Picking up a new language: Helpful tools for developing a new skill

by Yandee Vazquez, Head Editor, INALJ Texas

Picking up a new language: Helpful tools for developing a new skill

Yandee VazquezAs an individual applying for jobs in Texas, one of the more common preferred skills I see in job descriptions is the ability to speak at least some Spanish. Other states along the border probably ask for similar. Being at least a little familiar with another language can be a big plus in your resume whatever your location, and can make you stand out, maybe just enough to edge out the competition. If you’re looking into relocating abroad, having some experience with multiple languages may put you on an even footing with other potential candidates. In many foreign countries it isn’t uncommon for people to be proficient in 2 or 3 languages.

If you have some extra time and are interested in learning a new language here are a few tools that will help you on the way.

Rosetta Stone: You’ve probably heard/seen the commercials for this one, it’s everywhere. It’s a good program that will help you learn basic vocabulary and grammar using images, sentence completion, and repetition. The lessons throw you right in the language and you find yourself learning fairly quickly. Unfortunately, it’s quite expensive and much more useful for learning European languages like Italian, Spanish, French, German, etc.

Duolinguo (http://www.duolingo.com/): This website that works to build grammar skills and vocabulary in a manner similar to Rosetta Stone. It even includes the pronunciation checks via microphone capabilities found in later editions of Rosetta Stone. The best parts about Duolinguo? It’s a free service, continually expanding, and incredibly portable. They’ve developed apps for Android and Apple Iphones and Ipads, so you can pick up some language skills as you wait in line.

Pimsleur: This is an older program that works more through listening and repeating. It’s helpful for developing an ear for pronunciation, but more difficult for visual-based learners. This is a good listen-in-the-car program for those of you with longer commutes.

Michel Thomas : He developed another very good auditory program, although one that focuses more on grammar via sentence construction rather than vocabulary/pronunciation, though that is still a part of his courses. This is another great program for commuters.

Most of these programs are things that work great in conjunction with each other and even with a language-specific textbook, but, like anything, the key is to keep practicing. I recommend looking for groups at sites like http://meetup.com for people that want to practice languages. You can usually find someone that wants to practice a language you know and that speaks the language you want to learn. For those of you in more isolated communities, there are communities on Skype and sites like http://www.mylanguageexchange.com/ set up to facilitate practicing a new language with others on the internet.

A final tip I recommend is finding an online radio or tv station to further familiarize you with the sounds. You may not understand much at first, but as you advance you’ll start picking up more and more, and you may even start to learn more about common phrases that you don’t typically learn in a language course.

Though picking up another language may be tough, if you enjoy the learning process, it may be a great way to boost your resume regardless of the work you do. These are just some suggestions, so if you have any additional recommendations or complaints about programs I’d love to hear them!

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