07 May 2018

15 Language Learning Tips to Master a Foreign Language

Via Convo Spanish: 15 Language Learning Tips to Master a Foreign Language

Learning a new language is not an easy job; furthermore, it takes a lot of dedication and work. Sometimes, it can even be overwhelming. In my case, it took me years of studying, practicing and living in different English speaking countries to become fluent in English. Because of this, I know how challenging and hard learning a new language can be. For this reason, I put together the language learning tips I follow myself to learn English, along with other tips from language students I have met, to help you with the language learning process.

1) FIND A REASON, SET UP GOALS AND A DEADLINE

We all know we would not even do half of what we do unless we have a reason. If you have a reason to learn a language, you are going to feel like studying that language and you will set up a deadline to accomplish your goal. The reason can vary from one person to another: Spending some time in a foreign country, to trying to understand your in-laws, or just because of the benefits of learning a new language. Once you found your reason; set up your goal. How much do you want to learn? Do you just want to understand the basics or become 100% fluent? Then, establish a deadline. If you don’t, you will always have tomorrow to start studying and that tomorrow can be extended forever.

To sum up: Find a reason → Set up your goal + Establish a deadline.

2) MAKE LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE YOUR FIRST PRIORITY

Unless you make the language learning process your first priority, you will end up quitting. In my opinion, there is no excuse to say: I do not have time to study because there is always time for anything. It is true that the older we get the busier we are (we usually have more responsibilities) but, if we have time to, for example, do sport, why can’t we find some time for languages? So, if you want to become fluent in a foreign language, prioritize your language learning.

“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” – Frank Smith

3) CONVENTIONAL LANGUAGE CLASSES ARE NOT ALWAYS THE BEST CHOICE

When you go to class with ten, fifteen, or more people, the class is going to move at the pace of the person who knows the least. Also, learning a language is something personal, that can be customized to the specific needs of the student. When there are a lot of people in a class, it is difficult to customize the class for each student. You are going to experience that these types of classes are not fulfilling your whole needs. In addition, students barely practice their speaking skills with these types of classes. This part of the language is usually left aside.

For example, when I was learning English, I always felt that I learned much more by myself and talking with one person than in class with all my partners. In this way, I could focus on my weaknesses and practice my speaking skills as much as I wanted to.

4) START SPEAKING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

You do not need to know a lot to start having conversations. Learn the basic rules and vocabulary then start speaking. It does not matter if you are fluent or not, just try! You will find out how an hour of conversation is worth more than hours and hours of a traditional language class setting. When having a conversation, you will be forced to use all the grammar and vocabulary you have learned. In addition, you will start picking up new things too.

In my experience, I found that one to one conversations are the best when having a low level of language skills. When you are not fluent in a language and try to have a conversation with a group, it can be challenging. Once you improve your level, you can start having conversations with a group of people.

How can you have conversations in a foreign language?:

  • Meeting a friend or friends who is/are learning the same language as you.
  • Joining a language exchange (you help somebody learn your mother language and they help you with your second language) or any kind of activity that requires the use of the language you are studying.
  • Taking classes with a language tutor.

5) DO NOT BE AFRAID OF MAKING MISTAKES

Most people think that the world will end if they make a mistake when speaking a foreign language. But you know what? It won’t! Do not worry about the mistakes and what people may say. However, learn from those mistakes and laugh. Most people know it is not your mother language and you are making a big effort to try to be understandable. Just speak and do not think about your mistakes.

6) DO NOT GET OBSESSED WITH THE RULES

Often times, people start thinking about all the grammar rules they have learned and if something does not sound grammatically correct then they do not even try to speak. I include myself in this group. When I was learning English, all I thought about when it came to speaking was the grammar. I used to spend more time thinking about it than actually speaking. Unless you say something completely wrong, most of the times people are going to understand what you are trying to say. For this reason, I advise that you do not get obsessed with the rules, don’t let this stop you from speaking.

7) DO NOT WORRY ABOUT UNDERSTANDING EVERYTHING

When you are not quite fluent in a foreign language, you are not going to understand everything people say. You may understand one word here and there, and if you are lucky, maybe a whole sentence. Do not worry if you do not understand everything. Try to connect all the words and sentences that you comprehended and put them in context; they will make more sense.

8) PRACTICE, PRACTICE, AND THEN, PRACTICE A LITTLE MORE

Practice is the key! Even if you already know a language, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Practice that language somehow. It is easy; there are many ways you can practice a language:

  • Doing grammar exercises.
  • Listening to music.
  • Watching movies or the news.
  • Reading books or newspapers.
  • Having conversations (this is a must!)
  • Using a language app, such as DuoLingo.

In other words, just use the language!

9) MAKE LEARNING INTO A HABIT. BE CONSISTENT

What helped me with English was practicing the language every day. It became part of my daily routine and it did not take me too much effort to start practicing. It is better to practice every day than, for example, just one day a week. Learning a language requires a lot of repetition and practice. If you learn a language just once in a while, it is very likely you will quickly forget everything you learned the last day you studied. However, if you study every day, it will be easy to remember what you learned the day before, it was just yesterday!

10) PRACTICE INTENSIVELY FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME

Many people feel like they learn nothing at school because, most of the times, you study a language for just a couple of hours a week for a long period of time. If you extend the learning process, you will probably forget what you studied and lose enthusiasm. However, when you often immerse yourself in the language for a short period of time, you take more advantage of what you study.

11) MAKE THE LANGUAGE LEARNING PROCESS INTO SOMETHING FUN

Practice the new language with topics that you are interested in to make the learning process more enjoyable. Even if you are super excited to learn a new language, sometimes it will take a big effort to start studying. However, if you learn the language with topics you are interested in, the process will become more pleasant.

In my case, travel is something I am passionate about. When I was learning English, I read about other countries. Also, I watched a lot of travel documentaries and international news.

12) TALK TO YOURSELF

We all talk to ourselves, so why can’t we do it in a foreign language? This is the simplest way to practice a language. You can do it whenever, wherever, and it is free! Challenge yourself and practice in your head the sentences you have the most trouble with or practice a conversation you may have in the future. Just imagine different scenarios and create different conversations.

I have had a lot of conversations in English in my head the night before meeting somebody important or going to do paperwork. I used to practice the different questions I wanted to ask and the answers I would give to the different questions they would probably ask. This not only prepared me for a specific conversation but also, it gave me the chance to practice the language.

13) HANG OUT WITH NATIVE SPEAKERS

Spend as much time as possible with native speakers. They are the ones who know the language the most. For example: The slang you would never learn in a conventional class setting with non-native teachers, the right words for the right situations, or what you shouldn’t say because of cultural reasons. Thanks to them, you will learn how the language is really spoken in the everyday life: the real language.

How do you find native speakers?:

  • Participate in language exchanges.
  • Join programs at the international departments of universities. Most universities organize programs to help international students fit in their new country. You can take advantage of these programs and meet people from abroad.
  • Take classes with a native tutor.
  • Travel. This is by far, the easiest way to meet native speakers.

14) FIND SOMEONE WHO YOU CAN PRACTICE WITH AND CORRECT YOUR MISTAKES

You can easily speak a language but, can you speak it without making any mistakes? We all know you are going to make mistakes. If there is someone who can catch those mistakes for you and correct them, it is going to help tremendously. Otherwise, you are going to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. It may take you a while to realize you are saying something wrong or you may never even realize it! So, practice with someone who has the patience to correct you and explain the mistakes you make.

15) IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE

It may not always be easy to learn a language at an advanced age. However, learning a second language, even later in life, improves your cognitive abilities and can delay dementia. In addition, el saber no ocupa lugar! Thus, don’t let age stop you from learning a new language.

“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can; there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.” -Sarah Caldwell

Final Thoughts

SUMMARIZING THE LANGUAGE LEARNING TIPS

It doesn’t matter the reason you are learning a language for, the important thing is to make the language learning process your first priority. In addition, I believe that the best way to learn and practice a language is by having conversations. When speaking, do not worry about the mistakes, do not overthink the rules and do not worry about understanding everything. Also, practice regularly and intensively. But above all, have fun while learning the new language by practicing with topics you like. An easy way to practice a language is talking to yourself. Meet native speakers and learn the “real language” with them. Additionally, find someone who can correct your mistakes to avoid forming bad habits. And finally, no matter how old you are, it is always going to be beneficial to learn a new language.

IMPROVE YOUR LANGUAGE SKILLS, IMPROVE YOUR SPANISH!

With the language learning tips mentioned, I hope I can make the process of learning a new language easier for you. In this world of globalization and diminishing physical borders, knowing languages is an important skill to have. Also, we all know about the benefits of learning a second language. In particular, Spanish, being the second most spoken language in the world, is a language you can not overlook. Because I know the importance and benefits of learning languages, specifically Spanish, I offer online Spanish conversation classes. With these classes, I want you have the chance to practice your Spanish conversation skills from anywhere while improving a useful skill for today’s world.