If you’re trying to learn a new language but find yourself struggling a bit, here are seven tips to help you learn faster. Learning a new language can be frustrating, but it really shouldn’t have to be. These tips are aimed at making the whole process fun and to make you want to keep learning.
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1. Word association
They say the more languages you learn, the easier it gets to learn other languages. I think this is basically because you have a broader range of vocabulary and grammar rules, that you can start associating words in your new language to words from your old one.
This is a tip I ALWAYS use, because it is a really great way to get a word to stick with you. If you hear a word that sounds like another word you know, relate the two! Or if you see a word that’s spelled similarly, then connect the two. Simple as that. Use your huge library of vocabulary to make things easier to remember.
2. Link two languages together
Kind of similar to number one…
One of the biggest “aha!” moments I had in regards to languages was when one of my Chinese friends was learning Spanish. He tried to get another Chinese girl to pronounce a certain Spanish phrase, but she couldn’t do it. So he wrote down the pronunciation using Chinese characters, and the girl was able to say the Spanish phrase!
It seems so simple, but it honestly never occurred to me that you could link two completely different languages together in that way.
That was when I started learning Russian and Greek. The alphabet is completely different but the sounds are pretty similar. Now I know that in Russian, и = I, р = r, н = N, п = P, and д = D. I may not know how to speak Russian, but knowing I can read words is a great start!
So use the language you already know, and link the words, phrases, grammar, or even sounds of the letters to the language you are trying to learn. It will make a better connection in your head, make more “sense”, and stick better too!
3. Change the language on your phone
You use your phone every single day, so why not use it to learn a language? Change the settings and start learning the pronunciation and spelling of each app, each setting, and each action. Chances are you know your phone well enough that you won’t get lost with the new language. If it’s too difficult though, you won’t have trouble changing it back — so don’t worry!
The easiest way to learn is by speaking with someone who is preferably fluent or native. Get yourself a language buddy!
If you don’t have someone in your life that currently speaks the language you are trying to learn, then go to language tandem events. You can download this app called Meetup, where you can find events (of ALL kinds) happening near you. There are SO many tandem events where people from all different levels go to speak a variety of languages with people they don’t know. You can also start making friends that way and speak outside of the language exchanges.
If you want something less intimidating, you can use something like Italki, where you can get one-on-one lessons with professional teachers. This can help get you valuable (and fun) learning time that fits with your schedule.
Or you could do another thing I do, which is read news articles (or books) out loud in the foreign language. It doesn’t really help get you the feedback from a native, but you get used to seeing the spelling and pronouncing the words in the comfort of your own home. You also get faster and faster when it comes to reading!
5. Songs in the new language
Another fun one is to listen to songs in that language. Our brains find it super easy to memorize songs because of the catchy rhythms. My best tip is to pick songs that are slower so you can understand the words, and then gradually move up to songs with faster rhythms. Don’t forget to look up the lyrics and sing along! Check out my other post to see some songs I recommend for learning French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
6. Write what you learn
Create a language journal (or use your bullet journal if you have one). Section it off into different types of vocabulary: the alphabet, basic phrases, greetings, rules, grammar, household items, professions, etc. Then start writing all the words you learn from each category!
An easy way to keep track of this is through Duolingo — since they already categorize the lessons. I have a Portuguese book and although I don’t take it with me when I’m out and about, physically writing vocab down definitely helps me memorize.
This one is probably the most fun. Spend some time and write out vocabulary words on post-it notes and stick them around your house. It’s kind of like learning those obnoxious words for the SAT’s. Go crazy and label everything and try to say the words out loud that way they stick. Once you got them down, you can take the post-its off. Just remember to keep practicing so you don’t forget!
Of course, all the tips above help, but the BEST way to learn a language is to go travel and immerse yourself in the culture. Speak to people native to that country and mimic them a bit. Listen to the way they structure their sentences, their intonation, if they sing and smile while they talk, or have more closed mouths, etc. Just observing and conversing can teach you A LOT about the language. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but definitely try it if you can.
I hope you found a useful way to start learning your desired language.
Which language are YOU trying to learn?
Related: 5 Ways to Learn a Language