Forget the Phrasebook

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

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, 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., formerly known as the MIT list, has the
best worldwide list of stations online with streaming audio
(2,500). At, 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

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 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.

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