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5 Tips on Learning a New Language

It's hard, but these tips make it easier.

I've been studying French for seven and a half years now. I've been teaching it for a year. I have picked up some tips and tricks along the way that are surefire ways to help you learn your second (third or fourth) language quicker and better. Some are easy, others are harder, but each one has its place in the success of learning another language. First and foremost, some advice: Learning a language is hard and a process. You won't learn it in a day, you'll make mistakes. It's not like learning history or biology where you read a book and that's it; this takes time and work. Be kind to yourself as you learn your language.

1. Listen to as much of your new language as possible.

This is so important. You have to listen to the language, spoken by native speakers. Your brain absorbs that information, and it's helpful. It will improve you listening comprehension (of course), but it will also help you with other parts of your language learning. Your accent? That will get better. Your speaking? That will get better, too. So find podcasts, TV shows, music you like, and anything else that would count as listening. Please keep in mind though, what you're listening to needs to be comprehensible. And if you want to use subtitles, have them in the language you are learning, not in the language you already know.

(Pro Tip: Playing audio in the language you are learning while you are sleeping leads to quicker and more accurate learning of a new language so make yourself a sleep playlist.)

2. Do not memorize vocabulary and grammar.

Yes. You read me right. This is one of the worst things you can do while learning another language. Memorizing is not learning the language. Drills and flash cards are the worst thing you can do because you'll be putting that information in the wrong part of the brain. You won't be able to recall the language in the language part of the brain. Yes, I know that's how most people teach it, but it is incorrect in how it teaches it to you.

(Pro Tip: Activities that include discussion, information, or content that is interesting is much better for you brain because that's how you learned your first language.)

3. Talk to yourself.

I still do this. Seven years later, I talk to myself. It's great practice. Work through conversations and practice your on the fly speaking and accent. It's judgement-free and you can make as many mistakes as you need to learn your new language without embarrassment.

4. Practice often.

Read in your new language. Watch a show in your new language. Talk in your new language. Write in your new language. Any of them at one time, or all of them. Make sure you dedicate quality time to it.

(Pro Tip: Make things as interesting as possible to you and choose things you love. It helps a lot with your language learning.)

5. Travel to the place that speaks the language and spend time there.

This one is expensive. It is so expensive, but it is so worth it. My French improved leaps and bounds after spending just one month in France. No matter what your new language is, your language will seriously improve after studying abroad or traveling. Constant exposure strengthens your skills way more than any classroom can.

(Pro Tip: I highly recommend studying abroad, staying with a host family that speaks the language, or simply talking to the locals. Seriously, this is the best way to learn a language and reach fluency.)

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