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Self-study and language CDs

Listen, Understand and Speak – is a self-study Linguaphone method which has helped many people get to grips with different languages.

The group was founded in 1901 by Jacques Roston, a translator and language teacher who emigrated from Poland and set up business in High Holborn, London.

You listen to native speakers in your new language and follow the words in written form which helps you associate the sounds you hear with the words and sentences you read, and so begin to discover what each word means. Gradually words, then phrases, become clear.

By repeating and comparing with native speakers you start speaking in your new language, with the correct pronunciation, from your very first lesson. New topics, words and phrases are introduced lesson by lesson and with each step, conversation skills develop.

Carrie-Anne Barry, of Linguaphone UK and Ireland, says that a person’s ability to learn a language depends on a series of social and cultural factors, but the best language learner will inevitably be the student who puts in the most time and effort.

In the early stages, a student’s gender may matter, with females likely to pick up the basics more quickly. It is believed that women tend to engage more freely in conversations and listen more carefully, which can mean quicker progress early on. But, Ms Barry said: “When the learner reaches more advanced levels, differences in learning ability based on gender are neutralised.”

She said that age does make a difference as studies have shown picking up a new language does become harder with age as the brain becomes less able to adapt to new experiences – but Linguaphone has found older learners are often more focused on their goal and tend to take their time learning in a more comprehensive, thorough manner.

Ms Barry said: “Accents, however, tend to present a particular challenge for older people, whereas young people, especially children, pick up accents naturally.”

But, she said that having a good accent should not be considered a problem. Accents vary widely in both French and English, so perfecting the quintessential French accent particularly for the less advanced learner should not be too great a concern.

Instead, she said: “What is more important is to ensure that correct pronunciation and phonetic rules are applied when speaking; for example knowing when and when not to pronounce the last consonant of a word (Moët et Chandon, anyone?).”

It is a good idea to listen to French news channels on the radio or TV to get used to the tones and cadence of the language, she said.

And, she added: “Remember to speak aloud and confidently during speaking exercises at a time when you are relaxed; you will find that the words will come more easily later when you try out your language skills for real.”

When choosing a language course, be wary of new-to-the-market courses that offer immediate fluency by teaching lists of vocabulary. There is no point being able to say “apple” or “school” unless they can be used as part of a sentence in everyday life.

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