Learning a new language in beneficial whether you’re traveling or you want to live abroad. It enables you to speak to and understand people from different countries. At the same time, it can provide you with the opportunity to explore diverse cultures and meet new people.
However, it can be a frustrating process for some people. These tips can help you to turn learning a new language into cool and successful experience.
1. Love what you do
Like most things in life, you have to love what you do or it becomes a chore. Activities that you are passionate about seem effortless and you tend to enjoy them more. This applies to learning new languages, too.
The process of learning a new language becomes easier if you either love learning languages in general or you are eager to learn a particular language.
I had a friend who fell in love with a French guy and wanted to learn French. That was certainly motivating for her to improve quickly. Similarly, some of my friends started to learn Spanish because they adored Spanish food and music.
For me, I love learning languages; in general, it is my hobby. Find your motivation and a positive association with your chosen language—whether it is a destination, culture, food or love—and you will be off to a good start!
2. Play like a kid
You’ve probably heard many times that kids are like sponges, and they can pick up languages quickly. That is true to some extent. Imagine that you are two-years-old, still figuring out how the world works and all of sudden you have to grasp a couple of languages.
The difference is that kids don’t seem to stress much about it; they are not afraid of the unknown and they play a lot.
When learning a new language, play with it. Think of it as it like a new interesting game. Write in different colors, make flashcards with words, put up boards with different pictures, place post-its on your fridge, etc.
Also, play with your pronunciation. Pronounce letters, shout words, over and over. Sing them louder and louder! Don’t be afraid to express yourself however you can. Also, use your body.
3. Dedicate time every day
Learning a new language requires dedication and consistency. Whether taking a language course or learning a language by yourself, you have to commit to learning—ideally every day.
If you only study from time-to-time, you can’t expect much progress. The best way is to do it every day and to include learning in your daily routine! That way you will create neuropaths for that language in your brain, which will make the knowledge stick!
For a start, try dedicating 15 minutes every day. Look at it this way: 15 minutes x 30 days = 7.5 hours per month x 12 = 90 hours of unforced time for learning a new language.
Read, write, listen and talk for 15 minutes every day, whether drinking your morning coffee or reading and writing for 15 minutes before you go to sleep or listening to a language lesson on the way to work. Imagine what you could achieve with 30 minutes or just an hour per day!
With dedicated time every day, you create a habit of learning a language, and will be able to progress constantly. Also, repeating words every day helps you to memorize them better and learn more easily.
If you don’t believe me, take it from the Romans, who said “Repetitio est mater studiorum!” (Repetition is the mother of learning!)
4. Engage yourself
In order to learn a new language, you have to immerse yourself in it—or, as I read somewhere, soak your brain in the new language.
I have a lot of friends who have been learning French or Russian at school for eight years, yet can’t even say a full sentence. Similarly, a lot of expats spend many years living abroad without learning how to speak the language of their host country.
The thing is that just listening to a language or being in a foreign country won’t do the trick. You have to engage consciously in with the language.
I noticed a difference myself when I moved to the Netherlands. For the first six months, I didn’t put any effort into learning Dutch. I just heard the language on the street, and it sounded so odd. I couldn’t understand it, and I would automatically switch to English.
However, when I decided to start learning Dutch, I began to notice signs on the street, and made an effort to read and pronounce the words.
I was interested to find out what the words meant. Moreover, I was paying attention to other people’s conversations on the tram to figure out what they were saying.
Similarly, when I watched a movie in English with Dutch subtitles, I paid more attention to the subtitles, and tried to associate them with what was said in English.
Later, I tried speaking Dutch as much as I could when shopping or in a café. That way, I was really able to see much more progress in just a month, compared to the previous six months when I hadn’t immersed myself in learning.
5. Explore the culture
Exploring the culture of a country or countries where a language you are learning is spoken makes the whole process much more interesting and helps you to improve more quickly.
There are a lot of people all over the world who are very good in English. The reason can be found in the popularity of American culture.
A lot of us listen to American music and watch popular films, sitcoms, talk shows, news, etc. The good thing about exploring culture is that at the same time you can enjoy your own interests while learning a language.
6. Take it easy
Learning a new language is a process that takes time. We tend to learn and enrich even our mother tongues over time. Rome was not built in a day; therefore, you can’t become instantly fluent.
So, take it one step at the time. When starting to learn new language, we begin with basics, such as how to introduce ourselves, and say a couple sentences about who we are and what do we do.
Then, we learn how to engage in a conversation at a café, when traveling and continue to build up on that. If you want to learn everything at once, it will create confusion in your mind.
Also, relax when learning. You don’t have to understand everything at once. Some people tend to be mathematical and too logical when learning a new language.
They try to chop up everything into pieces, seeking detailed explanations and rationale behind it. Every language is unique and follows a different logic, so try to accept it as such without analyzing too much.
7. Have fun
The most important thing is to have fun while learning a new language. If you don’t make it an enjoyable experience, you won’t be successful. However, there are so many ways to enjoy this journey.
If you like reading books, try reading easier books in a language that you are learning. Also, sometimes it is entertaining to use different resources as various apps and websites.
There are so many of these nowadays, such as Duolingo and Babbel. Watching movies, videos, listening to music and reading newspapers is fun, and helps a lot in learning.
There are many ways to learn to speak multiple languages. The key is to find what works for you and to be consistent in your practice.
Exploring new cultures and meeting people who speak the target language helps to make the process more engaging and meaningful as well as more fun. And, who knows what opportunities the new languages will open up for you!
How do you learn a new language? What helps you the most? How do you make it a fun experience?