Here is How to Start Learning a New Language
by Jack White
How many times have you said to yourself “I’d like to learn Italian but I will begin classes next month (in two months, in one year)?” Procrastination is a common thing when it comes to getting out of your comfort zone and putting a lot of effort in a brand new activity.
The truth of the matter is that language learning doesn’t have to be cumbersome and time-consuming. There are numerous simple things you can do for the purpose of starting the process right now and having a lot of fun.
Remember how difficult it was to begin working out until your best friend told you that she wanted to start an exercise routine, as well? When you have someone to help you along the way and hold you accountable, you will do what it takes even when you don’t feel like it.
A study buddy is highly recommended in college because such a partnership boosts motivation, improves your focus and makes the work process a lot more fun.
The principle is the same when it comes to language learning. You have someone to bounce off of. You can conduct dialogues, review tedious materials and grammar rules and bring “life” to the language learning process.
Your partner will push you even when you don’t feel like practicing or taking the learning experience to the next level. Obviously, you’ll do the same for them.
What matters is finding someone you can work well with and someone who wants to learn a new language. Some people are happy partnering up with a sibling. A significant other or a best friend will also do an excellent job as long as their head is in the game.
You don’t need to find the best language course or study materials that have been recommended by linguistic gurus. Doing such research is yet another way to procrastinate and move things forward in the future.
One of the best tips as far as language learning is concerned is just start.
There is no need to wait until you have more time or until a new class is scheduled. The truth of the matter is that you will find dozens of ways to learn a language. There are online courses and study guides, local groups and partnerships with native speakers for the purpose. If you go ahead with the project right now, you will quickly discover a good methodology that you’re going to enjoy.
A final thing to remember is that you don’t really need to sign up for a course that you don’t have the money for or get a tutor.
A language instructor can help you get quick results but you will do just fine on your own if you are disciplined enough. Classes that feature 10 to 20 other language learners can be distracting and you will have to go at a certain pace. It’s a lot simpler to just begin learning at home. If you want to sharpen and refine the skills, you can always join a class in the future.
One thing is much more important than other characteristics when it comes to effective learning – relevance.
If you can’t find the practical appeal in a language lesson and you don’t know how it applies to your everyday life, chances are that you will give up on the endeavor sooner or later.
For example, you can make conversation skills your primary goal. People who begin textbook learning (grammar rules, rigid vocab learning and abstract exercises) will lose their motivation to move forward. If you, on the other hand, know that you want to go on vacation to Italy next summer, you will be motivated to learn how to communicate.
Practical learning opportunities are much more engaging because we can relate to them. The purpose of learning a new language is to use it, you’re not going to become a translator or a writer in the said tongue (if you are, more power to you!). Everyday settings and scenarios for language learning will thus make a lot of sense for a large portion of the population.
There is no need to necessarily visit Italy for the purpose of practicing the newly acquired language skills.
Reading Italian media, watching movies with subtitles and even going to an Italian restaurant can give you excellent opportunities to practice. Expose yourself to the language as people speak it and you will learn a lot.
Habits are something that we do automatically. They require no thought on our behalf and as such, they’ve become a part of the daily structure. Chances are that you brush your teeth and have breakfast in the morning without giving these processes a second thought.
Work towards turning language learning into an everyday habit. Even if you can dedicate just 20 minutes per day to it, you will end up mastering new skills pretty fast.
So, what does it take to form new habits?
Start by committing to conscious language learning for a certain period of time. Give it 20 days, for example. According to research, three to four weeks are perfectly sufficient to form a habit and give a new activity some automatic features.
Begin with a simple exercise that takes 10 to 15 minutes per day. If you have the time for it, you can dedicate more time to language learning but this isn’t a necessary requirement for internalizing the process. Consistency matters. You can do a bit of learning every single morning before going to work. You can focus on the language with your afternoon cup of coffee. Such simple rituals are the ones that stick.
Say there’s no Italian restaurant in the neighborhood and you don’t know a native speaker. What would it take to practice the phrases and the conversations that you have just learned in the first part of the process?
Luckily, technology comes to the rescue. We’re talking about technology that is simple, inexpensive and that most of us utilize on a daily basis.
Speaking live with a native can easily happen over Skype. An exchange with a native speaker carried out this way doesn’t cost you anything and it helps you overcome the anxiety linked to trying to speak a new language.
If you do a bit of online research, you will come across such exchange programs. Some people want to get paid for language lessons, while others will be happy to teach you their native tongue if you teach them yours.
Such an approach helps because you have an actual interaction with a human being. With time, you can build a friendship while learning the fine linguistic nuances only native speakers are capable of recognizing.
As your language skills improve, the conversations can become progressively longer and more intricate. This is scalable language learning that no textbook will ever be capable of giving you.
Speaking is probably the most challenging task of learning a new language and the one you should “attack” right from the start.
Learning a new language, however, is also about expanding your vocabulary and improving the structure of your sentences. In order to accomplish these goals and savor the richness of the tongue, you will also have to focus your efforts on listening.
Some think that listening is a passive activity and as such, it can’t provide for a powerful learning experience. This isn’t the case.
For many people, listening is the first step that comes before speaking. In order to engage in a conversation, you have to understand what the other party is telling you.
There are many ways you can use to hear the language constantly. Music is a bit difficult to perceive so start with audiobooks and movies. These will give you a clear idea about the pronunciation – something that non-native speakers typically struggle with.
If you do a bit of online research, you will also come across programs and websites that provide spoken narration over a text you’re reading. These web-based opportunities are great because you can begin with something simple before moving on to audiobooks.
These steps may seem cumbersome in the beginning. The truth of the matter is that you will have to exercise conscious effort. Learning a new language will get you out of your comfort zone. You will probably feel frustrated and ready to give up on times. Managing to stick with it in such challenging situations, however, will make all the difference in the world.
Take it slow but be consistent. Remember that the learning approach that has worked for somebody else isn’t necessarily going to work for you. People learn in different ways. Start with the approach that seems to make the most sense and move on to something else if you’re not finding yourself inspired. Once you nail down the methodology and you turn language learning in a daily habit, you will find it a whole lot easier to move forward and keep on going.
Jack White knew he wanted to be a great writer, but he also knew that it would take a lot of hard work. During the last years he has written dozens of online articles, working as a copywriter at essays.scholaradvisor. He hopes to continue his success into the distant future.