10 Tips to help you learn a new language

You have decided to learn a new language but still have doubts about it? Here are 10 tips that might help you progress:

1. Make realistic goals

This is probably the most important one. When it comes to setting up new goals, people tend to be too demanding and put themselves under pressure. The best way to learn a language is to focus on reasonable goals that are easily and quickly achievable to stay motivated.

So even if you feel super excited at the beginning, try setting up milestones that you should hit. Set yourself a target such as being able to have a short conversation with someone or read a newspaper article on your favourite topic without having to look up any words in the dictionary.

Beware of « Fluency ». If you believe that learning a language is only about translating words and sentences and applying them to a new context, you are neglecting crucial aspects such as culture learning and personal growth. In this respect, fluency should mean endless improvement.

2. Remember why you are learning

It may sound obvious but if you do not have a good reason to learn a language, you are less likely to stay motivated. Recognising exactly why you want to learn a language is really important as motivation is the key to learning efficiently. Why not grab a piece of paper and start writing down five reasons why you are learning a language? Stick it on your desk or in your agenda and have a look at it in times of doubt.

3. Focus exactly on what you want to learn

In other words, focus on your objective(s). You want to learn a language to be able to use it at work? Focus on this lexical field first. The way you learn does not really matter here, the result is far more important. Use books, apps, traditional methods or online ones that will help you build up the specific vocabulary that you want to be able to use quickly. You will certainly get better results.

4. Read in the target language

Reading is great for making progress but it is also one of the most rewarding aspects of the whole learning experience. Reading for pleasure exposes you to all sorts of vocabulary that you won’t find in your text books. Moreover, the first book you will ever finish in a foreign language will be a very big achievement you’ll be proud of and that you will remember for a long time.

5. Learn vocabulary in context

Memorising lists of vocabulary can be challenging but it is not quite effective. A great way to build vocabulary is to make sure that the words or lists you are learning come from situations that you have experienced yourself. The words are always more relevant if they connect to your own experience. Keep a notebook in your bag or in your pocket and write down the new words you learn. That’s a good way to keep track of them and memorise them.

6. Be accurate

Make sure you learn the right words. Different approaches are necessary at different stages of the learning process and in my opinion, translation is definitely a good exercise to build your vocabulary as it forces you to choose the right word. Paraphrasing is ok to start communicating but can soon become frustrating. Aiming at accuracy means that you will go a step further and it will certainly help you jump from communicative to mastery level.

7. There is no perfect time to start learning

You are a monolingual adult and you feel like you have missed your train? Don’t worry about that, this is probably cultural and not part of your genes. This means that it is never too late to start learning a new language even if you are not a child anymore. Children learn instinctively whereas adults learn purposely and methodically. It does not mean that you will never learn, just that you will learn differently.

8. Make it fun

If you find it boring, you will never stick to it so play with the language, include it in your daily life, especially if you live in a multilingual area, it will slowly help you get out of your comfort zone. Watch movies, travel, go to a restaurant and order in the local language. Dare to put yourself in situations you are less familiar with, that’s how you’ll test your skills and improve.

9. Make mistakes

We learn by making mistakes but adults tend to be afraid of making them. Relax, it is not as taboo as it seems. Try to find a partner from whom you can learn and who will not be afraid to constantly correct you.

10. Sound native

To learn effectively, you have to get in touch with the native speakers. It is crucial to focus on the musicality and rhythm of the language rather than the words and, mimic them later.

At last, if you can afford it, travelling and living abroad definitely complement learning in the classroom. Listening to music, watching videos and reading books are the easiest way to expose yourself to the language at the beginning, but the people and the culture you will meet abroad will definitely go beyond them.10

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