Monday, February 12, 2018

5 Tips for Learning 5 Languages by Warren Fowler

Five years ago, I was just an ordinary guy from Milwaukee, there was nothing special about me. I was your random guy with a random job.

I can’t remember the exact day when things changed since the growth was a rather lengthy process. In fact, it’s still going on. I can, however, remember the decision that made me change. After a boring Sunday, I started thinking about my life.

Languages – The Way Out of Boredom

“So this doesn’t work. I have to change something. I want a more exciting life. To get it, I need to become a more exciting person.” I brainstormed for some solutions and I came up with three alternatives:

  • Meet more people
  • Travel through European countries
  • Learn languages        

The goal of learning languages seemed like the most exciting one at that moment. I could start doing that right away. Plus, meeting this goal would help me meet the other two goals on my list. When I know more languages, I’ll meet more people and go to Europe and I’ll speak the languages there.

So what did I decide to do? I set a clear goal: learn 5 languages.

I focused on English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish. I had to learn more about English, too. Although it’s my native language, I wasn’t a master of grammar. Without knowing the grammar of your own language, you can’t even think about mastering the grammar of a foreign one.

This journey started 5 years ago and I'm still on it today. I can safely say that I’m relatively fluent in all these languages today. Since everything revolves around the number five in this article, I’ll present you with 5 steps to learning 5 different languages!

1. Learn Your Native Language First

So you want to join the polyglot club? Good for you!

But how well do you know your own language? You can speak it, that’s for sure. You can probably identify the noun, pronoun, adjective, verb, preposition, and other main concepts in a sentence. But do this test right now: can you instantly define key grammar concepts such as interjections, conjunctions, subjunctive mood, pronoun-antecedent, transitive and intransitive verbs, and all verb tenses?

While we learned all these things at school, somewhere along the way, we stopped paying attention to grammar. When you stop worrying about these concepts because you didn't have any more tests to take, your language skills started degrading.

While grammar is important, you’ll focus mainly on the conversational elements of foreign languages when you start learning them. However, grammar is an inevitable part of all conversations and you’ll have to go through a few lessons of it whether you like it or not. When you can clearly understand all grammar concepts of your native language, the learning process will be much smoother.

The good news is that it’s easy to brush up on your native language skills. It took me only a month of intensive learning and practice. I used The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation and Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips. Take a look at those tips and you’ll soon realize that grammar is practically endless. There are so many concepts we’ve forgotten about, and so many more we never knew about.

You don’t have to learn everything. You won’t be getting a degree in your native language, unless that’s what you want to. It’s just important to focus on the major grammar concepts. Pick few resources in your native language and start your journey!

2. Make Language Learning Part of Your Daily Life

You want to turn this into a habit or you’ll soon be back to your old ways. You’ll learn something new every single day. With no exceptions! With apps like Duolingo and Rosetta Stone, learning takes less than half an hour a day.

But you’ll have to make a plan. I decided that starting to learn several foreign languages at once was a bit too much. This is the structure I gave to my learning process:

  • First, I grouped the languages. French, Italian, and Spanish belong to the Latin language branch, and German belongs to the Germanic language branch, just as English.
  • With German being the closest one to English, I started with it. I was learning German quite intensively for an entire year.
  • When I got the feeling that I was getting more fluent in German, I started with another language - French. I kept learning German, but I kept my daily lessons to half hour a day, and I devoted an entire hour to French. I kept this going for nine months.
  • Then, I was ready to add another language - Italian. I was still learning German and French for 40 minutes a day, and I added a whole hour for Italian.
  • After nine months, I added Spanish to my daily learning routine. I was practicing German, French, and Italian for an hour per day, and Spanish for another hour. I broke up these learning sessions throughout the day, so I wouldn’t have to process too much information at once.

This method worked for me. I highly recommend you to structure your own method and stick to it. The point is in consistency.

3. Keep a Language Journal

Writing practice is crucially important for mastering a language. It helps you expand your vocabulary and make sense of the grammar rules you’re going through. It’s important to write as much as possible.

In your language journal, you can write about the new things you learned. However, I also recommend writing a small random text on any prompt. Write about something that inspires you.

You’ll start with the first language on your list, and then you’ll start creating short daily entries on multiple languages.

Keeping a journal not only helps you practice, but it also helps you track your progress. While you’ll only write one to three sentences at first, you’ll be writing more and more soon enough.

If you feel that you’ve achieved a decent level of language skills, you may even start a blog and share your daily entries with other learners.

4. Watch Videos and Listen to the Radio

Teachers and online guides will keep telling you the same thing: immersion is the most effective way of learning. When you surround yourself with the language, you have no other choice but to learn it.

However, immersion isn't also as achievable as you'd think. I couldn’t go to Germany for an entire year to learn the language and then spend three years in France, Italy, and Spain. There was something I could do: start watching videos with native speakers.

YouTube is full of reviews and other types of videos in any language. Just start watching! Find a TV show in your target language and start watching it.

Listen to radio! Online services like Internet Radio and Radio Garden give you access to radio stations from all around the world. Find a station from your target country and listen to it. You can listen to music and native speakers.

5. Find Language Partners

Here’s another way to immerse yourself even when you’re not able to travel: find online language partners. Just search Facebook and you’ll easily find groups of people from your target country who are willing to learn your native language. Join those groups and become part of the conversation. With time, you’ll become closer with some of the members and you can ask them if they would like to keep practicing through conference calls.

For me, Facebook was the easiest and most effective way to find language partners. These people were also looking for someone to help them with the learning process, so we gained mutual benefits. 
If you’re too shy for making connections via social media, you could try a specialized platform that will immediately team you up with a suitable language partner.

Remember: This is a Long-Term Commitment

My language learning experience improved many aspects of my life. First of all, I stopped being bored, I met interesting people, and I finally started traveling.

I also realized that language learning is a lifelong journey, and I made that commitment. Are you ready to make it, too?

Warren is a marketing enthusiast and a blogger at BestEssays who loves music. If he doesn’t have a guitar in his hands, he’s probably embracing new technologies and marketing techniques online! You can meet him on Twitter and Facebook.

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