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What Are the Best Tips for Improving Foreign Language Proficiency?

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  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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Improving foreign language proficiency can take a large investment of time and effort. Some of the best tips for learning a second language include practicing reading, writing, listening and speaking the language. Taking second language courses, traveling and interacting with native speakers can all be useful in developing foreign language proficiency. Depending on the language and reason for learning it, individuals might need to focus more on either speaking or writing.

Reading and writing in a foreign language can be helpful in understanding grammar rules, vocabulary and spelling. There is a wide variety of options for achieving greater reading comprehension and writing ability that will depend on a person’s budget. Formally taught classes are more expensive but will offer the opportunity to receive feedback from a trained teacher on written assignments or reading comprehension assessments. By contrast, many books and workbooks are available through places such as public libraries, universities and the Internet. These options can be free if rented, and the total cost if purchased is generally less than $100 US Dollars (USD).

Improving foreign language proficiency for listening and speaking will require a slightly different course of action. Usually, the best way to learn to properly pronounce words is to listen to native speakers of the language. This could occur in many types of settings, such as in classrooms, in movie theaters, in a car with instructional recordings or in a country where people speak the language.

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Many people consider travel to be one of the best ways to boost foreign language proficiency. Not only does it place people in situations where they will need to communicate in a foreign language, it also exposes them to a wide range of native speakers who can provide feedback. In many countries, native speakers enjoy the opportunity to help travelers improve their pronunciation or vocabulary. These sorts of interactions can improve both foreign language proficiency and cultural awareness.

Still, travel is not feasible for everyone because of time and budget constraints. Second language courses can also effectively teach students about the proper pronunciation and the culture of a region, and many of these classes are taught by native speakers. Additionally, people can rent language tapes or compact discs (CDs) to listen to in a variety of settings. These recordings can be rented for free at some public libraries or purchased for less than the cost of a language course.

Lastly, research has shown that watching foreign films can improve a person's grammar and vocabulary. English-speaking students who watch a foreign film with English subtitles have been found to score significantly higher on both grammar and vocabulary tests than those who do not watch the film. Although subtitles in a person’s native language can help explain the plot of a film in another language, subtitles sometimes summarize dialogue rather than directly translating vocabulary words. Even watching foreign films that don't have subtitles, however, can help a person hone his or her vocabulary skills in the foreign language.

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Fa5t3r
Post 4

@Ana1234 - That dates back to colonialism I guess, since Spain, France and England were three of the main players for a while. In terms of language speakers in the world, though, I'm not sure French can stand up.

In my experience, the best way to improve second language proficiency is simply to sit with someone who speaks it and converse with them for as many hours as possible about a wide range of topics.

If you want to learn a foreign language by this means in the USA, for example, you'll be much more likely to run into someone who speaks fluent Mandarin or Spanish or Hindi than French.

It might be easier to find organizations celebrating French language and culture, but I suspect that is mostly because it needs to be promoted, as it's not typical, rather than because it is typical.

Ana1234
Post 3

@umbra21 - French is one of the easier languages to learn in most countries, simply because French culture has a lot of fans all over the world. There have been French language clubs in all of the schools I've been to, where students will get together to eat pain au chocolat and discuss the weather in French.

And French films are very popular as well. I'd say that French, along with English and Spanish are probably some of the easier European languages to access because they are so much a part of predominant cultures.

umbra21
Post 2

My friend was determined to move to Canada and he realized one of the best ways to do that would be to improve his French to the point where he could get good marks on the foreign language proficiency tests they insist on.

He actually ended up going to France on a working holiday, and improving his language skills that way. That might be a bit drastic for some people, but since he was planning on moving countries anyway, it wasn't as big of a deal for him to go to another one temporarily. And his French improved so much it was really cool, although he is well beyond my meager skills now.

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