So, you want to learn a new language and open yourself to another whole world of opportunities, culture and great challenges.
Learning a new language is certainly a worthwhile aim and an accomplishment to be very proud of.
One that’ll yield benefits for the rest of your life. These benefits include greater cognitive abilities, deeper cultural knowledge, forming lifelong friendships and more!
But like any meaningful goal, there are challenges ahead. As the quote goes, “nothing worth doing comes easy.”
Language learning is precisely that.
It’s simply a process of doing and the result of hard work and determination.
In this blog, we’re going to look at some great strategies, resources and approaches to make language learning as fun and engaging as possible. The road is long but if you enjoy the process and see real results, then it’s totally worth it.
So, are you ready to take on the challenge? If you’re is still unsure if language learning is right for you, then no problem. You can use these tips as a way to dip your feet in and test the waters to figure out if language learning is right for you.
Keep reading as we take a look at some of the top tips to make sure you reach the finish line and acquire your new language with ease.
The tips apply to all learners and won’t require a massive financial investment (most of them are free!)
You got this and good luck!
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People tell me that I should learn Mandarin because of job options, but I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish plus Italian sounds beautiful. I can’t decide! Where to begin? There are too many options and not enough time!
The first and most obvious hurdle is choosing which language you’d like to learn! This can also be an exciting and inspiring time.
There’s a range of factors that may go into the decision-making process when choosing a language to learn.
Perhaps you already have an idea in your mind of which direction you’d like to follow. Or, maybe you just know that you want to learn a new language. Either way, you’ll find the tips below helpful in deciding how best to get started.
Start with your “why” with the two P’s of purpose
It’s always a good first step to look inward and consider your motivations for wanting to learn a language. This is what I like to call your why and it’s the most fundamental driving force behind your decision-making process. Ask yourself why you’re learning a new language or what’s your key purpose.
What first spurred the motivation to learn a new language? When did that decision first pop into your mind? Was it from a movie, a comment from a friend or are you simply searching for a new challenge?
To help with this process it can be a great strategy to consider the two P’s of purpose, practical and passion.
Practical: If you’ve decided to learn a new language for more practical purposes such as job options, cognitive benefits, improvements in brain health or general self-improvement then this may affect your choice of language.
If this is the case, you may want to consider learning a globally used language such as Mandarin, French, Spanish, etc.
Learning one of these languages has an added benefit in that there’s generally a wider range of resources and materials available to you to choose from.
Passion: If you’re learning a language from a place of passion then it may be for a reason such as love of another culture, travel or a desire to meet new people from around the globe.
In this case, you may want to develop skills in a language with fewer speakers because you’re truly passionate about the culture and language. It could also be the case that you learn a more obscure or lesser-known language.
A great strategy to decide on a language is to open a world map and let your mind wander a little. Consider a location you’ve always wanted to visit or a dream holiday destination. Then imagine yourself in that location speaking the language. If this brings a smile to your face then perhaps you’ve found the right language!
Both: Of course, your decision to learn a new language may also come from a combination of the two Ps of purpose. You can certainly have a desire to learn a globally spoken language for practical reasons and have a deep passion for developing proficiency in it.
The difficulty of the language
You may also want to consider the difficulty of a language when setting a language learning goal. If you’re required to learn a language for a job then you may not have a choice. However, if you’re learning a new language out of passion then you may be able to choose an easier option to get started.
If you’re restricted by time, a difficult schedule, or lack of access to resources then you may want to consider a language that’s “easier.”
All languages are difficult in their own way. However, features such as a shared alphabet, cognates and similarities in pronunciation can certainly make the learning process of some languages smoother than others.
Your current language skills
Speakers of more than one language generally find it easier to learn additional languages. Also, the transfer between two similar languages that share a common root can make language learning easier.
To give you an example, while I was living in Spain I met two friends from Northern Italy. While I was still slugging away in old grammar textbooks and attending classes, they had mastered Spanish speaking fluency in about four to six months simply by walking around town and attending the local university.
This is due to two factors—first, that they were already speakers of more than one language. Second, the similarities between the romance languages can often mean a much quicker acquisition than if learning a new language completely from scratch.
This comes back to what you know, your community, your friends and your family.
Number of global speakers or a more obscure choice
As previously discussed, something else that may impact your decision-making when choosing a language to learn is the number of speakers and the widespread use of the language.
Unfortunately, of the 7,000 languages spoken today, linguists predict that half are in danger of extinction.
This presents a unique paradox in that we want to maintain the life of so many wonderful and diverse languages but at the same time, many also want it to be globally applicable, useful to their everyday life and to provide them with opportunities to use the language in several different countries and work options.
Will you enjoy it?
Something that isn’t often not discussed when deciding a language to learn is the “enjoyment factor.” Language learning is a fun, unique and insightful process, but it’s also a challenging, confusing and sometimes frustrating undertaking.
You need to love the language and enjoy the process. You need to maintain this determination even through moments of discouragement and when self-doubt may slowly creep in.
It’s essential to maintain your overall motivation and resolve when learning a new language. In your mind, it needs to be worth it through the good times and the bad. One of the best ways to overcome this is to find some enjoyment in every part of the learning journey!
Take little moments for yourself, use heaps of native content and try to meet native speakers with who you share common interests.
Don’t rush into it!
Have you decided that you want to learn a new language? Great! And while you may feel like acting on this momentum immediately, it’s still important to think, plan and weigh up the pros and cons of a particular language. The only problem is how to gain insight into the language without forking out cash for tutors or traveling to another country!
A top tip is to get started with a FluentU free trial account. With a FluentU free trial account, you’ll get access to all nine languages (just like a regular account), meaning you can explore, listen, watch and delve deep into the different languages. Essentially, you can get a native introduction to the language for free to help your decision-making process.
Self-belief and trust in your own abilities is the number one language learning tip and everything that flows from this is secondary.
That fact that someone out there has learned the language that you wish to acquire is proof enough that you can do it too. People learn new languages all the time, people from all different backgrounds, with different ages, varied educational histories and so on.
Merely knowing that you have the capacity and drive to learn any language can certainly help.
It may seem cliche or even basic, but knowing that you can achieve this goal is one of the best tips I can give you. Of course, we’ll examine some foundational tips that’ll also set you on the right path to language acquisition.
Take a look below!
General language learning do’s and don’ts
- Have a schedule: Maintaining a language learning schedule will ensure that you get your study in no matter the occasion. It’ll also help you with habit-forming and is one of the easiest ways to define your goals. It also has a very positive effect on productivity and helps you build positive behaviors.
- Focus on active learning: Active learning refers to a process of engagement whereby you’re partaking in some action in the learning process. An example could be answering a quiz after watching a piece of native content. It’s the opposite of passive learning, which is learning with limited interaction and feedback. An example of this could be listening to music in your target language.
- Include heaps of comprehensible input: Comprehensible input is what helps add context to the language, for example, images, body language, cartoons etc. Comprehensible input helps you understand and make an association with the language.
- Find a speaking partner: Having a speaking partner is invaluable in receiving real-time feedback regarding your pronunciation, language use, native feel and knowledge of expressions. If you have access to a device and Wi-Fi then you’ll have access to a speaking partner from all corners of the globe!
- Enroll in a course: I know that a course isn’t for everyone, but enrolling in a language course even if it’s online is a great way to maintain a structure to your learning. It’s one of the best ways to get started when learning a language and you will be able to interact in a community either online or at a physical school.
- Find a method/s that works well for you: As you progress, you can explore which strategies and steps work well. If you’re not having much luck with a particular method or approach, then try something else. Language learning is as much an art as it is a science!
- Have an inconsistent schedule or take large breaks between your study sessions: Language study requires consistency as the time spent summarizing and reviewing lessons is very important. If you continue to have large gaps in the study period, you’ll be more likely to waste time revising your previously learned content.
- Passively study: Passive study is like the evil twin of active study! When learning a language, it’s imperative to distinguish between a study session and a more passive language lesson. For example, a study session may be reviewing flashcards, writing sentences or talking with a native speaker, whereas a more passive approach might be watching a movie in your target language with friends. This approach is fine as long as you don’t mistake (or switch) passive moments for active study.
- Overthink or be preoccupied with errors: The faster you overcome the fear of committing errors the better your overall study experience will be. You’re going to make mistakes, especially when you get started. American author and professor Amy Chua is quoted as saying “a foreign accent is a sign of bravery.” It would be best if you remember that you’re learning a skill that requires you to be both confident and sometimes uncomfortable.
- Quit!: You might have off days or periods where your motivation waivers but overall it’s vital to keep going. Learning a language has a compound effect in that you’re always building on previous lessons. The whole purpose relies on the gradual development of skills based on previously learned ones.
Tips on self-teaching and self-study
Many opt for self-study in today’s connected world and it’s certainly an achievable goal. Be sure to follow these key steps as well as check out some great online strategies to help you tackle this impressive goal.
- Focus on time blocking: If you’ve decided to self-study then perhaps you already have a busy schedule. This means it’s vital to block out the time of your week for study sessions. This is so you can say “no” to any distractions that may arise in advance.
- Hold yourself accountable: It’s so important to write down your goals and assess your development when language learning. Always keep the end goal in sight to remind yourself of your why. Sometimes when I’m struggling to find motivation and stay accountable I’ll jump on YouTube and watch polyglots speaking multiple languages with ease. It always fills me with amazement and ignites a little bit of passion every time I feel my motivation wavering.
- Find appropriately leveled programs: If you’re self-studying then essentially you’re replicating a learning environment (school, university, academy) at your desk. In place of a teacher and structured learning syllabus, you’ll need to check that the materials you’re using are appropriate for your level to ensure a challenge and push your learning skills just like a teacher would!
- Measure your progress: Following on from this, if you’re self-studying then you must keep up to date with your progress and continue to push yourself. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make sure that you’re developing at an appropriate pace. You can do this online or with quizzes, downloaded tests from assessment pages or by speaking with an online language teacher to give you a level.
Tips on learning from home
- Consider your environment: What’s not to love about learning from home? It’s comfortable, you know where everything is and you don’t have to waste time commuting! Well, there’s one thing not to like, procrastination. Learning from home is also a minefield of procrastination and distraction. Be sure to consider your environment and create a space that promotes and encourages language learning. Print out a big timetable, put some quotes up on the wall and create a space especially for language learning.
- Squeeze in as much study as possible: Got 30 minutes for breakfast? Catch up on the news in your target language. While it may not be a fully active lesson it’s certainly better than nothing and is a great way to accomplish a small task in the morning.
- Create a language learning household: Grab a couple of quality language learning books to put in the bookshelf, stick some vocabulary post-it notes around the house, try a couple of recipes from a country that speaks your target language and build a fun environment.
- Involve your friends and family: Involving others is a great way to maintain motivation and a different method of holding yourself accountable. When you have a partner or language learning buddy you can discuss and learn in a pressure-free environment. Sometimes explaining to someone else is also a great way to make sure that you understand something yourself!
Speaking, listening, reading and writing—the big four!
Of course, when improving your foreign language skills, the focus needs to be primarily on the four main skills of communication: speaking, listening, reading and writing. The balance and extent to which you practice each of these skills may rely somewhat on your own personal study habits, learning strategy as well as your learning “type.”
That being said, a general mix of all four key components is a great way to ensure a well-rounded and complete learning experience. In addition to this, the communication skills work in tandem and support each other. For example, reading is a great way to increase your vocabulary, which in turn affects your speaking level and comprehension.
Below you’ll find some quick tips for improving these four key components:
- Reading: The first step to improving your reading is to make sure that you actually do some. Reading is often a neglected skill in language learning (I’m guilty of this!). In addition to this, it can be difficult to choose the right resources. Think like a child and start with basic resources such as children’s books, cartoons and comic books. From this, you can extract basic vocabulary as well as build on the difficulty level of the resources.
- Writing: When learning to write in another language it’s vital that you seek feedback on your work to overcome any errors that you don’t wish to become a habit! Another great step to improve your writing is to focus on editing your work and reading to know what to look for. Learning writing in a foreign language is a constant loop of practice and feedback.
- Speaking: If you have access to a native speaker of your chosen language or a teacher then this is one of the easiest and most effective ways to practice speaking skills. You can also practice mirroring, which is repeating native content, reading out loud and joining any local communities or groups.
- Listening: Depending on the language, listening can be one of the more difficult components of language learning due to speed, sounds and other components. Remember to pause frequently, take lots of notes and play with the speed of any listening content to take it nice and easy in the beginning stages. You can also ask your speaking partner if they would be able to slow their speaking speed for you!
How to choose the right resource for you!
Of course, when it comes to language learning, choosing the right resource is vital to create a solid foundation on which to build.
- All-rounder resource: To get you started consider a resource that’ll cover many of the different language skills in an educational and meaningful way. For example, I’d recommend the FluentU learning system as it’s both a great introduction to and a fantastic method for improving a new language. Having the FluentU learning system as the central resource means you simply need to build and choose additional resources that are both engaging and educational around you. A great way to examine these options is to break them down by the various learning skills.
- Top resources for improving your reading: With reading, start with some great blogs related to your target language. Usually, they’re a fantastic place to begin as you’ll find information, tips, explanatory posts and other high-value content. In addition to this, it’s simply a matter of choosing appropriate reading resources for your level. These could range from kids’ books and comics all the way to novels and poetry.
- Level up your listening: Focus on content that’s native and suits your level. For this, you can consider podcasts, music, film and television. You can also search for language learning websites and government pages for downloadable language lessons that you can use on the go.
- Write well with some of these top resources: Using resources to improve your writing can be a little bit tricky. To get you started, make sure to have a trusted dictionary as well as a bilingual dictionary handy. It’s also a great idea to have some native written content handy that you can reference. For example, if you’re writing a short story in Spanish, you can download a short story of Gabriel Garcia Marquez to reference. Remember that having a teacher or native friend to check your writing is also invaluable to the process.
- Speak like a native with these resources: Without a doubt, chat and exchange programs are some of the best resources at your disposal. Get started as early as possible and don’t be afraid of your level. You’ll find the majority of people are more than happy to help you (and excited that you’re learning their language).In addition to chat and exchange apps, make sure to include heaps of native content from streaming services and online platforms to mirror and practice pronunciation.
Learning a new language has never been easier (and cheaper). There are endless budget-friendly resources available to savvy language learners who aren’t looking to break the bank. With a bit of prior planning, research and creative thinking, what was previously an expensive skill taught in universities and educational institutions has quickly become an accessible and inexpensive pursuit in the home!
So, if you’re looking to learn a language for free then look no further!
Tip 1: Decide on a type of free course
Language learning courses take many different forms, ranging from purely listening-based to more intensive university-style courses. Whatever it may be, there’ll certainly be an option available to you!
Because we’re focusing on learning a language for free I’d begin by starting with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which are open access and free university-based courses. You should be able to find one with ease in your chosen language.
Another option is to search YouTube for lectures and classes that follow a “course style.” You’ll also be able to interact with fellow classmates and students in the comment section.
Essentially, the first tip is to find a resource that’s structured, follows a clear syllabus and will introduce you to all the fundamental components of the language.
Tip 2: Check that the free course is right for you
It’s always a great step to make sure that the course is a good option and will lead to positive outcomes.
To do this, make sure to be thorough when reading reviews, reach out to past students and check online blogs for any tips students have posted regarding the course.
Tip 3: Choose supplementary free resources
There are heaps of free learning resources available to supplement your language learning goals and the FluentU program. In fact, to get you started let’s take a look at a few below:
- Webpages and language forums
Tip 4: How to take it offline
If you’re searching for free offline resources that’ll help you maintain a high level of language learning, then there are plenty of options available.
You can find some great learning books from local libraries or borrow from friends. In addition to this, you can download learning PDFs and attend in-person meetups and language exchange events.
You can also download some great language learning apps with offline learning options to make sure there are no excuses when it comes to your language learning goal.
So what do you think? Ready to learn a new language and level-up? As they say, there’s no time like the present and with these actionable tips, you’ll be able to approach your language learning from a methodical, clear and fun perspective.
Remember, it’s a goal that’s entirely in reach and one of the most fulfilling achievements to conquer. So, let us know if you’re ready to get started and which language you’re going to learn! We’d love to hear about it! Good luck!
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