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.

Posted via email from Euroasia

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Hayley Westenra finds French boyfriend, learns French

News just got out that New Zealand soprano Hayley Westenra has found a French boyfriend. “I have a lovely boyfriend, who I met in London,” she told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

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hayley westerna


News just got out that New Zealand soprano Hayley Westenra has found a French boyfriend. “I have a lovely boyfriend, who I met in London,” she told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“He’s French. I’ve done very well for myself. I’m learning French, with lessons from one

of his friends.”

“His English is great,” she added. “It’s really easy to be lazy and not to learn, but I really want to, particularly when I go to France and I

hang out with his relatives who don’t speak a word of English.”

It’s amazing that she is even taking French lessons!  She is naturally very talented; we

blogged about Hayley singing in Chinese last year.

Well, I guess this is bound to disappoint some of Hayley’s male fans.

Congrats Hayley. All the best for the future.

Posted via web from Euroasia

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Wellington Mayoral candidate Jack Yan on why multilingualism matters

In this article, Jack Yan talks about growing up in Wellington, and how being multilingual has helped him with living life to the fullest. Jack is a renowned businessman from Hong Kong/Wellington, and publisher of fashion magazine Lucire. He has been very successful at building a global brand, and now delving into politics. If Jack has his way, Wellington City will get free wifi, one car-less Sunday a year, perhaps even solar-powered council buildings.

Jack has a good chance of becoming the next Mayor of Wellington City. If you google “Wellington mayor”, you will see Jack’s campaign site displayed prominently on page 1 (after the official Wellington site and Wikipedia), further demonstration of Jack’s internet marketing prowess. Jack is impressive not just because of his amazing business credentials. I remember chatting with him a few years ago and discovering he is one of very few Kiwis who can speak both French and Cantonese – and putting his language skills to good use in business.

I hope Jack’s story will inspire you to learn another language, perhaps to finally work on the new year resolution that keeps reappearing on your list every January.

In the 1970s, New Zealand was a far more monocultural place. When I was four, two of my cousins, who were slightly older, were attending primary school and started speaking English at home, instead of our native Cantonese. I asked my parents if I could do the same.

My parents were usually pretty good at rationalizing things to me. Mum explained, ‘No, because it’s important that you speak Cantonese at home, and leave English for outside. Wouldn’t it be better to speak two languages well rather than one?’

That sold me.

A similar argument came at age six, when my parents asked if I would like to learn an extra language.

The choices offered in 1978 at St Mark’s Church School, Wellington, were French and Japanese.

‘Wouldn’t you like to learn Japanese?’ asked Mum. ‘The Japanese have some characters that are the same as ours, and you can learn to write your own language.’

While none of my Japanese friends would like to hear this, the thought that went through my mind at that age was, ‘I’m not learning a form of Chinese with the wrong pronunciations.’ Hey, I was six.

However, I never regretted that decision.

Of all my travels, I only have visited Japan once. Few business opportunities ever availed themselves in that country. However, I have visited France over half a dozen times, with most of those times for work.

It’s especially handy given I own a fashion magazine, Lucire, and Paris is very much the centre of that industry in so many respects. Even things as simple as filling in a form present no challenges.

At the Medinge Group, a think-tank where I am a director, we hand out Brands with a Conscience every year. We do so from Paris, rather than our usual Swedish location.

Even back in Wellington, French is very useful when chatting to expatriates or dealing with the diplomatic corps.

It’s been a good foundation for other countries. For example, I was able to travel through Italy and understand the locals. The languages are dissimilar, but there are enough common roots that you can get pick out key words and get about the place.

I would hate to think where I would be without these languages. Certainly in business, I would have lost plenty of opportunities dealing with French designers, photographers, and make-up artists. I would not have been able to develop business in Hong Kong, my home town, where Cantonese is the norm. I would have been pretty lost in various American Chinatowns, unable to get proper medicine if I was sick, if I did not have any Taishanese.

I also have a limited grasp of Swedish, which has helped my work at Medinge and some of the work I do in Sweden.

While 90 per cent of Swedes speak English, Swedish is still the language in which they conduct most of their lives, so being able to read and write some of it, even if my comprehension has some way to go, has been incredibly useful.

With understanding a language comes understanding a culture, often the biggest barrier in international business.

The extra language is an extra means to get inside the other side’s mindsets, and attempt to find that common ground where you can do business or form a friendship.

As a mayoral candidate, I have discovered that the skills you acquire in learning languages come into play in politics.

Over the 18 months, in preparation for my mayoral run, I have attended more diplomatic events, in part to pave the way for better relations with other countries should I be elected.

You can’t just go and demand sister-city relationships with others if you don’t lay the groundwork first. To do that, you must have some accord.

In all these conversations, you are acutely aware that you are an ambassador for Wellington and New Zealand, and you are finding a way to promote us in a way our foreign visitors understand.

They respect you in return because you know your own language and heritage, those of the country which you

have adopted as your home for 34 years, and you have extended your goodwill by embracing theirs.

Beyond business, arts, cultural exchanges and politics, multilingualism gives a person one extra thing.

It shows that you are complete, and you have a sense of self. That equates best to the Māori concept of mana. It is the greatest advantage one has over others in so many facets of life.

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How does knowing another language make you more money?

Times are tough. People are worried that they might lose their jobs as the unemployment rate starts creeping up. Job summit or no job summit. As always, during difficult times, the ones worst hit are the ones who are lacking in qualifications and experience.

It's time to upskill. It seems university enrolments are up around the country, according to various local news articles.  Recent graduates who can't find work are going back to university. But so are many students looking at gaining more qualifications in order to keep pace with developments.

During such perilous times, it's important to understand what skills are in demand and how to stand out from the crowd. In New Zealand, where almost all native English speakers can only speak one language, knowing some basic foreign language can indeed be an advantage. Most of all you demonstrate to prospective employers that you have the ability to persevere with something as well as the ability to work across cultures. As New Zealand becomes more and more multicultural, the ability to communicate across cultures will be as essential as knowing how to use a computer.

New Zealand is an exporting nation. We would be poorer than Samoa or Tonga if we didn't trade with our friends, and foreign tourists stop arriving. There are in fact more Chinese and Spanish speakers than there are English speakers.  Naturally, these are key languages to learn if one wants to learn how to communicate with our future customers.

But learning any language is useful. New Zealanders have traditionally learnt French, German and Japanese at

school. Knowing any one of these languages would be useful. I have written at length about why one should learn each one of these languages, so feel free to check out my blog entries on why learn language

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French Film Festival starting February 09

The French Film Festival kicks off in Auckland next week. Running from  February

18-26 at Rialto Newmarket, this annual event is bound to attract many local Francophiles.

Tickets cost $15.50. We highly recommend all our French students check out the films on offer.  For those of you tired of reading the subtitles, come along for one of our French courses 🙂

According to the official website, the following films are on offer.

Baby Love With: Lambert Wilson/ Pascal Elbé
Love Me No More With: Marie-Josée Croze/ Pierre Vaneck/ Albert Dupontel
A Simple Heart With: Sandrine Bonnaire/ Marina Foïs/Pascal Elbé
Actresses With: Valeria Bruno Tadeschi/Mathieu Amalric/ Louis Garrel
Lady Jane With: Ariane Ascaride/ Jean-Pierre Darroussin/ Gerard Meylan
What if… With Alice Taglioni/Jocelyn Quivrin/Thierry Lhermitte
Guilty With: Hélène Fillières/ Jérémie Renier
Crossed Tracks With:

Fanny Ardant/ Dominique Pinon
Shall we kiss With: Virginie Ledoyen/ Emmanuel Mouret/ Fredérique Bel
London mon amour With: Virginie Ledoyen/ Vincent Lindon/ Pascal Elbé
The Great Alibi With: Miou-Miou/ Valeria Bruni Tadeschi/ Lambert Wilson/ Pierre Arditi
Me Two With: Alain Chabat/ Daniel Auteuil
Cash With:Alice Taglioni/ Jean Reno/ Jean Dujardin
Ulzhan With: Ayanat Ksenbai/ Philippe Torreton
Daddy Cool With: Daniel Auteuil/ Juliette Lamboley/ François Damiens
U Director: Serge Elissalde
Asterix at the Olympics With Gérard Depardieu/ Alain Delon/ Clovis Cornillac

If you decide that next year you would rather not rely 100% on the subtitles, come along for one of our French courses starting in March. Check out our French timetable here.

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Why learn French

French is the second most popular language at Euroasia, after Spanish. Here are some reasons why you should consider learning French:

  • Together with English and Spanish, French is one of the most international of European languages, spoken in all the continents of the world.
  • French was for centuries the international language of diplomacy and culture; it’s still important in those fields.
  • The French-speaking world has contributed an enormous number of great artists, writers, philosophers and scientists.
  • France has a large economy with a huge international presence.
  • Young Kiwis can go and work in France, Belgium or Canada for one year under a working holiday scheme.  A knowledge of French would obviously make a huge difference to anyone’s job prospects.
  • France itself has an incredible variety of scenery, from the rugged Atlantic coast, to the beautiful central valleys, to the Alps, to the Mediterranean landscapes of the south.  It offers great opportunities for outdoor activities.
  • French cities are active, busy places, where there is always a lot going on.  They have

    a unique café culture, and there are great opportunities for cinema, theatre, eating out and clubbing.

  • French cuisine is world-renowned, and French is still the international language of cooking, so at least a smattering of the French language is useful for chefs and food enthusiasts.
  • If France seems a long way off, New Caledonia and French Polynesia are more accessible holiday destinations.  And they are very French!  Even a limited knowledge of the French language can enrich and enliven your tropical holiday.
  • Much like speakers of English, French speakers tend not to be very enthusiastic about speaking other languages, so in France, for example, there is no guarantee you will find someone prepared to speak to you in English!

Find out more about learning French with Euroasia.  Or to enrol for a French course, check out the French timetable!

Courses start week of 13 October.

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