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12 Useful Tips to Learn a New Language

12 Useful Tips to Learn a New Language

Languages. It is just a word, but it describes so many different things that help people around the world communicate with their peers, parents, friends and even their animals. Some people are able to speak only one language, meanwhile, some others collect them. But are languages really that easy to learn or are some people just more talented ? I’ve been able to collect a few useful tips to learn a new language, which will hopefully help you whether you are a monolingual or a multilingual !

1. Avoid rushing

Learning a new language and trying to be fluent as quickly as possible can be exciting, but it can also mean you aren’t refreshing what you’ve learned before. Being fluent in a language means you have not forgotten everything you’ve learned along the way, and that you can have conversations without looking for the words in your memory for too long. You should rather take your time, refresh what you already know and enjoy the process of language learning.

2. Use topics to build your vocabulary

In a lot of languages, words can have many different meanings depending on the context. Trying to learn words with no particular subject would be difficult and time consuming. Topics on the other hand, can put you in a particular context or subject which will make it easier to learn or guess words and their meaning and therefore, will help you construct a stable base for your vocabulary.

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3. Set yourself realistic goals

The reason why many people think they’re “not talented” at learning languages and end up abandoning is that they set goals that are way too unrealistic to achieve. Being fluent in one month is way too difficult, unless you’re not doing anything but studying the language. And even then, you’d only be able to read and write properly. Setting an appropriate, realistic goal goes hand in hand with taking your time and actually enjoying every bit of the learning you’re doing.

4. Don’t shy away from grammar

Grammar. This word can be pretty scary. Hearing about substantives and gerunds and whatnots can make one feel quite uncomfortable. However, once you know what it is all about and how you have to use that, it can help you improve the quality of your speech, and you will be able to understand why someone said this and not that. You will also gain more confidence and it will validate what you already know, or correct it.

5. Speak and accept being corrected

One of your main goals when you start learning a new language is being able to speak with natives, understanding them and being understood by them. At first, it will be difficult, but if you really want to learn, you will have to do it at some point, so it is better to start earlier, so that your speaking skills can improve along with your grammatical or writing skills. Now you might be scared of being corrected, because you think it’s embarrassing. In fact, it really isn’t. When you think about it, our parents and family members corrected us when we were children, and we did not seem to care about it. Natives are actually very likely to think your little mistakes are cute. Accept being corrected with a smile and say thank you, it will help you not be embarrassed!

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6. Use music, books, movies and media

Sometimes, we learn new words from our own language(s) that we didn’t know about. We guess their meaning because of the context they are put in. Think about it, have you never learned a new word from a TV show, a book or a song? You can do that with any language you’re learning. Some people have learned languages by solely watching television in those particular languages. It might be because our brains recognize certain situations, because of patterns or just because of repetition. So get your iPod or kindle and just go for it!

7. Learn about the culture

One thing that can make everything in the language more relevant is learning about the culture. It will also give you more things to discuss with natives. History, cuisine and literature are just a few aspects of all your possible cultural interest choices. This tip is particularly useful since it will also give you an idea of what it could be like to live or travel to that specific country or group of countries.

8. Use apps and websites to stay motivated

Learning a language from books or courses can get boring pretty fast, and it can kill your passion or your interest very quickly. To avoid that, using websites and apps can be pretty helpful since they allow you to learn languages while completing fun and amusing tasks instead of just reading boring papers. You’ll find a few examples at the end of this article.

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9. Be regular, dive into the language daily

A lot of the time, when people want to learn something new, either a language, or a new dance move, or even a sport, they think that they’re going to be able to do it overnight, with little to no effort, or without committing to it. That is absolutely wrong. Languages, just like mathematics, dancing or painting have to be studied regularly. You must dive into the language daily if not multiple times a day, to keep the information and make it easier for yourself to develop your skills.

10. Plan a trip for complete immersion

Who doesn’t love a little trip? Complete immersion allows you to be fully surrounded by people who speak the language you’re learning, it will force you to communicate with them in that language, and you will be able to discover the differences between real speech (as heard in the streets) and “lesson” speech. One step closer from speaking like a native!

11. Get a crush on a native speaker

This might sound very crazy, but have you considered getting a crush on a native speaker? Obviously, this is a joke, but it can truly be very helpful. When you have a crush on someone, you want to do your best to impress them, and their interests become your interests. I’ve heard a lot of stories about people learning a new language because of a crush they had on a handsome Dutch man, or a beautiful Greek woman.

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12. Useful resources

Duolingo, Pimsleur, Busuu, Babbel and Memrise are just a few examples of what you could use to get better at a language, but there are also several youtube channels and blogs that can help you with it!

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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