What are some of your tips to learn a new language? My friend asked me that question when she told me that she wanted to try out something new, after working for eight years in the same company straight from college. I told her I haven’t really listed them out, but I would try to do it for her. So here’s me, trying to make that list of tips to learn a new language…
1. Be Curious
Be very curious, because it will motivate you to delve deeper and learn more. I learned Mandarin Chinese in 2009 because I wanted to further understand why China has become a superpower. My theory was: it’s the language! A nation’s language is deeply ingrained in its culture and once you unlock its power, you will become its master. Did Confucius write that? Do not ever forget to include this in your tips to learn a new language.
2. Make It a Daily Habit
English is my third language. I learned it in school when I was three. I remember that learning English was not hard because it was part of our daily routine. My father would teach me five English words a day. Every day, we reviewed the words from the previous days. At the end of the week – after reviewing all 35 words – he would buy me ice cream. Good strategy! Good results too!
3. Have Fun
This one is from my husband who has been employed by a China-based company for 16 years but can only manage to say three words in the language. His advice? Just have fun. If you don’t get it in classroom study, listen and then mimic the way the locals speak. There are times you will get in trouble, but be sure it’s not with police or immigration. Yikes!
4. Watch a Movie without Subtitles
This sounds crazy, I know, but trust me; it will make you happy when words and phrases that you know appear in dialogues. I did this when I learned Spanish in 2007, Chinese in 2009-2010, and French last year. And although I am not fluent in all three, I have basic language skills that would allow me to count my coins to the locals during street shopping. Just to show off and check if I pronounced the words right, I love watching movies without subtitles!
5. Get a Language Buddy
Whether virtual or personal, it’s essential that you have someone to have conversations with. This worked for me with Chinese. My language buddy wanted to learn English, and I wanted to learn Chinese. We met once a week, in between all my crazy classes, and we would talk about anything. A two-hour session per week can teach you more vocabulary and proper pronunciation than your classroom instructor can teach you.
6. Create a Timetable
How long do you want to study? Do you plan to use this skill for professional advancement? Or is it purely for personal development? What happens after? Do you want to be fluent?
7. Aim to Visit That Country Where That Language is Spoken
Nobody speaks a language better than the locals. A Frenchman speaking in French is music to my ears. I get a sense of affinity when my favorite vegetable vendors talk to me in Chinese in Guangzhou. I got the same feeling when my Spanish teacher told me that I am muy guapa when we met in Madrid.
Learning a new language can be tough to many. It really is tough. In learning a new language and finding its use subsequently, I am reminded of the words of a woman named Sara Caldwell, who said, “Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can; there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.” Any plans to learn a new language?