It’s a new year, which means that it’s time to set new goals.
Here’s one you might have been tossing around: learn a new language. What could be a better goal? And hey—it’ll make traveling all that better! Learning a language happens to be just a little difficult. Here are eight tips to help you stick with the goal, and to help you learn the language in no time at all!
Make it Your New Part-Time Job
When you’re learning a new language, constant and consistent practice is key. Make a schedule, and stick to it, no matter what! Once a week is not enough. The more frequently you’re able to practice, the more it’ll stick in your mind. Practice makes perfect!
Start With an Online Course
There are a ton of great options for online language courses—your library might even be able to offer some for free! An online course is a good place to start because it allows you to progress at your own pace. When you’re just starting out, things can feel like they are moving very, very quickly. So if there’s a chapter you didn’t quite get, you can review it again—and again and again—unlike a regular class. Online courses are a great way to grasp the basics. Once you’ve become comfortable with the elementary material, you can move on to classes or one-on-one tutoring sessions (whether official or not!).
Schedule Some In-Person Time
Once you have a handle on the basics, find somebody who speaks that language fluently (or at least at a more advanced level than you) and practice, practice, practice.
Decode the Patterns
We often think of learning a language as memorizing a series of words, but the best way to be able to communicate in a language is to understand how that language is built, so to speak. Grammar might not be the most exciting part of learning a lesson, but understanding rules and patterns will help you advance much faster, and will ultimately make you a better communicator.
Okay, mastering any language might be a little ambitious, but do pay attention to the proper pronunciations of letters and words. It might be easier to read the words as though they were written in English, but every language has their own pronunciation intricacies and you’ll need to learn them if you really want to become a language whiz.
Remember, different languages use different parts of the mouth. English tends to use the back of the mouth a lot, towards the throat, while French tends to use the front of the mouth a lot, including the lips. You’ll probably feel silly doing it, but practice using different parts of your mouth to mimic sounds.
It might not be possible to spend a summer in Paris if you’re learning French, but there are other ways to stay immersed! Find a French radio station online, and listen to it all the time. Take some time to discover music in the language, and make a playlist of the songs–even if you don’t understand what they’re saying, you’ll pick up on the rhythms and patterns that are used. Check out foreign films in your language of choice. You get the idea.
It’s also worth doing a search to see if there are any communities in your town or city that speak the language you’re looking to get into. They might offer plays, clubs or other events that will get you in front of the language. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on media to teach you a language entirely—don’t forget to supplement your language intake with opportunities to practice speaking.
It’s Okay to Make a Mistake
No matter how much you practice and how many hours you put in, mistakes remain inevitable. They’ll be funny, they’ll be confusing, they’ll be awkward—and you’ll move forward from them all.
Most people are pretty impressed when you put the effort towards learning a language—they won’t be judging you on your errors! The biggest obstacle is your ego–get over it and get on with it!
Set a Goal
Every step of learning a language will have its challenges. The most important thing is to keep it up. Easier said than done—so why not set yourself a goal? It could be reading a particular book by a certain date (and understanding it!), or being able to attend a dinner party in the new language, or even booking yourself a holiday abroad, during which you’ll only allow yourself to speak the new language!
Whatever language tickles your fancy, find your motivation and persevere!