Can you use your natural brain’s wiring and imitate like a baby?
Learning a foreign language can be one of the most challenging things we do as adults. When it comes to English as a foreign language, most people start learning as young children and hear the same grammar lessons over and over and over again. Yet they become adults and still feel that they haven’t really learned enough English to achieve their professional goals.
Our brains are naturally wired to imitate what we hear and see, that’s why babies usually start babbling and making noises with their mouths within the first few months of being born. Babies are beginning to learn to use their tongues, mouths and facial muscles so that as they grow older and become more cognitively aware, they can begin speaking. That is how our brain has developed.
As an English as a foreign language speaker, you want to be able to communicate with native and non-native speakers alike. However, if you are constantly imitating English from non-native speakers, you will begin to make the same pronunciation and even grammar mistakes that they are making if they are not completely fluent at a very high level. That is why native speaking teachers, regardless of what language you are learning, are so desirable. We want to speak and sound like a native speaker as much as possible. In order to that, we need to be around native speakers or at least, imitate them.
We have a great advantage today with the Internet. You can easily find native speaking teachers online to help you with pronunciation and conversation. But you can also use resources like Netflix and Youtube to mimic how native speakers talk. Use the following suggestions to get the most out of using movies, television shows or videos to improve how you speak English.
Closed Captioning/English subtitles
Once we are in our adolescent years, using reading together with the spoken word can be a very powerful learning tool. If we watch movies or televisions in English and turn on the closed captioning or English subtitles, we are forcing ourselves to associate certain sounds with certain words. Plus, we are seeing how native speakers speak and can begin to use the pause button to repeat what we are hearing and reading. We don’t have to do this all the time but if you make a habit out of it, you’ll start paying attention to speaking patterns in English while you are watching something you like. You will associate English with pleasurable experiences, a condition that you want to create since it is common for some people to hate learning languages because they were forced to do so as children and no one took the time to explain to them that speaking more than one language is a wonderful thing.
Say what they said, how they said it
Use those closed captions to copy what the person in the show or video said, how they said it. Try imitating something difficult, something that made you question what it was that they were saying. You can also do this with audiobooks. Use sites like LibriVox or Audible to access audio books and then sites like Amazon or Project Gutenberg to get those books electronically. There are also podcasts like Optimal Living Daily, Optimal Finance Daily and Optimal Health Daily that read blog posts out loud. All you have to do is look up the blog post and listen as the presenters read out loud. Then say what they said, how they said it.
Exercise Your Tongue
Just like a little baby, you need to exercise your mouth when learning or improving your English. Tongue twisters and poems are excellent tools to do just that. You can find tongue twisters being read aloud by native speakers on Youtube.
Look for videos with:
1-native speaking presenters
2-subtitles or text with the tongue twisters in the video or the description.
The one below was created by a native speaker of American English, but make sure you search for more.
For poems, a good place to start is the Poetry Foundation’s Audio Poem of the Day where you can read and listen to poetry. Read out aloud along with the speaker and mimic their sounds.
Remember, babies take years to learn how to speak and as they develop into children, their learning continues. There is no reason why you shouldn’t let your brain’s programming learn and improve your foreign language skills. Good luck and if you have fun, learning will be something you want to do, just like a baby!