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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!

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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 August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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