How can I learn a foreign language?
Learning a foreign language properly requires time and effort, but you can turn it into a fun and interesting hobby. When you start learning a foreign language, be clear about the reasons why you want to learn it.
Sometimes learning new things may seem difficult, and that’s when your motivation will be put to the test. In such moments, it is important to be able to remind yourself why you’re learning the language. There’s no one way to go about learning a language, and you can find the most suitable method for yourself only by trying the different options.
In this article we’ve put together a list of ways to learn a foreign language. Read on and find out what could be the most suitable learning method for you!
Language courses are a common way to learn a language, and are suitable for the kind of people who find it difficult to learn without scheduled activities. Nowadays the range of available language courses is varied and they use different learning methods like learning by singing. Some courses use a method called suggestopedia, in which a language is learned through the senses and mental imagery exercises. Everyone can find a course that uses a method suitable for themselves. Keep in mind that learning a language requires hard work outside of class as well.
Study regularly and preferably every day
Try to make language learning a regular part of your day and routine even if you don’t live in a country where the language is spoken. We recommend making use of as many sources as possible. Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to find interesting content in the language you’re learning. Online you can read news, listen to the radio, and watch TV series and movies, among other things.
It’s important for the content to be as varied as possible so that you can become familiar with different expressions and ways of speaking. In some languages, the standard language that is used in textbooks is very different from the colloquial forms of the language, which can make learning difficult. For example, colloquial Finnish and the numerous dialects are very different from standard Finnish. Compare for example, ‘me käytiin kattomas toi leffa viime viikol’ (colloquial Finnish ‘We went to see that movie last week’) vs. ‘kävimme katsomassa tuon elokuvan viime viikolla’ (standard Finnish).
Find yourself a tutor or a teacher
It’ll make learning more efficient if you know native speakers with whom you can speak the language. It’s worth finding out if there are language clubs or other events aimed at language learners organised in your city. There are many websites, such as italki, where you can find language teachers. If you hire a teacher online, the lessons are typically given via video calls on Skype.
The teachers usually charge for the lessons, but you can try to meet native speakers of the language in more informal language forums, (e.g., Facebook groups). In these forums, you can try to find yourself a language exchange partner. The idea is that you teach each other your native languages.
Start with vocabulary that’s relevant for you right now
Besides learning basic vocabulary, learn vocabulary and phrases that are relevant for you and your current life situation right now in order to have as much to say as possible in your first conversations. Keeping a journal is a good idea – write down your thoughts and try to find expressions that seem natural to you. When learning by yourself, there’s always the risk of repeating and reinforcing mistakes. This is another reason why it is good to have a native speaker to check your writings every once in a while.
Read out loud and speak (even if just to yourself)
Read texts out loud and speak as much as possible right from the start. Ideally, you should practice speaking and pronunciation with a native speaker. Practicing pronunciation is important especially if it differs greatly from that of your own native language. It’s good to start speaking early so that your language skills won’t be limited to just understanding. The longer you wait before you start speaking, the more difficult it’s going to get.
Language learning apps
Nowadays there are countless apps designed for language learning. They’re worth checking out if independent learning is your thing. The contents of the apps vary from flashcards to grammar and vocabulary lessons.
Especially in the free apps (such as Duolingo) the amount of information available on a language varies depending on the language. The emphasis in the free apps is often on understanding instead of production. The free apps give a good general idea of the structure of the language, but in order to expand your vocabulary, we’d recommend reading different kinds of texts and listening to the language (e.g. on the radio).
It’s important to find a suitable learning pace for yourself. Avoid trying to learn too much at once, because repetition is key to learning a language. The more you use the words and grammatical structures of the language, the better you’ll remember them. On the other hand, it’s also important to keep an element of challenge in your language learning. When you are learning a foreign language, you also learn a lot about language in general, which makes learning another new language easier.
What do you think about this article? Do you have other advice to share with language learners? Leave a comment!