Learning a new language is always a great option. It’s about learning a whole new culture, which can be fascinating if you’re motivated. However, if it’s not one of your priorities and you prefer learning or doing something else, it might just not be what you’re really looking for. If this is the case, you’ll probably also find it quite hard.
There are, of course, many ways to learn languages depending on your preferences. But some are better than others. In this article, we’ll talk about the best ways to learn languages. Let us give you one clue: when you’re fluent in, let’s say, French, you say you
SPEAK French… so, learning a language is all about speaking!
If you want to find out how to really learn a language, keep on reading.
How to Learn a New Language
First of all, you need to ask yourself why you’re considering learning a new language. Is it because you have to or because you want to? Is it because you want to be able to read books and watch movies in that language? Or is it because you want to live in a country where that language is spoken? Is it for work? Is it for love?
Once you’ve thought about what is pushing you to learn a new language, you will have defined your motivation. And motivation is the number one ingredient when learning a new language. It’s what makes the whole learning process exciting. It also helps you decide what method is most suited for you. If you’re motivated, it’ll be easier to commit to your purpose. If you can’t find your motivation, it might be because you’re not really that interested in learning a language.
There are also other important ingredients when it comes to learning languages. One is availability, meaning how much free time you have at your disposal. You also need concentration, which is the ability to focus on what you’re learning. Having a positive attitude is also essential: if you think you can make it, you’ll definitely make it. So stay positive! Learning is also about making mistakes and getting frustrated sometimes, but with a positive attitude, you can overcome all obstacles.
The Best Way to Learn Languages
The best way to learn languages is definitely by speaking. Just think of how children pick up their native languages. They certainly don’t sit down and study complex rules. They listen and repeat. Basically, they imitate sounds and make mistakes until they get words right. This is called language acquisition.
You could study for years and know all the grammar rules and words, but if you don’t put them into practice, you’ll hardly become fluent in a new language. Of course, since you’re learning a new language as an adult and not as a child, you need to know some words and grammar rules to be able to speak, but they shouldn’t be your number one priority.
Also, you don’t have to be proficient to have a conversation. At the end of the day, we always learn by making mistakes. If you make mistakes, you’ll remember what not to say next time you have a conversation with someone.
To be able to speak, you need to make an effort. You might be shy and introverted, and that’s ok. But if you do want to learn a new language you should really try to get out of your comfort zone. If it’s easier for you, just imagine you’re an actor or an actress playing a character.
How to Learn a Language: Listening
You might be wondering how you start speaking in a foreign language. First of all, to be able to speak, you have to be able to listen and understand. This means you should really try to surround yourself with that foreign language you want to be fluent in. This is called language immersion.
If you’re a complete beginner, watch the news or watch a movie with subtitles in your language. Instead of listening to music in your own language, listen to music in that language. Play the radio even if you don’t understand everything or even if you don’t understand anything at all. You might think this is useless but it’s not.
If you have a higher level, try watching your favorite movie or tv series in that language. You don’t have to watch it all in one go. You can watch it in intervals. Your brain will unconsciously absorb sounds and words, which will help you get used to them.
How to Learn a Language: Speaking
If you feel too scared or shy to speak to others, turn everything into speaking when you’re on your own. This means, for example, if you like reading, instead of reading in silence, read out loud. Or if you’re writing something, say it out loud. Don’t be scared, no one is listening anyway.
You could also record yourself. This way, you’ll be able to listen to yourself and pay attention to your pronunciation. If you spot a mistake or recurring mistakes, you can work on those. You can be your own teacher and assign yourself some exercises to work on a specific sound. You could also compare yourself to Italian speakers and see what they say differently.
Talking to yourself is also a great option. Instead of listening to music when you’re cleaning your room or when you’re cooking, you can just say your thoughts out loud. If your level is too low to be able to express complex ideas, then just go for easy ones by using short and concise sentences.
What you Shouldn’t Do When Learning a New Language
There are, of course, certain things you should avoid when learning a new language. As we already said, you shouldn’t focus too much on grammar. Grammar is very important, but you won’t get fluent if you only focus on that. You need to put it into practice.
Same thing with all skills. You shouldn’t only focus on speaking or listening. Even though speaking is probably the most important skill, you should also work on reading and writing.
This means you can’t avoid learning new vocabulary. But just don’t focus on one aspect of the language. Learning a new language involves many skills, so you should complement your speaking practice with all other skills.
Most importantly, don’t use your native language. Yes, you read it well. When you’re learning a new language, you’ll be tempted to translate words and use your native language in your head. That’s just how our brain works. But just don’t do it. It’s hard, but if you make an effort, you’ll see you’ll get used to it and you’ll just accept it.
Some Tips to Learn Languages
So, to recap, you should focus on speaking rather than just on grammar and vocab. And to work on your speaking, you should first work on your listening skills. The best way to listen is by listening to a real conversation and the best way to speak is by actually having a conversation with someone. This means that conversation is the answer to your questions.
Ideally, you should have a partner to practice with. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a language teacher. If you have a friend who speaks that language, you can ask them to speak to you in their native language and you can try to reply to them. If you don’t know anyone who speaks the language you’re learning, you could see if you can find a language exchange partner, meaning a native speaker who wants to learn your language and help you learn theirs. Nowadays, there are many language exchange events, especially in big cities. If not, there are some online too.
However, this doesn’t mean you can ignore grammar or vocabulary. So it’s important to dedicate some time to that too. You could attend group or one-to-one lessons. You could study on your own with a book or an app. Just make sure you find the method you enjoy the most but also one that makes you feel you’re actually learning.
If you get the chance, the best thing you can do when learning a new language is to go to a place where that language is spoken. So, if you’re learning French, you could go to France or Belgium. If you’re learning Spanish, you could go to Spain or Colombia. It’s even better if you can go to small towns because you’ll be more likely to find locals and not so many foreigners who might speak your language. If you can do so, then try to surround yourself with native speakers and try to avoid hanging out with people who speak your language. You’ll enjoy your time abroad even better and you’ll learn so much more about a new culture.
Of course, this is not an option for everyone because it might be too expensive or just too complicated. So, if you can’t do so, then the perfect alternative could be to attend a language exchange.