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Ever since human beings have joined in social groups, eventually forming societies and cultures, information exchange has been a key element in every-day life and not only. The archetypal need of communication and the wide variety of languages and dialects may not always go hand in hand peacefully, but, especially in a global world as the one we live in now, the messages emission and decoding has even a greater impact.

There are major languages, minor languages, languages close to extinction and dead languages. Of course, somebody coming from an Anglo-Saxon or Latin (here I include any Romance language) background will find it easier to communicate in his/her native tongue, than a person from Hawaii or Iceland. In any case, even if more and more people speak such “official” languages as English, French, German or even Chinese, that does not mean all other languages (including mine!) are doomed.

I’ve learned from my past experiences that if you want to understand people from different cultures or regions than your own, you must understand their idiom– be it a version of a known language (pidgin, creole, regional dialects, jargon, etc.) or an unique language in itself, even if there is only a handful of people actually using it in daily life.

Therefore, language acquisition is important for those who truly want to understand how the world works and efficiently communicate with people who may or may not have access or knowledge of your speech and ways.

Below I listed five of many possibilities for you to acquire and/or improve your foreign language skills. Of course, they are no rules, one could work, they all could work. Please take whatever suits your personality, but at least try them all and share the results – if applicable.

1. Learn the basics. Of course, a very important step in learning a new language is understanding the basic grammar and vocabulary. It’s not very hard, and you can build the rest from there.

2. Learn about the culture. Read about the country (or countries) that particular language is used in, read something about their history. You can watch documentaries, movies, read books, online texts, anything that is not biased (we all know that the current political situation in many areas of the planet is not exactly peachy, so it’s best to learn from neutral, objective sources) or written with obvious marketing intentions. You can watch movies, TV shows, listen to the music of the culture, etc.

3. Watch movies without subtitles. Obviously, this could be really hard if you’re new to the language, but as soon as you’ve hit the intermediate level, leave the subtitles for the ones who don’t understand it at all! You’ll see in a few years that your understanding and language skills are much improved due to this effort to adapt to more difficult situations. This is very helpful especially if you intend to travel in that respective part of the world.

4. Listen to music. Get as much local (traditional or not) music and listen to it, maybe you’ll even find a new musical interest! Even though you’re not actively learning, you’ll subconsciously digest the information and you’ll pick up the melody of that particular language. You can learn accents, better your prononciation without even noticing it!

5. Interact with natives. If you cannot actually meet natives or speakers of that particular language you’re learning, then you can use the internet. There are various pen-pal sites that have special sections dedicated to language learning (like Interpals), you can write letters, e-mails, chat, etc. It all helps.

Remember, the best way to learn a language is to understand why it is the way it is, who are the people using it, how they use it and make connections with things that you already know.

Good luck!!!

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