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Strategies for learning a foreign language

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There are several educational programmes in foreign languages conducted by universities and other institutions.

Mastering languages: At JNU, students who opt to study a language will also be studying the literature, art, and philosophy of the culture related to that language. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty
Mastering languages: At JNU, students who opt to study a language will also be studying the literature, art, and philosophy of the culture related to that language. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

There are different ways of learning a foreign language. The best way is going to a country where the language is spoken and living there for some time. The ideal way to develop listening and speaking skills is to interact with natural speakers of the language. However, living in another country for the sole purpose of learning a language is often difficult.

The second best is conversation with a native speaker or someone who has mastered the language. In the market you get different kinds of language-learning software, which you can use repeatedly.

You may be able to go step by step using graded lessons provided in CDs. There would be tracks of about thirty minutes for daily practice.

There are online interactive paid sites, which would give you tests to confirm your proficiency at each stage and tell you of your shortcomings. You can adopt corrective measures and proceed with the graded lessons.

If you have opportunities to watch films or plays on the television, you can develop listening skills in the language. Reading children's books would give you useful experience. Gradually you may switch over to newspapers or magazines or books of a higher level of content.

There are popular ways like attending evening classes available in cities, and undergoing full-fledged courses of study. In regular language courses, you would be exposed to systematic lessons covering areas such as phonological / grammatical / lexical / discourse competence. Learning may not be confined to functional areas; you may be taken to levels of literary appreciation and other higher order experiences. You have to decide the level up to which you intend to proceed, before launching your programme of study. You should remember that speaking a language is very different from speaking it with grammatical accuracy.

Developing a rich vocabulary in any language takes considerable time and effort. Mastering the nuances of a language and using words and phrases taking into account the different shades of meaning requires considerable skill. If you work with dedication, the right idiom will come to you naturally with time.

Your intention may be not to limit your learning with skills in conversation, but to prepare technical papers and journal articles, and to make professional presentation in a foreign language. This naturally calls for systematic in-depth learning of the language. For this, long-range courses of study are necessary.

Each one learns differently and so should choose strategies to suit individual needs and preferences. Certain people may have a flair for learning languages. Those who are not gifted this way can also come up well with sustained effort. The will to learn the language is the most vital element in language-learning. You should enjoy the experience.

Courses of study

There are several educational programmes in foreign languages conducted by universities and other institutions.

Let us look at some of the reputed programmes of study. In the case of the affiliating universities, such programmes may be either in the university departments or in the affiliated colleges.

It may also be noted that routine English has not been touched upon in most cases, since facilities for it are readily available in almost all universities.

JNU

The premier centre for learning foreign languages in India is the JNU: Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Mehrauli Road, New Delhi 110067. (Ph: 011-26742676, Web: www.jnu.ac.in). The School of Language, Literature, and Culture Studies in JNU offers facilities for learning languages as diverse as Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Korean, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Pushto, Russian, Spanish, and of course English and certain Indian languages. The courses aim at developing competence and proficiency in spoken as well as written language through audio-visual techniques, language laboratory, films, and so on. The School has one of the best developed and maintained Language Laboratory complexes in the country.

Students who opt to study a language in the school will be studying much more than the language — the literature, art, and philosophy of the culture related to that language. Indeed, there are opportunities for research as well. Students desirous of qualifications in linguistics also have programmes to choose from.

The school has 11 centres:

Centre of Arabic and African studies

Centre for Chinese and South East Asian Studies

Centre for French and Francophone Studies

Centre of German Studies

Centre of Indian Languages

Centre of Japanese, Korean and North East Asian Studies

Centre for English Studies

Centre for Linguistics

Centre of Persian and Central Asian Studies

Centre of Russian Studies

Centre of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Latin American Studies

Each centre has its own specific regulations. But there are general guidelines. Those who have Plus Two qualification with 45 per cent marks, as well as those who are appearing in the Plus Two examination are permitted to apply for admission to BA (Hons), which is an integral part of the 5-year M.A. programme. On successful completion of BA (Hons), they can register for the first year of the MA programme. This is the same as the 4th year of the 5-year M.A. programme in the respective language. This eliminates the need for appearing again in an entrance test.

The main programmes are listed below:

Ph.D.: Persian, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Tamil, Hindi Translation, Linguistics, English, Russian, Spanish

M.Phil.: Persian, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Tamil, Hindi Translation, Linguistics, English, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese,

MA: Persian, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Urdu, Linguistics, English, Russian, Spanish

BA (Hons): Persian, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, German, Russian, Spanish

Advanced Diploma of proficiency: Pushto, Mass Media in Urdu

Diploma of proficiency: Pushto, Bahasa Indonesia

Certificate of Proficiency: Pushto, Mongolian, Bahasa Indonesia, Urdu, Italian

For detailed contents and objectives of the programmes, conditions of eligibility, as well as schemes of the entrance tests, you may visit the JNU web site.

Mastering the nuances of a language and using words and phrases taking into account the different shades of meaning requires considerable skill.


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