Ich danke dir!
Do you only know basic words in your favourite language? Are you eager to learn more and fluently communicate in a foreign tongue?
If you want to improve your language skills, believe it or not, you don't have to sit in a classroom for hours on end learning the alphabet. There are actually more fun ways to learn a second language, whether it's French, Spanish or Japanese. For example, if you're wondering how to learn Spanish effectively on your own, you're often encouraged to find immersive yet fun and engaging methods (both online and offline) to help you make the best of your limitations.
From using fun, interactive applications to watching foreign TV, here are 12 tips on learning a new language.
1. Learn the 100 Most Common Words
Every language is made up of thousands, if not millions, of words. English, for instance, has between 600,000 and 1 million words, but you don't need to know all of them to be proficient in the language. In fact, the top 100 words make up about 50% of English language texts.
Start learning a new language by becoming familiar with its 100 most common words. Practise them over and over again; say them out loud; find fun ways to remember them. Once you get the hang of these and have a decent grasp on grammar, you'll be able to string a few sentences together.
2. Use Apps and Websites
Google Translate isn't the only tool out there to help you soak up a language.
Find fun ways to learn some of the best languages using applications like FluentU and Babbel. The former uses videos in all ranges of content so you can practise your communication skills, while Babbel offers effective education methods through audio and games.
It's also a great idea to use electronic flashcards when becoming versed in a second language. These help you practise and memorise new words in a smart and fun way. Some tools even let you use flashcards that other people have created – fun!
3. Benefit from Online Courses
Who says you have to sit in a classroom to learn a new language?
Take advantage of online learning materials! There are several free courses on the internet to help you brush up on the basics of grammar and vocabulary. You can even sign up for more extensive ones, which usually come with a cost.
Some online courses can be taken with groups, and you get the benefit of using audio and live streams with an instructor to practise comprehension and conversation skills.
4. Carry a Pocket Dictionary
Dictionaries are the holy grail when studying a foreign language. These come in super-handy when conversing with a native speaker or when travelling abroad.
There are several great dictionary apps available online that can be downloaded and accessed in seconds and on the spot. But if you're an oldie at heart and prefer to carry a physical pocket dictionary, why not? Go for it - just as long as it fits in your pocket (or bag).
5. Watch Foreign TV/Movies
Truly immerse yourself in the language and pretend it's already your fluent tongue!
Once you have a grasp on some words in your desired language, make sure to watch your favourite TV show in that language or even put on a foreign movie!
You should be able to pick up basic words as you watch, and you will even get a better understanding of grammar and structuring sentences together. You'll also pick up new words by keeping an eye on body language and hand gestures. To make things easier, turn on subtitles in your native language so you can match every word.
6. Listen to Foreign Music
Think about it. Have you ever picked up a foreign word or phrase just by listening to a song over and over again? Just like watching foreign TV, listening to foreign music can have the same positive effect on your learning skills. In fact, according to Altissia, ‘scientists have shown that listening to a song and humming along can help with language learning'.
Repetition is key when learning a new language, so keep that foreign song playing until you've learned the words by heart. Bonus? Music also helps you get the hang of pronunciation, too.
7. Learn the Culture
Many learners who naively believe that learning the culture behind their target language is a waste of time. But this is the wrong approach when wanting to get the knack of a foreign language. It's not only about putting two words together.
Submerging yourself in the new language culture can really help you practise those skills. Familiarise yourself with its people, their customs, the way they live, their history, food, and so on. This will help you communicate with native speakers more effectively, and you'll also avoid any cultural offences in the meantime!
8. Converse with Native Speakers
How can you learn another language without practice, right?
Although being in conversation with a native speaker may seem like a challenge, the more you do it, the quicker you'll adopt the new language. As a matter of fact, you can view speaking as a ‘secret' or ‘hack' to learning a foreign tongue. Not only will you build your memory on words, but you'll also process new vocabulary and sentences more efficiently.
Pay attention to how others speak, look out for expressions and try to mimic the accent. Accept that you will make mistakes and allow corrections to help you improve.
9. Visit a Foreign Country
There are several benefits of learning a second language – like building up your employability skills. But most importantly, it gives you an excuse to visit the country where your desired language is spoken.
This trip will give you a chance to experience the lifestyle of said culture, and you'll be able to practise your language skills by conversing with native speakers. Use your pocket dictionary to ask for directions, order food or, even better, have a full conversation with a speaker of that language.
10. Join a Language Class or Hire a Tutor
As mentioned, language classes aren't the only way to become proficient in another tongue. But if you're one to get easily distracted or if you simply prefer letting someone guide you, opt to join a language class.
You'll meet new people who are also keen on the language, and this can help with practising in conversations. Foreign language courses can feel more like a leisure activity rather than a duty for some, and you can even benefit from direct feedback on your progress.
If you feel that a class might move at a slow pace, consider hiring a private tutor – one-to-one teaching and customised lessons are always beneficial for a learner!
11. Study and Practise
It's important that you vigorously study and practise your chosen language.
Most people tend to grasp a second language through studying and many conversations. Ideally, you should aim to study for around four hours a day for two weeks, rather than to study for one hour a day for two months.
Practise the language out loud, converse with native speakers and even create pretend conversations with yourself to really get the hang of it.
12. Soak up a Foreign Book or Magazine
Once you're a seasoned pro in a new language, keep up your comprehension skills by continuously reading foreign material. Whether it's a book, magazine or newspaper, reading in your target language can gradually develop your proficiency. You'll learn grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure and much more. Fundamentally, you won't ever become fluent in a new language without reading!
Bonus tip? If you're reading content online, you can always use a translation tool like Google Translate to better understand any words or sentences you don't understand.
Learning a new language should become a hobby, not a chore, so aim to use one (or all) of our tips when going about it. Before you know it, you'll be throwing that pocket dictionary into the bin!
What other best ways are there to learn another language? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!