Wednesday, January 6, 2016

10 Tips for Learning a Language in 2016

When it comes to New Year's resolutions, people often choose to learn a new language. Whether it's for work, fun, or whatever other reason, learning a language isn't the easiest thing in the world to do. It's a long process, which leads people to give up far too often. That's why today I thought I'd give you a few of my personal tips for learning a language, in hopes that this won't happen to you.

1: Choose Wisely

You shouldn't buy the first car you see on the lot. I'd say the same is true for languages. You're much more likely to give up on your language-learning mission if you don't really like the language you're learning or you don't have a good reason to learn it. If you only learn a language because you feel you have to, you're not going to enjoy it as much!

Slow and steady wins the race.
2: Slow and Steady

Remember that learning a language will take time, a lot of time. Don't start your journey thinking that you'll be fluent after a couple of months or even a year. Just go at your own pace. Those learning their first foreign language are often overly ambitious, and eventually become disenchanted with the whole process.

3: Make Mistakes

Nobody's perfect. I have said this before and I'll say it again. Making mistakes is one of the most important things that will happen to you as you learn a foreign language. When you make a mistake and are corrected in a foreign language, it gives you an opportunity to improve and learn. It's very rare that your mistake will cause offence, and most people around the world are very aware that those learning a language will make mistakes.

4: Speak as Much as You Can and Try Out the Accent

I believe that speaking is the most important part of learning a language, yet this wasn't reflected in my foreign language classes in school. Speaking is always the first thing you learn to do with a language. Nobody learns to write before they can speak in their mother tongue, so why should it be any different for your new foreign language? If you have the opportunity to talk to someone in your new language, give it a go!

A personal bugbear of mine is when people make no attempt to emulate the accent of the foreign language they're learning. Every language has a unique sound, so if you just speak with your own accent, it will be more difficult for native speakers to understand you. Don't be shy; if you make the effort, people will notice.

5: Listen to the Radio and Music

How many hours do you spend idle each week? Even if it's just background noise, you can fill your environment with the sounds of the language you're learning. If you listen to commercial radio, you'll quickly find that you've become familiar with the various phrases that are repeated throughout the day.

There are also plenty of places to find music in other languages. If you don't mind adverts, you can always look for foreign language music on Spotify (or enjoy it advert-free for a small fee).

6: Watch Movies

It may seem like a stretch if you're just starting to learn a new language, but there's never been a better time to get foreign language films and media. I always like to check film sites and lists online for possible viewing materials before heading to online retailers like Amazon to buy a DVD.

When you're first starting out, it's nice to just hear the language you're learning and follow the subtitles in your own language. Once you start to progress, you can watch with subtitles before finally removing them and just using your ears.

7: Play Games

Some people love learning languages, others don't. That's fine. I never really enjoyed learning languages in school because it focused on grammar drills and conjugating verbs, which I didn't find very fun or entertaining. While these things are important, you need to be engaged in order to learn a language.

If you like to play games, particularly on the go, there are many language learning games to choose from. Personally, I would avoid these and instead play games you already own in the language you're learning (when possible).

You can also check out our post on gift ideas for language lovers if you'd like to get somebody something fun to help them with their language learning.

8: Get an App

If you're like me, you take your phone everywhere with you. Why not use of some of the time you spend idly messing about with your phone to improve your language learning? We've mentioned in the past that you shouldn't use a translation app when learning a new language. However, there are plenty of different language learning apps out there to help you on your way.

I enjoy using Duolingo, and would recommend it to anyone starting to learn any of the languages they have available. You can read our early review of it here.

The world is a marvelous place. Go out and enjoy it!
9: Travel

If you have the chance and can afford it, I highly recommend living and breathing the language you are learning. If you can go where the language is spoken, you will have many more opportunities to practise, as well as enjoy and experience the culture, cuisine, music, and lifestyle that accompanies your chosen language. Get out there!

10: Don't Learn Alone

Nowadays everyone and everything is connected. Whether remotely or in person, you can easily connect with other language learners, language experts, or native speakers of whatever language you're learning. You're much less likely to give up if you have the support of others.

Do you have any tips for learning a language? Share your ideas with us in the comments below!