If you’re new to the world of language learning, you may be nervous about what lies ahead for you. Just like with any other type of undertaking, you’ve probably heard the good, the bad, and the ugly from friends and family on what it’s like to learn a second language. Is it tough? Yes. But is it worth it? Absolutely.
Learning a second language opens up the opportunity to talk to others, to turn an ordinary vacation into an exercise in true cultural immersion, and challenges your brain to break beyond what it knows. It may sound like a big statement, but we truly believe that learning a new language makes you a better person.
So, now that you’ve made up your mind and have made the commitment to studying a new language, it’s time to come up with a plan. Here are some essential tips that will help you prepare, stick to your plan, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
1) Establish goals
As you start your learning, think about what you’d like to accomplish. Avoid a huge goal, like being fluent, and think about a series of smaller goals. A good example of a beginner-level goal is being able to hold a simple conversation with a native speaker. More advanced goals might include being able to read a newspaper or watching a movie in the foreign language without needing a dictionary or subtitles.
2) Set milestones
There are a lot of steps in the journey to learning a new language, so think about and acknowledge your accomplishments as you reach certain milestones. Your first milestone might be memorizing a vocabulary list or completing the first chapter in an online course. Create an outline of your first 2 or 3 milestones and target dates to accomplish them, and you’ll be much more likely to stay on track.
3) Prepare yourself to work
Learning a second language does take work and time investment. Be honest with yourself and come up with a real plan to make progress in learning the language. Set aside a specific amount of time for learning, whether it’s 30 minutes a day or a few 2-hour sessions weekly (or whatever works for you), but don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ll make progress if you don’t work at it.
4) Integrate the language into your life
After a few weeks of language learning lessons, get creative in incorporating the language into your everyday life. You will absorb an incredible amount of information simply through exposure, so find little ways to make it a part of your day, from listening to music to watching TV shows, to following brands and celebrities that post in the language on social media.
5) Get reading
If you’re like most people, you probably have a book or two that you know inside and out. Buy the book in the foreign language–you’ll be motivated to keep reading since you know you enjoy it so much, plus you’ll have the added benefit of already knowing the storyline and essential dialog. This knowledge will help you learn the meaning of words based on context and will boost your vocabulary!
6) Remind yourself why you’re learning the language
Many people hit a mental block or lose their enthusiasm for learning a new language after several months of studying. To keep this from happening to you, write down the reasons you’re studying the language. Do you want to travel around Italy for a month, speaking only Italian? Or are you going to apply for an international position in your company that requires foreign language skills? Whatever the reason(s), write them down, and don’t let yourself lose sight of what you have to look forward to once you’ve learned the language!
7) Make it fun!
As you start to feel more confident in your speaking skills, it’s time to put them to use in the real world. If you’re learning Mandarin, go to your favorite Chinese market and mingle with the vendors as you stock up on supplies. Or if you have a friend who is Hispanic, ask if you can start chatting in Spanish during your monthly dinner date.
8) Book a trip.
Whether it’s for business or pleasure, make sure to reward yourself after completing a language learning program. Book a trip to a place where the language is spoken natively to immerse yourself in it and learn more about the language and culture than you did in class. After all, both a 3-day weekend in Quebec and a 2-week tour of France will allow you to practice your French and will give you the chance to celebrate your hard work!
One thing’s for certain when it comes to studying a language: you will learn a lot during the process. It really doesn’t matter whether or not being fluent in the language is your end goal. By setting a plan, working hard, avoiding common mistakes, and celebrating your progress, you will push yourself to grow as a human being, and that’s just about the best reward you could ask for!
If you’re ready to start your language learning journey, we invite you to contact us today. We offer one-on-one training, small group classes, and online programs for language learners across the U.S., so no matter your schedule we’ll find the right approach to help you reach your language goals.