How to Learn New Languages the Best Way
When it comes to expanding your vocabulary in your native language or even new languages, people often seem to struggle.
There is a misconception that it’s easier for children and teenagers to learn new languages even though plenty of language enthusiasts find it much easier to learn languages as an adult since they are often not forced into it, but doing it because they really want to.
If you are part of a family with foreign roots and grew up speaking or listening to different languages you have a clear advantage. But don’t worry, with the will to succeed, everything is possible - even if you're starting from scratch.
Native english speakers often tend to only speak one language, which is fine since it’s the second most spoken language in the world (after Mandarin) and it's used everywhere. Still, more than half of the planet speaks two or more languages and there is no reason why you shouldn't, too.
You will quickly learn to recognize patterns, for instance Romance languages like French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and others have many words in common with English. Tradition, communication, extinction, and thousands of other -tion words are spelled exactly the same in French, and you can quickly get used to the different pronunciations. Change that -tion to a -ción and you have the same words in Spanish.
The purpose of this blog post is to give you a small but effective guide to learn new languages while having fun. As in so many other areas of self improvement, everything comes down to establishing a positive habit and sticking with it.
In this case, studying 1-2 hours a day in order to get to know fundamentals of a new language and eventually being fluent in it is the process.
If you are consistent with your new project, don’t worry at all: it may take time but you will achieve your goal, whatever that goal may be.
Everyone has different reasons to expand their knowledge of languages and that’s great!
Depending on your effort and time availability you are going to learn faster if that’s what you're going for. Some sites on Google state that if you study 10h a day you will speak easier languages fluently after 48 days.
Now who has 10 hours a day available to learn a new language?
Even if you listen to audios or watch something while eating, it’s pretty hard to make the newly gained information stick.
It also depends on the language you are trying to learn. The FSI, the US Foreign Service Institute, divides languages into groups of difficulty for speakers of English:
French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swahili
Bulgarian, Burmese, Greek, Hindi, Persian, Urdu
Amharic, Cambodian, Czech, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Lao, Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese
Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean
They say that the languages from group 1 take around 600 hours to learn while group 4 takes 2200 hours.
We obviously recommend to start with easier languages but if you really want to learn Japanese, then go for it!
Taking on a new challenge is much easier when you can see the finish line. If you lack an end goal and a clear expectation of how long it will take you to reach that goal, it will be much more difficult to stay motivated. This article is more about learning the basics all the way to speaking fluently.
Mastery of a language is a completely different topic and very hard to achieve, always keep that in mind while reading.
Now let’s start with actual steps and preparations for learning a new language. Pretty exciting isn’t it? We will concentrate our efforts on Spanish in this case since it’s the fourth most spoken language in the world with over 527 million speakers and because it's relatively easy to learn.
1. Taking an online course
I can highly recommend the following online course and its material when it comes to learning and studying new languages. I purchased this spanish class and was highly immersed in the strategies they offered.
I know it can be daunting to instantly purchase a course and not start gathering some information yourself, but I’m telling you that this is the fastest and most effective way to do it.
The people who set this up are very competent teachers with the knowledge necessary to elevate your learning curve to the moon.
They know what they’re doing and you don’t at first, that’s the hard truth.
Check it out here: http://bit.ly/UltimateSpanishGuide
But don’t worry, even if you want to miss out on this special opportunity, we got you covered with some methods that will do the job as well ;-)
Fastest way to learn Spanish: http://bit.ly/UltimateSpanishGuide
Also be aware that they promote this course to pick up women. While it's true that they will teach you a lot of flirty catchphrases, you still have to learn the grammatical basics and vocabulary necessary to communicate of course.
2. Grabbing the nearest scribbling block and starting to write
Now this method will definitely take some effort but it is worth your precious time.
You basically look for the 1000 most spoken words in your language and start writing them down with translations.
In the end you have a good old vocabulary book at hand, which is always there when you need it.
Start memorizing a certain amount of words each day that you feel comfortable with. Once you know them by heart (English -> Spanish and Spanish -> English), continue with the next block of words. Always make sure to repeat each page during your learning experience and note down some words that just don’t seem to stick.
They fall into a special category of ‘hard to learn’, which demands some extra focus. Try to make them stick by creating funny stories around them or through some sort of connection with something you like.
Embrace mistakes and learn from them!
After you are finished with the basic vocabulary we recommend to learn basic grammar. Don’t worry, we have already provided a pdf file with everything you need to know about Spanish grammar at the end of this article.
Start your adventure through the times with 2-3 tenses (get it?), preferably present tense, preterite and future tense. Then continue memorizing the endings of each tense for the verbs. Watch out, there are also some irregular verbs - we don’t like them either but they still exist, unfortunately.
Other important parts of learning a language correctly are articles, singular and plural, possessive adjectives, personal pronouns, relative pronouns, demonstrative adjectives, comparisons, adverbs, imperative and last but not least, conditions.
Equipped with the knowledge of how to use these rules and how to apply them in everyday conversations, you are pretty good to go. After mastering basic grammar and vocabulary you can slowly start to advance and dive deeper if that’s your goal.
3. Start using audio recordings of the material
Once finished with writing down vocabulary and grammar, start recording yourself or another person reading everything you’ve just written. People learn faster by reading and listening to the material at hand. However, be careful to look at the pronunciation of each word before you start the recording. Do it right from the beginning so you don’t have to get used to changes later on. You definitely don’t have to sound like a native speaker, but the effort is what counts.
YouTube videos are very helpful when it comes to pronunciation as well as the Google Translator. You can even stop your recording halfway through, quickly check how the translator pronounces the word and then start it again. We also recommend to read one page, stop the recording and then continue with the next page in order to minimize risk of failure (yes this is a serious topic).
I often cringe at my own voice in audios but the effort will be worth it, you just have to fight through it in order to learn faster and more efficiently. Listen to the audio format of the vocabulary whenever you feel like it and have some free time. I do it before sleeping and when I read the pages.
Other possible scenarios may be during public transportation, in the gym or when you have to fade out some obnoxious kids in your neighborhood - get creative!
4. Talk, watch, listen and read
This basically means to live in the language you are learning. Watch spanish shows with subtitles, YouTube videos and listen to Spanish music in order to feel like a part of the new culture you are trying to embrace.
I ordered some children’s books in Spanish to make myself a picture of basic sentences and grammar. After you’ve gotten to know 200-300 words, slowly try to translate sentences in your mind.
When browsing the web you can also install a chrome plugin that translates sites into Spanish for example. This enables you to gain a different view over sites that normally appear in a familiar language.
To listen to some spanish podcasts use the website and app tuneln.com. It offers a vast selection of audio formats in your prefered language. You can also simply look up foreign Youtubers on the internet and follow the content you enjoy.
YouTube is also the place to go for video material, but there are also plenty of other opportunities such as online news sites. Sites like France24, Deutsche Welle, CNN Español, just to name a few of them.
Having a friend or other person to talk to and test your skills is also incredibly helpful because they will notice errors and correct them immediately.
You can also set a goal with your language partner and test your skills after 1 month or so.
If you feel comfortable enough to test your knowledge with strangers, you can use sites like italki.com which offers to communicate with native speaking people from all around the world for just $5 an hour. You connect with someone and start a call via Skype - just try it and see how it goes; you may even make a new friend along the way!
Put your focus on communication instead of perfection of your target language. You cannot really ‘learn’ a new language, you can just get used to the grammar and vocabulary.
By making mistakes you truly know that you are using and practising the language and that’s one of the best ways to memorize.
5. Travel to a foreign country
If you plan to go all out and if you're thinking about travelling anyways, feel free to visit Spanish speaking countries. This is by far the best solution to learn and immerse yourself into a new language. Speaking and listening to the language everyday being surrounded by native speakers will definitely give you a huge advantage. Outside of the daily life we still recommend to make your own notes or purchase a course.
Apps are helpful as well but it depends on your goals, since they tend to teach languages very superficially. But for starting out and learning some catch phrases it is definitely worth checking out.
We recommend apps like Memrise, Duolingo and Babbel.
If your ultimate goal is to speak multiple languages, you can repeat this process over and over multiple times, but I highly recommend you focus on one language at a time, at least until you reach the intermediate level. Take each language one by one, until you reach a stage where you know you can confidently use it. And then you may just be ready for the next ones!
While you can do a lot in a few months, if you want to speak a language for the rest of your life it requires constant practice, improvement, and living your life through it as often as you can. But the good news is - once you reach fluency in a language, it tends to stick with you pretty well.
This pdf list helped a lot summarizing the basic grammar:
Without further ado I wish you all the success during your new project and that you may use your target language as often as possible in the future.
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