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.
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!
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.
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.
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!