Whether you’re looking to become fluent in a second tongue or master your inner polyglot, here are the most effective ways to learn a language.
1. Create a picture in your head of new words
(the sillier, the more memorable) rather than translating them to your own language. Words come out much faster and more fluid if you are remembering the picture of the word rather than the translation in your first language.
2. Collect the missing pieces of what you hear.
Download an offline translation app (or use a small handheld language book) and look up words you hear or see. Sometimes it can be a pain in the ass but honestly you will thank yourself soon after.
3. Ask what words mean.
Many people will happily explain in Spanish, which means more practice anyway 🙂 Don’t make the mistake of nodding and smiling like you heard what they said, especially if it was something important. Then you just feel like a fool and lost the conversation. It’s worth it to ask, and most people are happy to help. Plus, miscommunication sucks.
4. Sign up for a word-of-the-day to your email and try to use it in a sentence that day.
Go over past words every week or so.
5. When you’re learning multiple words in one sitting and don’t have something to write them all down, pick a few words to remember that you think you’ll use the most in future conversations.
6. When you get a blank stare from someone after you butcher grammar or pronunciation (and you most definitely will) in their language, it helps to keep your sense of humor about it.
Remember, chances are you know more of this language than the other person knows of yours. Sometimes we simply say some stupid stuff without realizing. One time I said “Que chimba” when referring to a beautiful landscape which is a Colombian slang way of saying “cool” but literally translates to “pu$$y”. Yeah, I get lots of laughs as a foreign girl. Just flash a smile and say something like “I’m sorry, my (insert language you’re studying here) is not perfect.”
7. Read books aloud
in the language you’re learning to practice pronunciation and learn new words. Make sure you actually care about the topic or your brain will want to skim.
8. Find interesting content to devour in your language of choice.
This is perfect because it’s more fun and interactive than learning a list of words to remember and the vocabulary is stuff you’ll have the most chance of using. Music is entertaining yet repetitive, guaranteeing you’ll learn a word or two at least and get practice with the ones you already know. Movies are great if you’re in a place you can’t immerse yourself in the language, and following Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts of people in your language of choice is a great way to improve everyday dialogue.
9. Find friends to practice with.
Pen pals you meet online or friends you meet overseas are a great way to get practice in when you aren’t in the area to immerse yourself in the language. Try to speak in their language as much as you feel necessary to your goals.
10. Embrace your fear of practice.
The faster you do that, the faster your brain will allow you to learn. Abandon thoughts of “I’m not good at this”, practice like you know what you’re doing, and practice often. Complete immersion is the best way to learn, and with a rock-solid confident mindset, you will get there faster than you thought you could.