Learning foreign languages can be really tough, especially for adults, as their brains are already stuffed with too many things and they’ve lost an ability to absorb new knowledge like a sponge. Also, the problem is that not everyone is good at learning languages. Some people just can’t do it as fast and as well as others. Another thing is that it’s quite difficult to spare some extra time to study when you have to go to work or college, and even harder if you have kids. That’s when you have to figure out the most effective way to learn a foreign language not to spend your time in vain and actually achieve a certain level of language proficiency.
But, motivation comes waaay before all that good stuff. You have to know why you’re willing to learn another language. And, your reasons have to be strong enough to make you last though this time-consuming and tough process of learning any foreign language. Willing to impress someone won’t do. You should do it for yourself in the first place. Whether you want to grow as a person, expand your horizons, find new opportunities or get acquainted with other cultures by learning how to speak another language, just find a good source of inspiration. Maybe you need that to get a promotion. Maybe foreign languages are among your job requirements or something that helps you succeed in your career. Maybe you’re planning to travel a lot, or move to another country, or visit it quite a lot. Anything that will make you study and anything you’ll benefit from (in every sense) is good to motivate you.
Then, you have to set small goals and deadlines. For instance: ‘I’ll learn this or that bulk of grammar rules by next week’ or ‘I’m going to read in Spanish for 20 minutes every single day’ or ‘I’m going to talk to people in Spanish instead of English during my next business trip to Mexico”. Don’t go overboard and be realistic while setting those goals to make sure that you’re actually able to reach them within a certain time. But, defining those intermediate goals and achieving them is really rewarding. It makes you even more motivated and determined to continue this journey.
Now, as you’ve mentally prepared yourself and decided to learn a foreign language for sure, I’ll give you some tips that will hopefully make the learning process faster, more effective and not too boring for you. I’m not a teacher and I’m not a philologist, but I had to learn a foreign language as well. And I’m quite good at it now. (At least, I believe I am.) So, let’s get down to business!
Tips to learn any foreign language
- Make an effort to learn basic grammar and vocabulary. It’s possible to do that without anyone’s assistance. Just grab pretty much any decent language learning book and start digging through it diligently for several days. This will help you gain some basic knowledge, which should be a start-up of your further actions.
- Learn 100, then 1000, then 3000 of the most used words. Obviously, no one can tell you what those words are (except, maybe, the first 100 of them), as it depends on what sphere you’re engaged in and what situations you’re going to speak foreign language in. But, they’re mainly those words all people constantly use on day to day basis. Don’t limit your vocabulary by those well-known topic selections of words in your textbooks like kitchen, family, pieces of furniture, health, school, environment, etc. You won’t probably make use of Spanish names of kitchen utensils when you’ll have to ask a foreigner how you can get to this or that part of the city and understand his instructions, or order food in a restaurant, or watch TV, or talk to people during a business meeting.
- Intensity is your key to success. Have you ever wondered why foreign language classes at school weren’t really useful? The fact is that any foreign language requires constant practice, repetition and development. But, if you devote only 2-3 hours a week to learning and take long breaks between the classes, you’ll easily forget new words and especially grammar. That’s why frequent language classes taken within several weeks and complemented by further practice, communication and advanced learning will work better than 6-months courses with 2-4 hours of classes per week.
- Make up several sentences with new words and try to use them as much as you can in order to remember them even better. Memorizing a word by itself is not enough. Building various sentences to see how this or that world is normally used in a foreign language is much more beneficial. It’s like you’re connecting a new word with real life and situation it’s better to use it in. You’ll not only expand your vocabulary, but also learn how to use this language tool. This is also how you’ll understand and memorize different meanings of different options of practically the same word, which will help you avoid word confusion. For instance, English phrase ‘enjoy the rights’ literally means using human rights. But, inexperienced English learners from Russia will most likely translate this expression as take delight or pleasure in rights.
- Talk to people. It’s great when you have an opportunity to talk to native speakers, as if you communicate even with one of them often enough, you’ll be almost fluent is several months. Besides, you’ll be able to pick up their accent, figure out correct pronunciation, useful word expressions and just make friends with someone, who speaks a different language. Don’t be too shy to use online services, which match different people, who learn foreign languages, from various countries all over the world. Add Spanish, Russian or German speaking people on Facebook. Chat to them online, carry out Skype calls, etc. You will find your way to a native speaker if you’re really determined to do that.
- Open your mouth. It’s also good to talk to people, who’re just better at your target language than you are. Awkward moments, misunderstandings, word confusions and the lack of vocabulary are inevitable, but they constitute one of the parts of learning process. Many foreign language teachers note that one hour conversation in a foreign language is equivalent to 5 hours of studying in a classroom or 10 hours of online language course in terms of practicing grammar and expanding your vocabulary. And, it’s just irreplaceable when it comes to developing your foreign language speaking skills. You’ll feel uncomfortable and it will be quite difficult to open your mouth and actually talk at the beginning, but results are totally worth all your efforts.
- Talk to yourself in a foreign language. Reset your mind and try to carry out those internal monologues in foreign language. Come up with various situations and act out various conversations on random topics or upcoming conversations in foreign language to make them easier for you. Basically, you want to accustom your mind to thinking in foreign language.
- Consider hiring a tutor. It’s quite difficult to learn a foreign language without professional’s assistance. Someone has to explain grammar and pronunciation rules to you, notice and correct your mistakes. Attending group classes and courses is not really effective, as you’ll have to wait while someone tries to understand or memorize the rule you already know, compose sentences and speak out. In my opinion, those language courses are simple waste of time and money. It’s better to find a professional language tutor and concentrate on your needs, problems and struggles, learn a foreign language at a comfortable ‘speed’ and receive intensive classes rather than attend those boring and never ending courses. You may easily find a tutor, who works within your local area, on HireRush.com and call him directly from the site to figure out his teaching methods and other details. Individual classes work just the same way.
- Learn to understand foreign speech casually. Watch TV programs and shows in foreign language; listen to different songs, audio books, etc. Don’t be too lazy to reed in foreign language, as it’s the most effective method of increasing your vocabulary. Besides, you can do that while traveling home from work, on road trips or flights, while waiting at the doctor’s office or exercising in the morning. There’re plenty adapted books (printed and audio versions) for foreign language learners, which correspond to various levels of language proficiency, contain useful vocabulary, grammar, writing and reading tasks. Don’t choose too difficult books. Opt for modern literature, as it features modern, ‘living’ language.
- Make it fun. Sitting in a classroom and digging through numerous grammar textbooks is too boring. You won’t last for too long if you do nothing but that. Turn your language learning experience into a fun adventure, use this opportunity to discover new things, cultures, meet new people, visit different places and make friends. Learn while living, learn while laughing, learn while travelling and learn while working. As learning is an experience, and experience comes from living.