How to: Learn a new language

There’s really no excuse for bad language…

Being able to speak in speak in a foreign tongue is something that probably appears on a lot of peoples’ bucket lists. And despite some popular misconceptions it’s never too late to learn – no matter what your current experience level is, or how busy your schedule might be.

We’ve already covered some benefits of being bilingual, but here are a few of our top tips on how to learn a new language (flashcards on standby).


Set yourself a target

Let’s be honest – you aren’t going to become fluent in a foreign language overnight.

But instead of simply focussing on the end goal, setting yourself realistic (and measurable) targets will help you stay motivated. Not to mention keep track of your progress.

Ask yourself what you actually want to achieve – and when you want to achieve it by.

Do you want to be able to read a book in your new language? Or just have a conversation with a native speaker? Do you want to immerse yourself on an upcoming trip? Or do you just want to understand what the hell Despacito actually means?

You don’t need to know every word in the dictionary. But having some clear, measurable goals – with realistic timeframes attached – will definitely help you focus.


Use the right resources

There aren’t any fool proof ways to learn a language. It’s what works best for you.

Some people find that they need to have a set syllabus to stick to, or work better learning alongside other people. But taking a structured language course isn’t for everyone.

Luckily, there are a wide range of resources out there you can try, which will help you find out the best way for you to learn. Apps such as Duolingo and Babbel are great places to start, and allow you to study on-the-go – at a time that suits your schedule.

And it isn’t just apps. Listen to a podcast. Go old school and grab some text books. Switch the language on your social media, and see how long you can last. Do whatever it takes.

Because a ‘gusta’ looks the same in any language…


Immerse yourself

One of the easiest ways to learn a new language is to not give yourself any other option.

For some people, that could mean experiencing the culture first hand. But even if you can’t afford to take time off to travel, there are plenty of other ways to make your new language a part of your everyday life.

Examples could include everything from reading foreign magazines or news sites, binge watching your favourite films or TV shows with the subtitles on, or listening to music from your country of choice.

Still not sure? Another genius lifehack used by multilinguals is labelling everything you possibly can in the language you’re looking to pick up.

Just make sure you tell your family before you get started.

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Don’t be self-conscious

Newsflash: you’re going to screw up. And, you know what? That’s OK.

In fact, making mistakes is actually how you learn. It’s just that as you get older, you become much more easily embarrassed about saying and doing the wrong things.

To combat your self-conscious, take any new opportunity to practice your skills. Whether it’s trying sentences out in front of (patient) family and friends, or even just practicing your pronunciation out on your own.

Or why not go one step further, and actually talk to native speakers directly? There are plenty of online forums which will help you connect, and you’re much more likely to pick up on any bad habits if you have someone else their helping. You could even try local businesses to test out your skills.

N.B. No, Nando’s does not count as a local business.


Stick at it

Finally, never underestimate the importance of perseverance.

It can take a whole lifetime for people to master their own mother tongue, let alone branching out to learn a new one. And even the most dedicated students can find it difficult to cram a brand new vocabulary into their brain.

So don’t be tempted to put yourself under too much pressure, or even get angry at yourself for your imperfections.

Above all else, learning a new language is supposed to be fun. And it actually can be too – just as long as you open yourself up to it and don’t take yourself too seriously. If you enjoy it, you’re much more likely to remain motivated and actually want to learn.

So play stupid games. Read comic books. Learn all the rude words. And be patient.

Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day (insert Italian translation here).

Five reasons to learn a new language


Honourable mentions: Mnemonics, intervals, spaced repetition software, volunteering abroad, speaking louder and slower



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