It’s never too late to learn a second language

  • By Ashley Stewart Herald Writer
  • Monday, January 14, 2013 7:00pm
  • Life

It doesn’t take hundreds of dollars to learn a new language.

It might take more time and discipline, but you can do it on your own.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Get motivated

“Personal motivation is the number one factor in terms of success,” said Vidal Martin, Everett Community College Spanish instructor and co-founder of the Northwest Language Center.

“Whether you’re learning a language independently or attending a class, you need to be able to apply some self-discipline and do some work on a daily basis.”

Find a group

Find an online meetup or language exchange.

Martin said the best way to learn a language is in a classroom, but that you can learn through immersion.

Marcella Scott, director of The Spanish Language School (www.thespanishlanguageschool.com/) in Bothell, asks her students to “establish a network of friends that have an interest in the language.”

Language meetups are a good way to do that.

Through meetups, groups of people get together to practice their conversational skills.

Members range in skill levels, and there’s usually someone willing to help you out if you’re behind the rest of the group, Scott said.

You can search for groups by language and city at www.meetup.com.

Language exchange can be another helpful tool.

You can connect with native speakers who want to learn English and exchange lessons.

Websites such as www.conversationexchange.com allow you to connect with native speakers in your city by meeting in person, through Skype or in written correspondence.

Watch, listen and learn

Exposure is essential when learning a new language.

Watch or listen to TV, movies, radio and music in the language you’re trying to learn.

Try watching a movie you already own with a foreign audio option. French and Spanish are usually available with English subtitles.

Or turn on the TV to local foreign language broadcasts. Scott recommends news programs, soap operas and programs for children.

“The advantage of watching something like the news is that it’s information they already know in English, so they can make connections between what they already know and what they’re watching,” Scott said.

Children’s programs use helpful visual aids and soap operas are very expressive, she said.

Local channels KUNS-TV and KCTS V-ME broadcast in Spanish and soap operas for beginning Spanish-speakers are available at most libraries.

If local broadcasts aren’t available in the language you want to learn, go online. You can stream some radio stations, music, video and television programs from other countries for free.

Ashley Stewart: 425-339-3037; astewart@heraldnet.com.

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