9 Tips for Learning a New Language

two people conversing, applying language learning tips

Learning a new language is a huge challenge. Not only do you have to adapt to a new vocabulary, but you also have to learn grammar rules and acquaint yourself with an alien culture. The task can seem overwhelming! However, rest assured that you can rise to the occasion. T-Pin Billy has spent many years teaching a foreign language, and he is here to provide you with some gems of wisdom that he has acquired both through study and through firsthand experience.

Learn Phrases, Not Just Words

It’s great to expand your vocabulary by learning single words. However, it is also vital that you learn phrases — common strings of words that are a huge element of everyday conversation. Knowing how words fit together in context helps you “put some pieces of the language puzzle” together and gives you a framework for making further progress.

Most language learning programs start out with basic phrases, like “How are you?” and “What is your name?” However, those are just the beginning of the phrases you should know. It’s also key to learn different ways of expressing gratitude, letting someone know you’re sorry, and communicating whether you agree or disagree with a particular idea or plan.

Listen to Songs

Songs are an excellent way to learn a new language because putting words to music is not only fun, but it also offers some serious benefits. One authority in the language learning industry pointing out some of those benefits:

  • Singing in a foreign language may make your accent less pronounced.
  • Songs contain a lot of informal language that you are less likely to learn in a classroom setting.
  • Listening to music is a memorization aid. After all, how many of us still sing the alphabet song when we’re trying to put something in alphabetical order?

Watch Movies

Just like listening to music, watching movies in a foreign language exposes you to words and phrases that you might not come across during formal study sessions. They also give you an opportunity to hear your new vocabulary in a variety of contexts. If you are already familiar with a movie, or it has subtitles that you can read, you’ll get valuable exposure to your new language and get to enjoy an entertaining story.

Practice at Every Opportunity

Many people who are learning a new language hesitate to practice it outside of a class or the comfort of their own home. They may be afraid of ridicule or of becoming completely lost when they try to converse with the language’s native speakers. While such fears are understandable, you should certainly work to overcome them! 

Holding back from practicing at every opportunity will slow down your progress in the language and maybe even deprive you of new friends. Always remember that in the vast majority of cases, other people aren’t looking for reasons to criticize you. They’ll probably think it’s awesome that you’re trying to learn their language!

Seek Out the Natives

Finding opportunities to practice a language with native speakers can be difficult if not a lot of native speakers live in your area. Here are a few ideas to help you seek them out:

  • Find out if there are any clubs in your area where people can go simply to have conversations in a particular language.
  • Look online. There are lots of people who are willing to talk with language learners for a reasonable fee.
  • Plan a trip. If your circumstances allow it, try to plan a trip to an area where most people speak your new language. Not only will your language skills improve, but you’ll also get to experience the culture firsthand.

Immerse Yourself

Listening to songs, watching movies, practicing, and speaking with the natives are all part of language immersion. The more you expose yourself to a language, the faster you will learn it. In fact, once you grasp the fundamentals of a language, you’ll find that immersion is one of the most valuable ways to learn new words and phrases. You’ll also pick up on some of the nuances of the language, like what tone of voice the native speakers often use and how to be polite in various situations.

Read Frequently

Listening and speaking are both key for learning a language — but so is reading. Reading allows you to see the words you are trying to get into your brain, and taking in information through multiple senses can really help it stick. If you are just starting to learn a new language, you might begin your reading ventures with children’s books or with subtitles on children’s television shows.

Use Mnemonic Devices

A Mnemonic device is basically any learning technique that helps you remember something. It can include songs, funny sayings, acronyms, and more. If you were learning English, for example, you might use the following poem to remember the parts of speech:

NOUNs name a person place or thing,

Like Mary and monkey, river and ring;

In place of nouns the PRONOUN‏‎ sits

Like he, she, I, you, they, and it;

The ADJECTIVE‏‎ describes a thing,

Like magic wand and platinum ring;

The VERB‏‎ means action, something done –

To read and write, to jump and run;

How things are done, the ADVERBS‏‎ tell,

Like quickly, slowly, badly, well;

The PREPOSITION shows relation,

Like in the street, or at the station;

CONJUNCTIONS‎ join a word or phrase,

 and, but and or are different ways;

The INTERJECTION‏‎ cries out, ‘Hark!’

I need an exclamation mark!’

You might find it fun to make up your own mnemonic devices for aspects of your new language that challenge you. It’s a great opportunity to be creative!

Try to Think in the Language

Yep, you can practice a language in the comfort of your own headspace. An article from Onmiglot gives some tips for learning to think in a new language. One of the main points in the article is that you should stop translating. That is to say, instead of thinking of everything in your own language first and then trying to translate it word by word, try to go straight to the new language in your head. Doing so will better help you master the flow of the language.

Another useful tip from the article urges language learners to name the objects around them. For example, you probably don’t think “car” every time you see a car or go for a drive. Now, though, you can start to think “car” in your new language every time you see it. 

Do you have any useful tips or tricks for language learning? Let us know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “9 Tips for Learning a New Language”

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