Each year, hundreds of people set out to study or learn a new language, but most of them meet little success. This leads to most people giving up on their bilingual or polyglot dreams, when in fact it isn’t the learning part that is difficult–people learn new things everyday–rather it is how the language is learned.
The most ideal way to learn a new language is to accept sounding like a three-year-old for the first few months. Forget about grammar and pronunciation and throw self-consciousness out the window. Think of the following instead:
Focus on vocabulary.
Many language courses don’t tell you that most languages use only 1,000 of its words in everyday conversation. That means learning 1,000 words is all anyone needs to start communicating in a foreign language. Learn the 100 most common verbs, the 100 most common words used in daily activities (ex. Going to the supermarket, ordering at a restaurant, tasks done at home, etc.)
The exception to the pronunciation rule is for languages that uses characters you are unfamiliar with, focus on sound. Many students who choose to learn Chinese will be asked to focus on the sound they need to make over the characters they need to write. Online language courses often offer recorded sound bytes that a student can play several times to master the pronunciation.
Each week, set a conversation goal, like “how to give directions to my house,” “how to describe a favorite pet,” or “how to teach a basic recipe.” Any of these typical conversations can help boost self-esteem and help jump start conversations with native speakers. It also shows how the language is used in different situations, which gives valuable insight in its study.
Use learning tricks to learn faster. Many language courses and teachers encourage using tricks like mnemonics, assigning hand gestures to certain words, labeling objects around the office or the home, whichever of these works should be employed.
For those who want to learn Chinese or other languages that use characters (ex. Japanese, Korean, Cyrillic), learning songs is a good way to hear the words, and create easy tricks for remembrance.
Language acquisition really comes with regular practice. Once the basics are in place, finding a friend or group to practice with will help solidify what has been learned and make vocabulary expansion faster and easier.
For students that are a bit shy to speak to strangers, some online language courses offer friendly bots that will respond to their basic sentences and stories. This can give students the confidence for practicing with fellow learners.
Taking learning very seriously can actually be a detriment to learning. Short practice sessions once or twice a week has been proven to be more effective than studying everyday for hours a day. The technique, known as spaced repetition, works well because it allows the brain time to process what has been read and practiced.
Though challenging, learning a new language has plenty of benefits. It can boost self-esteem, make a resume more impressive, and help prolong the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Not to mention the fact that being able to communicate when traveling internationally gives a great sense of accomplishment and a level of independence many don’t get when visiting a foreign country.
Interested in learning a foreign language? Visit our list of language classes and start studying today!