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How To Learn A Romance Language In One Month

By: Tom Malone


I took four years of French at my Southeast Portland high school and switched to Spanish once I reached college. After two years of 100-200 level Spanish, I studied in Spain for nearly six months, an experience that changed my life (and even inspired my second fictional novel). My Spanish skills were decent at best after my return, but I quickly discovered a method to brush up and learn a new romance language at the same time.

My Spanish translation teacher said that being fluent in a language required proficiency in four aspects: writing, reading, hearing, and speaking. For twenty minutes a day, I focused on these areas in Spanish. I wrote a few sentences, read a Spanish newspaper article, watched a 10-minute Spanish cartoon show on the Internet, and enacted a short conversation.

This process took less than 20 minutes out of my day. With this short, self-taught, effective method, could I learn another Romance language? Portuguese, Italian, or French?

I bought Portuguese for Dummies, a necessary first step that cost me only $14 and provided me with essential verb conjugations and vocabulary words. Similar books had comparable prices. I read an article from O Globo, a Brazilian newspaper based in Rio de Janiero. I utilized YouTube to watch Portuguese Recreio (Recess) cartoon shows to hear the Portuguese sound. I wrote a few sentences in either my computer’s word processing program or a piece of paper with a pen. Finally, I attempted a few verbal sentences in Portuguese, using WordReference to aid my vocabulary translation needs.

I have quickly picked up Portuguese (both from Brazil and Portugal) by reading different countries’ newspapers and grammar-dissecting Internet translators. Why not learn a mixture of the two?

I will soon be trying this method with Italian and I believe it will have very similar effects. French will likely be after that (hopefully my high school French experience will help with this). Try this method and see if it works. If you have any questions, let me know!

Steps to Learning a Romance Language (Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian):

1. Buy (Language) Phrases For Dummies
Acquire the For Dummies language series immediately. All four major Romance languages (Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian) originate from Latin, so they're all fairly similar. You can choose to learn all four at once, or focus on one at a time. Either way, investing in these four Romance language phrase books will serve as your "text books" while you teach yourself to speak four languages. The best part is: they're really cheap! So, start now and invest less than $50 for all four books.

2. Read articles From Romance Language Newspapers
Reading is the quickest way to become fluent in a language. By reading small chunks of each lanuage every day, you'll gradually master the grammatical concepts of that languages, just like you did when you were a child learning English. Newspapers are generally written at a fifth-grade reading level, so you'll be able to at least gather the main ideas of each article. Don't worry if you stumble through articles for the first few weeks; it'll get easier.

3. Watch And Listen To One Romance Language Show
We all watch more television than we should every day, so why not make it worth your while? By watching people speak that language, you'll pick up on non-verbal queues that will enable you to decode the new words. By hearing the pronunciation of each word, you'll be more likely to pronounce it correctly. Plus, who doens't enjoy watching a show in foreign language? You may even decide to acquire a Spanish audiobook to practice as you commute to-and-from work.

4. Write In That Language As Much As You Can
After you read an article in a Romance language, try to write some sentences by yourself. At first, don't worry if they're grammicatically correct or not. Just start writing. Once you're done, you can revise your grammar. Go into your junk drawer, pull out a notepad, and start writing. It's the best way to practice the grammar structures that are common throughout all four languages. Eventually, you'll start to notice patterns between the four, and practicing your Spanish writing will help your Portuguese in the process.

5. Speak In All Four Romance Languages (Even To Yourself)
Now, this might seem weird at first, but roll with me. When you'r ein your car on your monring commute, try to have a conversation with yourself in another language. It may help to envision a passenger who's asking you questions. Speaking in the language will rewire your brain and make the grammar functions and sentence structures of that language really stick. Again, don't worry about perfect grammar at first; just speak as much as you can and you'll find yourself getting better expontentially.

*Photo By: Tom Malone
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