It can be frustrating to learn a new language, especially if you are starting from scratch. Not sure where to start? Below I have listed 16 things that will help you along your journey to speaking another language.
Know that fluency in another language is not something that happens over night.
Learning another language takes time and consistency. You need to trust the process. There is no set timeline for how long it will take you to learn a new language, as this greatly depends from person to person. The more time you put in to practicing, the faster you will see results. It took me about three months of living in Brazil to speak Portuguese conversationally. Now, after living here for six months, I would say that I am fluent. But I certainly do not know every word. I am still in the process of learning.
Learn the basics
The first step to learning any new language is to start with the basics. This will be your foundation. I compiled a list of the most important words that you need to know when starting to learn a new language.
Check out my blog post: Basics of Brazilian Portuguese | Words and Phrases You Need To Know To Learn Any Language
Learning how to pronounce the words in your target language is great for diminishing your accent. But even more than that, learning the pronunciation of words will greatly help you with memorization. Practice repeating what you learned out loud. If you are not sure how to pronounce a word, your second best to asking a native speaker is Google Translate.
Watch Netlfix with subtitles
What better way to learn a new language than to sit on your couch and eat popcorn. If you do not have a Netflix account, I suggest making the $7 a month investment. Start watching movies in your native language with subtitles in the language that you are studying. Once you feel that you are familiarized enough with the vocabulary, switch it around and put the audio in your target language. You will be amazed to find how much your listening skills have improved.
Write down new words that you learn
In the same way you are likely to forget someone’s name after first meeting them, it is very probable that you will forget a word the first time you hear it. Write it down and go back to it later. I kept a small journal where I would log the new words that I learned and how to pronounce them. Quizlet is another great resource for memorizing new words. If flashcards aren’t your thing, they also have games available on their site to practice.
Contextualize the words that you learn
Memorization is more than repeating something over and over until it sticks. You need to contextualize what you are learning. Make sentences and try to develop a mental picture.
Translate music lyrics
This is one of my favorite ways to learn a new language. Not only are you diverging yourself more into the culture, but you are also improving your language skills. Start by listening to a song a few times with a copy of the lyrics. Familiarize yourself with the words and translate what you don’t know. Practice singing out loud. Remember that music lyrics do not always follow the language grammatical rules. Some things may not make sense through the translation. I like to use my Play Music account, although YouTube and Spotify are also great ways to save playlists. Try searching google for the top 50 songs in a country that speaks the language you are studying.
Start watching Youtube videos in your target language. You will be surprised to find that with a simple search in another language, you will find tons of videos available to watch. You may even find native speakers who have YouTube channels with a focus of teaching their language to foreigners. A great place to start is watching cooking recipe videos.
Practice speaking what you hear
Watching a Youtube video or a movie on Netflix? Pause the film and practice repeating out loud what you just heard. Repeat a long phrase over and over again until it flows smoothly. This method is very time consuming but it is one of the best ways to enhance your ability to speak quickly and more fluently.
We spend a lot of time scrolling on our phones or computers. Once your reading skills have reached a level of fluency, start making google searches in your target language. You will be reading material that interests you and may even find a blog that frequently posts new material.
Reading is an essential way to learn any language. It is important that you start off with reading material that is easier to understand, such as reading children’s books. You can increase the level of difficulty as your language skills progress. Reread a book that you have already read. Make sure that what you are reading is something that interests you. Keep a Quizlet flashcard set with the words that you don’t know and go back to it later. I like to underline the words I don’t know while I am reading. After a few pages, I go back and look them up on Google Translate. Know another person that is learning the same language as you? Read a book together and hold the other person accountable.
Speak to natives
Get out of your comfort zone and start talking to natives. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Start by introducing yourself or by asking a question. Get involved with what is going on in the community and try to broaden your circle of friends. If you are not living in another country, try to find a heritage club in your town.
You don’t need to be immersed in another country to learn a new language. Speaky is a free app that allows you to find and meet native speakers from all around the world. You have the option to text, to send a voice recording, or to video the other person. I highly recommend downloading this app as it has greatly helped me with fixing grammatical errors in writing and speaking.
Talk to yourself
When there isn’t anyone there to practice speaking with you, practice with yourself. In your head or out loud. Start with being able to explain how your day was and what you did. Talk about your plans for the future and the things you want to accomplish. Try telling a funny story of something that has happened to you. This will make it easier later when you are actually talking to another person. Be sure to throw some slang words in there too. If you are waiting in the line at the grocery store, count to 100 in your head.
Think in your target language
One of the best ways to test your language abilities is to try thinking in your target language. This will allow you to realize the essential words and expressions that you are missing in your studies. Expand your vocabulary and with time, you will be able to think in another language.
Learn to speak like you are a native
Forget what you learned in school about how to speak a foreign language. You do not need to memorize long word lists for the sole purpose of passing a test. While it is good to familiarize yourself with grammar, acknowledge that this is something you will pick up along the way. Be selective about the resources that you are using. You will find that more often than not, the way you learned from your textbook is not the way that people actually speak. Learn the shortcuts to phrases and the slangs. Be sure to ask someone or to do an internet search if you are unsure if something that you are learning is commonly spoken.