About 43% of people around the globe speak two languages. There are many benefits to learning a foreign language. For example:
● It can improve your memory
● It boosts brainpower
● Increases the capacity of your mind in other areas
● Can improve your native language, as well
People have different motivations for learning a new language, which we’ll talk about later, but no matter your reason, it’s not always an easy feat. Learning a new language is hard and can often feel overwhelming, especially if it seems so different from your native tongue.
But, there are different tips and tricks you can use to make the process easier on yourself. It’s important to keep in mind that learning a new language is a lot like learning to communicate all over again. You probably don’t remember learning how to talk as a child, but the steps are similar. You’ll learn in a variety of different ways, including picture-based learning, conversing with others, and practice and repetition.
So, how can you make learning a new language less frustrating and even a little easier?
A big part of the language-learning process is remembering not only words but certain patterns and “rules”. If the rules aren’t similar to your native language, memorizing them isn’t always easy. So one of the best ways to improve your learning process is to boost your memorization skills as much as possible.
People use so many different techniques to remember concepts, from focusing on certain words that they can build around, to making associations, to repetition. It’s a good idea to try several memory-boosting techniques to see which ones work best for you. It will likely depend on what kind of learner you are. Some people are visual and need more intensive methods such as picture exchange systems similar to those used in Applied Behavior Analysis. Some are auditory, and some need to actually experience something to remember it, like having a conversation in the language you’re trying to learn.
Another great way to boost your memory is to follow your interests. Do you like to cook? Pick up a recipe book in the language you’re learning and make dinner from it. Are you a big music fan? Start listening to songs in that language. By integrating the language into things you love, you’ll be more likely to pick up on words, phrases, and cues that you can’t always get from a textbook or online course. These can serve as memory devices for you to reflect on when you’re trying to remember a specific word, sentence, etc.
You’re likely your own biggest obstacle when it comes to learning a new language because it can be so tempting to quit if you start to feel overwhelmed. Staying motivated is hugely important, especially when you feel self-doubt or you’re wondering if you’re even doing things right.
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to remind yourself why you wanted to learn a new language in the first place. Is it to communicate better with a friend? Or, did you want to expand your cultural perspective and visit a different country? Maybe it was just a personal challenge to yourself that you’ve always wanted to accomplish. In some cases, you may want to learn a new language for work and add it to your resume as a soft skill.
When you’re in the middle of learning a new language and you’re feeling frustrated, looking at the bigger picture can make a huge difference. Use that as your motivation and inspiration to stick with it.
It’s just as important to know what not to do when you’re learning a new language. Some habits and techniques might actually hinder your ability to learn a language effectively and efficiently. Keep these common mistakes in mind as you move forward. If you can avoid them, the entire process can be easier:
● Impatience — Learning a language takes time. In fact, research has shown that it takes 600-750 class hours to reach basic fluency in “group 1” languages likes French, German, and Spanish. It can be frustrating, especially when you feel stuck, but expecting to learn a new language in a matter of days or a couple of weeks is unrealistic.
● Limiting your resources — Textbooks aren’t the only resource you should be utilizing in your process. While they’re a great place to start, you should practice mixing up your methods of learning through things like conversation, music, audiobooks, etc.
● Fearing embarrassment — One of the best ways to get better at a language is to speak it as often as possible. Some people make the mistake of not speaking it frequently because they’re embarrassed or fearful that they’ll make a mistake. If someone tried to have a conversation with you in English and they had only been learning the language for a few weeks, you wouldn’t judge them on the mistakes they made. It’s fair to assume people won’t judge you, either.
Learning a new language is often a very personal decision, especially when you decide to do it on your own in lieu of taking a class. Keep these tips in mind to stay on the right track and stay motivated while you expand your horizons and continue your cultural growth.