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10 Tips to Learn a New Language
Learning a new language is an engaging, valuable, and–dare I say it–cheap hobby. A lot of us have different reasons for wanting to become bilingual or multilingual. Maybe you prefer media from a different country, or want to move, or want a foreign job. You might even just be in love with the language itself! Whatever the reason, as great as learning a new language can be, it’s also very difficult. As someone who enjoys learning new languages, here are some tips that help make language learning easier for me.
Review, review, review.
Studies have shown that you have to be exposed to a word at least seventeen times before it sticks. Some people even recommend upwards of twenty-five times! But that doesn’t mean you can just read the word seventeen times and know it forever. Space those encounters out, and try to see the word in as many different contexts as possible.
Listen to native speakers.
You don’t need some fancy app or program to do this anymore; Youtube is definitely your friend. You can find vlogs with native speakers, songs, and even language learning videos for your target language. I would also recommend finding a subbed or unsubbed version of a movie in that language. Netflix has a large international selection, and most of the titles allow you to adjust the subtitles. When you listen, don’t get stressed out because you don’t understand all of the words. Just relax and listen to language, and try to pick up any words that you do know. (If you want to listen to a specific video on the go, you can also download the audio off of most youtube videos.)
Listen to songs in your target language.
Going along with the previous point, songs make excellent practice. Since they tend to be repetitive in nature, they are a great way to pick up new vocabulary. Practicing a song can also help you with proper pronunciation. By hearing the words in a song and singing along, you’re more likely to pronounce them correctly.
Engage the culture of your target language.
This tip is actually a common recommendation among polyglots, or people who learn and know multiple languages. Don’t just stop at your target language, learn the culture of the people who speak it. Eat their food, read their history, and learn some of their customs. Music and other media also goes into this! I’ve already recommended songs and video, but when you watch or listen, don’t just pay attention to the words. Consider what the media reveals about the culture, and what situations certain phrases are used in. Culture is an inevitable part of language. You’re more likely to retain the language and to pronounce it better when you engage in the culture.
Try out different techniques.
Don’t just do flash cards, or a specific learning app. What happens most often with these, is that you pick up tricks to get through the lessons and quizzes successfully faster than you pick up the vocabulary. I’m not saying don’t use those things, because they are definitely helpful. Just don’t rely completely on one method. I use a variety of apps that have different specialties. Some are more directed at drilling vocab, while others may have helpful grammar content. You can also make your own quick reference sheets or commonly used words lists. You may already have a favorite app or technique, but that doesn’t have to be the only thing you use.
Make sure you attack from all angles!
Language involves reading, writing, listening, and speaking, so if you’re serious about learning, you can’t neglect any of those. No one says you have to try all of them at the same time, but it’s important to try to incorporate each regularly. And don’t feel like you have to master each of them at the same time either. You’ll probably pick up listening faster than speaking, and reading faster than writing. Don’t let that deter you! You’ll get the hang of all of them eventually.
Regularly. Consistency is key! Set aside a specific time everyday or every few days that you want to use to learn. You may end up using a lot more outside of that, or you may end up choosing a different time entirely, the point is to make a commitment. It reminds you that you should be studying regularly through the week. And ff you can keep up with consistent practice, you’ll be more likely to get your seventeen exposures to all those words.
Track your progress.
At some point, you’ll probably hit a wall in your learning. There will come a time when you feel like you don’t know anything despite all your work, or that you’re not picking up anything new. That’s when it’s good to have a record to look back on. If you work at it consistently and track your progress, you’ll see that you actually know a lot more than you think. This can be something as simple as recording how many new words you’ve mastered, or listing the grammar concepts you are working on. You can go as detailed or as simple as you want. A lot of apps also show how many lessons you’ve learned or points you’ve accumulated, so don’t forget to check those as well. Language learning is a long process no matter how you go about it; the important thing is to keep at it.
Remember why you’re passionate about it.
With any long term commitment, you can start to feel burnt out. If learning your target language starts to feel like more of a chore than a hobby, take a step back. Remember why you wanted to learn that language in the first place. If that doesn’t work, start a fun translation project related to another one of your passions, like fun baking or DIY videos. You can also translate some of your favorite media in your native language to your target language.
The thing that holds back a lot of people from learning a language is their own self-consciousness, especially when it comes to speaking, and even more so when you’re talking to a native speaker. Just remember that most of us wouldn’t laugh at someone for struggling with our native languages because we know how difficult they can be. Most native speakers of your target language feel the same way! Your grammar and pronunciation may not be perfect, but your effort won’t go unnoticed. The fact is, it’s going to take you a while to get the hang of it. Of course you’re going to sound ridiculous at first, but you’ll never master the language if you don’t try. Don’t let fear or embarrassment hold you back.
Tips for Self-Studying a New Language
Look, we all know that learning a language can get difficult. Consistent review in all areas of a language can help make it a little easier. However, there may still be times when you feel like you’re not making progress, or that a concept is just too different from your native language for you to understand. When that happens, you can take a step back for a moment, but don’t quit! Go back and review your vocab, or master the simple grammar concepts. Getting them right will set you up for success with those concepts that seem impossible. And always remember why you wanted to learn the language in the first place.
I hope you found these tips to learn a new language helpful. If you can keep your focus, this it’s an endeavor that can be a rewarding, fun experience!