Learning a new language can seem very intimidating. It can take years to become fully fluent. I’m bilingual and got a degree in English Literature, but it took me a good seven years to perfect my English before attempting to get into English university.
Learning a second (or third, fourth, fifth…) language can open so many doors for you. Not just in your career and social life, but also on a personal level. Learning English helped me understand myself better and allowed me to show my personality more clearly. There has been a study that shows how multilingual people have different personalities depending on what language they speak
Language learning websites/apps
A good place to start learning a new language is language apps and websites. There are so many resources available online relating to learning a new language. My favourites are Duolingo, Memrise, and Babbel. Both Duolingo and Memrise are apps/websites where you can learn vocabulary and sentence structures through online flashcards etc. Babbel is a website where you can actually have conversations in your target language and also follow courses about grammar and vocabulary.
Keep a vocabulary journal
For both English and Japanese, I keep a notebook dedicated to vocabulary. This notebook is a great way of recording your progress and help you remember new words. Every time I stumble upon a new word, I write it down. Writing it down helps me to remember it next time I read or hear it. Looking through the older pages it a great way of seeing how much you’ve actually improved. The first few pages are filled with words I now use daily! Just to think I didn’t know the meaning of them at first is almost unthinkable! It’s hard to sometimes see your progress, especially if you’re already able to speak on a conversational level – but keeping a journal like this can help boost your motivation when you need it the most.
Follow a language course
If you’re anything like me, you learn better with a teacher. Especially if you’re new to a language, it can seem a bit intimidating to tackle the grammar rules yourself. I took Japanese classes in my second year at university and it’s helped me so much getting a basic idea of how their grammar rules work. It’s given me that little push to teach myself more in my free time, without having to worry about diving into the deep end alone.
One website I’d highly recommend for language classes is Listen&Learn. Listen and Learn offer language classes with professional and experienced teachers. They give tailor-made one-to-one classes and also have the option to join a small group if you’re more comfortable with that.
Make flashcards (find a way that works for you)
When my English teacher told me to make flashcards in high school, I completely ignored the advice. I thought it was going to be way too time-consuming and I wouldn’t get enough out of it. Boy, was I wrong! This would’ve saved me so much time and hassle! Flashcards are AMAZING! They are helping my Japanese massively.
Obviously, you need to find a way or learning that works for you. Flashcard aren’t for everybody, but there are so many different ways to learn vocabulary. Try some different techniques and see what sticks.
Try to surround yourself with your new language. It’s one thing to learn it from books and apps, but using it in the real world is why you’re leaning it. Try to listen to the radio or podcasts in your new language. Watch films in your new language (even if you have to put English subtitles on, it helps you to get familiar with the sounds and the intonation). Try to read books, articles, magazines and try to switch the language on your phone to whatever language it is you’re learning. All these things help, even if you don’t understand your new language very well yet. Immersing yourself is the best way to learn.
I’m sorry to be that person, but consistency is key. It’s much better to spend 10 minutes every day on your new language than it is to spend 2 hours on it once a week. That’s just how your brain works and you can’t fight that. Try to put 10-15 minutes aside every day to either use one of your language apps, read a bit in the language you’re learning or have a chat with someone online that is a native speaker. It doesn’t have to be much, but it triggers your brain to remember everything a lot better.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
People make mistakes, especially when they’re learning a brand new language. Don’t aim for perfection, aim for progress. I still make mistakes in English and I have a degree in English literature! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, it’s the only way you’re going to learn. Same goes for the consistency. If you really don’t feel like it one day, just don’t do it. If you’re going to force yourself, you’ll lose interest in it. Keep it fun and you’ll be able to pick up your new language in no time.
Please remember to have fun in learning a language. It’s such a great opportunity and way to broaden your horizon and improve yourself. Let me know in the comments what language you’d want to learn and how you’re doing it!