Roman Malanke

Language Learning Advices

I am really happy to be born in Ukraine. This gives me a huge advantage over any American, Englishman, Frenchman or German. You may wonder what possible advantage there may be. Well, my answer would be that we learn two of the most complicated European languages in early childhood — Ukrainian and Russian.

Then in school and university we learn some English which is rapidly becoming vital for everyone willing to get a well-paid job in this country. So by the age of 22 majority of educated young people have at least some command of three languages.

Certainly, in every other country they have foreign languages as a part of standard curricula as well. But the structure and grammar of Slavic languages is much more complicated than that of Germanic and Romance ones.

It’s so entertaining to see explanations written for English-speaking learners of Spanish about nouns that have genders (”el libro” vs. “la vez”) or different verb endings for different persons (”yo hablo” for “I speak” but “usted habla” for  “you speak”). We Slavic people understand this momentarily because it’s nothing compared to dozens of cases with different spelling and pronunciation which every Russian or Ukrainian word may take.

Nonetheless English proficiency is of vital importance to learn any other language. This is not only because there is the biggest amount of books and quality materials available in English, but also because English is the most straightforward and flexible tool for any kind of explanatory stuff. I honestly tried to use Russian materials for learning Spanish at the beginning and it proved to be no more than 5% as effective as using English ones.

For myself I distinguish three main stages in language learning process. And there are tools and techniques that work most effectively for each stage.

  1. Build foundation
  2. Build walls and roof
  3. Decorate and finish

The first stage is present when you start from scratch as I did with Spanish nine months ago. Usually most people start with second stage as they have already taken classes in school or college.

The second stage is usually the longest and the most difficult. This is where you internalize tons of vocabulary and become proficient in creating language structures. By the end of this stage you can be qualified as the fluent speaker of foreign language. At this point most educational programs end.

The third stage is all about becoming equal to native by getting rid of the ugly accent and incorporating fancy idiomatic language that only natives can use impromptu. For instance, do you know what such expressions as “to touch the base with someone” or “three strikes and you’re out” mean? Do you use them? Do you pronounce words “pick” and “peak” in the same way or differently? This is something you’re supposed to get on the third stage.

Where do I see myself on this track? I guess I am in the beginning of stage 3 with English and in the beginning of stage 2 Spanish. This gives me hope that I might be competent to give following advices.

Advices for Stage 1

  1. Find best tools and sources based on collective wisdom of the crowd
    • Use highest rated podcasts in iTunes directory
    • Use highest rated workbooks

Advices for Stage 2

  1. Read and listen as much as you can
    • Paper books in subway
    • Audiobooks and podcasts while walking or in bus
  2. Isolate yourself to the language you’re learning as much as possible
    • Don’t read in a language you’re not learning
    • Don’t watch movies and TV shows which are not in you target language
    • Don’t surf Internet in your native language
    • Switch to language you learn in everything you can — you diaries, sticky notes, etc.
    • Talk to yourself in target language — try describing things around or recall day events when you walk alone
  3. Motivate yourself in the way that work for you
    • Buy books which you will read 100% because they are too expensive to just sit on your shelf
    • Twitter to everyone around that you enrolled in learning language and determined to succeed
    • Associate language you’re learning with the things you like most — I for one love music, so listening to Beatles is the most pleasant English learning exercise for me. The same holds true for Buena Vista Social Club and Spanish.

Advices for Stage 3

  1. Talk with natives and carefully watch their reaction
  2. Find language partners in Skype
    • Use communities of people willing to find language partners (,, etc.)
    • Use communities relevant to your interest (for instance, if you’re into fashion — find someone on, like snowboarding, or guitar, or dancing — there are social networks around anything out there)
  3. Travel a lot

Did you notice that I never mentioned a language school? This is because I belong to people who think that the only thing that language school really does is bring discipline. I don’t need it because lately I’ve become self-discipline addict — it’s much more fun and way cheaper! :-)

Everything is within your personal power.

Happy learning!