Learning a language can be a daunting endeavour, particularly when there’s lots of conflicting advice about the best way to do it. Having studied German and Old Norse before I moved on to Russian, you could say that I’ve picked up a few tips along the way. So without further ado, here they are:
- Do a little bit everyday – you don’t have to commit all of your time to learn a new language. By doing things little and often, it’s more likely to stick and you won’t be bored by the end of the week.
- If it stops being fun or you don’t enjoy it anymore, change how you’re doing things – don’t sit and force yourself to read grammar books, or reel off long lists of vocabulary for hours on end, which brings me to my next piece of advice….
- You don’t just have to learn a language from a book – TV and radio is a great way to improve your listening, pronunciation and vocabulary, as well as offering insight into the culture.
- Phrases and bits of tourist jargon are your friends! Some people hate or simply don’t value learning pre-prepared phrases and how to ask where the pharmacy is, but they are extremely useful – they can give you the confidence to ask questions and respond, plus you can bet your bottom dollar that whether they need to or not, natives can damn well ask where the tourist information desk is!
- When you’re ready, find a language partner – you may be textbook perfect on paper, but what counts is being able to interact with people and hold a conversation that doesn’t follow a script! There’s loads of great options out there, check out ‘useful links‘.
- Word a day – this is perhaps my favourite bit of advice. You’ll be amazed at the amount of vocabulary you’ll have gone through by the end of the year! If just one word a day sounds too easy, make it two, three, four…
- Ignore people that tell you how long it will take to learn a language – sure, it’s fantastic if you can be fluent in just a few months, but that’s a pretty tall order by anyone’s standards. Set your own pace, and learn at the speed you feel comfortable – language is for life, not just a summer!
- Do it the way that suits you best! If a ‘language hack’ isn’t working then scrap it, if you learn better by studying books all day long then do it, and if you find it easier to sing and dance about it then perform it!
- Lastly, keep going! There’s always gonna be something new to learn, and something that you don’t know the answer to, but as daunting as it is you probably know more than you did yesterday!
Good luck, and feel free to comment below with any of your own bits of advice!