Learning a new language seems like a daunting task — though it’s not, as long as you know what you’re doing. Luckily, we’ve been around the second-language rodeo a few times and have a few tips for learning a new language that’ll get you fluent in no time.
Learning a New Language Tip #1: Start Small
The Tower of Babel wasn’t built in a day (sorry, we had to!). Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to learn too much all at once. Start slow. Chunk your lessons.
Learning a New Language Tip #2: Nail Pronunciation First
It’s harder to relearn improper pronunciation than it is to just learn the correct pronunciation the first time. Don’t try to sound words out; listen to them while looking at the word. Download an audio language translator, such as the Vocre app, available on Google Play for Android or the Apple Store for iOS – if you need help pronouncing words.
Learning a New Language Tip #3: Learn to Create Good Habits
According to habit researcher James Clear, you must do four things to develop good habits:
Make It Easy
Make learning a language as easy as possible by scheduling time to study; stick to your schedule and decide how much time you want to spend studying. Learning how to say hello in other languages or common Spanish phrases is easier than learning the whole language at once.
Make It Attractive
Make learning new languages fun! Throw theme nights; if you’re learning Spanish, invite guests over for dinner. Serve Spanish food and wine. Learn how to make Spanish cocktails, like sangria. Play music from different regions.
Always study your new language after a habit you’ve mastered, such as eating breakfast or brushing your teeth. Every time you brush your teeth, your brain will automatically know it’s time for your language lesson.
Do It Every Day
New habits are a daily practice. Forget a day? Forget about your new habit! Try to add on to yesterday’s lesson instead of learning new material each day, too. You’ll end up ‘chunking’ your lesson into smaller bits — instead of taking on too much all at once.
Learning a New Language Tip #4: Discover Your Why
When you remember why you’re doing something, it’s just plain easier to do it. Maybe you want to learn French because you’re taking a road trip through the French countryside. Perhaps it’s that new promotion at work that’s fueling your second-language fire. Whatever your reason, write it down and look at it often to stay motivated.
Learning a New Language Tip #5: Download a Translation App
There are myriad reasons why a translation app can help you learn a new language. But the top two are:
- Learning new words on the go
- Nailing pronunciation
You’re going to inevitably wonder how to say everyday words in your new language throughout your day. Instead of looking these words up, we recommend checking out our language learning app instead and saving them for future study times.
Another great reason to download an app? You can check out the correct pronunciation of the word for easy reference. Many free apps aren’t accurate when it comes to pronunciation (we’re lookin’ at you, Google Translate).
Learning a New Language Tip #6: Conjugate Verbs Smarter — Not Harder
Instead of memorizing verb conjugations, learn how to conjugate each word manually when you first start learning a language. You’ll notice a pattern when conjugating verbs, and learning the pattern (instead of memorizing each conjugation) will help you crack that language’s conjugation code.
Learning a New Language Tip #7: Watch A Lot of TV
Finally, a reason to watch tons of TV! We recommend watching your favorite show (pick one episode you’ve seen a thousand times and know the plot by heart). Change the audio to your language of choice and start watching! If you’re just starting to learn your new language, feel free to turn on English subtitles for easy reference. Or, watch a foreign-language show.
Learning a New Language Tip #8: Read Your Favorite Kids’ Books
Kids’ books are a bit easier to translate than adult novels. Start out by reading “The Little Prince” in French or “Where the Wild Things Are” in Portuguese. Then, advance to the “Harry Potter” series or “The Boxcar Children.” You’ll get to reread your favorite kids’ books while learning new vocabulary.
Learning a New Language Tip #9: Find a Language Exchange Study Buddy
Want to learn conversational Spanish, French, German or Mandarin? Get a foreign-exchange study buddy! You’ll get to learn how the locals do it — all while making new friends.
Learning a New Language Tip #10: Immerse Yourself in Your New Language
The best way to really learn a new language is to dive right in. If you can’t swing a trip to China this month, invite some Mandarin-speaking friends over and ask them to talk about a topic in their native language. Visit an international district in your city. Or, just pick up a newspaper in your desired language and start reading.
It might seem daunting at first, but don’t get discouraged. Everyone feels like a fish out of water when they’re first learning a new language. Take it slow, pick out the words you know and save the words you don’t know for later.
If you’re headed out of the country to immerse yourself in travel, check out our guide on the best travel apps for last-minute travel.