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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

8 Proven Ways to Learn a New Language Fast

8 Proven Ways to Learn a New Language Fast

Learning a second language is something we can all do and should do at some point in our life. Not only does it exercise our brains, but it also helps us to appreciate the differences in cultures around the world.

I am very lucky to be living in South Korea, one of the most vibrant, exciting cities in the world. The culture here is very different from the culture in which I grew up in. And while there were some customs and cultural differences that were immediately obvious when I arrived here—such as taking your shoes off when you enter someone’s house or in some more traditional restaurants—it was when I began learning the language that I came to fully appreciate the more subtle and fascinating differences.

Learning a new language can be very difficult and for most of us, our experiences of learning a foreign language has been tainted by a school system that focuses on repetitive rote learning and memorisation so we can pass an exam and make our school look good instead of being able to communicate effectively in the language.

But the way we learned languages at school doesn’t have to be the way we learn a new language today. We do not need to take an exam, we can test ourselves by speaking and communicating with a native speaker of our target language at any time. The internet has opened up so many exciting avenues for learning languages that there has never been a better or easier time to learn a new language.

In this article, I will give you my top tips for getting to grips with a new language as quickly as possible without having to feel the stress you may have felt when you were at school.

1. Have a Purpose for Learning the Language

Confession time: I arrived in Korea nearly 17 years ago. In the first few weeks, I told myself I would learn to speak Korean as quickly as I could. I had no goal and because the level of English ability here in Korea is good, most places I went to always had an English speaker. I never needed Korean. So, after 16 years, all I had was what could, at best, be described as “survival Korean”.

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It was not until I set the goal to do a TEDx type talk in Korean in twelve months time when I sat down and got serious about my studying. Six months in and I am on target to do my TEDx Talk.

Every time I sit down to do some studying now, I begin with a two-minute visualization of standing up in front of an audience speaking in Korean about how to become better organized and more productive. It focuses my mind on the goal and it gives me the focus I need to do some quality studying.

2. Learn How to Say “Hello” and “Goodbye” Naturally First

Okay, I know this might be obvious and I know you probably already know how to do this. But, when I first began learning Korean, I used the language CDs that came with the textbook I bought to learn from. The voices on those CDs over-pronounced the words and when I copied them, I sounded like a person learning a foreign language.

I quickly discovered that Korean people never sound like that and a few syllables I was adding were dropped by native speakers. Once I started listening to how native Korean people said hello and goodbye, I soon changed my pronunciation and I began getting compliments on my pronunciation. A great boost for my confidence and enthusiasm right from the start.

If you cannot find anyone locally who speaks your target language natively, then use YouTube to find clips from dramas or news programmes. Listen to how they speak and talk to each other.

3. Find the 100 Most Common Words and…

Now a lot of advice about learning a foreign language will tell you to learn the most common 100 words. And that is good advice. But it is only half the story.

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Many languages, English included, have a lot of irregular words. In English, a classic one is “teach” the past tense of teach is not “teached”, it is “taught”. The past tense of “run” is not “runned”, it is “ran”. So just learning the words is not enough. You need to be able to apply those words to common sentences.

A very common word in Korean is the word “go” (ga-da) but to turn that into to a usable word, I need to change the ending of the word from “da” to “yo” so it becomes “ga-yo”. Now I have the equivalent of “go” in Korean.

But of course, I am not likely to ever just use “go” on its own, so I need a complete sentence or phrase. In English, that might be “where are you going?” In Korean, that becomes “odi-ga-yo?” You may have noticed I only added “odi” and that just means “where” so what I am saying is “where go?” No pronoun. In Korean, pronouns are rarely used as it is usually obvious who you are talking to or about.

So when you construct usable sentences or phrases from the most common words in your target language, you not only get to learn very common phrases and sentences, you also get to learn some of the nuances in the language.

4. Get a Language Buddy

No excuses here. You can use Facebook or Twitter to find a language buddy very easily, and you can chat with them in your target language using a free messenger service. They will correct you and you can correct them. Even better, if you can arrange a weekly coffee meeting with your language buddy, although that might not necessarily be possible.

If you can do this, it has the advantage of you being able to hear a native speaker speak and you can copy their pronunciation. If it is not possible, free services such as Skype and FaceTime can be just as good. Just make sure you set up a regular time with your language buddy and stick with it.

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5. Schedule Consistent Daily Practice

This was where I was having a lot of difficulties. I tried to do my language study in the evenings after work but often found myself exhausted and just not in the mood to sit down and study.

Once I decided learning Korean was important, I started waking up an hour earlier every weekday morning so I could practice for around 45 minutes.

Now there are no excuses. Not waking up early to study would just be me being lazy, so now that is what I do. Every weekday morning I wake up at 5 AM, make a coffee and then sit down and begin to study. I always begin the same way with ten minutes introducing myself in Korean, and then I sit down and practice the key phrases for that day.

Since I made the switch from evening times to morning times, I have consistently studied and never missed a practice session.

6. Be Curious

If you find yourself using a phrase or question frequently in your own language, find out how to say it in your target language. Often, it can be very interesting to see how it translates into another language. It’s also another way to pick up language buddies.

Post a question on Twitter _“how do you say…. In Polish”_ for example and you will get some amazing answers. People are wonderful and very generous and you will get some excellent suggestions. Many kind people will expand the answer and you will learn much more than just the phrase you were asking about. Don’t forget to hashtag it with your target language though.

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7. Use YouTube

YouTube has become my best friend when it comes to learning Korean. There are so many videos on there about learning Korean. A quick search and you will find a channel that you like. I found an excellent channel called “Korean Unnie ”. I’ve learned so much from Korean Unnie in the last six months. Most of her videos are less than fifteen minutes long and that fits perfectly into my learning schedule.

And the great thing about using YouTube is you can always go back and re-watch the video and save the ones you found useful in your own private playlist. Perfect for those times when you are lost for something to do. You can just open up your playlist and begin at the top and go through your collection and reinforce your learning experience.

8. Use Your Technology

I have a note in Evernote I call “Useful Phrases” and I am adding to it every day. Of course, it helps to live in the country of your target language, but you can still create a note in whatever notes app you use. When you have a phrase you want to know how to say in your target language, you can add it there and then when you have time research it and find out. You can also use this list for your Twitter questions too.

Make sure your notes app is with you everywhere you go, on your phone, accessible on your computer on any other device you might use. That way it will be very easy to add phrases and vocabulary to your list at any time.

The Bottom Line

Learning a language used to be hard. You had to find the right textbooks with the right CDs or tapes. Today, it can be very easy. If you have an Internet connection, you have all the resources you need to become fluent in your target language very quickly.

But, language learning still needs you to adopt the principles of P.A.C.T (patience, action, consistency and time). You need to be patient, take action consistently every day over a period of time. With time and a purpose, you will quickly learn your new language and begin making new friends, discovering a new culture and add a new skill to your repertoire. Good luck!

More About Language Learning

Featured photo credit: Dmitri Popov via unsplash.com

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Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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