The acquirement of a new language can depend on several factors: the attitude of the learner, the time the person dedicates to a new language, and the learner’s attentiveness and other. The time required to learn a language can also vary depending on the methods used, the difficulty level of the language, the attitude and previous knowledge of the learner.
Some individuals are born with a predisposition to linguistics, but if you are the one who does not have a language-learning gene, do not worry, there are tools and tricks for faster learning applicable by everyone. And if you are still hesitant if you should take up a new language, go ahead and read our blog post about the benefits of learning foreign languages.
1. Create learning goals
Your end goals should be S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Defining what level of speaking you want to achieve will help you to set smaller language goals and measure your progress. There is a framework that defines language levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, etc.). In brief, A means beginner, B means intermediate, and C means advanced, and each level is broken up into lower (1) and upper (2) categories. These levels are measurablebecause officially recognized institutions can test you on them and provide certificates in most of the European languages. Similar systems exist for Mandarin, Japanese and other languages. Depending on the language you choose and the mastery level you want to attain, it may take a different period of time to achieve your learning goals. Also, if your goal is to only learn the speaking aspect and not that much of writing, for instance, this can affect the time frames of your goals. In any case, make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
2. Learn about the culture
It may be not so obvious but learning a new language has so much more to it than just learning semantics. Many cultures have other components, like gestures, face expressions and body language, historically incorporated in their communication habits. When starting to learn a new language, get acquainted with the history and culture of the country, work on your social and cultural integration. You can achieve this by traveling to that country, observing how the speakers of that language behave, what intonation and other means they use when talking. Bear in mind, that gestures and body language are so powerful, to the extent that they may have hidden meanings in some languages, and the same gestures can mean absolutely different things in different cultures. So, beware of that, especially when traveling to the country whose language you are trying to learn or talking to native speakers.
3. Expand your vocabulary
The language usually needs time to be digested, and new things we study today may not click in for months. However, the intensity has its benefits. Especially early on in your language learning, it is important to dedicate enough time to learning and enriching vocabulary. Repetition will help you memorize new words and phrases. A lot of listening, reading, placing sticky notes with new words and phrases, listening to music or TV shows in that language when you are doing other tasks will help you expand your conversation vocabulary and become more integrated into that culture.
4. Start using the language
Spoken practice cannot be overrated. Start using the language from day one. Talk to yourself, your friends and family, find native speakers, just speak the language, so you can get used to its sounding and improve your pronunciation.
5. Real-life practice
Continuing the previous point of view, it is important to start using the language you learn in real life as soon as possible. There is no better way to do it than spending time among native speakers. If you get a chance to travel to the country where people speak that language or even live there for some time, no doubt you’ll become fluent in that language much faster. However, if you don’t have that opportunity, there are so many other things you can do, like finding a native speaker. Nowadays, with all the online platforms and social media, it is easier than ever to connect to anyone anywhere in the world. Take advantage of that!
6. Test yourself
It is easier to be tested if you take classes with a professional teacher or as a part of your school course when it is the requirement. However, if you decide to pursue the language learning on your own (and it is very doable with all the available resources out there) the best thing you can do is ask a native speaker to test you from time to time or take online language assessments regularly. It is important to make it time-bound by picking short end-point of a few weeks or months, whatever works best for you. Choose a definite point in the not too distant future, aim to reach your short-term goal by that time, prepare and make it happen.
7. Do not be afraid to make mistakes
Naturally, no one is perfect. Even native speakers make mistakes, so you should not shy away from speaking the language if you think you are not proficient enough just yet. Even if you are a beginner and make mistakes while talking, keep talking. You will never learn about your mistakes and fix them if you don’t make them. Be confident and own your mistakes. If you are being corrected by someone else, don’t take it personally and don’t get discouraged. Remember, mistakes are part of the growth.
8. Enjoy the process!
Finally, enjoy every moment of your learning journey. It is up to you to make it as exciting and enjoyable as possible. You are in control!