Have you ever wanted to learn a language? Has the time commitment ever scared you away from moving forward with it? Whether it’s for school, work, or personal reasons, learning a new language can be a difficult and time-consuming endeavor. However, there are strategies for learning a new language that can quicken the process and make it much easier and more fun. These simple yet effective methods can be easily implemented in your learning journey, and we’ll guide you on how to do it!
As an educator who has taught globally, I can personally vouch for the results that our methods guarantee. These strategies are effective despite requiring minimal effort, at least when compared to other language learning practices. As a passionate linguist, I’ve studied and become fluent in several languages. I have experienced false promises when studying with apps that lacked a personalized learning plan and, of course, accountability. I realized that to succeed in learning a new language, I needed to find what worked best for me. Our strategies for learning new languages will help you build confidence in your skills and find what techniques enhance your learning abilities.
And if you want more tips, feel free to grab the free guide, “10 Tips to Become Fluent in a New Language Faster.”
It is known that consuming entertainment when learning a new language greatly helps the learning process. According to “Learning English through Movies: Adult English Language Learners’ Perceptions,” English language learners claimed that watching TV and movies helped expand their vocabulary and improve their listening, speaking, and pronunciation skills. Essentially, listening to native speakers participating in casual conversations, such as in film dialogue, can significantly improve your communication skills. Watching movies and shows in the language you’re learning will boost your listening comprehension and pronunciation when speaking with others.
Our article, “Picture-Perfect Learning: The Best Way to Learn Spanish through Movies,” gives more in-depth advice about learning a target language through film. But let’s not forget music, the universal language! Whether K-pop, bossa nova, or Latin rhythms, music is a great way to learn some catchy phrases, learn a few steps while moving about the house, or truly soak in the sounds of a culture. The beauty of music is that it doesn’t have to be about vocabulary and grammar; it can simply be about being consistently interested in the cultural context of your language.
While entertainment is a great way to learn a new language, watching one movie, or listening to one song, won’t greatly improve your speaking skills. In fact, it might frustrate you when you can’t get the results that you want. However, by watching multiple films, and series, listening to weekly podcasts, and combining them with some tunes, you’re bound to pick up a few tricks to take your conversation to the next level.
The 80/20 rule, otherwise known as the Pareto principle, is defined by the fact that 80% of results come from 20% of efforts. This concept in language learning says that rather than spreading yourself out to learn multiple topics simultaneously, you should focus on a few to master; it’ll be more beneficial when retaining information. For example, if you’re practicing vocabulary, you want to study the most commonly used vocabulary words instead of studying endless words related to various topics.
You should understand how to use those few words in various tenses and situations. It’s normal to want to perfect your knowledge of a language before applying and speaking it. However, trying to learn everything all at once will result in a very inefficient learning strategy. Make lists of common words and basic grammar rules to ease your way into forming complex sentences. This 80/20 rule will make your studying much simpler. Instead of focusing on long-term goals, set short-term goals and work your way up.
What better way is there to learn other than learning from the best? Finding yourself a fluent study partner can help immensely when it comes to practicing conversation. Not only will it set you up for having real-world conversations, but you’ll also learn niche tips that you can’t learn elsewhere (e.g., common expressions or slang). You and your study partner can practice with flashcards that give brief context for a conversation. From there, one of you can begin the conversation and let it flow. Your partner can help you find flaws in your pronunciation and speaking grammar while you learn to become a better listener.
Although this may seem similar to the previous strategy, the difference is your partner’s proficiency in the language. Finding a study buddy around the same level as you is one of the most typical ways to review. In the article “Study Buddy: An English Training Program for College Students Who Failed Their English Comprehensive Exam,” we learn that study buddies motivate learners by giving them a sense of enthusiasm when it comes to learning. These study buddy programs had high attendance rates and gauged the interest of many.
Having a partner can help motivate you to do your work and give you someone to ask questions to and converse with. You can create flashcards and have one person ask questions while the other is tested. You can also practice conversation, answer writing prompts, and exchange papers to find errors, read texts, and test each other’s comprehension. When choosing a study buddy, find someone passionate about reaching language mastery so that you can motivate each other.
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect! If you want to succeed in learning a new language, you need to make sure you’re practicing every day. Practicing doesn’t mean sitting around for two hours non-stop, memorizing vocabulary. Find an optimal time to dedicate roughly 30 minutes or more to brush up on what you learned the day before and practice something new. The main point is to practice daily and make it a habit. Learning a new language is a huge time commitment and a challenging task. However, research shows that you can get results by partaking in small language learning tasks daily and that setting short-term goals is highly beneficial in supporting learning. So, practicing a little daily makes reaching your goals easier and guarantees you don’t forget important content. Taking breaks is normal, but jump back into it so you don’t regress in your learning!
Aside from watching shows and movies, reading different kinds of literature to support your language-learning journey is highly recommended. Although reading books or magazines as a new language learner can be daunting, it’ll build your reading comprehension skills and help you become a better writer. Reading in a different language doesn’t necessarily mean reading lengthy and complex novels. You can and should be looking at various kinds of writing. This will help you understand how natives write for certain audiences and different contexts—for example, reading a newspaper article versus a famous folk tale. We recommend picking up some children’s books with simpler sentences and phrases for beginners. For intermediate learners, look at short stories, magazine articles, or current events stories. These are all relatively short reads yet complex enough to challenge your learning. You can easily find plenty of these engaging texts online!
You want to make your language learning a habit. However, to make daily practice a habit, you’ll need to motivate yourself. Habit trackers will help you do just that. You can use physical calendars or habit tracker apps like Streaks to help you keep track of which days you study your language. You will feel more motivated to keep it and ultimately find it easier to incorporate daily study and review sessions. Quick tip: studying at the same time each day, or setting up time with a tutor at the same time each week, will help turn your language learning into a solid habit.
A language parent is like a parent, but when it comes to language learning. Earlier, we learned about the importance of having a buddy system, as well as conversing with a native speaker, which is different from having an actual teacher. An actual teacher must get paid, this is their actual job. Although this is not always the cheapest option, if you’re serious about learning a language, you will need to eventually hire a tutor and get a teacher involved. Not sure what to look for in a language parent? A reputable language school is a great starting point. They will set you up with one of their teachers. Make sure to look for someone reliable, who can hold you accountable, who corrects all your mistakes as you speak, and who mainly uses the target language. Oh, and they must have a great internet connection!
If the language does not constantly surround you, how can you expect to learn it quickly? Two tips for finding ways to surround yourself with the language you are learning is through your phone and your home. Switch the language your phone operates in, even if it is just for a few minutes, and try to navigate as best you can. You might find new vocabulary. It’s a quick and easy way to improve your reading skills. It also wouldn’t hurt to reinforce what you learned earlier in the day at night while sleeping.
Additionally, you can also take your learning on the go with a self-paced video program where you can work at your own pace and learn whenever and wherever. Even without technology, you can label objects around your house in the language you’re learning. This labeling will also help you memorize the names of objects you see daily.
As a language learner, you need to be open to making mistakes. Remember that language mastery takes time. No one expects you to be fluent after only a few sessions; if that were the case, everyone would be bilingual or trilingual. Take pride in the small achievements, the accomplishment of smaller goals to achieve the big ones. If you’re struggling with harder conjugations, work your way up from practicing your basic ones. If you struggle with pronouncing certain words, practice your conversational skills until you get it right. Although we would like to learn languages as quickly as the next person does, we also need to know that perfecting a language will take work.
If you can implement these strategies by creating a consistent practice pattern, you’ll soon start reading, writing, and speaking in your target language. With dedication and motivation to learn, you’re already one step closer to moving from a beginner to an advanced beginner to an intermediate learner… Want more tips? Don’t forget to grab our free guide, “10 Tips to Become Fluent in a New Language Faster.” You will learn more about my language learning journey and some tips I’ve picked up to make my time more efficient while learning. Happy learning!
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Irma is a trained linguist, native Spanish speaker, and teacher. She is the founder and CEO of Diáfano.
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