I spent years trying to learn Spanish at school, describing images and learning grammar, but still, I could not hold a proper conversation. That was until I took the learning into my own hands and became more involved.
I began reading my favourite books in Spanish and chatting with friends. Now, Spanish has become one of my working tools, in addition to English and French.
Studies show that learning new languages can be a huge benefit, especially in the working world, where bilinguals are more likely to be hired and get a promotion.
Learning a new language is also a good way to be more open-minded and to think differently, every culture has a different view of the world. The more you learn about different perspectives, the more understanding you become.
Many people have tried to learn a new language for many years, at school for example, and never succeeded. A survey conducted in the UK shows that 62% of people only speak English, even though pupils are taught a second language.
Learning a language can come in various forms, whether you decide to focus on grammar or key expressions. Yet, there are 5 recurring factors that can help you increase your chances of learning a new language.
Here are some tips to help you:
Enjoy the learning process
Multilingual people around the world are always willing to share their secrets to learn new languages, but it always boils down to one element: having fun while learning.
Starting by reading a textbook or learning conjugations can quickly become boring. In fact, most people will much likely give up after a few weeks if they see it as a chore.
There are many ways to start your journey. Find out what you like doing and start using it in a learning context. It can be with a recipe while cooking, watching your favourite show, listening to music, or even listening to podcasts.
It is also important to find out what your learning style is—are you a visual learner, perhaps an auditory or kinaesthetic one? This all impacts your learning journey; some people might find it impossible to learn something by themselves, and others cannot learn something any other way.
Be consistent and set goals
When trying to learn new things, we all have that first surge of motivation that can disappear after a few weeks, of work and a busy schedule. But what you want to do is set a habit and be realistic as to how much time you can commit, and not try to learn everything in two weeks.
You must have a good method that works for you and try to learn the language daily. Learning a language for 20 minutes a day is better than practising it twice a week for 60 minutes. You can try popular apps like Duolingo or Babel which make learning a language quick and easy.
Setting realistic goals over time will prevent despondency and help you make progress. And do not forget that “Repetition is the mother of learning.”
Learn the most common words and expressions
One of the easiest ways to start speaking the language is by learning the most common words. For instance, the 100 most used words in English make up 50% of written material.
In most languages, you can start communicating with only a few hundred words. Set yourself a goal of learning a word a day or a week, and truly learn everything about that word: how to use it in different contexts, the possible hidden meaning behind the word, etc. Soon enough, you will be able to hold a conversation!
A language is for communication, so one of the best ways to learn is to start listening and speaking it. The oral aspect is paramount to getting the pronunciation and the cadence right. This step might be scary, but the best way to learn a language is immersion along with trial and error.
You can even start by talking to yourself, but the best method is to interact with native speakers, which takes us to the next point.
Travel to the country
Finally, the best way to learn a language is to travel to the country and live there. Not only will you have to speak the language to be understood, but you will learn about the culture and new ways of thinking. Learning a language in its cultural context is paramount, so get out of your comfort zone and make some new friends.
Learning a language takes time. You must also take into account that depending on your native tongue, some languages will be harder to master than others. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, it is all part of the learning process.
Why learn a Second Language?
Translators or people that work in the language service industry are not the only ones that need to know multiple languages. In this day and age, knowing a second language is not just beneficial, but necessary for success.
With the ongoing globalisation of the world’s economy, bridging the gap between diverse cultures and communities has pushed us to expand our horizons. Communicating with people isn’t the only benefit of learning a second language. It has been proven that language learning improves cognitive function:
- Enhances problem-solving skills
- Improved verbal abilities
- Improved both long-term and short-term memory
- Expanded creative thinking
- More flexible thinking
Outside these cognitive benefits of language learning, in bilingual students, it was shown that their scholarly performance also improved. They scored higher in standardised tests, had higher reading achievement, had an expanded vocabulary in native language (English) and overall had a higher academic performance later on in life. Many go on to have successful jobs in language translation services, business, teaching, health care, flight attendant, and more.
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