How to Easily Learn a Foreign Language
Knowledge Is Power
I am fluent in two languages—French and English, French being my mother tongue—and intermediate in Spanish. I have always loved languages and it has been my goal to learn many of them, to be able to communicate with as many people as possible in the language they best understand.
Speaking many languages comes with several benefits, both at the professional and personal levels. And if you are wondering where to start, this piece will explore the three main tips which have worked for me in enhancing my language skills, namely writing, singing and speaking.
Do You Need to Learn a New Language?
I grew up in the French-speaking area of a bilingual country: we spoke French at home, all our subjects were in French in school and we had to take the English language as a course. The said course only consisted of the basics of the English language, and anybody with an extra interest in the language had to learn it on their own. Fortunately, I went the extra mile and acquired more language skills in English. Not only did they help me in my post-secondary education—which has been purely in English—but also in my career. From my own experience, there are a couple of benefits one can derive from being fluent in more than one language.
1. Better Work Opportunities
For some positions, a multilingual candidate is more competitive and may earn higher than their bilingual counterpart. As an illustration, one of my first jobs in Canada was to work as a customer service representative (CSR); in the Great Toronto Area, bilingual CSR agents are paid on average, 3 to 4 dollars per hour more than those who speak only English.
2. Possibility of Reconversion
Language skills are just like any other abilities: you can always make the most of them. Whether it is through teaching or informal translation/interpretation, you can make some extra cash or even earn a living with your second language.
3. Larger Network & Wider Resources
Mastering another language implies having more people with whom you can communicate. No matter if it's asking for directions to get to your destination or building a lifetime friendship, knowing another language can sometimes be very handy! In the same manner, in case you find helpful resources (documentaries, articles, books...) that are available only in one of the languages you understand, consider how beneficial it can be to you!
Now that you know some of the advantages of learning a foreign language, you may find the tips below helpful for your next learning venture.
No knowledge is ever wasted.— Ben Carson
Tips for Learning a Foreign Language
Determine Which Language You Are Interested in Learning
Many reasons can influence your choice. They may be:
- Geographical, that is, based on where you live or plan on living
- Statistical, meaning, according to a language's number of speakers worldwide
- Personal which will include a plethora of scenarios.
This table represents the most spoken languages in the world.
Number of Speakers Worlwide
Find the Appropriate Learning Tools
Here is a guideline on what you can use.
- Language apps/software: My recommendation is Duolingo, which offers interactive ways of learning several languages free of charge.
- Dictionaries: If possible, have two dictionaries: one that is solely in the language you are learning and the other that offers equivalences from your primary language to the one you are learning, and vice-versa. It is easy to find free dictionaries on your app store.
- YouTube videos: Several vloggers offer interesting language learning content. All you need to do is to find a channel that suits your needs, depending on the language you plan to learn.
- Google Translate: It is not always practicable to do a word for word translation of a sentence or expression. Google Translate may be useful for that!
- Writing materials: Grab a pen and a notebook and be ready to learn.
Write Down What You Learn
Approximately 65 percent of the population are visual learners, meaning they tend to better process information that they see. For this reason, it is important to:
- Have your writing material at the beginning of your learning sessions.
- Write down new words and expressions from each session, as well as their meaning and general use.
- Regularly write mini-essays with the words you have learned over a period of time.
- Learn and write down the dictionary meaning of at least one word every day.
- Jot down the rules of grammar and spelling acquired from your sessions.
The shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory— Mark Batterson
Have you ever realized how songs can stick in your mind? You probably still remember some of your nursery rhymes to date. The truth is, songs are one of the most powerful methods of memorization. Here is how you can make the most of this great tool:
- Look for songs in the language you are learning and their meaning in your primary language (YouTuBe and a few apps are great resources for this purpose).
- Practicing the song's lyrics will not just enhance your vocabulary, but also your fluency in the language you are learning.
- Have fun translating some of your favorite songs from your primary language to your language of learning! Your dictionaries and Google Translate will be helpful for this.
There is a reason why, to say you master a language, you use the expression "I speak ..." This is because speaking is the ultimate and perhaps most difficult part of your journey to enhancing your linguistic skills. Even though one's confidence to communicate in a foreign language does not grow overnight, there are a few ways to express yourself with confidence.
- Practice on your own by reading out loud several times every word, expression, and sentence you learn.
- Think in the language you learn: every time you consider doing something, ask yourself how it is called in the language you are learning. It is way easier to speak a language when you can think in that language!
- Practice with someone who does not understand the language you are learning by reading to them your mini-essays or singing the songs you have learned. Though it may sound strange, this will help you realize the progress you have made and get some encouragement to do more.
- If possible, practice with someone fluent in the language you are learning for them to correct you and give you a few pieces of advice.
- Do not be afraid/ashamed! Remember that practice makes perfect and the worst that can happen if you make a mistake, is that you will learn and never make the same. Don't worry about having an accent or not sounding right: with time and practice, you will get it right.
Consistency Is the Key
In all, there is certainly no magic about learning a foreign language. You must dedicate at least 30 minutes to it every day and apply diligently all the learning methods which work for you! Are you ready?
7 Tips for Learning a New Language
Your Opinion Counts
Are you willing to learn a foreign language?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Uriel Eliane