LEARN SOMETHING NEW
How many languages do you speak? Learning a new language is one of those things that is always on my bucket list. It probably seems too challenging but it’s really not,
Learning a new language is one of those things many of us fantasize about, but never follow through with. You may have always loved the sound of a certain dialect, or simply wanted another skill under your belt. Whatever the reason, learning another language can be very rewarding, but is often extremely tough. There are all kinds of mistakes people make when self-teaching, which can slow their progress or even set them back. This doesn’t mean that self-teaching is completely impossible though! Here, I’ve compiled all the advice I can offer on learning a new language. I hope it gets you that little bit closer to fluency!
Possibly the best piece of advice I can offer is to keep having conversations. If you go looking for guides like this regularly, then you may have seen a number of miracle methods or “hacks” for learning a language. I’m afraid that for the most part, these methods are completely worthless. However, if there is one hack, it’s talking to people who are better at the language than you. Like with a lot of skills, you’ll make a lot more progress doing than reading about doing.
There are a number of reasons as to why conversation with a more experienced speaker will be beneficial for you learning your language. First of all, the experience is a lot more engaging than the alternatives. You could have the coolest, most sophisticated language studying program there is. However, I bet the experience won’t stick with you nearly as much as a conversation will. You may even find yourself performing better than usual from wanting to impress a native speaker! Secondly, processing the language is going to be a lot more beneficial to you than simply reading it. By the end of it all, I’m sure you want to hold a conversation with another speaker, and not simply be a walking dictionary. When you’re applying what you’ve learned, and being made to remember new words and phrases, it’s much easier for the mind to retain it. One final advantage is that your speaking partner will be able to correct errors in your grammar and pronunciation. That is, provided they’re not too polite!
Remember that intense study is almost always better than long study. It’s better for you to put in four hours every day for a week than an hour every day for a month. This is true for a lot of skills, but is particularly important when it comes to learning a new language. You were probably taught another language when you were at school. Seen as you’re reading this post in English, I’ll assume you didn’t retain much of it at all! Part of the reason is your sessions being broken up by a days at a time, when you were learning more important skills. If you’re serious about learning a language quickly, then you can’t afford such lengthy gaps. You need to maintain a pretty tight schedule of research and repetition, so don’t let yourself off lightly! In my opinion, it’s much better to push yourself for a few weeks than to do a half-hearted job of learning the language over the course of several months.
My next piece of advice is to start learning with the 100 most common words in your chosen language. A big part of your learning is going to be working on your vocabulary. When you do this as efficiently as possible, you’ll get a much better return. Choosing your vocab wisely is especially important if you’re planning to live in the relevant country for a while. There are a lot of phrasebooks and programs out there which teach you vocab in an incredibly disorganized way. If you spend all your time learning the names of household items, and have to ask a stranger where the train station is, you’re going to be lost, literally! When you start doing vocab, make sure to start with the most common of words. Once you have enough of these down, start habitually forming sentences with them however you can. You may even pick up a few common phrases yourself listening to natives’ conversations.
Getting a dictionary app on your phone can also be a big help with learning your language. There are loads of these available now, and it shouldn’t take you long to find a good one. As you learn your language, regardless of the country you’re in, you’ll naturally begin to immerse yourself in it. Inevitably, you’ll come across certain words and phrases that are completely alien to you. When this happens, you should get into the habit of reaching for your phone. In the same way that conversations help you retain new words and phrases, the action of looking up new words will cement it firmly in your memory. This is a fairly new resource, and is extremely handy to have in the middle of a conversation.
It will be a big help if you can get into the habit of practising all the time. When I say all the time, I mean all the time! Any time when you have a few seconds spare, go through as many words and phrases as you can in your head. If you ever get stuck on the precise meaning of something, reach for that dictionary app! One fun little challenge is to think in the language you’re learning, rather than your usual native monologue. Fake conversations are another good thing to go through when you’ve got a moment. When you start to do this enough, it will become a habit, and you’ll begin to progress even faster. Just keep that word “practice” on your mind as much as you possibly can, because it’s pretty damn essential! Sure, there are a lot of diets and brain pills that might help you out. However, you’re not going to become fluent in your chosen language with no practice whatsoever.
Learning the right pronunciation patterns early in the process is a very good idea. You’re probably going to have a noticeable accent, no matter what. However, putting some effort into the pronunciation will ensure you’re a little more understandable. If you make too much headway using the wrong pronunciation, you might get stuck in some bad habits. This is where learning a language becomes something of a dry science, but it’s still an important part of the overall process. Picking up certain patterns which span a number of languages can be really helpful. For example, any language descended from Latin (pretty much every European language) will have certain common threads. Any word with the suffix “tion” in English is likely to have the suffix “ción” in Spanish. In Russian and many other Slavic languages, case endings will always rhyme with each other. It may not be as fun as conversing with a native speaker, true. However, doing a little research into the technical side of your language and its relations can go a long way.
After a while, you will have learned a fairly wide vocabulary and become pretty competent at holding basic conversations. If you haven’t lost your taste for the language, then it may be time to find a private tutor. While group lessons can often be slow and ineffective, private lessons are something completely different. One-on-one tuition is one of the most efficient ways to learn a new language. You’ll remember how I talked about how good of a thing conversation is. Private sessions are just that, except with a speaking partner who teaches for a living! If you go to these regularly, you’ll surprise yourself at how fast you’re learning. Be warned though, quality private lessons aren’t cheap! There’s no point in splashing out on something like this if you’re not entirely into the whole learning process. Teach yourself for a while first before deciding on private tutoring.
My final tip is to get your brain to melt. I’m sure you’ve had times when you’ve been working at something intensely for so long, that eventually your brain ends up feeling like mush. This is exactly what I want you to be aiming for when you learn your language! This is the one sure-fire way of telling that you’ve put enough work into learning the language in question. When you really use all the time you have, and push your brain to its limits, that’s when you hit the “brain melting” stage. When you start off, you’ll probably feel this way within a couple of hours. However, as you learn more and more, it will take longer for your brain to liquidate. You’re aiming for the new language to come as fluently as you’re reading these words.
Well, I think that’s about it! I hope my advice is a big help to you in learning a new language. Once you’re fluent in a second language, it’s a great thing to have. The final piece of advice I’ll repeat is practice, practice, practice! I’m sure you can’t wait to surprise someone by bumping into a native and chatting to them fluently.