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Learning a Language is Full of Questions: 6 Ways to Get Answers

Language courses make it so simple to feel like you can speak the language.

Japanese courses that I went through taught some good grammar, vocabulary, and even how to read hundreds of kanji. Upon setting foot in Japan, though, I realized I could hardly communicate. It was in that struggle to communicate that I discovered I was left with only more questions.

This is where Fluentli bridges the gap, allowing you to ask how to express something you need to communicate, and get short audio soundbites back to help you say it and practice listening.

You’ve got to work at having basic knowledge of vocabulary and grammar, but there is no linear way to get from A to Z. A coursebook gives you what they think is an A to Z path, but you’ll never know how accurate it is to you until you start discovering your own questions — through your own struggle to communicate.

How do you do this? Simple.

You live your life, wherever you are, and every day is full of unique experiences. Regardless of how mundane they may have become to you, learning a foreign language is a new way to look at your life. All of a sudden, the most basic of daily tasks becomes something new and exotic when you try to express it in a foreign language.

So to discover the things you should be learning in your target language, you simply have to look at your own life. When you do or experience something you can’t express, that should be your cue to take a note for something to ask on Fluentli.

How to Get Answers That Will Lead to Fluency

The 6 Question Types

1. Grammar Questions

When most people think of learning a language, they probably think of learning grammar first. When thinking of grammar questions to ask, however, try not to follow the grammar book’s recommended A to Z. This will most likely drive you insane, and you won’t remember anything.

Instead, focus on grammar that you discover in the wild. That’s right, think of your self as a bad ass field linguists living among a tribe of a language you’re trying to document. Of course, you could just be watching anime. Whenever a new grammar point presents itself over and over, that is something you need to work out how to use.

How to ask on Fluentli: While you can ask very technical grammar questions, you might not get too many answers. People who love grammar are not in the majority — anywhere.

Stop memorizing grammar. Ask for example situations and sentences that people think of when they hear that grammar point, and observe patterns. Tweet This

2. Clarification Questions

Sometimes, no matter how many times you read or hear something, you just can’t work out what it means. When this happens, you need to try a change in perspective, or to find a pivot point. This usually comes by having it explained to you in more simple terms that you already understand.

How to Ask on Fluentli: Tell the community what sentence you’re having trouble with, and give them the context. Then ask them to reword it in simple terms.

Don’t worry about feeling like a child. Part of learning a foreign language is forgetting your pride and growing up all over again. Tweet This

3. Open Ended Questions 

These are perhaps my favorite types of questions. Don’t you love it when you learn how to say or ask something, only to be left completely speechless after a torrent of unknown words stream out of the mouth in front of you?

With open ended questions, you can prepare a little better for these situations. By asking a question, you can get a variety of real responses from people that you’re likely to encounter when you use it later.

How to ask on Fluentli: First, work out how to ask something in the target language. Ask the community to answer naturally how they would in real life, reading it out for you as well.

Ask open ended questions to practice listening to and understanding all of the ways native speakers might respond to you in the real world. Tweet This

*Bonus* Make a playlist on your MP3 player around a specific question. Practice listening and speaking, and choose your own canned response that you’d use if you were asked the same thing.

 4. Questions About Natural Expressions

Textbooks are infamous for teaching unnatural expressions. To learn natural expressions, you should be getting feedback from either native speakers, or fluent speakers with a lot of experience.

How to ask on Fluentli: Take note of the experiences in your life that leave you wondering, “Now how would I say that in…” Go to Fluentli, describe the situation, and ask how you’d express what you’d like to say.

Show locals you really know how to speak their language by using natural expressions the textbooks don’t normally teach you. Tweet This

5. Get Corrections

It’s never too early to start trying to write in your target language. Writing is a very beneficial activity when learning a language. The problem is, you’re going to make lots of mistakes. So it’s nice if people can help point out your grammar mistakes, and tell you when you should use one word or phrase instead of another.

How to ask on Fluentli: Choose a short time to write in your target language every day. I’d recommend you physically write it out by hand in a notebook or journal (lots of benefits). Then, submit it on Fluentli and ask others to correct it for you. What’s great is you can also get audio so you can practice speaking or listening to things that matter to you.

There really is only one way to learn a language. That is to make mistakes — lots of mistakes. Of course, you also need to be willing to let people help you with those. Tweet This

6. Reading Requests

This one’s pretty obvious. Learning a language will be a lot about you reading in the target language online. There’s so much information. But wouldn’t it be nice to also have things read out for you so you could practice listening as well?

learn a language like gollumHow to ask on Fluentli: Don’t copy and paste a novel. Not only are there copyright issues there, I doubt very much that someone would read it out to you. Try to keep requests fairly short, and be sure to add instructions how you’d like it to be read (normal speed, a little slower, in the voice of Gollum, etc.).

Learn a foreign language by following your interests in online articles. Then, start turning them into listening practice. Tweet This


So there you have it. Six ways to get answers that will move you closer to learning a foreign language.

Now, what are you going to do with them? Don’t stop here and say, “Yeah, that’s pretty good advice.” Think about how you can act on one or two question types this week.