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'No shortcuts' when learning language

The good news: You’ve just found the job of your dreams.

The good news: You’ve just found the job of your dreams. The bad news: There’s a line at the bottom of the employment ad that says, “Candidates with some knowledge of Italian will be given special consideration.”

You, unfortunately, have no knowledge of Italian, but you really want that special consideration — and that job! No worries. You can just go to the bookstore, pick up an Italian phrasebook, memorize a few lines and wow them in the interview, right? Eh, not exactly.

“There are no shortcuts,” says Dr. Migdalia Romero, a retired professor of linguistics from Hunter College in New York. “One does not impress a potential boss by speaking a few words in a foreign language or constructing a few sentences that were learned in a crash course.”

Bummer. So how do you impress an employer when knowledge of a foreign language can give you a leg up — and potentially be the difference between landing your dream job and watching it go to someone else? Fortunately, Romero says there is hope.

“For people who have a basis in the language but lack fluency, there are strategies that help,” she says. “Listening to the language as much as possible is one of these.”

That means watching TV and listening to the radio in the language you’re looking to improve in — and repeating aloud what is heard.

Romero also suggests practising the language in social situations where the pressure isn’t on. For instance, if you visit Madrid while trying to learn Spanish, strike up a conversation with every waiter and cab driver you encounter. Even if you embarrass yourself, you can make up for it with a hefty tip. And for the exceptionally desperate there’s one more option.

“Taking a course that focuses on the special language for specific professions can help,” Romero says.

So when all else fails, get yourself to the classroom.

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