You’ve decided you want to learn another language? Awesome! You’re likely already very interested in another culture or planning an amazing trip abroad.
But now, you may be wondering, what is the fastest way to learn a language?
While it might seem like learning another language is really difficult, most of the world’s population speaks more than one. Only a small percentage of people in the US speak a second language. This makes many Americans think that learning another language is next to impossible.
How do you go about finding the best way to learn another language?
Read on, because we’ve got 10 of the best hacks to help you achieve your goal.
1. Let Go of Your Fears and Embrace Mistakes
Adults often get embarrassed when they make mistakes, but as a second language learner, you’re going to make them, and often. You don’t have to be the most confident person in the entire world, but you will need to shrug off hang-ups.
Before you begin to start to learn a language, build up your self-confidence so that you can move forward without harping on mistakes. Mistakes are a learning opportunity, and will always help you grow. They can even be the best teacher, as once you’ve made them, they are often very memorable.
Once you accept that you will embarrass yourself at some point while trying to master a second language, you’ll be ready to move forward.
2. The Absolute Fastest Way to Learn a Langauge is to Immerse Yourself Completely in It
The tried and true method for learning a language is to be in a position where it is the only language you can rely on. This can be tricky if you can’t afford to travel to another country. Consider going on vacation somewhere where that language is the primary way to communicate, instead of spending your time off in the US.
The more time you can spend in the location, the better. If you can afford it, enroll in a language course abroad. While there, surround yourself with only speakers of the language. Refuse if native speakers want to “make things easy” for you by speaking English.
In this way, you learn almost like a baby and have to start speaking the language on the first day.
Immersing yourself totally in the language isn’t always possible due to limited budgets. You also won’t magically learn a language by going abroad. In many places, English is so widely and well-spoken, there is no need to use a second language.
Instead, you can join clubs where only the language you are learning is spoken for a few hours at a time.
You can also go to parts of your town, city or country where another language is widely used and strike out there. Simply reading menus and learning words of everyday objects you would interact with can really make a difference.
3. Learn the Right Kind of Vocabulary
The idea of learning a new language might take you back to high school or college, where your teacher forced you to memorize useless vocabulary. Instead, focus on the vocabulary you will be needing in your everyday life.
If, for example, you want to learn Spanish nouns for beginners, start by memorizing the things that are relevant to your life. You can make quick flash cards, or even label all of the items in your home with Spanish nouns to help reinforce their foreign equivalent.
Once you’ve mastered the words you’ll be using on a daily basis, you’ll be able to build on them with more obscure or complicated words.
4. Make a Friend Who Is a Native Speaker
One of the best ways to learn a foreign language is to speak with a native speaker on a regular basis. Depending on the language you’re learning, you may not have access to native speakers.
You can use websites like iTalki to connect with native speakers of the language you’re learning. Doing this will help you think on your feet and rely on the language. You will receive corrections you might not have gotten from an English-speaking teacher who has fluently learned the language they are teaching.
Native speakers can also give you tips on pronunciation, as well as help you with questions about culture or words you might find confusing.
5. Watch Media in the Language
While immersion is the best way to learn another language, you can simulate this by doing so at home. Find TV series and movies in the language and binge them on Netflix or Amazon. This will not only help with pronunciation and vocabulary but will also introduce you to some aspects of the culture where the language is spoken.
You might start with the subtitles, but after a few episodes or films, and after you’ve gained some confidence, turn them off. You might surprise yourself by how fast you will pick things up when you have to rely on context and other clues.
6. Use Apps
Apps alone won’t make you learn another language. They can help you expand your vocabularly, pronunciation and writing abilities.
If you use an app, you’ll have to use it while you’re using other techniques as well. Apps like DuoLingo, Memrise and Babbel can help you brush up on your language skills and even keep you occupied on long plane, train or bus rides.
DuoLingo, for example, allows you to keep tabs on your friends who are also using the app. You can get competitive with them and try to beat their scores. In the end, everyone wins by learning the language.
7. Don’t Obsess Over Grammar
Your high school French teacher might be fainting over this advice, but sitting down and doing grammar exercises won’t necessarily make you learn the rules more effectively. This is because it isn’t the natural way to learn a language.
As babies, we learned language and grammar by listening to it in context. You can also learn a second language this way.
Of course, you will need to learn some fundamentals of grammar, but if you’re reading and watching media in the language, you will naturally pick it up before you know it.
This also ties into the tip about making mistakes. While learning how to speak correctly, you will no doubt make mistakes, and many of these will be grammar errors. These mistakes are how you learn the correct grammar.
8. Read Children’s Books in the Language
Children’s books are incredibly simple and include lots of easy vocabulary and very simple grammar for you to use, especially when you are just starting your journey. They are very helpful in learning languages with a new alphabet.
As you become more confident, start reading books meant for older children, until you’re reading books appropriate for your own age in the foreign language you’re learning.
You can also learn a lot by reading a book that’s already familiar to you in your native language in the language you are attempting to learn. Although it won’t be translated exactly, it will still help you pick up context clues and learn new words, phrases and even idioms.
9. Speak as Much as Possible, And Then Speak Some More
Speaking the language as much as you can is one of the things that is key to mastery. Talking to a native speaker once a day, or once every few days, on Skype isn’t going to be enough to get your speaking level up to par.
While talking with a native speaker is the best way to improve, speaking the language anywhere and everywhere will be a tremendous help. This might mean speaking with friends who are learning the language, even if they aren’t fluent or native.
Talk about anything, such as what you did over the weekend, what you want for lunch or what you think about current events.
If you’re also trying to improve your written mastery of the language, keep a diary that you write in at least once a day in the language. Again, this can be about any topic, just as long as you are writing.
10. Don’t Try and Learn More Than One Language at Once
This doesn’t mean that you can’t learn as many languages as you want, but be sure you are comfortable with one language before you move to the next. You want to be at least at the intermediate stage before you try your hand at the next language.
You shouldn’t try to learn more than one language at a time because you need to focus all of your attention on mastering what you are learning at the moment. Too many languages at once can end up being confusing.
Putting It Together
The fastest way to learn a language involves a number of factors, lots of mistakes, and trial and error. You will need to incorporate several techniques if you truly want to master the language.
There is no one right way to do it, but with dedication, you’ll definitely make progress.
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