Learning a new language can be fun, useful and incredibly rewarding. But let’s be honest, it’s not always easy. Yes, you can sign up for a weekly language class and hope for the best, but we all know there’s a lot more to it.
Whether you’re aiming for basic skills or full-on fluency, our 5 essential tips for learning a new language will help you on your quest.
Be specific with your goals
Often too many of us get too wrapped up in the idea of learning a new language that we begin to lose focus on achievable goals. ‘Oh, Mandarin! What a marvellous language it would be to learn!’ ‘Imagine how useful it would be to be fluent in Spanish!’ ‘And how romantic to speak French!’
But thinking like this can leave you overwhelmed. Instead, choose one language you’d like to learn and focus on your why. Perhaps it’s because you’re relocating to a new country. Maybe you need to pick up some basic language skills for a job you’re applying for. Or maybe your partner speaks it and you’d like to learn it too.
Once you’re clear on your goals, write them down. Doing this will motivate you to get started and you can revisit your list in times of self-doubt.
Learn on the go
One of the first ports of call with learning a new language is signing up for a class. And while this can be invaluable in terms of developing your reading and speaking skills, you’ll also need to commit to some serious self-study time.
Apps like Duolingo are essential for multi-linguists in the making. At the time of writing, you can learn over 30+ languages on the app via bite-sized lessons and engaging exercises. Spending just an extra 10 minutes here and there on your way to and from work can do wonders in developing your skills. Plus, the app is free and it’ll keep the language fresh in your mind.
Once you’ve reached a certain skill level, you could try temporarily changing the language settings on your phone or web browser. Not only will this provide great practice, but you’ll likely learn new words too.
Read all about it
Reading is one of the best ways to learn a new language. First, explore the origins of your own native language and how it works. Gaining a better understanding of your mother tongue can really enhance your progress with learning another language.
Once you’re more familiar with your native language, read up on the language you plan to learn. Having an idea of why different phrases and accents are a certain way can really help with making things stick.
And once you’ve reached a particular skill level with the language you’re learning, invest in some books and magazines. Reading for fun in a different language is a great way to further familiarise yourself. It’s also immensely rewarding once you begin to understand what it is you’re reading.
Visit the places where the language is spoken
It may be the case that you’re already there (in which case, good luck!). But just in case you’re not, visiting the said country is one of the best ways to enhance your skills in the language.
Visit a café with hustle and bustle and soak up the many different accents you hear. Tune in to conversations and start your own if you’re feeling confident. By surrounding yourself with different phrases and accents, you’ll do wonders for your language development.
Travelling will also add an element of fun to the idea of learning a new language, which can really help with your motivation. (And we know we could all do with a bit more of that!)
Speak to people
Interacting in the language is an invaluable way to develop your skills. If you’re living in or visiting the country where the language is spoken, try to make friends and start new conversations. Doing so will develop your natural intuition in the language and nudge what you’ve learned into your subconscious.
And don’t just speak to adults. Practising your language on somebody younger than you is a great tip. There’s something incredibly humbling and motivating about being on the same level as the person you’re speaking to—even if that person is a toddler.
If you’re not currently living where the language is spoken, try to find native speakers or foreign penpals you can interact with. You could also seek the help of a language exchange partner. The basic idea of this is to offer them an hour of practice in the language they want to learn, in return for an hour of their time helping you. Win-win.
Good luck on your mission to learn a new language!