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Here Are The Best Ways to Learn a Language (And the Pros & Cons)

Here Are The Best Ways to Learn a Language (And the Pros & Cons)

Want to learn a language? Congratulations! Committing to learn a new language is a big step to make, since most people remain comfortable with the language they learned in high school, whether they learned Spanish, French, German, etc. Now that you’re ready to take the next step – actually learning the language – you’re probably wondering, what’s the best way to learn Spanish, French, German, etc.?

You’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll share with you the 5 best ways to learn any language, where you can go to start learning, and the pros and cons for each option. Before we dig in, let’s first understand how we best learn, beyond just languages.

How humans best learn

Given the decades of research and studies done on the human brain, learning institutions have publicly shared the results of how humans best learn. A notable study published is the development of the Learning Pyramid in the 1960’s – widely attributed to the NTL Institute in Bethel, Maine – which outlined how humans best retain information.

It turns out that humans remember:

5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from a lecture (i.e. university/college lectures)
10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading (i.e. books, articles)
20% of what they learn from audio-visual (i.e. apps, videos)
30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration
50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion
75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned
90% of what they learn when they use immediately (or teach others)

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learning pyramid

    Anyone who endured through the boring lectures in university or college can probably relate to how ineffective learning is when done through lectures or traditional textbooks. It’s one information in one ear, and out the other!

    lecture presentation

      While you can learn mathematics or history without any interaction, that’s not how language learning works. In other words, languages were meant to be learned and used with other humans, not through an algorithm based app like Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, or Youtube. It’s a good way to learn as a hobby, but if you’re seeking real results, the decades of scientific research shows that this is the wrong approach.

      The good news is that there are better ways to learn a language than relying on the traditional, ineffective methods that our brains were not trained to learn with. Compared to learning through lectures, you’ll notice that learning through immersion (i.e. speaking with native speakers/humans) is up to 18 times more effective.

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      This leads us to reveal the 3 best ways to learn a language (through immersion!)

      1. Accountability Partner

      Where to start: Your inner circle and network.
      Pros: Free
      Cons: Very difficult to find someone that can help you, unless you’re offering something in return. Sustaining the relationship is also complicated over a longer period of time.

      A good place to start learning anything is within your own circle of friends. If you can think of someone that already knows how to speak Spanish, Italian, or your target language, ask them to help you out. The worst thing that can happen is, they will tell you they’re too busy or they may know another friend that can help out.

      In terms of difficulty finding someone, this ranks the highest because most of us lack the network to find a credible person to help us out, or we just don’t feel comfortable asking our friends without giving anything back in return.

      2. Conversation Exchange

      Where to start: MyLanguageExchange.com
      Pros: Free and lots of fellow language lovers you can meet online
      Cons: Time consuming and requires patience to find the right language partner that matches your schedule. Most language partners you will find will also not have any professional experience teaching.

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      The second option to learn a language through immersion is a conversation exchange.

      A conversation exchange is where people that are looking to learn a language come together, in order to help each other practice their target languages. In a perfect situation, you can find someone who’s a fluent speaker in your target language and also wants to learn the language you speak fluently. This way, there’s a mutually beneficial relationship that’s formed.

      From personal experience, most conversation exchanges can suck up a ton of time just trying to find a language partner that fits your target language, schedule, and personality. If you’re missing even one of those factors, the conversation exchange will most likely not last.

      Screen-Shot-2015-05-20-at-3.15.39-PM-750x283

        With that said, if you do have a lot of time on your hands and you’re incredibly motivated to learn a new language, going with the conversation exchange route may be the best option for you. For the rest of us, who don’t have a lot of time, or want to work with a native speaker who’s a professional, you should go with…

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        3. Professional Language Lessons

        Where to start: Rype, Craigslist
        Pros: You get to work with a professional teacher, who’s 100% dedicated to your needs and success. Unlike a conversation exchange, you can usually choose the time you want to learn on your schedule, which saves you a lot of time.
        Cons: Like any professional service, language lessons is an investment.

        What if you want to learn a language, but you don’t want to bother your friends, and you have a busy lifestyle? Language lessons online is the answer for you. Instead of going to a language school and learning with 15-20 other students, or commuting an hour to meet an in-person language teacher, you can learn at the comforts of your own home, or wherever you are around the world.

        Rype

          If you go with a service like Rype, you can also get unlimited private lessons (yep, that’s one-on-one) with professional teachers who are available 24/7.

          In summary, here are the main benefits of language lessons online (and why it’s our favorite option):

          • Save more time (no commuting, and no preparation required)
          • Connect with native speaking professionals who actually live in countries that speak your target language (real-life immersion learning brought to your screen)
          • Get accountability and full access to ask questions & feedback when you want (not something you get with conversation exchanges)

          What’s next?

          Share the first step you’ll take today to learn a language. Which of these best ways to learn a language resonated most with your lifestyle? Let us know!

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          The Gentle Art of Saying No

          The Gentle Art of Saying No

          No!

          It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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          But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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          What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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          But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

          1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
          2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
          3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
          4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
          5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
          6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
          7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
          8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
          9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
          10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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