Supplement to “Learning Languages”
Learning another language is not easy, but most people can do it. Here is a list of Web sites with practical suggestions on how to learn a new language.
www.about.com—In the search box, type “tips Spanish language” and look under Search Results for several helpful links.
www.bravenewtraveler.com—In the search box, type “tips foreign languages” for links to 7 Tips for Learning a Foreign Language and other articles.
www.studyspanish.com—Offers a lot of free tutorials for studying Spanish online, as well as paid courses.
www.oculture.com—In the search box, type “learn foreign language” and look for links to “How to Learn a Foreign Language,” and “Free Learn Language Lessons” (which has hundreds of podcasts and PDF transcripts you can download for a fee, with two free downloads).
www.pickthebrain.com—In the search box, type “foreign language” for links to several articles on learning a foreign language.
As she searched for the right Spanish immersion program, Lori Kagan-Moore found it very difficult to find objective, detailed information about the different immersion schools. “A lot of what passes as information is advertising,” she said. “Every one of the hundreds and hundreds of schools will tell you they are the best one.”
To make a more informed choice, Kagan-Moore followed these guidelines:
Ask the hard questions. Don’t be satisfied with generalities about the program.
Realize that different schools appeal to different populations. College students may want more of a party experience and to learn a little Spanish while they are there. Kagan-Moore found many of these programs located near the beach. Others may want more instruction in Spanish. Kagan-Moore found that most, though certainly not all, of the programs that offered what she wanted—more emphasis on language study and provision for families—were more often located in towns.
Try to match the demographics of the school to you. Ask about the school’s population. That tells you who uses that school. Kagan-Moore chose Forester Institute in part because their population included a lot of families as well as college students. People there were very interested in getting the education and getting that immersion experience, she says.
Correspond with the school. Don’t just ask a few questions over the phone. “One of the reasons I liked the Forester Institute was that they wrote back immediately. Their English was excellent, and their answers were specific, direct, and addressed what I needed.”
Find out about the teachers’ training. Not everyone who speaks Spanish or even speaks Spanish well can teach. Knowing how long the staff has been at the institution is also of use. If the school has been there 25 years but all the teachers have only been there for two years, you have to wonder why.
Ask what the days are like. At Forester, they had study sessions mixed with breaks and tried to introduce fun activities each day, according to Kagan-Moore.
“One day they brought in a lot of tropical fruit we had never seen or heard of in this country,” she says. “I thought I knew all the tropical fruits. They explained where it came from and what they were and let us sample them. They had dance classes for those interested in doing Costa Rican dances. After school time, you were on your own. You could do excursions they had organized or go home to your host family.”
Find out what the school’s provisions are for children and what their experience is with children, not just that they accept or welcome children. You want to know that they have specific plans and specific programs in place. At the Forester Institute, where Kagan-Moore decided to go, they had a special classroom for children, a program for children, materials for children, and a teacher whose specific job was teaching children.
To read more about Lori Kagen-Moore’s trip, go to www.fores.com/english/lori-letter.html.
To read the Kentucky Living September 2008 feature that goes along with this supplement, go to Learning Languages.