• Naomi Kiyoko Wilson

How to Learn a New Language

Updated: Mar 27

Do you want to be bilingual? Multilingual? If you do, take pride in your desire to learn about a foreign language and the culture that it is strongly rooted in. Not only will you be more culturally-aware, but you will also enhance your brainpower. Are you ready to turn your aspirations into actions? Let’s get started.

1. Determine your goal.

According to The Linguist, it takes 480-720 hours to acquire basic fluency in a language. How fluent do you want to become? Do you want to be able to read as well as speak the language? These are the type of questions that you should ask yourself to decide on what your end goal should be. Keep this goal in mind while you are studying to make sure that you are on the right path.

2. Do your research.

There are millions of study tools out there to choose from, but you only need a few to get started. It all depends on how you prefer to learn. If you enjoy sitting down and studying at a desk, then working through a workbook may be the way to go. If you learn best in collaborative environments, find a class. However, if you are constantly on the go, downloading an app or a podcast might be a better option. Do whatever fits your lifestyle best.

3. Be consistent.

Routine is key. Learning a little each day is typically more effective than studying for long stretches of time. Practice 5-15 minutes every day, and you will find that your mind will absorb information much faster, decreasing the amount of time needed to review the information later.

4. Connect with people.

Learning a language tends to be a lot more enjoyable when you are studying alongside like-minded people. It is much easier to develop a daily habit for a task that you look forward to doing. Consider attending a class or even finding one person to practice with, and this will greatly improve your language skills, especially when it comes to speaking. Just make sure that you are surrounding yourself with people who will motivate you rather than distract you from your studies and hold you accountable.

5. Be patient.

Mastering a language takes a lot of time and effort. Be patient with yourself and expect to make lots of mistakes. When you are having a conversation with someone in the study language, don’t be shy to ask for suggestions on how to improve. Putting yourself out there, even if you make tons of errors, is much better than worrying about being perfect. If you need something to motivate you to take that leap of faith, consider planning a culturally immersive reward (such as going to a festival, show, or movie) after having x number of conversations in the foreign language. For more information on goal- and reward-setting, click here.

While you are practicing a language or multiple languages, keep in mind that a language is not simply a collection of words. These jumbles of vowels and consonants have a cultural significance behind them that is more important than the words themselves. Go into your studies with a mindset of immersing yourself in a culture rather than vocabulary and grammar, and you will find yourself learning the language with a greater amount of passion and enthusiasm.

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