Choose a language you like and one that will be useful to you in the future. If you plan to work in South America or the US pick Spanish, as this is the second language in the US. Trade is opening up in Latin America with many UK businesses now trading with countries like Chile and Argentina.
Find a native speaker who is local to you who you can chat with and who can help you with the language. If not, find a language exchange partner via a site such as: www.mylanguageexchange.com
Set yourself weekly, monthly or quarterly targets of the vocabulary or the tense that you plan to master in that time. Don’t tell yourself you must be fluent by this time next year as it just won’t be possible unless you go and live in the country!
The most important skill when learning a language is to listen to how the language sounds. This is particularly true when you are a beginner as you need to hear how the language is spoken, the accent and the rhythm of their speaking in order to be able to copy native speakers. You may learn many words but if you don’t learn how to pronounce them at the same time you will not be understood which will hinder your ability to communicate.
Try to see, hear or use the language you are learning every day. This may mean downloading an app on your smartphone for when you have a spare ten minutes (Duolingo, Babbel and MindSnacks are all popular ones), listen to a CD when commuting or doing housework, send a message to your exchange partner or listen to a song sung by a native-speaking artist. Short but regular study sessions give optimum results.
So many people delay their progress because they are too hesitant when speaking. The local people do not care if you make little mistakes, they usually know what you are trying to say anyway and they will correct you. They will just be happy that you are making an effort to speak to them in their language! This is the natural learning process. Remember: Effort over accuracy.
Congratulate yourself on how much you have learnt so far and do not get stressed about what you still need to learn. Make sure you are enjoying the process of learning the language (see the previous blog post: Ways to enjoy learning a language)