After having started to self-teach languages and after a few conversations with others who have successfully learned foreign languages, I could see that there were some language learning methods that don’t work, others that somewhat do the trick, and some I consider great for language learning. With this in mind, I made a list of the top 10 tips for learning a new language. It’s needless to say that this is a must-read if you want to quickly and efficiently learn your dream language!
Top 10 Tips For Learning a New Language
Guest article by Yoann Bornard, a language lover from France who writes on articles on Yoyolanguages.
1. Have a Conquering Attitude
The first of my tips for learning a new language is to keep in mind that when you embark on an exciting adventure, you need to have the right state of mind! Your thoughts influence your actions, so if you’re not feeling up to it, aren’t motivated or don’t have the energy, you might as well forget making any notable progress in the language of your choice!
I can already hear you say “Is that how your tips for learning a new language are going to be? How am I supposed to develop a conquering attitude?”. Let me first say that I’m not trying to make you change who you are. What I do want is for you to become a better version of yourself, one that is aware of your potential and that has much more self-confidence!
And to get there, there are plenty of methods. Let me mention just a few which have already been proven to help:
- Positive thinking (the Coué method: repeat positive phrases over and over again until you believe them).
- Acting lessons.
- etc ….
Put these into practice and you’ll be on your way to learning a language!
2. Get up Early in The Morning
Although this might seem an odd thing to write as one of my tips for learning a new language, in my opinion, this is an important habit which has the potential of allowing you to learn a new language!
The morning is the ideal moment to get many things done! And it’s also a very good thing for language learning because, by getting up early in the morning, you won’t be stressed, exhausted or distracted by the day’s events.
This will also give you a lot less opportunities to procrastinate thus helping you accomplish as many things as possible before having started your day!
3. Learn Daily
The desire to learn is what sets apart a successful learner from another who won’t be making progress in the long-term!
And this is valid for just about anything you want to do in life, those who manage to learn a new language are the very same ones who are curious, full of passion and persevere in their endeavors!
I’m not trying to say that you should exhaust yourself with learning sessions that last five hours! What I mean is that if you really want to master a new language, you’re going to have to learn something new about the language every day, without forgetting to review already learned vocabulary (a great method for this is the SRS), no need to study for 5 hours a day, one hour is plenty!
And don’t tell me that you don’t have the time! We all have the time, it’s just a matter of discipline and defining your priorities.
And this brings me to what’s next on my list of tips for learning a new language.
4. Eliminate Distractions
As I said earlier, many times, those who don’t have the time don’t use it because they don’t define their priorities, and they let all their time be consumed by useless distractions they could very well do without!
Of course, this list of the top 10 tips to learn a new language won’t be of much help if I didn’t give you a list of CONCRETE things to do to free up your time! Precious time you could use for language learning:
- Lay off social networks for a while! I especially have Facebook in mind, which, for some, can be a true addiction! Knowing that your your best friend has just bought himself a different brand of toilet paper isn’t going to help you learn a new language. I also advice turning the notifications of recent activities off; it’s a true enemy to concentration.
- The same as with Facebook, try to go easy with YouTube. Generally, and this was my case for a long time, if your line of work consists of being on the computer, the tendency is to have an open Facebook tab and another one for YouTube, so that, from time to time, you can take a small break when doing a certain task. Don’t do this! It is the best way to take away concentration, procrastinate and waste your time. When you’re carrying out a task, do it until it’s finished, and without distraction. NigaHiga and PewDiePie can wait until the end of the day, after you’re done with your daily learning session.
- And finally, don’t let your phone become a distraction. Your friends can wait, turn it off during your learning sessions, and you’ll have one source of distraction less thus helping you finish what you’ve started.
5. Don’t Make Language Learning The Center of Your Life
Although this can seem like a paradox in an article on tips for learning a new language, it is, however, something you need to watch out for. Being too focused and obsessed on a certain task can stress and impede you from successfully carrying it out thus paradoxically making you less likely to improve as fast as someone who is a bit more relaxed in their language learning endeavor.
Ideally, learning a language should be part of your daily life, and not its central point. Moreover, practicing certain activities can improve your efficiency in learning languages:
- Practicing sports is a great way to relax and getting rid of excess energy (as well as developing self-discipline)
- Spending time with friends strengthens your ability to create links with others as well as giving you more social intelligence (somethings which will render speaking in the language you’re learning with native speaker something easier to do)
- Practicing meditation is a great way to relax and focus on an activity
6. Learn in Chunks!
You might be asking yourselves what I mean by chunks. Well, by this, I mean all those expressions and phrases you need in precise situations.
Some simple examples are: “Have a nice day”. “Good luck”, “Would you mind…?”, etc.
According to linguistic research, learning chunks of a language is more efficient than learning a long list of separate words, because when you learn phrases, you also learn the correct conjugation along with their proper context. Something which is also be of great help to sound more natural and be more fluid in the language of your choice (The MosaLingua apps are amazing for this).
Here’s a concrete example to help you understand.
Let’s take the first example I gave above, “Have a nice day”. This is a phrase you’ve heard over and over again in your life. So much so, that you don’t even think about it anymore.
However, what would happen if someone were to tell you “Have a friendly day” or “Obtain a good day”? You’d probably burst out laughing, and rightly so.
Despite these two phrases being grammatically correct, in a real life situation, they would seem odd, at best. And that’s because a native speaker would never say this.
That’s why learning phrases and expressions commonly used by the native speakers of a language is important. Not only will it save you the headache of having to figure out how to express yourself, but you’ll avoid coming up with strange sentences.
This goes hand-in-hand with the last of my tips for learning a new language: which is, in your opinion, the best way to acquire new vocabulary as well as a great number of phrases?
Reading is one of the fastest method I know for progressing in a language.
And I’m the living proof of it: when I first started to read books in English, I had a very basic level in English (I just about knew how to present myself in the language), but I managed, thanks to reading 5 pages per day (tip No. 3), to get to a level, where, I could easily read the works of Stephen King without having to take a break to understand what I was reading.
I sincerely think that I would never have gotten to this level, had I not left my comfort zone with such a learning method. Sometimes, to progress in a language, you need to challenge yourself and do something you think you’re not capable of doing.
Of course, I’m not saying this is a magical method with which you’ll be able to learn every aspect of a language. That’s where my what is next on my tips for learning a new language comes in…
8. Multiply Your Learning Experience
Because no single learning method will ever be enough, the most important of my tips to learn a new language I could ever offer you is to diversify your learning resources and contact with the language. Don’t stay stuck with one or two methods, broaden your horizons.
At a certain point when learning a language, you’ll come across hurdles. Hurdles can be a true source of frustration for many learners because, who, after having made quick and constant progress, become stuck and can’t seem to improve. The reason for this is that they only use one or two techniques they thought of as being infallible. Don’t forget that one approach can boost your level when you’re still a beginner, but can be completely useless once you’ve reached an intermediate level.
My last two tips for learning a new language (reading and learning in chunks), for example, are highly efficient if you want to improve your vocabulary, but they are pretty much useless when it comes to improving your pronunciation.
So don’t commit the mistake of sticking to only one method; how you learn a language should evolve as you improve in this particular language. And for this, you’ll have to be flexible and adapt your learning methods to your level; don’t be afraid of trying out different learning method, even if some might not think this constitutes as language learning (such as watching TV in Italian). This will set you apart from those who have been stuck for a long time
9. Be Aware of The Culture of The Language!
This is something that’s often ignored by many learners, and I find this such a shame because, for me, the cultural aspect is a central aspect of learning a foreign language.
Indeed, to me, the linguistic and cultural aspect are two inseparable component. Learning a language is more than simply putting words together in the correct order.
When you learn its culture, you also get to learn about its people, the way they think, the way they live, their history, etc. This will in turn help you communicate more efficiently with them and avoid cultural misinterpretations which often occur among foreigners.
Learning the culture of a language will thus help you immerse yourself in the language. It’s not like we lack the necessary resources to do so (internet, books, TV, etc.).
So, no excuses! ?
10. Know The Four Pillars That Make up a Language
Just like Chinese medicine takes into account the holistic aspect of the human body instead of focusing on a single aspect, I like to imagine language learning as a whole composed of different pieces, just like a puzzle which needs to be put together in order to have a full picture.
The main skills that make up any language are:
- Reading skills
- Writing skills
- Listening skills
- Oral skills
Ideally, these skills are worked on simultaneously (even if it’s not always possible) in order to avoid any imbalance in the language.
Of course, nothing is to stop you from focusing on one skill more than the others, if you’re having trouble with a certain aspect of a language.
For example, sometimes, during long and complicated conversations in English, I have trouble expressing myself correctly. This means that I have to focus more on developing this aspect than the other three skills by spending more of my time dedicated to learning the language on speaking rather than on reading and writing, which don’t require improvement.
Obviously, this list of tips for learning a new language isn’t exhaustive. There are other tips that could be added to this list, but these are the main ones you want to know and put into practice if you want to improve in a language.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. The MosaLingua team and I will happily answer any of your questions!
About the author: This article was written by Yoann Bonnard who owns the French blog, Yoyolanguages.
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