How-to: Learn a New Language (and stick at it!)

 If you want to learn a new language and don’t know where to start, or how to keep going, this may be the article for you.

How-to: Learn a New Language (and stick at it!)

You may be someone that has already begun their language learning journey, or you may be someone considering it. If you’re the latter, allow me to explain how learning a new language can benefit you:

It boosts your career prospects

Knowing another language can make your application stand out more to employers and might well put you near the top of their list of candidates. In addition to this, it also allows you to apply for jobs you couldn’t without it. Jobs that value bilingual candidates include careers in tourism and hospitality, the government and public sector, for example, MI5, education, international development, the police force, finance, law, and business. 

It has been proven to enhance your brain

The complex process of how we learn a language has been proven to increase the amount of white and grey matter in the brain. Some of these sections of the brain are connected to enhanced problem solving, focusing, and multi-tasking. One study found that bilingual participants developed dementia 4.5 years later than the monolingual participants, regardless of their background. 

It helps you to meet new people

No matter what language, or languages, you decide to learn, it still opens up opportunities to meet and interact with new people. Despite the medium that you choose to learn in, whether it be through a language learning app, through a course, or on your travels, you’ll be able to communicate with people that may not speak your native language. 

So if I’ve managed to persuade you to take up a new language, here are some tips to help you on your journey:

Know your motivation

Now I know this may seem pretty obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Knowing your motivation for learning a new language is key; say for example you are learning Spanish to impress your English-speaking friends, this is not a good or long-term motivation. However, wanting to learn Spanish because you have friends that speak it and you want to be able to converse with them in that language, or you’re going on holiday or moving to a Spanish speaking country, are three very good reasons, and consequently more likely to keep you motivated.

Listen to the language

Foreign languages may sound strange at first – especially if they’re non-Germanic, and if you can’t comprehend them, they are bound to confuse you. That’s where listening comes in. Listening to speakers of the language regularly will help to familiarize you with it, and help you with pronunciation, and understanding speakers in conversation which ultimately helps you on your journey to becoming fluent. 

Learn common vocabulary

Some studies suggest that native speakers know roughly up to 20,000 word families; a word family is a root word and all of its variants, for example, run, ran, running, etc. So it is recommended that by learning between 800 and 1000 root words and variations, you can learn the language faster and more effectively. To add to this, grammar and structure will also need to be learned, ideally at the same time. So when you are sitting wondering where to start, learning the common vocabulary is an excellent place to start. 

Practice speaking

You do not necessarily need to start with talking to native speakers, although this can be useful. You could try simply talking to yourself and working on your pronunciation, or even recording yourself and playing it back to see how you can improve. Apps like Duolingo include speaking in the different ways they help you to learn a language, so if you prefer learning through an app it may be a good one to try. A crucial part of learning a new language is being able to speak it, so doing a little bit of speech work regularly can really help you on your language journey. 

Consume media and interact with the culture

Language typically evolves with the culture of the groups that speak it, for example, slang terms. So in order to learn a new language, you must ensure that you are familiar with the cultural context that goes with it. You may want to consider consuming media created in the language you are trying to learn. There are many different mediums of entertainment that you can choose from to do this. For example, you could listen to music or radio, watch tv shows or movies or read the news in the language you want to learn. It can help teach you common words and phrases, expressions, and cultural references. 

Header Image Credit: Photo by JACQUELINE BRANDWAYN on Unsplash

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