.
  • You only really understand your own language when you can compare it with others.
  • Learning a language is mentally stimulating and fascinating in its own right.
  • In most countries around the world, it is taken for granted that educated people will speak at least one foreign language.
  • New Zealand trades more with non-English-speaking countries than with those where English is the first language; surely some of us need to speak their languages.
Stay tuned as we cover the following questions

in the coming days…

2. What does learning a language really amount to?
3. What’s the best way to learn a foreign language?
4. As an adult, can you learn a language the same way that you did as a child?
5. Some ads promise instant/magic results?
6. How long it will take me to learn a language?
7. I don’t understand grammar; we were never taught it at school?
8. Is it easier to learn a language if I go to the country?
9. Which language should I learn?
10. Are some languages harder than others?
11. So which languages will

I find easier than others?

12. Which is the most popular language?
13. Can learning a language be fun?
Let us know if you have other questions by leaving a comment on our blog…
You can also comment on our Facebook page.
Or if you’re ready to experience language learning feel free to check out our upcoming courses, starting 26 April.

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UK govt says schools should teach Mandarin to all teenagers

Every teenager should have the chance to learn Mandarin due to the growing importance of China in world events, according to the UK government. One in seven secondary schools, which teach pupils aged 11-16, currently offer Mandarin and Schools Secretary Ed Balls said he wanted to extend this through language partnerships between schools.

From the BBC website this week:

All secondary school pupils in England should have the chance to learn a less familiar language such as Mandarin, says Children’s Secretary Ed Balls.

Mandarin has become increasingly popular in schools – with one in seven now teaching the subject.

Making it more widely available is an cialis order “aspiration” rather than a pledge – and could mean schools and colleges sharing specialist language

teaching staff.

Mr Balls highlighted the economic importance of learning languages.

As well as Mandarin, he pointed to the growing importance of Portuguese for trading with Brazil, Spanish in Argentina and Bahasa Indonesia in Indonesia.

Emerging economies

“A growing number of schools are now teaching Mandarin and in the coming years I think we will see this subject sitting alongside French, Spanish and German as one of the most popular languages for young people to learn,” said Mr Balls.

“In this new decade our ties with emerging economies like China will become even more important and it’s vital that young people are equipped with the skills which they need, and British businesses need too, in order to succeed in a rapidly-changing world,” he said.

So what is the New Zealand government’s stance?

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2010 New Year Resolution: Learn a language

In recessionary times, it’s even more important to keep improving and to consider learning a second language. Now is the time to be upskilling to future proof yourself. The ability to speak

a second language puts your business or your job prospects one step ahead of the competition. You are also demonstrating to future employers that you have what it takes to stick to something. Employers realise that people who embark on language learning have some key characteristics that are highly valued in such times: commitment and dedication being some key ones. Part of what makes knowing a language a great skill to have is simply because it’s not that easy for someone to acquire fluency. If it was, it would quickly lose it’s value and won’t be treasured as much. Some of you would already have mastering a second language set as a 2010 New Year resolution.

How do you ensure you achieve your 2010 New Year resolution? Your goals have to be SMART. The reasons people give for not learning a language include lack of time, the cost involved and the difficulty of the subject area. The good news is you can craft a SMART plan to overcome the obstacles mentioned, to achieve your goal of speaking a foreign language by the end of 2010.

1) Specific

What does “speaking a foreign language” mean? Should your goal be to know enough French in order to survive in a remote town in France without relying on interpreters?

We have a specific learning outcomes for people who enrol for courses at Euroasia. For example, at the end of the Level 1 French course with Euroasia, you should know enough to “get by” in French: you will be able to cope with the most common everyday situations by asking and answering simple questions, and you will be able to understand people when they speak to you about the situations covered.

2) Measurable

How do you know you’re on track with your goal? You need some objective measure of your progress. This is the main reason why self-help language courses don’t work. This is because learning a language is not like studying history. You need constant feedback from experienced teachers who know how to provide constructive suggestions and correct you when you make mistakes. CDs and software programs can’t do that as well as humans. You need to be regularly “tested” either formally or informally so that you know you’re making progress. Language schools follow lesson plans that introduce progression over time. As long as you keep on top of the coursework, you will keep improving.

3) Attainable

Your goals have to be realistic. Sometimes we get calls from people who need to master a language within a matter of weeks because of an impending transfer offshore, or because they have to meet the future-in-laws who don’t speak any English. Learning a language, like everything else, takes time. There are certainly people out there who promise the world, and will tell you that you do not have to put in the hard yards and yet will emerge fluent within a short timeframe, simply by spending an hour a week listening to CDs or playing some games on your laptop or iphone. This is obviously appealing, in the same way that expensive infomercial weight-loss programmes are. The real secret to learning a language (and weight loss, saving money etc) is having a realistic plan and keeping to it. At Euroasia, we follow a language learning programme that allows people to realistically gain fluency over time. If we did have magic pills that make clients instantly fluent in Spanish, we would be selling them at a thousand-a-pop and not bother investing so much money in establishing and running a school.

4) Relevant

Why are you wanting to learn a foreign language? If you’re just wanting to learn Italian for fun so that you can order a beer and have a simple chat with hot locals as you roam around Rome, then your goal should be to complete Level 1 or Level 2 with Euroasia. A Level 1 course can be completed within 2 weeks, 5 weeks or 10 weeks, depending on how intense you want it to be. If on the other hand, you wish to conduct business negotiations with your suppliers in China, then a Level 1 course is not sufficient, and realistically it would take a year or two to get a point where you can engage in everyday conversation, comparing your life in New Zealand with other people’s lives overseas; discussing matters of interest, including politics and economics. The more solid your reason for learning a language, the longer the staying power. Visualise your end-goal. When the going gets tough, keep reminding yourself of how it feels to be able to ultimately converse freely with locals. What would also help is if you have career-oriented language goals such as planning to gain a foreign language qualification. If your goal is to pass a formal certification exam like DELE (Spanish), DELF (French) or HSK (Chinese), then you are also more likely to have stronger motivation.

5) Time-bound

What’s your plan in order to achieve your goal? Where do you want to be in 3 months? 6 months? An ineffective resolution is “I will be rich someday”. An effective resolution is “I will save $20K

by December 2010″. You then break this down further into quarterly and monthly targets. In the same way, you would set targets for yourself in learning a language. You may wish to complete the Euroasia Gold Package (4 courses) by the end of 2010.

We wish you all the best in setting SMART goals for 2010!

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Why bother with Spanish lessons?

Spanish classes are very popular amongst Kiwis. Many choose to kick off the year with some Spanish lessons, in preparation for an upcoming trip to South America or Spain. Some choose to learn Spanish because of business reasons. At Euroasia, we are often asked why Spanish lessons are so popular. Here are some reasons.

  • Spanish is unquestionably one of the world’s most important languages, spoken not only in Spain but also in most of the Americas, from California to Cape Horn!
  • The Spanish-speaking countries are exciting places: the cities offer a round-the-clock buzz, while the great outdoors has huge potential for adventurous outdoor activities.
  • Within the Spanish-speaking world, there is an enormous range of exciting places to visit: in Mexico and

    Central America, the cities of the Maya and the Aztecs, and resorts such as Acapulco and Cancún; in South America, the cities of the Aztecs (including Machu Picchu), the colourful Andean cultures of Peru and Bolivia, the strikingly varied landscapes of Chile and Argentina, and the cosmopolitan excitement of Buenos Aires.  Although some English is spoken, getting around is much easier with a little Spanish.

  • Spain itself is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, famous not only for its Mediterranean beaches, but also for its stylish cities, its well-preserved small towns, and, in the south, its

    unique Moorish heritage.  Not to mention Ibiza, with the hottest nightclub scene in Europe, if not the world!

  • The Spanish language has been the vehicle of great writers, from both Spain and Latin America.  Both areas have also been the home of world-renowned artists and, more recently, film-makers.

  • New Zealand is increasingly looking to South America for trade links, especially Chile, the most prosperous of the South American states, and the one closest to New Zealand.  Spanish speakers will be in demand in the future (in fact right now we have Kiwi businesspeople doing business in South America learning Spanish at Euroasia).
  • Young Kiwis can work in Argentina, Chile or Uruguay for one year under a working holiday scheme.  A knowledge of the Spanish language would obviously make a huge difference to anyone’s job prospects.

Find out more about Spanish lessons at Euroasia.  Or to enrol for a Spanish course, check out the Spanish timetable!

2-week intensive Spanish language courses start this week (20 January intake) and the once-a-week option kicks off early Feb. Enrol now.

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How is Euroasia Language Academy unique?

Euroasia Language Academy is successful because we have a unique system to teach foreign languages.

We have small classes of no

more than 10 students, with expert native teachers. We use a curriculum uniquely designed for New Zealanders, with an emphasis on helping students to start speaking as soon as possible. Most importantly, our classes are fun and interactive.

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Languages available include Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean etc. Check out our website for timetable and pricing details.

Euroasia is an award winning provider of foreign language and cross-cultural training programmes, helping New Zealanders understand how to work with people from other cultures. Courses available in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch or online.

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Why learn German

German has traditionally been a very popular language in New Zealand. German is the main language of Germany and Austria. It is also spoken in: Switzerland (most of the country), Luxemburg, in small pockets in countries neighbouring Germany or Austria (Belgium, Italy etc.), Namibia; and widely spoken in eastern Europe and the Balkans as a second language

The number of mother-tongue speakers worldwide total about 110,000,000.

Here are some key reasons why New Zealanders should consider learning German.

  • German is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union.
  • Germany has the largest economy in the EU, and is an industrial giant on the world stage.  Companies and organisations from Siemens to Carl Zeiss, BMW and the Deutsche Bank have formidable reputations world-wide.
  • German technology and know-how are widely respected around the world, and organisational skills are immediately apparent when one visits any of the German-speaking countries.
  • New Zealand has to engage more with the German-speaking world if it is to establish a stronger base for its exports in Europe.
  • Young Kiwis can go and work in Germany for oneyear under a working holiday scheme.   A knowledge of the German language would obviously help enormously on this particular OE!
  • Some of the big cities such as Berlin are among the liveliest in Europe, with an enormous range of events throughout the year, many of them geared to the younger population.
  • Young people in Germany seem to be on the same kind of wavelength as young Kiwis; they usually get on well.
  • The Germans and the Swiss come to New Zealand in large numbers – and usually love it!
  • Germans are usually very environmentally aware, and are often innovators in green

    issues.

  • Germany has a rich cultural heritage, and has made huge contributions to world literature, painting, music and philosophy.
  • The German-speaking world has produced thinkers whose ideas have changed the way people look at the world: from Luther to Marx, to Einstein and to Freud.
  • People are often surprised by the beauty of the German countryside, with its dense forests and deep valleys, also by the charms of its many historical towns and villages.  Austria and Switzerland have wonderful mountain landscapes.  And with extensive hiking trails, all three countries are a tramper’s paradise!

Find out more about learning German with Euroasia. To enrol for a German course, check out the German timetable on the Euroasia website. Last intake for 2008 is coming up on 10 November.

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