There are several reasons you may want to start learning a new language. Whether you are trying to prepare for international business, taking a trip out of the country, or just interested in a particular language, acquiring a new language can be very beneficial. Not only does it expand your world view, but it can also improve intelligence through cognitive benefits such as improved memory skills and problem solving abilities (ACTFL, n.d.). Apart from the benefits for the brain, learning new languages can be fun and improve your ability to communicate with people from around the world. Here is a basic guide for how to get started.
The younger, the better
Although it is certainly still possible to learn a language later in life, it is much easier to grasp concepts such as grammar and pronunciation at an earlier age. Children develop at an amazing rate and rapidly acquire knowledge. Because of this, it is easier for them to process and retain the information that they receive. Exposure to multiple languages at an early age will make becoming bilingual a lot simpler. While you may not sound as much like a native speaker if you learn a language after childhood, you are still very much capable of adding another language to your arsenal.
Surrounding yourself with people who speak the language that you are trying to learn is ultimately the most quick and efficient way to learn. While visiting a country that has native speakers is the best way to accomplish this, you could also try listening to movies, songs, and news in your desired language. Utilize any family members or friends who speak the language you are trying to learn if you have any.
Begin with the basics
Start by learning easier topics such as greetings, numbers, and colors. Jumping straight into difficult subjects like science or business will probably leave you feeling a little anxious. Also, focus on the present tense and gradually add in the past and future tenses. Once you get a grip on the basics, you will be able to expand your quest towards more challenging topics and tenses.
Drill the vocabulary
Vocabulary is probably the most important aspect of learning a language. Grammar and other nuances can come later, but understanding the meaning of words will allow you to get the gist of what someone is saying. It will also expand the topics you can speak about and understand. Look for online vocabulary practice or come up with your own ways to practice. You can take vocabulary quizzes, make flash cards, or keep it fun by creating a vocabulary game.
Find a native speaker
Many native speakers enjoy teaching others about their language and would be more than willing to help you learn. Ask them to have a conversation with you in their native tongue or ask questions if you have them. If they are still trying to learn your language as well, then you can help one another. This win-win situation is ideal as both of you can develop your language skills together. There are plenty of online applications that allow you to practice speaking with native speakers. Many websites and iPhone applications offer this service such as WeSpeke and Italki.
Do not be afraid to practice
One of the reasons children can learn languages easier is because they are not afraid to make mistakes. They will openly speak the language, despite the potential embarrassment of making mistakes. This allows them to learn from their mistakes and utilize any corrections to improve their understanding of the language. Most native speakers are relatively understanding when someone is trying to learn their language, so do not shy away from a little embarrassment.
Take a course
Taking a language course in person or online can be a valuable resource when learning a language. They will often teach you grammar rules and sentence structure that would be difficult to learn from just listening to people speak. Learning a language from a course alone can be a lengthy process, but it can still supplement the learning process. Many courses can cost money like Rosetta Stone, but a couple are free for use such as Duolingo.
Are you trying to learn a language? Are you bilingual? We would love to hear about any tips you may have for other people trying to learn.