It may seem impossible to learn a new language instantly. Some languages are just too unfamiliar and challenging to master that it can discourage even the most eager learner. Luckily, there are six steps you can follow to make it a little easier for you to learn a new language in no time.
Set Language Goals
As with almost any learning endeavor, goal-setting is the first step to ensure success. In fact, soal-setting is important in just about anything that you are trying to accomplish. Learning a new language is one of those accomplishments that you want to prepare for with goals.
When setting goals, it is essential to keep the following things in mind:
Set SMART goals
As with any other goal, your language goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. You are more likely to follow through with SMART goals since these kinds of goals give you a more precise direction and eliminate any vagueness that might discourage your progress.
Break down big goals into short-term goals
Long-term goals, such as traveling to a different country and conversing with a local in their language, are excellent. However, they can also be overwhelming. It is easy to feel like it’s too much for you to accomplish, which will eventually discourage you.
To keep you on track in terms of motivation, try to break down your long-term language goals into bite-sized short-term goals. For example, you can aim to learn 30 words in a week or learn five common phrases in your desired language in that period.
Write them down
To seal the deal, write down your language goals. Writing them down makes it more official. It also makes it harder for you to forget about them.
You can write it down on a piece of paper; even a post-it will do. Afterward, to make it more effective, you can place it somewhere visible to you daily, such as your bathroom mirror, the door of your bedroom closet, or even your fridge. Seeing your goals regularly reminds you to work on them every chance you get.
Learn the most common words
In any language, some words are most commonly used, to the point that once you get the hang of them, you can hold a basic conversation in that language easily.
To put it into context, according to the Oxford dictionary, the English language has about 250,000 distinct words. About 20 percent of these words are no longer in use. According to this book, the top 100 words in the English language make up half of the English texts, and the top 1,000 makes up 90 percent.
That means that you have to learn less than one percent of the total words in English to sustain a conversation or write a letter. The same principle may hold up in other languages such as Spanish, French, and German.
Try to learn the top 100 words at first to establish your base and expand out to the top 1,000 words to widen your vocabulary.
Tailor your study method to your learning preferences
Not everybody learns best in one method. Some people learn more by listening, while others learn better by reading. Still, other people learn better through an application.
Here are some methods or techniques you can use to learn a new language:
Flashcards are one of the best traditional methods you can try when earning a new language. You can use paper flashcards you can find at bookstores or electronic flashcards that you can download.
When you use flashcards, you get to test yourself on individual words and memorize them simultaneously. When learning words using flashcards, take a look at the cards first with their translations and remember them. Start with guessing the English translations of foreign words first before guessing foreign translations of English words.
Finally, once you flip through the flashcards and find a word that you can’t remember, try to guess before turning them over.
Another thing you could try is language apps. Such applications are programmed to help you learn new languages using various techniques and activities such as games and quizzes. Some of the most popular language apps are:
To compliment your flashcards or language apps, you can try visualization to help you understand the concept or object behind the word. This technique helps you memorize new words better since you know what they mean and how they look like in your head.
Gesturing, just like visualization, helps you memorize by understanding the meaning behind words with the help of actions. For example, you can point to your shirt when saying a foreign word for a shirt or blouse. You can also gesture the act of eating when saying the word “eat” in another language.
Incorporating your newly-learned foreign words into your local language will help you keep them in memory better. For example, you can say that you are putting on your zapato as you put on your shoes in the morning.
Practice all day and every day
The important thing with learning a new language is consistency in practice. No matter how terrific your study method is, you won’t get anywhere if you don’t do it regularly. Some people may struggle with consistency, so enrolling in an online language course may be more effective.
Get real-life lessons
If you happen to know someone who speaks the language you’re aiming to learn, engage them in a conversation. If it’s a friend or workmate, ask for their help by asking them to speak to you in their native language. Try your best to answer or converse with them using the words you’ve learned through your practice.
If you don’t personally know anybody who speaks the language, you can opt for online tutors, join clubs, or volunteer to help immigrants in your area.
Study the culture behind the language
Finally, give your language practice some depth and more meaning by learning the culture behind the language. Although learning the language is more about the words and the phrases, learning about the culture when you learn a new language allows you to understand why people of that culture say what they say and how to say it.
It is a critical step when trying to learn a new language, although some people may not agree entirely. Learning about the culture lets you connect with people of that language better and prevents you from making embarrassing or even offensive mistakes with the words you use.
Feeling confident with a new language? Learn how to become an interpreter or translator!