- Invest in a basic audio/visual program in the beginning. That way you can see and hear the basics like the alphabet, colors, numbers, etc. I had a CD set I used to play on my 30 minute commute to/from work. It would say the word or sentence, and I would repeat it.
- Label EVERYTHING in your house with its foreign equivalent. I put stickies EVERYWHERE and every time I saw the sticky, I said the word out loud. The more senses you can involve in learning, the better. With this method, you see, speak, and hear at the same time.
- As soon as possible, start associating with your foreign language congregation. Even if you know just a little bit. It will start training your ear and get you associated with our "spiritual vocabulary" which won't be found in books.
- Start preparing for meetings in your foreign language. Do foreign first, English second. This will take you FOREVER and you will have a massive headache at the end, but it's worth it. When you study English first, your brain is already trained to be looking for words with a certain theme or context in mind, so it doesn't have to work as hard. You want your brain to try and work out words on its own. Try to study the whole paragraph before looking up any unknown vocab words. You may find the context itself explains them. Highlight new words in the lesson. You'll feel good when in time, you see yourself highlighting less and less.
- Start associating with native speakers. When you go to the KH, DO NOT immediately gravitate towards others learning the language or native speakers who know English. If you're like me, you are naturally lazy and if given the option to speak English, you will. Find friends with little to no English and MAKE YOURSELF WORK!
- That being said, DO find someone with a firm grasp on grammar in both languages. That way, when you start noticing differences in how a book tells you to express something and how native speakers actually express it, you have someone reliable to consult.
- Prepare to be humbled. There will be 3-year-old children vying with you for the same comments, and they will express themselves better. Take it in stride. Everyone has to start somewhere. Every so often, self assess on how you did a month before, 6 months before, etc. Any progress is good progress, so pat yourself on the back!
- Get involved in the culture. Ask a family to teach you how to cook a native dish or how to do a native dance. The more you love the people and their culture, the more motivated you'll become.
- There will come a point in your learning process where you understand more than you can speak. The ONLY solution to get past that is to start speaking. This was probably the most frustrating part of my language learning process, and it took a frank talk from a very loving brother (thanks, Kevin H.) to give me the confidence to get past it.
- Ask those in the KH to pass children Bible students to you. They're great to start with. They usually know both languages and could care less when you mess up. Plus, the vocab in children's literature is a lot easier to understand when you prepare for your study.
I guess my main point is, if you're not prepared to work EVERY DAY on your language skills, a foreign language may not be for you. It is a COMMITMENT and VERY HARD WORK but totally worth it. I truly do not know who I would be without Spanish.
If you're currently learning a foreign language, and have other tips that have worked for you, let me know. Oh, and tell me what language...I'm fascinated by them!