10 Tips That Actually Work If You Want To Learn A New Language
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Learning a new language is not easy, but it does not mean that it should be hard.
If you have given up the idea of being bilingual (or trilingual? Maybe multilingual?), you should definitely read this article!
Here are 10 tips for you if you want to learn a new language:
1. Find your motivation
Finding your motivation is the most fundamental tip to learn a new language. You want your learning experience to be fun and exciting, not dull and exhausting.
So, how do you find your motivation?
You can find it everywhere!
When I was a kid, my motivation to learn English was to understand what the celebrities said when they were interviewed on TV.
It is corny, I know, but it worked!
Your motivation can be to reconnect to your culture, build new connections or explore other cultures.
Finding your motivation will help you stay committed to your journey of learning a new language.
2. Set a goal
When I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree, I discovered this cool goal-setting acronym called SMAART.
The SMAART goal stands for Specific, Measurable, Aggressive yet Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
When goals are set with this acronym, greater outcomes can be reached since you know exactly what you want.
An example of a SMAART goal could be:
I want to be able to watch Korean Drama without subtitles in six months. To reach this goal, I am going to learn 20 new phrases every day.
In 6 months, you would have learnt 18,000 new phrases!
Having a SMAART goal will help you achieve your goal quicker.
3. Watch foreign shows
This tip is my favourite.
Sure, learning your target language’s grammar is important. However, the native speakers don’t speak as to how the textbooks teach you.
The textbook language is way too formal.
So, what’s the best way to speak a language the way the natives do? Watch foreign shows.
By watching English TV Series, I was able to learn new slangs. I learn slangs such as “ditch”, “chill”, “slay”, “stan”, “spill the tea” by watching TV.
It is also easier to pick up new phrases by watching foreign shows.
For example, when I was watching a Korean Drama, these phrases are constantly repeated:
가지마/ga-ji-ma (don’t go)
보고싶어/bo-go-sip-eo (I miss you)
괜찮아/gwaenchanh-a (Ok or are you ok?)
미안해/mian-hae (I’m sorry)
So, now when I’m talking with my Korean friends, I will randomly insert those phrases in my sentence!
4. Converse with others
One of the challenges of learning a new language is not having anyone to practise with.
I could not master Mandarin when I was still in school because I had no one to practise with.
My parents do not speak Mandarin, and my classmates were just as terrible as I did.
When I started my part-time job, I had many Chinese friends. I learnt so much more new Mandarin phrases than I did for my 12-year Mandarin lessons back in school.
If you can’t find anyone to converse with, you can always find someone who is willing to on the internet. You can do it from Twitter, Reddit or even by playing online games!
I made so many good friends on Twitter, and I have met most of them in different countries!
5. Leave your comfort zone
I know some people from school who have lived most of their lives in Indonesia but cannot converse in Bahasa Indonesia. They went to a school with English as a medium, lived in a neighbourhood full of expatriates and made friends with foreigners. They did not have a reason to learn Bahasa Indonesia.
If you really want to learn a new language, you need to leave your bubble and expand your network. Go make friends with people who speak your target language.
Another important aspect of leaving your comfort zone is to be confident in speaking your target language.
I struggled a lot to learn Mandarin because I was afraid of pronouncing the words wrong. Mandarin has different tones, and different tones have different meanings.
I was always made fun of when I pronounced the wrong words. It crushed my confidence.
When I conversed with my colleague during my part-time job, they never made fun of my ‘broken Mandarin’. They helped me pronounce the words correctly and boosted my confidence.
Leaving your comfort zone will be scary, but trust me, it is worth it!
6. Listen to podcasts
If you do not have time to watch movies, tv-series, or videos, you can always listen to podcasts. Nowadays, there are many language programs on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
You can download the podcasts or stream them on the way to work.
Listening to podcasts will help you familiarize yourself with the words.
You can also increase the audio speed if you think that the speakers are speaking too slow or decrease the speed if you feel that they are talking too fast.
7. Make flashcards
Flashcard is an effective tool to study.
When you learn a new language by reading a textbook, you can get overwhelmed by the number of words that you see.
Flashcards allow you to learn new words without cluttering your mind.
“Flashcards give your brain a very quick way to check if you got the answer correct. They also help you engage in active recall, which teaches your brain to remember a term, concept or process without context clues. They allow you to repeat the act of learning and memorizing until you are an expert on the information,” said the Marketing Director of Peterson’s, Elizabeth Barry.
According to experts, writing by hand appears to improve our ability to remember things.
For this reason, you should definitely practise writing in your target language.
It does not have to be an essay. You can simply rewrite a text, poem, or short story.
The whole point of practise writing is to help you familiarize yourself with the words and help you remember the things.
Reading a text in your target language will help you practise your pronunciation.
Try reading a book aloud.
You can stop when you find an unfamiliar word, write it down, find the meaning and resume.
If you keep on doing it, you will definitely be able to master your target language!
10. Practise every day
Yes, you heard me right.
Practise every day!!!
Daily habits easily eliminate distractions because you are focused only on those things that need to be done.
If you want to learn a new language, don’t just do it every other day. You will most likely forget what you have learnt or lose your motivation.
Make a daily schedule that can accommodate your SMAART goal.
Practising can come in different forms, as I have said in the previous tips. Here is an example…
If you want to learn Spanish, you can do this:
Monday: watch a Spanish movie after work or school
Tuesday: Have a zoom call with your online Spanish friend
Wednesday: Spend your evening with people from the Spanish community
Thursday: Listen to Spanish podcasts on the way to work
Friday: Read a Spanish news article in the morning
Saturday: Write Spanish poems before doing your chores
Sunday: Read a Spanish book before going to bed
Practising every day does not have to be dull and boring. You can do different things as long as you keep on doing it regularly.
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