How do I learn a foreign language? It is easy to start, but it is worth learning from those who have done it before to find out what works. We set out our top 10 tips for learning a foreign language.How do I learn a foreign language? It is easy to start, but it is worth learning from those who have done it before to find out what works. We set out our top 10 tips for learning a foreign language.
Know why you are learning the language. Make sure that before you start you know why you are learning the language and that you set short term goals as well as the final target of full proficiency or fluency. If you know why you are doing it, you are more likely to stick at it, but short term specific goals help to make you feel that you are moving forward.
Be prepared to devote the time and effort necessary. To become fluent you need to practice regularly and put in the hours. That does not mean you have to work at it for long concentrated periods, but it does mean regularly working at the language. If you can devote a regular period each day, you are likely to get better results than working for several hours one day and then not coming back to the language for a week.
Only use good teachers. Make sure that if you use a language teacher that they are good! Make sure you do not focus on grammar and rules too much, but try to understand the culture and context in which people use the language. If they do not work for you, find another teacher.
Learn with a partner. If at all possible find someone else who is learning the language to work with. It may be your partner or someone who attends the same lessons, but it always helps to have someone else to share the experience with. A little competition can also be motivational as well as giving you someone to turn to when things do not seem to be going so well.
Listen first. Listening is the most important skills when learning a language. When listening to native speakers you get a real feel for the language, for the pronunciation, rhythm and feel of the language and how to deal with the sounds that are not part of the English language. If you are not spending time in the country listen to the music, films, TV or radio programmes or any other media.
Know your learning style. Experiment to identify your own learning style. Do you perform better when you hear rather than read the language. Does a series of images help you to remember the words? Talk to yourself if hearing the language helps you. Many believe that children are better able to learn, but the evidence is that they are just less self-conscious and more willing to make mistakes. Release your inner child.
Do not fixate on vocabulary. Focus on the ability to describe something to avoid having to know all the vocabulary eg. Hospital ‘a large building where you go if you are ill or have an accident and Doctors help to make you better. There will always be words that you do not know, but as you progress you can use the words you do know to get around the words you do not know.
Focus on all aspects of learning a language. Even if your main goal is to be able to speak to people in the language, do not ignore reading and writing in the language and make sure you learn to listen so that you can understand what others are saying. If you keep a balance between them all, it can help develop the other skills.
Try to avoid using English. It is much easier to learn a language if you are living in an area surrounded by people speaking that language. If you have already moved abroad, this will happen anyway. If you are able to travel to the country to learn the language, this can be helpful, but if you are trying to learn before you go, immerse yourself as much as possible in the language, listen to films, radio stations and spend as much time as possible only speaking the language you are learning.
Be brave. It is very tempting to wait until you feel you have perfected the language. There is no better way to learn than by doing and people will be understanding if you do not get it quite right! You have to move out of your comfort zone and the more you do so, the more you will be able to overcome your fear that you might use the wrong word, get the grammar wrong etc.
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