No one likes the traditional form of studying, face down in a textbook taking notes. At least very few of us do. So if you’re interested in learning a new language, but don’t want to do it through the most mind-numbing form of learning, then you should definitely try these 7 habits that can help you learn a language on auto-pilot.
The first step to learning a language is, of course, picking one to learn. If you’ve already chosen, skip straight on to the habits. If you haven’t decided yet, here are a few things to ask yourself: Is there a language you have always wanted to learn? If several(or none), which language would be more beneficial to know given your current location and life plans? If several again, go with your gut feeling, or check out this post for further guidance.
Watching TV shows/Movies In Target Language With Subtitles
Pretty straight forward. The only thing I would add is that this isn’t going to have much of an impact if you watch one TV show, or one movie every now and then. Commitment makes all the difference here. If you manage to substitute at least half the time you spend watching normal TV, then you’ll see some drastic results over time. You can also, of course, watch shows with target language as subtitles, but then you don’t hear the correct pronunciation.
Sometimes access can be an issue. But you could, for example, sign up to a site like Netflix through a Spanish proxy, or sign up when you’re on vacation in Spain to enable yourself to watch shows in Spanish without having to go out of your way to buy box sets online.
Intentionally Hanging Out With People Who Speak Target Language
This might sound selfish and self-serving, but it really doesn’t have to be. In many cases, people will be happy to speak it with you, either because they rarely get the opportunity themselves, or they simply like that someone is trying to learn their language and want to help. If you don’t know anyone who speak the language you want to learn, you should try going to international events, or events specifically for people who are from/interested in the country/language you want to learn. Don’t be afraid to take initiative and arrange events and get-togethers.
Journal Or Blog In Target Language
Using a service like lang-8, you can write random things and get what you write corrected by native speakers. So not only are you getting practice and memorizing vocabulary and grammar by actively using them, you get corrected when you make mistakes. Sounds almost too good to be true right? Well it isn’t. And if you’re too self conscious to share right away, you can always start off writing for yourself, and then start sharing on platforms to be corrected later on.
Change Operating Languages To Target Language
Many of us are so used to the interfaces on our computers and phones that we intuitively know where everything is, even if we can’t completely understand the language. So changing to your target language, is likely not going to affect your ability to use the device, even if you don’t know it very well yet. This forces you to interact with the target language many times on a daily basis, and will help by installing basic vocabulary so you don’t ever forget it.
Play Games In Target Language
There’s two approaches to this. If you play one or more online games, you can go all out and play with people who speak the target language. That way you’re forcing yourself use it to interact with other people on a regular basis. If you only play games offline, you can stick to changing the language where possible. Sometimes that means re-installing one of your favorite games. Even in offline games, a lot of dialogue comes up, and as such can be a great source for remembering basic grammar and vocabulary. Particularly because it is a leisure activity and very easy to motivate oneself to keep doing for long periods of time.
Study Vocabulary Using Pockets Of Time
There’s a lot of downtime during any given day. If you’re stuck waiting for the bus, or on the train, or sitting constipated on the toilet, waiting and praying for something to happen… take out your phone and study some vocabulary. There are decent free apps for almost any language, but you want to focus on ones that make it very practical to study one piece of vocabulary at a time. If you don’t have a smartphone, you could always make your own flash cards. It takes a bit more effort, but because it requires more active involvement, it is probably better for the actual learning. My personal favorite for Japanese is the Obenkyo app for Android.
Advanced: Read Books In Target Language
Again, pretty straight forward. And again the key is commitment. If you read a book every 7 months, not much will change. But if you start reading books in your target language on a regular basis, you will see your skills soar higher than you had imagined possible.
Advanced: Think In Target Language
If you don’t have enough opportunities to do actual conversation, this can be a way to test your grammar skills and notice any huge gaps in your vocabulary. Try to think about things that would come up in normal conversation at first, and then move on to more complicated matters as you get better. Talking out loud to yourself is optional here, but again, it is good training if you find yourself lacking opportunities to speak to someone in the target language.
Alone these habits won’t make that much of a difference. (Except the hanging out with people who speak your target language part. That can really make all the difference. I’ve seen it transform people who could barely speak one phrase, into semi-fluent in a matter of weeks.) But regardless, you will see the best and fastest results if you manage to implement multiple of these habits into your daily routine. Start with 1 or 2 and work your way up. Pretty soon you’ll be learning a language at a rapid pace and it won’t feel like you’re even trying that hard.