SICK OF SITTING in musty language labs conjugating verbs? Assuming you can?t take six months off tomorrow and fly to Amsterdam to learn Dutch by immersion, here are a few painless and creative ways to master a foreign language:
1. Learn the Language of Food
Good cookbooks that focus on a particular country or region are great resources for learning language and culture. Not only will you learn how to correctly pronounce and prepare various dishes, but you?ll also get a culinary history primer. For example: Tagine is a Moroccan stew named after the vessel in which it is cooked.
2. Translate Fiction
Students used to master Greek and Latin by translating literary classics word by word. Sounds crazy, but it works. Try tackling a short story or novella. Write down all the words you look up so you can review them later. Another approach is to begin with a work by an author you love that?s been translated into the language you want to learn. For the most bang for your buck, translate poetry!
3. Read Zines in a Foreign Language
You could read the latest Italian Vogue and try to make out what they?re saying about this season?s hemlines, but the trend will probably be over by the time you?ve finished the article. Find some cool foreign zines (especially online) and delight in all the obscurities the small press has to offer.
4. Swap Tutoring
There are always new residents, bilingual folks, and foreign exchange students looking to polish up their English. Find a native speaker of the language you want to learn and tutor each other every week. To find a partner, check out e-bulletin boards like Craigslist.com, or put up flyers at nearby colleges, community centers, and ethnic grocery stores.
5. Listen Online
The more you listen to the way the language is spoken, the better you?ll be able to emulate its proper intonations and grammar. Radio-locator.com, formerly known as the MIT list, has the best worldwide list of stations online with streaming audio (2,500). At BBC.com, you can listen to world news in 43 languages. And, after 50 minutes of Radio Helsinki in Finnish, your tongue will be whipping around like never before.
6. Buddy Up
Find a friend or coworker who wants to learn the same language and waste company time writing notes to each other in your new tongue. Craft simple sentences and spend 15 minutes a day translating what your partner has written.
7. Become a High-Flying Foreign Film SuperGeek
If you want to learn Spanish, try renting Almodovar movies. Copy down funny dialogue on your bedroom wall with washable markers, or even in a notebook. You?ll pick up phrases and cultural nuances you might not come across in a textbook. Check out foreign films.com to browse movie titles by language.
8. Take a Foreign Lover
You?ll learn Hindi much faster from an Indian lover than you will in a group class of 30 students.
A new magazine for young women travelers, Guava focuses on practical tips for traveling cheaply. Besides tips on saving money and learning languages, the Winter 2003 premier issue includes suggestions on diagnosing car problems, urinating outside, and getting a good overseas teaching contract. Subscriptions: $12/yr .(4 issues) from 46 Kings Way, #1003B, Waltham, MA 02451.www.guavamag.com.