Learning a new language can be one of the most rewarding learning experiences, not to mention all the tangible benefits it brings – new friends, new opportunities and new, more profound travel experiences. But I know it’s not easy, especially at the beginning, so here’s my list of tips to get you on your way to navigating a whole new set of words and sounds!
- Duolingo I’m sure many of you will have heard of this brilliant website/app for language learners. It’s fun, interactive, super user friendly and intuitive and it gives you great grammar basics. Daily reminders and little progress rewards help you stay on track and keep practicing. You can choose from 22 different languages including the main ones like Spanish, French or German as well as the more unique ones like Hebrew, Esperanto or Welsh! Start here.
- Audio lessons Grammar books will only take you so far, you need to hear the language to absorb it best. That’s why audio lessons and podcasts are a great way to learn. My favourite has to be Michel Thomas with his own slightly awkward but super effective method! All you need to do is sit back, relax and listen to the lessons he leads. No memorising, no note taking. It’s brilliant! Find out about his technique and choose your language here.
- Plaster your house in post-its One of the best ways to learn vocab! Stick post-it notes on every single item in your house with the translation of the object in the target language and you’ll see how quickly you memorise the words as you walk past them and pick up the labeled items day in day out. This also works well with phrases – just make sure you stick them in a place you see every day.
- Watch films/videos in the target language Not only a great way to discover foreign cinema and culture but also a super effective way to start picking up a new language. The visuals in the scenes help add so much more context, making it easier to figure out what is being said. Start off with English subtitles and once you get more comfortable, see how much you can understand without them. It’s even useful to watch the same film/video a couple of times to really start getting it.
- Read as much as you can Be it a magazine, a Christmas card, an ad or a novel in your target language, read read read! At first it will be a little frustrating having to translate every other word on the page but if you commit to a short story (children’s books work really well actually!), you’ll see that halfway through you’re starting to understand the story line from the context, without necessarily knowing the exact translation for every word.
- Connect with native speakers
The most common and easiest way to surround yourself with native speakers of the language you’re learning is to obviously travel to the country. If you have the chance, put yourself out of your comfort zone and enter into a group that don’t speak any English (or your native language) – you’ll be forced to learn fast. The general rule is avoid speaking any English whatsoever when you’re abroad. It’s always worth trying and the locals appreciate the effort.
Traveling an immersing yourself in a foreign language organically may not be an option for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with natives. Maybe you go to an international university? You’re bound to find friends who speak the language you want to learn. Many universities (or other local organisations) offer language cafes and conversation clubs. If all that fails, the Internet is your saviour! Nowadays it’s so easy to find someone from the other side of the world to help you practice their native language online, or just to clarify some more ambiguous grammar points. Some language exchange sites worth checking out include SharedLingo, WeSpeke, Speaky and HiNative.
And finally the most important tip:
- Start today!
Now. Right NOW. I mean it. If you’ve been wanting to learn another language for a while now but never seem to get round to it, there’s no better time than now! You have no more excuses to put it off any longer so I dare you to download Duolingo right now (or if you have it already, get back on it!) and get learning. Good luck! 🙂