How to learn a new language
Oy vey! We get it — learning a new language is challenging, frustrating, and sometimes just downright difficult. And figuring out the best way to learn a new language? That seems nearly impossible. Different science, theories, and learning styles are all over the place, and truthfully, some languages are easier to learn than others. Maybe you’re great at conversing in French, but can’t write in Spanish to save your life. Despite the difficulties, multi-language acquisition is rapidly growing in popularity around the world and bilinguality is becoming more of a highly-desired resume addition.
With so much out there in terms of best ways to learn a language, it can be hard to zero in on what language learning tactics would be especially helpful for you personally. In order to revive and renew your drive in learning a foreign language or to improve upon the impressive skills you’ve already achieved, here are some fresh ideas on the best way to learn a new language:
Best Ways to Learn a Foreign Language
Keep some of these in mind and you’ll be ready to find an intensive language program before you know it!
1. Make New Friends
If there’s a community of people who speak the language you want to learn in your city, start attending events! Friendship is one of the best ways to learn a foreign language, and the easiest way to get comfortable with the slang, intonation, and mannerisms. You can casually chat with your friends in local cafés, bars, and restaurants and slowly build a foundation on the language you want to learn. The great part about making friends who already speak the language (or are learning right along with you) is that you will be able to practice freely without feeling self-conscious or on the spot!
2. Copy Elementary School Kids
Remember pen pals? Just because you’re an adult now doesn’t mean you can’t partake! Find an international pen pal and trade language expertise and knowledge. Edit each other's letters (keeping what you both originally wrote), so you can see the correct format and spelling. You’ll help each other learn, your skills for writing in a foreign language will increase tenfold, and you may even have someone to visit abroad when you’re ready to put those skills to use!
3. Watch a Movie
For the people who wants to take advantage of one of the best ways to learn a language from the comfort of their own home, put on a foreign movie in another language — without subtitles if you can! Not only is this one of the best ways to learn a foreign language, but you will also get a greater sense of that language’s culture as well! If you don’t know enough of the language to turn the subtitles off, keep a list of new vocabulary words you hear and what you think they mean. Look them up later. Come on, looking up words is fun! (sidenote: If you feel ready and want to “level up” your language learning, commit to going out to a theater and watching a foreign flick in public!)
4. Pretend You’re at a Restaurant
Read a menu in your target language and pick a dish you would order every day — then look up what it means. The names of your food choices will stick with you! Plus, if you end up choosing something that translates to “dog” or “sheep intestine,” you’ll know to steer clear of them when you’re abroad (unless those are your favorite foods). By the time you head abroad, you’ll have an appetite for both the food and the language for sure!
5. Use the Interwebs
The internet is a truly magical place. If you’re looking for the best ways to learn a foreign language, look no further! From using Google Translate to watching videos to reading articles and helpful brochures to infinity and beyond, the internet is ready to help you reach your foreign language learning goals. Research local classes or event boards to find a new educational outlet, or connect with other language learners via online chat groups.
6. Teach Yourself
The key to this one is small steps of dedicated research – and while obvious, remains one of the best ways to learn a new language. Take a little bit of time every day to write out a sentence you would like to know how to say in your target language. Look up each word/section and try to construct the sentence yourself. If you have a language partner, have them double check your sentences when you meet up. This is a great trick to keep yourself in check.
Making small goals to attain every day will keep you moving onward and upward on the language learning track!
7. Break it Down
Nope, we’re not talking about break dancing here — sadly those crazy moves will most likely not help you learn a language (anything is possible, though!). Instead, focus on vocabulary for one area or topic each week (i.e., transportation or food items), and then move onto another topic the next week. Just like teaching yourself new sentences and passages, this organized routine will make learning vocab and other important keywords more manageable and you’ll begin to be able to group things together.
8. Listen to the Radio
Similar to watching a foreign movie, try listening to a radio station in your target language either in the car, on a podcast, or online. Try to see how much you can understand, and write down words that you recognize but do not understand to look up (Pro tip: listening to the news in another language is an incredible and really intense way to start learning vocab and conversational structures fast!).
9. Look Ridiculous
Get rid of your pride. Understand from the beginning of this language journey that it’s not going to be an easy ride. The less you know of a language, the harder it will be to speak, write, and comprehend it (especially if it is an unusual one). If you are timid and self conscious of your abilities, your overall learning will suffer. The best way to learn a new language and the first rule to succeeding in learning is being comfortable and a-okay with making plenty of mistakes — these moments are where you learn the most and, ultimately, the gateway to your multilingual successes.
10. Go Abroad!
One of the best ways to learn a foreign language is to visit a country that speaks your target language and live with a host family that doesn’t speak your native language. You’ll be absolutely amazed at how much information you can communicate and how quickly you pick up a language when you don’t have any other option. This full-on immersion style training will have you speaking fluently in months. Honestly, what could be better? You could even learn MULTIPLE languages abroad if you choose your country right!
Last-Minute Ways to Learn a Foreign Language
When it all comes down to it, there is an infinite number of ways to learn a foreign language. Because learning styles vary between every individual, there will be certain things that you’ll find that will work really well for you personally; however, here are a few universal, last minute tips that can work for all language learners:
- Be patient with yourself. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling like you’re stuck in a rut and not making any progress. It is imperative to keep in mind that learning a language is like stepping into an entirely new world, and it’s going to take some time (this is the dirty truth about learning languages abroad). Trust your experiences and the knowledge you’ve gained so far, and let them propel you further forward in your foreign language journey.
- Commit to speaking in the target language. No matter the ways you choose to learn a new language, make a promise to yourself from the beginning that, when you are studying, you are only speaking/writing in the target language. Especially if you can’t go abroad right away and fully immerse yourself in the language, this tip will ensure that you are doing everything in your power to fully engage yourself with your target language. Don’t sell yourself short — you can do this!
- Make friends with native speakers. While having friends or study buddies is always a great idea, if you know someone who is a native speaker of the language you are trying to learn, take your education one step further and involve yourself with this person! Native speakers are great teachers (and the best way to learn a language) because they know all the in’s and out’s of the language, they are experts in conversational speaking, and they can teach slang, jokes, and references that you may otherwise not be privy to.
Awesome Language Learning Programs
Because we love you *THAT* much, we’ve scoured our directories to source the best language learning programs out there. In addition to some handy and creative language learning tips, it is important to know that there are numerous programs available just waiting to aid in your language learning endeavors. Below are some of the most popular languages to learn abroad and the best language learning programs to ensure you attain fluency:
- Join Máximo Nivel and Study Spanish in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Perú
- Spend a Semester in Ecuador with CISabroad
The language of love can be learned on all five continents, but we know the best French language programs are in Europe and Northern Africa.
- Study French in Rabat, Morocco this Summer with Lankey
- Enroll in French Courses in Paris with Eurocentres
Poetry, rhythm, and ancient texts: learning Arabic abroad is no easy task, but remains incredibly rewarding for those who endure!
- Study Arabic at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel
- Take Advantage of Lankey's Summer Arabic Courses in Morocco
- Learn Portuguese in Brazil with ESL Language Studies Abroad
- Attend Intensive Portuguese Courses in Lisbon at Iberlinguas
As of 2003, estimates claim that nonnative English speakers outnumbered native speakers by a ratio of 3 to 1. Huzzah!
- Attend New York Language School in Midtown
- Join New Hampton School's Accelerated English Language Program
Now that you know how to learn a new language…
No matter where you study or how you choose to learn a foreign language, knowing another language is a great way to connect you with the vast network that is our global community. While it may seem like a daunting task, nothing is impossible when you weave in a few minor tips and tricks to your everyday routine. This journey is going to be full of trial-and-error experiences, but do not let that get you down! Embrace the educational adventure before you, experiment with different and creative language learning tips, and get ready to add another language to your repertoire!