You’ve decided it’s time to really try.
The Spanish classes you’ve had in the past feel like a distant dream, but you’re enthusiastic and ready to have a go again…this time for real.
Regardless of the specific language you’re trying to learn (or re-learn!), here are some helpful tips that will make the entire process a little bit easier, and a lot more enjoyable.
1) Download Duolingo
It’s a free app monitored by Duo the owl, who sends you daily reminders if you’re not meeting your self-created goals (e.g. 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes a day). It teaches you vocab, grammar, and idioms. Duolingo is a great start, and something that doesn’t take up too much of your time. It’s a nice way to ease your way into making (and keeping) better language-learning habits.
2) Make time for Movie Time
Pull up a couch and put on a film…with subtitles in the language you’re trying to learn, of course! It’s a great way to mix in some entertainment with your learning. This is how I (semi) learned French in college, and it gave me a glimpse into many different aspects of French society. Find a film gem from a country that speaks the language you wish to learn and enjoy (with your favorite movie-munching snack)!
3) Read an untranslated book
Visit a library (yes those still exist!), and check out a book in your desired language. It may be best to start with one that you’ve read before so you get the general idea of what’s going on. Or, if you’re feeling extra-literary-ily daring, check out the classics (e.g. Madame Bovary in French?! Mais oui!).
4) Scan through Youtube
There are tons of language-learning video clips floating around in the Youtube-sphere. They can help you with pronunciation, and serve as simple listening exercises that get your ears primed and your tongue trained. This one especially helps with the tonal languages, which can be difficult to pick up through text only. When I was learning Thai, I scanned through Youtube’s offerings and was able to find some very helpful tutorials.
5) Make little cheat-sheets
Write down several common phrases that you could see yourself saying during a typical day (e.g. conversational phrases such as “How are you?” and “How much for the ride?”). Put these phrases on stickies and place them around your house in high-trafficked areas, for you to read unexpectedly (e.g. think on the refrigerator or in the bathroom). Memorize them. You can also pretend like you’re rehearsing for a play and act them out. It’s even better if you’re in the country at this point, as you can play these scenarios out after you memorize your lines. Eventually, they will come more second nature and people will think you’re a local! This brings us to #6…
6) Plan a trip abroad
Ideally, you go visit, study, or work in a country that speaks the language you are learning at some point. A language immersion trip is even better. Even if you can’t actually go abroad, plan an ideal trip. Research a country, get to know the culture a bit. The more enthusiastic you become about that country, the more enthusiastic you will become to continue to learn the language…and hopefully one day visit!
7) Learn with a friend
Doing anything with a friend makes it way more enjoyable. The more fun you’re having, the more likely you are to actually follow through with your goals instead of procrastinating (it’s human nature, we all do it). So, team up with a pal who also wants to learn the language and set goals for yourselves. Make a team, and cheer each other on!
8) Make it a Competition
This builds off of #7, but now take some of those friendly vibes and turn them into a friendly competition! Make a deal that that whoever loses the day (or week, or month) has to treat the winner to some kind of prize. This could be a meal, perhaps at a favorite restaurant, or maybe you can…
9) Play Chef
Choose a country that speaks your language, and choose one of their cultural dishes. Write the ingredients and instructions out in the language and try your hand at the culinary craft! Have a cheat-sheet nearby with translations in case things get a little sticky mid-way (or any way).
A lot. It’s cliche, but it’s true: it makes perfect. Think in the language, create mock interactions in the language, pretend like you can’t speak English for a day, etc. Make little games for yourself so it’s more interesting to you. The key is to find as many ways to practice as possible. Your brain is building new pathways, so strengthen them!
Remember these tips when you set out to learn your next language (or two or three!), and you’ll be a language-learning pro in no time.
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