How to Master a Second Language Like a Pro

Updated on May 19, 2017
Virginia Matteo profile image

Virginia has a Bachelor's degree in Spanish and English Literature.

I’m not going to lie to you – learning a second language is rather a long process that requires some commitment. In my experience it takes about two years of intense work to arrive at B2/C1 level. However, the time of language acquisition varies greatly in individual cases depending on such factors as the proximity of the target language to your mother tongue, the number of foreign languages you’ve learned so far, the amount of hours you spend studying and the learning styles you adopt. Generally, the more languages you’ve mastered, the easier it gets. You know what works for you and what doesn’t, you start noticing similarities between languages, and, most importantly, you know that mastering a language IS possible, no matter how impossible it seems at the beginning.

But before going into any detail let’s ask the most basic question: is it worth it? If half the world speaks English nowadays, what’s the point of knowing another language?

The Benefits of Learning Another Language

As a passionate language learner I can confidently say: yes, it is worth your time. Acquiring a new language is a great exercise for the brain, and we generally don’t want the old fellow to get too rusty, do we? Apart from that, you’ll find that suddenly a whole world of fascinating opportunities opens up to you. The most obvious advantage is better qualifications on the job market, especially if you want to spread your wings in an international company. But not only that; as a university student you’ll have more confidence to participate in student exchange programs and gain an amazing life experience. Or, you can decide to quit the old life and start a new one in another country. The world is your oyster! Language is a tool and it’s up to you what you want to do with it. I know it is a cliché to say, but participating fully in another culture will change you and the way you think in ways that you can’t even begin to gauge if you’ve never lived beyond the borders of your own country. Suddenly what you thought were universal truths turn out to be particular quirks of your particular context. Gaining that additional perspective is fascinating and help you grow a lot as a person.


I would say the hardest part is to keep yourself motivated for over a year, and most probably, for much, much longer. Maybe even for a lifetime of constant learning and discoveries, who knows? Where to find the strength to carry on? What works for me is setting long-term goals that are somehow connected to the language I’m learning. It’s the prospect of a year abroad in Spain that currently keeps me going. But it can be any target, really; sometimes something as simple as wanting to be able to read your favorite author in his/her native tongue. Or, a desire to live in this country one day. Or, it may be because you want to impress the family on a holiday trip abroad. Whatever it is, keep reminding yourself about it when you run out of motivation to carry on. It may also be a good idea to join a study group on the internet, or to have a friend who is also learning the language. A sense of healthy competition is sure to keep you up to speed.


I can hear you moan. Yes, grammar is important. Of course, you can choose to pay as little attention to grammar as possible, focusing instead on developing communication skills. Some schools of thought actually say that immersion is all you need to learn a second language, and that may well be true. However, in my opinion grammar simply speeds things up. Besides, as it is perfectly OK to make mistakes at the beginning of your learning journey, at some point you want to be able to use the language flawlessly. This is where the hundreds of exercises you’ve done come in handy. It is much easier to have a particular grammar problem explained to you and then practise, practise, practise it than to try to figure everything out on your own. I promise, it will pay off in the end.

Immerse Yourself

When you’re tired of grammar (and you will be), switch to something more pleasant. Find texts suitable for the linguistic level you are currently at. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything at first! Use a dictionary to check vocabulary that is frequently used; when a specific word crops up again you will be able to consolidate it in your mind. However, don’t overdo it. If you spend more time rummaging through dictionaries than on reading, you are likely to get frustrated. Focus rather on what you already know and the overall message of the text. Over time you will be able to move to more and more complex texts, without really needing to learn long tedious lists of vocabulary taken out of context. And that’s the point!

Another pleasant activity you should pursue is watching videos in the target language. As with reading, start with the easy ones, preferably those that are designed for language learners. Try to get the gist of what’s being said. Your comprehension will gradually build up allowing you in the end to watch films and series.

Activate What You've Learned

Use your language. Find a conversation partner on the internet or practice with a friend. Building even the simplest sentence, as daunting as it may seem at the beginning, is a source of immense satisfaction. This is the time to put into practice all you’ve passively assimilated so far. You’ve learned some new words during the day? Brilliant! Build sentences around them, play with different combinations, revise actively. And remember not to be discouraged if you make a mistake – it’s all learning. You sure won’t make the same mistake in the future.

If you’re lucky enough to find a native speaker who would be willing to read and check what you’ve written, all the better. When you speak you want to focus more on getting the message across rather than on using flawlessly complex grammar structures. Writing is an altogether different matter. You’ve got some time to check appropriate vocabulary and ponder over the right grammar usage. That’s why getting feedback on your written work is so important – you can identify the grammar and vocabulary areas that still need improvement.

Enjoy It

Despite some boring aspects to it, learning a new language is fun. Or, it can be fun if you choose it to be. The better you know the language, the more fun and rewarding it is – you start reading newspapers and literature in the language, watching films and just generally engaging with the culture. So good luck and enjoy the experience!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)