How to Learn a New Language

Education, Home & Family
on August 12, 2011

Learning a foreign language has a success rate comparable to losing 20 pounds and getting out of debt. These tips and resources can help you beat the odds.

Take a class. You may have tried this already with limited success. Keep in mind, however, that an unmotivated high school student taking two years of German is no indication of how well a motivated adult can learn a comparable language in much less time. If you decide to take a class, make sure it’s taught by someone who actually speaks the language.

Books. Independent study is a necessary step in learning a foreign language. Therefore, you are going to need a book that explains important aspects of the language.

Audio. You’ll need to hear the language if you’re going to learn it. Audio recordings contain native speakers, are portable and allow for practice almost anywhere.

The Internet. CNN has documented the increased availability of online foreign language learning. Online language courses are available. Make sure you’re accessing a reputable language-learning program before forking over the cash. It’s also nice to have access to an actual human who speaks the language.

Travel to the country. Classes, books, audios and online language courses work well and are a necessary step in mastering a foreign language. Nothing, however, will help you learn a language better than spending time in the actual country where the language is spoken. Immersing yourself in the language provides motivation and access unattainable in any other way.

Put in the time. There are no Cliffs Notes methods available.

Speak, listen and read daily. Language mastery occurs only when the learner is exposed to the language on a regular basis.

Focus on vocabulary. Constantly increase your vocabulary. Carry a dictionary. Make a list of words throughout the day that you hear but don’t understand. Label objects around the house or office.

Have fun. Learning a new language should be fun, despite what your drill-and-kill French teacher in 10th grade would have you believe. Everyone has a humorous story about asking the locals for a bikini when they were looking for a pair of boxing gloves. Laugh.

Be patient. Learning a foreign language takes time.

Bonne chance. Buona fortuna. Buena suerte. Good luck.