Five Effective Tips for Learning a Foreign Language
Learning a foreign language isn’t necessarily seen as a hobby by most people. It’s usually something you do out of necessity. Maybe you were forced to learn French at school or had to become fluent in Spanish before moving abroad for work. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’ve always been interested in language and love learning about words and their origins. That’s probably why I became a writer. I also have a natural affinity for picking up languages: I excelled in French at school, chose Spanish as one of my ‘options’ in year 9, took Italian in college and started teaching myself German a few years ago. I even speak a small amount of Arabic, but it’s a whole different alphabet and slightly more challenging than European languages.
I’d like to share some tips with you which have helped me learn different languages over the years. They’re effective strategies and will definitely make a difference to how quickly you pick up your chosen language.
1. Have a reason
When I decided to learn German, I needed to find some motivation to stick to it. I didn’t have school to keep me accountable or A levels to study for. So I booked a trip to Munich for three months ahead and gave myself that deadline to become conversational in the language. It’s pretty easy to stay focussed when you’re working towards a set goal. By the time I visited Germany, I could have basic conversations with locals, understand what people in the street were saying and buy things in the shops with no problems.
2. Be committed
Learning a new language can be hard and requires commitment. You have to make it a priority. Even if you’re busy and don’t have much free time: make time. I practise in the car with a CD on the way to and from work – that’s a whole hour that would otherwise be wasted. You could also spend half an hour over breakfast or lunch going over words you’ve recently learned, or use your downtime in the evening chatting in the language to someone online.
3. Immerse yourself in the language
Practising your chosen language all the time is the key to success – and there are many ways to do so. Find out if any classes are being held locally. If not, you can take an online class. Watch TV shows and YouTube channels and read books and magazines in the language. Seek out other people who can speak it or, better still, natives of the country who will speak to you in their mother tongue. If you can afford to, visit the country yourself and talk to everyone you can. This is the absolute best way to learn.
4. Write things down
When you learn a new word, write it down – otherwise you’ll probably forget it again. If you’re struggling to remember a certain word, scribble it (with its meaning) on the back of your hand so you keep seeing it all day. It’ll soon get lodged in your brain.
5. Don’t be discouraged
Don’t give up when the going gets tough. If you’re finding it hard to remember your vocabulary or get to grips with the grammar, remember the reason you want to learn the language so much. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake in pronunciation – it’s all a learning curve and you’ll only get better if you keep on trying.
The main thing to remember when learning a new language, especially as a hobby, is to enjoy it. Have fun, experiment with words and phrases and try making up silly but grammatically correct sentences. Learn the slang and colloquialisms. It’s all good practice and will help you learn your chosen language a lot faster!
I always learn something new and helpful with every guest post I publish. This article has so many great tips. My favourite is chatting to somebody online in their native language. A new language is easy to forget so being able to talk consistently in that language is definitely key. Thank you so much Nicola for a great post. – Sarah (editor of Hobbyism)
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