Learning vocabulary is a very long-winded process and there really is no quick way of doing it. You’ve just got to put the words into practice in conversation in order that they stick in your head! Apparently, it takes 10 000 words to hold a conversation and 40 000 to hold an intelligent conversation! The quickest way to build up a good vocabulary is to live in a country where the language you are studying is spoken. This way, you are fully immersed in the language and learning all the time. Obviously, when you are having a conversation in your native language, words just appear in your mind as you need them. Unfortunately, when you are trying to have a conversation in a different language, we are sometimes required to search in the depths of our memories – by which time the conversation topic may have moved on! A common problem experienced by language students is not being able to find the words they need to say what they want to say. Sadly, the only solution to this problem is practice, practice, practice!
Pronunciation is almost as important as the vocabulary – after all, you may know a lot of words, but if your pronunciation is poor and nobody can understand you then you’ve wasted your time building up a great range of vocabulary! If your native language is one of the Latin languages (French, Spanish or Italian) it is often easy to pick up other languages in the same “family”. However, it is sometimes not advantageous because the languages are too similar and this causes confusion. If you have ever heard an Italian person speak Spanish, you’ll understand! People learning English must have a really hard time as words are not said as they are spelt as in the case for the Spanish language for example. Noun genders for people who’s first language doesn’t have a noun gender. Also, people who’s first language does have a noun gender but the noun gender changes when a word is translated into another language. For example, the word apple may be masculine in one language and feminine in another. This is no doubt harder because you have to remember which one is which!
Another tricky thing about learning another language is that a sentence that you may be able to understand perfectly, may be a challenge when spoken aloud. Similarly, when you’re language teacher speaks to you in the foreign language, you may be able to understand him/her with ease, but when you go to a country where the language is spoken and speak to “real people”, it is a different situation. This may happen for a number of reasons. Firstly, natives tend to speak very fast. The best thing to do in this situation is to ask them politely to speak more slowly because you cannot understand. You will find that most people are willing to do this but won’t take the initiative to slow down themselves even thought it is perfectly clear that you are a foreigner. Another challenge is accents. Depending on what part of the country you go to, people will speak the language in a different accent. Some accents can be easier or harder to understand. You will probably find that everything will seem hard in comparison to what you are used to. That is to say, if you are used to Andalucian Spanish (which is typically considered to be one of the trickiest to understand) you will find other types of Spanish tricky just because they are different!