How to Learn a Language in 5 Easy Steps
Have you ever had to clean a room so dirty and disorganized that you didn’t know where to start?
Without the right plan, learning a language can feel a bit like that. But, should it?
After all, it was motivation to achieve a personal or professional goal that made you take up a new language in the first place.
If every time you think about your language course you get a headache, I know exactly what you are lacking: an easy guide on how to learn a language faster and more strategically!
By putting into practice the tips below, I promise you won’t want to run in fear every time you open the door to your studio.
Everything we do in life has a purpose. Why did my sister study tourism? Because she wanted to travel the world. Why did I study English? Because I wanted to teach people from different cultures. Why did I buy that awful leather jacket that’s been taking up precious space in my closet for years? I have no idea, but there must have been a reason even for that.
The first thing I say to anyone who asks me “How can I learn a language fast?” is “make sure you have a clear goal”.
If you don’t know what you want to achieve, how can you even come up with a learning plan? More importantly, how will you be able to tell how far you are from success?
Setting down a goal will prevent you from getting overwhelmed throughout the learning process and it will give you a sense of direction.
Here are a few tips on how to learn a language with clear goals in mind.
- Focus on tangible outcomes. If you started singing lessons today, you wouldn’t choose I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston as your first song, would you? If you want to know how to learn a language faster, the answer is simpler than you may have expected: start small. An example of a reachable goal might be “This week, I’m going to learn 25 Italian idioms”, or “I’m going to learn 30 Spanish terms of endearment and use them to e-mail my Spanish-speaking friends”.
- Push yourself, but not too much. Challenging yourself is great, but if you make things too daunting for yourself, you may end up quitting sooner or later. A clever way to find the right balance is to set an estimated objective. For example, you can write: “Today, I’m going to learn 20 to 40 Dutch words”. This way, you won’t feel discouraged if you end up learning only twenty, but at the same time, you will feel pushed to reach a higher number.
- Set short-term goals for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with thinking big. Goals like “becoming a successful businessman in China” or “relocating to Portugal as a digital nomad” can do a lot for your motivation but when it comes to how to learn a language faster, it is small, short-term goals that will give you a sense of achievement.
Imagine you are reading Don Quixote in its original Castillian Spanish version. If you were to underline every word you don’t know, you would need at least three markers, even if you are an advanced student.
But, does this mean that you will never be able to speak Spanish fluently?
Not at all.
When we learn a new language, it is essential to focus on core words, i.e., the vocabulary that we are more likely to need in communicative situations. Though it would be wonderful to know all the words that Cervantes used in his celebrated novel, the truth is that not even native Spanish speakers know all of them.
One of the most important tips on how to learn a language, then, is by knowing what kind of vocabulary you need to learn. Do you want to learn French for professional purposes? Then you may want to take a personalized course on business French. Do you want to learn Korean to enjoy your favourite K-Pop bands’ hottest songs? Then a general Korean course with a focus on Korean idioms will do.
The answer to the question “How can you learn a language fast”? may not be straightforward, but one thing’s for sure: you won’t find it in your old textbook. Before you even look for tips on how to learn a language, you need to know what kind of learner you are, and that’s something that you will only find out by experimenting.
Here are a few study techniques you can try out:
- Use flashcards. Whether you use paper or electronic flashcards, make sure they show high-frequency words, or words that you need to learn in order to achieve a specific communicative goal. Instead of reading the word (or the meaning of a word) right away, allow yourself time to guess the answer. Remember: flashcards are meant to test your memory, not give you a solution.
- Expand on every word you learn. If you ask a successful learner “How can you learn a language fast?” you will see there are no magic answers. It’s all about grasping every learning opportunity that comes your way. Whenever you incorporate a word into your repertoire, build on it by writing down at least one synonym, one antonym, and one sample sentence for each of the words.
- Use music. Learning a language doesn’t always involve heavy dictionaries and booklets. Today, there are different platforms like YouTube or Lirica that allow users to learn by singing along to their favourite songs. If you’re learning French, for example, you can boost your pronunciation by singing along to French covers of classic English language songs.
- Use the new words in your own language. Depending on what language you’re learning, finding someone with whom to practice your newly acquired skills may not be an easy task. So why not start by using the words you’ve learnt in your native language? Sure, at first people might think you’re crazy when you casually say things like “Can you pass the соль*”? over dinner, but they will soon get used to it.*the salt
The best answer you can get to the question “How can I learn a language faster?” is also the easiest one: by being exposed to that language all the time. Isn’t that how children learn their first language? Instead of consciously teaching the language to their sons and daughters, they let their children pick it up by listening to the people around them.
As a foreign language learner, there are many ways in which you can get exposure for free, even without your parents’ help!
- Change the language setting on all your devices. Do you feel guilty about all the time you spend on your phone? Make it count by setting your gadgets into the target language. This will help you to learn lots of technological terms.
- Do fun things in a different language. If you ever come across a list of tips on how to learn a language that is full of things you hate to do in your own language, ignore it. Why force yourself to do boring mnemonic exercises when you can keep doing exactly what you’re doing now but in the target language? Do you like reading? Re-read your favorite books in a new language! Do you like playing video games? Join a foreign online game room! Do you like cooking? Download recipes in the target language and see how far you can get without looking at a dictionary.
- Talk to native speakers. Interaction in the target language is essential. By joining language exchange groups, online forums or just changing your location on Tinder, you can get lots of invaluable opportunities for practice.
Casual conversations with native speakers are vital to boost your confidence and conversational skills, but in the end, if you want to get expert feedback and guidance throughout your learning process, the best way to learn a language fast and efficiently is to take a personalized course with a native teacher.
Native teachers will be able to:
- expose you to idioms, dialectal differences, and slang
- help you understand the cultural contexts in which the language occurs
- help you identify your weaknesses and strong points
- design appropriate tests and assessment materials
At Language Trainers, we specialize in face-to-face lessons taught by fully qualified teachers who also happen to be native speakers of whatever language you want to learn. Whether you want to learn a language for business, pleasure, or personal development, our tutors will be able to come up with a tailor-made course based on your goals and needs. Contact us now and we’ll pair you up with one of our best teachers for a free trial lesson!