And if you’re thinking of traveling or studying abroad, learning a new language is imperative. Speaking a foreign language fluently takes a lot of hard work and practice. Even if you study every day, it can take years to master some languages. Meanwhile, you start to get frustrated at your lack of progress and you want to give up. How to Learn a New Language below would give you easy tips to improve.
How to Learn a New Language
1. Set language-learning goals
The first step to learning a new language fast is to set goals for what you want to achieve. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. If you don’t set goals, how can you know what you want to achieve and measure whether you have achieved them?
When faced with the idea of learning a new language, most of us feel overwhelmed. There are so many words to learn and so many different ways to study. Setting goals narrows your focus so you can stop worrying about the details and get down to business.
2. Do not worry about making mistakes
One of the most common barriers to conversing in a new language is the fear of making mistakes. But native speakers are like doting parents: any attempt from you to communicate in their language is objective proof that you are a gifted genius. They’ll appreciate your effort and even help you. Nervous about holding a conversation with a peer? Try testing your language skills with someone a little younger. “I was stoked when I was chatting with an Italian toddler and realized we had the same level of Italian,” recalls German translator Judith Matz. And be patient. The more you speak, the closer you’ll get to the elusive ideal of “native-like fluency.” And to talking to people your own age.
3. Playhouse with the language
The more you invite a foreign language into your daily life, the more your brain will consider it something useful and worth caring about. “Use every opportunity to get exposed to the new language,” says Russian translator Olga Dmitrochenkova. Label every object in your house in this language, read kids’ books written in it, watch subtitled TED and TEDx talks, or live-narrate parts of your day to an imaginary foreign friend.
4. Start using the language all day, every day
As a beginner, it can seem overwhelming to try to use the language all day, but it’s not as difficult as it seems. There are many easy and even fun ways to make the language a part of your regular life.
First, make use of every moment you have to learn new words. Take flashcards with you, and study them during your train or bus commute (but not while driving, please!) or when you’re waiting to meet a friend. When you start to feel tired, switch from active learning to passive learning by doing what you would normally do in your native language in your target language. Try watching a video or TV show, or streaming radio broadcasts in your target language.
5. Test yourself
Knowing that you plan to take a test is a great way to motivate yourself to learn faster.
Try to regularly test yourself in little ways. If you’re learning from a textbook, take practice tests or complete the exercises at the end of each chapter. You can also play online games or take online tests. Online practice tests can be found in almost any language, including French, Spanish, Japanese, and German.
Planning to take a standardized test several months to a year after you begin learning a new language can also keep you motivated, and having the results can help you “prove” your language level to potential employers, schools, or even just yourself. The ACTFL OPI test is popular in many language-learning circles and widely respected. It tests oral proficiency and provides a score that ranks your level anywhere from “Novice Low” to “Superior.” Some languages also have a standardized test specific to that language, such as the JLPT for Japanese or the HSK for Chinese. Ask teachers or professionals who know the language what tests they recommend.
6. Have a Word of the Day
Trying to learn everything at once and getting overwhelmed by the sheer number of words in your new language can be overwhelming. Sometimes, even if you do learn new words, you forget them quickly because you haven’t heard them enough in context.
One way to get around this problem is to keep a few new words in your vocabulary by using them on a daily basis. Since it takes an adult an average of 150 times to learn to use a new word properly, having a Word of the Day or several words can help build your vocabulary.
Finally, make friends who speak your target language or are interested in learning it. Languages aren’t meant to be learned in a vacuum! Real-life social events and conversations are what make language learning fun and worthwhile. Make a point of talking to people and learning more about their lives and cultures. You might be surprised at how excited they are to share information with you, and how quickly you make lasting friendships in How to Learn a New Language tips above.