It’s no secret that learning a language is difficult. In years of teaching, I’ve heard all kinds of reasons not to continue with language studies: it’s time consuming, it’s expensive, I’m too old, everyone speaks English, I just can’t. While it’s true that learning another language is a lifelong process that creates various frustrations along the way, it’s also incredibly rewarding and can make your travel more enjoyable.
6 TIPS FOR LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE
1.You don’t need perfect grammar
For most purposes, knowing how to use the present tense well will get you through whatever you need to express. How many times have you spoken to a non-native English speaker who said something like, “Yesterday I go to the store”? The grammar isn’t perfect, but the message isn’t distorted by that.
2. Focus on building vocabulary
More than phrases, more than verb tenses, more than fancy sentence structure, knowing vocabulary will help you understand and be understood. The good news is vocabulary is the cheapest thing to learn—build your own lists using a site like wordreference.com and study in a way that works for you. I find that writing words over and over and creating quizzes for myself is the best way to make them stick.
3. Have some accountability
Join a class, get a tutor, have a friend and make scheduled, routine meetings, find a meetup, set calendar alerts—do what you have to do to keep yourself on a schedule that will encourage you to study a little every day.
4. See, say, hear
Expose yourself to your language of choice often. When studying alone, say every word you are studying aloud. Watch television (even for just a few minutes) in your target language. Read books (children’s or young adult are great places to start) in your target language, and read them aloud to yourself. Set your internet radio station to a song originally in your target language, and learn to sing along by looking up the lyrics to the songs you like. The more you see, say, and hear the words, the longer they stick.
5. Go abroad
If you can, find a time that you can go visit a country that speaks your target language. There’s no better way to learn than immersion, and no better kick in the rear to keep you excited than pre-trip, trip, and post-trip energy!
5. Don’t be afraid to look silly
Reality check—not having total control of a language will make you feel silly (and maybe even look it) from time to time. But that shouldn’t be a reason not to do it. Every time you say something weird, don’t know how to say what you want, have to play charades with a shopkeeper, or someone corrects you, you learn something new. Shake off the bad feelings and go with the good ones. It’s worth it.
6. Remember that you can do it
I didn’t start focusing on language studies until college. I was 20 when I really got to a point where I felt I could say, “I speak Spanish,” and my language has continued to improve from there. My mother was in her 60s when she reached this point, and didn’t begin studying until her late fifties. Language study takes dedication, but doing a little a day with the right structure is all you need to make significant progress. Finding the right online, classroom, or tutoring environment can give you the support you need at any budget to keep your studies and wallet in check. Not everyone speak English (despite the rumors), and anyone can learn another language (despite what he/she may think)!
What are your experiences of trying to learn a new language?