So, guys, I know for some this is always a challenge. Some have a natural hunch for languages, some don’t. I speak five-ish languages, so I want to share with you my experience on how I learn languages faster and more efficiently without making the process tedious and redundant.
- Be motivated
As with everything, you have to be motived about the thing you are doing, otherwise, it won’t work out and you don’t need to be a genius to realize that. This goes for learning a new language as well. Maybe you are going to Italy for a trip with friends or on your own? – Then wouldn’t it be nice to order your pasta and gelato like a true Italian? Or if you just see it as a way to improve your CV? This can be a motivation enough, especially in times like this when the world is becoming more and more globalized.
2. Find someone around you who knows the language
I know that speaking with a native speaker can be a bit nerve-racking. You always wonder if they will think your accent sounds funny or if the things you are saying are just a bunch of jibberish. I have to assure you that in most cases if the person as well is a speaker of more than one language they are aware that learning and perfecting a language takes a lot of time and practice. If someone makes fun of you for trying, then I would just tell you they are close-minded and not worth talking with. Mastering a new language is a challenge, especially if this is a language which does not belong to your language group (Romance, Slavic, Germanic, Baltic etc.). Therefore, try to talk as much as you can with someone who is proficient in the language and can help you out with odd things and special traits of the language.
3. Be patient
Learning a language does not happen overnight (although there are some researches saying it is helpful to listen to the language while you sleep to get it into your long-term memory). However, as much as I will hate to break it to you, you will need at least 6 months in order to achieve a good level in the language you are learning (good enough for small talk) if you have no background knowledge. But there is a silver lining – I can promise you that learning a new language will make you more confident, more social and feel more accomplished!
4. Make it a hobby
Everyone has a hobby – some do crafts, other go for walks in the woods, you can make language learning a hobby like that. Spend your free time learning vocabulary or buy yourself a newspaper in the language you are learning and try to read and understand the titles or the smaller articles. I always have in mind Jula Roberts in “Eat, pray, love” eating that amazing bolognese pasta and circling words passionately in the newspaper. Submerge yourself in the language for as much as you can and don’t keep it dry! Explore it all – the culture, the food, the music, the movies!
Yes, while we are on that, let’s turn to movies and series. I bet once in a while you lean back in your comfy chair or in your bed and put up a film for the night. Do it in the language you want to learn! You cannot even imagine how much this would help you improve your language skills. First of all – listening skills! When learning a language it is extremely important to hear the sound and melody of the language and subconsciously get a feeling for its natural flow. Secondly, I can bet that attending a course is very helpful for the overall skills, but those chat-like situations where you use jargon and slang words will most likely be skipped at that course. Try to memorize whole phrases that the characters use. Of course before trying them out in real life, be sure what their meaning is and the connotation they have – you don’t want to offend someone by chance.
The most amazing part of learning a language is to actually use it but like for real. If it is possible, invest in a short trip to the country where the language is spoken. Make sure to do it when you are already a bit advanced and see how far you got by trying to speak to locals. I realize that this is a very ambitious thing to do, but trust me on that – the feeling is amazing!
My experience so far learning four foreign languages (English, German, Russian, French) apart from my mother tongue has brought me so much pleasure and feeling of accomplishment. Those tips that I listed earlier are either things I found out for myself, or I heard from someone else and applied into practice. I used all of them and still put them into work while starting with a new language or improving in a language I already have a solid base in. It helps me daily even if I am doing just a quick research or reading the news. I feel more informed as I have the chance to look from different angles on a subject. I do believe some people have it easier when it comes to learning a language, but that is not at all an excuse and I am more than positive that if you follow those steps you will be just as successful as someone who you think would be more talented with languages. Good luck and …