The best way to learn a new language is through a few-step process. While you won’t be fluent in a second or third language overnight, these tips and tricks will get you on the path to communicating seamlessly in no time.
Best Way to Learn a New Language Tip #1: Start Small
When it comes to learning a new language, it’s important to be super gentle with yourself. Don’t try to learn a bunch of new vocabulary all at once; that’s just a recipe for disaster.
Instead, start small. Some of the best ways to learn a new language when you’re just beginning include the following.
Pick 10 of the most commonly used words in your desired language, and learn those. You can easily find lists of the most common words and phrases in any given language (most of these lists are around 100-words long).
One word that’s easy to start with is hello. Find out how to say hello in other languages.
Once you’ve mastered 10 words (when you could recite them in your sleep), move on to the next 10 — but don’t forget to keep the original 10 words in your memorization rotation. You don’t want to suddenly find that you can’t remember them in a few months.
Learn Verbs Last
Conjugating verbs is one of the most difficult aspects of learning a new language. Not only do you need to learn (and memorize) the word itself, but you’ll need to remember how to conjugate the words based on the subject and whether the verb is happening in the past, present or future.
If you really want to learn verbs, learn the infinitive of the verb first.
Once you’ve learned a few words, you can start learning a few phrases. Sometimes It’s not a bad idea to memorize phrases as you’re learning words; you’ll inevitably start learning sentence structure just based on the placement of various words.
Learning a Language Tip #2: Don’t Assume You Can Use a Direct Translation
You can’t translate languages word for word. Breaking down a sentence in English into separate words won’t allow you to translate the sentence into any other language.
For example, the phrase, ‘Give it to me,’ translated into Spanish is, ‘dámelo.’ The direct translation would be, ‘Das eso a mi.’
People will look at you like you’re a little loco if you translate a sentence word for word.
Learning a Language Tip #3: Download a Language Translation App
The fastest way to look up new words is to use a language translation app. myLanguage’s free app allows you to type a word into the app — or, the paid version lets you speak a word or phrase into your phone’s microphone and hear the translation.
Check out our definitive list for the best apps for last-minute travel for more helpful apps.
Learning a Language Tip #4: Pronunciation Matters
Americans are used to getting a little laissez faire with pronunciation. It’s probably because we hear so many different accents in the U.S.!
In parts of Massachusetts, it’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “Pah-k the cah at Hah-vahd Yahd.”
In most other languages, pronunciation is more important. Mispronouncing a word can get you in trouble — or even change the meaning of the word entirely.
Learning a Language Tip #5: Read Kids Books
One of the most entertaining ways to learn a new language is to read kids’ books — especially ones you loved as a kid yourself.
Start small. “The Little Prince,” “Winnie the Pooh” or “Where the Wild Things Are” are great starting points.
Once you’ve got a better handle on your new language, move up to chapter books, like “Harry Potter.” The Potter books were written to ‘grow’ with their readers, so they’ll get more difficult as you move on from book to book.
Learning a Language Tip #6: Watch Your Favorite Shows/Movies
If you want to improve your listening and comprehension skills, watch some of your favorite TV shows and movies in another language.
Choose a movie you’ve seen hundreds of times — and watch it in Spanish. You’ll probably know what’s going on plot-wise, and you’ll learn how to say the dialogue in Spanish.
Learning a Language Tip #7: Take a Staycation
If you can’t afford a plane ticket to Prague, head over to the Czech neighborhood in your city or town. Can’t go to Spain? Head over to Spanish Harlem.
Even if your city or town doesn’t have a cultural neighborhood where residents speak the language you’re learning, you can still eat out at a Mexican or French restaurant. Or, travel to a major city near you. It’s still cheaper than a plane ticket to Europe.
Learning a Language Tip #9: Take Your Time
Rome wasn’t built in a day. The best way to eat an elephant is one spoonful at a time. Slow and steady wins the race.
There’s a reason there are so many cliches when it comes to taking your time. It’s because they’re true. The good news is that if you do take your time, you can create a lifelong love affair with your new language.
Learning a Language Tip #10: Practice, Practice, Practice
Just like learning a new instrument, you can’t expect to learn a new language if you don’t practice. To retain the information you learn, you need to create an action plan to remember it.
The more you do something, the easier it gets. Listen to radio programs, podcasts and songs. The language will sink in — as long as you keep trying to learn it.
Need more tips for learning a new language? We’ve got you covered.