Have you been wanting to learn a new language, but it seems too hard, too expensive, or too time-consuming? Have you tried and failed to learn a new language in the past? It takes a lot of work, dedication, and time to master a foreign language, but the rewards are worth the struggle. For many people, learning a new language opens up a new world of travel, work, and culture they didn’t have access to before. For example, those who have learned a new language are often more eager to travel internationally than those who haven’t. Learning another language fluently can also open up new career opportunities, such as tutoring, translating for elearning translation services, or teaching your native language in another country. And while it is true that language learning is hard and requires dedication, it may not be as difficult or take as long as you think. Here are some ways to make learning a new language faster, easier, and more fun:
Schedule Your Learning
Make a daily study schedule and stick to it. Try to link your learning time with something you already do, and the habit will come easier. For example, if you spend time on your phone before you go to sleep or on your lunch break, try using a language learning app instead of scrolling on social media. If you read on your commute, use that time to study your language-learning books. Once you have scheduled your learning time in a way that fits into your daily life, try to be consistent.
Learn the Basics
Learn the most common words and phrases first. Learning common phrases and conversations is the fastest way to begin speaking the language, and it makes more sense to learn phrases that you will actually use. Once you have learned a few phrases, sentences, and words, it will be easier to start adding more varied vocabulary and grammar.
Set specific language learning goals and track your progress. For example, if you are working through a textbook or online program, set time frames for when you would like to finish each section. Some language learners reward themselves with a trip to a nation that speaks their new language once they have reached fluency. Having a vacation scheduled in Mexico or Spain is a good incentive to keep working hard on your Spanish learning!
Use Your New Knowledge
Find a language exchange partner or conversation partner to practice speaking with. Once you have a few phrases and words under your belt the best way to learn to speak them correctly (and also learn new phrases and sentences) is by having actual conversations with someone who speaks that language. Many new language learners find new friends online who are learning their native language, and they both benefit from the interaction.
Hire a Professional
Consider taking a class or hiring a tutor for structured lessons. The step-by-step structured lessons from professional teachers, often people who are native speakers of your target language, can be the best way to learn a lot in a short period of time. After your class is over, it can be much easier to continue learning because you have a good foundational understanding.
Try Immersion Learning
Immerse yourself by listening to music, watching movies, and reading books in the target language. This can be helpful at any level of learning, but it’s especially useful once you have a basic level of understanding. Listening to the language in a variety of ways will help you pick up new vocabulary, but it will be even more helpful in another way. Immersion learning allows you to get used to the sounds and rhythms of the language, and as you listen you will start to pick up more and more of what you already know. Learning to understand native speakers can often be much harder than listening to your apps, audio programs, or language teacher, and this is one way to bridge that gap.
Find Free Resources
Take advantage of free resources such as apps, online programs, websites, e-books, videos, and worksheets. The more things you add to your language-learning repertoire, the faster and more reliable your learning will be. If one of your methods has a downfall, such as being weak in grammar or not having enough practice, your other methods will likely fill in the gap. Plus, you are less likely to get burnt out when you are learning using more than one method.
Try Memory Techniques
At some point in your language-learning journey, you will need to practice memorizing a lot of new vocabulary. Some languages have complicated structures, verb conjugations, and other grammatical features that can be hard for non-native speakers to memorize. And every language requires learning thousands and thousands of words in order to reach fluency. Using these words in sentences is useful, but sometimes you just have to memorize them. Use mnemonics or memory techniques to help you remember new words and phrases. Spaced repetition software can help you review and reinforce new words and phrases in a way that has been proven to help with long-term memory. Using flashcards or apps can also be a good way to practice vocabulary and grammar. Anything that can help you memorize these things faster and easier will be a benefit.
Make it Fun
Learning a language is a long, difficult, and often boring task. Anything you can do to make it more fun and interesting will help you stick with it for the long haul. Consider using language-learning games and quizzes to make the process more fun and engaging. Apps and online games can help reinforce your learning in a stress-free and more fun way.
Once you are at a beginner or intermediate level in your new language, start using subtitles to practice hearing your language from native speakers. Watch the news or TV shows in the target language with subtitles to help you get immersed in the grammar, inflections, pronunciation, and phrases of the language. You will also learn more about the cultures of native speakers and pick up new words as well.
Study the Culture
Learning about the culture of those who speak your language is an important part of any language-learning effort. This is especially true if you want to travel to the areas where your new language is spoken, but it is also true for all language learners. Have fun and find something you enjoy while learning, like cooking a traditional dish. Learning about the culture is also a way to show respect and learn more about the people who speak your target language. Remember, communication goes far beyond words.
Practicing pronunciation is a big part of learning to speak fluently. You won’t ever feel comfortable speaking in your target language if you don’t feel comfortable with the sounds and inflections of the language. Practice is key to fluency, so from the very beginning of your language-learning journey, you should practice speaking aloud, even if you are by yourself.
Listening is also an important part of advancing your skills. Language learning programs rarely speak as rapidly or use as complex of sentences as native speakers. Practice listening and comprehension skills by listening to podcasts or radio shows in the target language. Once you are at an intermediate level, you can start listening to things that stretch your skills, like simple audiobooks and podcasts designed for language learners.
Move Beyond Translation
One key to fluency is the ability to think in your new language. When you are learning, try to start thinking in the target language rather than translating from your native language. If you have to pause and mentally translate each word into your native language before you understand it, you aren’t really speaking or listening well.
Stick with It
Finally, be patient with yourself and don’t get discouraged. Stick with your learning even when it seems like you won’t reach your goals or that the language is too hard. All progress is good progress, and it is often the first part of learning the language that is the hardest. Once you understand the basics of grammar and basic phrases you will be able to move more quickly, adding vocabulary and more complex grammatical understanding. Learning a language is a commendable and difficult thing to do, and those who stick with it will be glad they did.