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Learning Language Through Food

There are nearly 400 languages spoken in the USA, and with 1 in 5 American people speaking a second language at home, learning a new language is gaining in popularity. There are numerous methods to help your brain remember new vocabulary so you become confident in the second language of your choice  –  using a combination of food and language learning is a great place to start. By immersing yourself in dining customs and cultural differences, this can help your language skills enormously. While there are many rewards in learning a new language, it’s also a question of knowing which way suits you best in order to achieve sound knowledge and remember the new language skills you’ve picked up.

Use a menu as your dictionary

There’s no better way for a food lover to learn about a cuisine than to visit a restaurant run by locals from the specific country you’re learning the language of. In addition to reading the menu in a new language, you can also chat with employees about the ingredients and the cooking methods used to create a dish. Surrounding yourself with language all the time and practicing your skills on those who speak in their native language will help you with pronunciation and your ability to communicate effectively. Who knows, you might be able to expand your skills in learning facts about pizza festivals or how ice cream is made, to broaden your knowledge further and keep you motivated.

Visit local markets

Head to a marketplace and immerse yourself in local culture from traders and customers to pick up new words and how they sound naturally. These places are bursting with food-related language. Even if you’re too shy to join in, listening to how someone is negotiating a price can only serve to improve your understanding of how a language is spoken through learning the names of fruit, vegetables, and numbers. You don’t necessarily have to travel to a specific country ( although it helps) but learning a language abroad has a range of benefits to make you more competent and experienced by immersing yourself into their culture and local conversations.

Learn from the experts

Try watching cooking shows on the television which is not just a useful learning tool, but can be entertaining too. Switch to subtitles if you’re not yet confident and you’ll soon be learning a host of food-related vocabulary and how to cook national dishes, all of which can improve your language development with food. Similarly, you could purchase a cookbook to help you expand your proficiency further by reading recipes and learning vocabulary for cooking utensils and the verbs used for instructions and food preparation. If the opportunity arises to cook alongside a chef, either on a college course or privately, then it’s likely to offer an enriching experience to learn more about a language and how it can be developed alongside a particular cuisine.

The most important thing to always remember is to have fun while you’re learning not only the language but also the history and culture through gastronomy so you become better at a language and as a chef.

— Written by Jane Sandwood, contributor at Mondly
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