Five myths about language learning: Myth 2

i only really need a native speaker boyfriend/girlfriend

This one addresses the belief that when you're learning a foreign language, it's best to just have a native speaker talk to you. You will then magically pick it up. Now, this may be true for some of the truly gifted specimen of mankind, but I must say that my own experience hasn't done much to make me believe in magic. As one half of an international couple, I've often been advised to just teach him my native language by talking to him in foreign. So I tried, and trust me, it doesn't go well! We have things to organise, we're tired from work, we may just want to relax together - and suddenly I make him concentrate really hard on understanding a quarter of what I say? Really. It is a myth.

Having said that, the grain of truth behind this belief is that immersion does work. Immersion doesn't mean someone just speaking at you in their language. Rather it stands for getting you to use the language yourself. So get creative! Listen to music in your target language, try and read a few posts in an online forum, get a penpal, greet your mum on the phone in French for a week or listen to a podcast. (I use "Speaking Russian" by Olga Mitchell.)

For some instant French flavour in your day, try out these immersion tips:

  • Dig out your copy of Amélie
  • Type French into for today's great music. You can listen to their tag radio for free
  • Visit my French Learner's board on Pinterest
  • Get out the dictionary and post-its and label everything in your bathroom in French for a day
  • Get cooking that cuisine française, for example with some Tarte Tatin
  • Call everyone you meet by a French pet name. How about "mon lapin" (my rabbit), "mon chéri" (my dear - call her "ma chérie of course if she is a lady) or "mon loup" (wolf)?