|Elena Mutonono and Mrs. Caroline Germond|
September, 2012: New Orleans, LA
Mastering a foreign language presents a number of challenges, but consistent learning and practicing will eventually pay off, and you will become more fluent in the language you wish to learn.
The students that have been taught by Mrs. Caroline Germond on our OnlinEnglish platform have seen some significant improvements in their English proficiency over a relatively short time. All of them realize, however, that mastering a language is not a one-time purchase, but a life-long journey of discovery.
Do you know that Mrs. Germond herself is very well familiar with learning a foreign language (or a few foreign languages)? Today I'm posting an interview with her where Mrs. Caroline shares her own experience of mastering foreign languages. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
1. Q: How many languages do you speak and at what level?
A: Besides my native English, I can speak, read, and write French, German, Italian, and Spanish. I do not have equal facility with each of them, however. I have studied all except Italian, which I have picked up through travel and speaking with friends. And while I have less formal study with this language, I am comfortable using it. I’m aware of grammar points, and try to conform to them, but I don’t let my lack of correct constructions keep me from communicating!
I love the adjective “rusty” for describing my current proficiency in French, which I use less than any other of my languages, and feel almost tongue-tied when I have access to it. But the “rust” manages to smooth away, when the opportunity lasts more than a few hours.
German is the first “foreign” language that I learned—as a child—and although I have studied it as an adult, I do not have perfect grammar. As with Italian, this lack does not dampen my enthusiasm for using it.
Spanish is my most comfortable and fluent “other” language, thanks to the years I’ve studied and used it in my working life. I consider myself bilingual in Spanish/English.
2. Q: In your opinion, what is the best method of mastering any foreign language?
A: There are so many methods and approaches to foreign language study: commercial and academic, grammar-based and conversational, for example. I don’t believe there is any one best. There are as well, many types and ages of language learners, with different purposes and for whom mastery means different levels of achievement.
A critical element to language learning is the teacher, who can be most creative in connecting students with the new language, and can make language alive to students. But the process begins even before the teacher, I believe.
I think the student’s interest and opportunity are the critical spark, so that he/she responds to initial access and exposure to the new language. From that point a successful language program will follow with many lessons that integrate listening, speaking, and literacy. It can be a long process, and it always includes discouragement, times when little progress is felt, as well as great excitement and reward.
I believe that student commitment, teacher passion, and continuing opportunity are the key ingredients to sustaining progress toward a goal of mastery. A little bit of luck helps as well!
3. Q: What are some ways that a person can manage to keep up with his/her language skills?
A: The best way of course, is to travel! But to be realistic, one needs to use the language: to actively communicate with it. This can be difficult when access to the language is limited.
The Internet allows us to keep in touch with the whole world, to hear and read news and literature in every language. However, keeping—even growing—our language skills requires active engagement and using the language for real purposes.
One can be part of a social language group that meets regularly to speak the target language, having agreed on a subject of conversation. Again, thanks to the Internet, such opportunities are available online, linking long-distance language learners with a common purpose.
Such conversation opportunities are ideal because they offer real dialog. But movies and books of interest also help to keep the language skills from “rusting.”
And of course, there’s always study: taking another course in the language of interest. There is always something new to learn!
A note of thanks from Elena Mutonono: I am very grateful to Mrs. Germond for sharing her experience and expertise with us in this interview, as well as in the course of OnlinEnglish private lessons with the native speakers.