So, you’ve decided to learn a new language? It could be because you need to work abroad for 6 months – 1 year, you own a holiday home (lucky you!) or, you just want to set yourself a new challenge and fully immerse yourself into a new culture. Whatever the reason, learning a new language can be really challenging. It can take a long time to be able to get to the stage of holding a conversation. All it takes is time, consistency and motivation!
At the start of your language learning journey, you won’t need to worry about perfecting grammar and conjugating the verbs correctly, as that will all come eventually. The key thing is to build your vocabulary, which you’ll be able to do when using the language learning apps (like Busuu and Duolingo).
Having grown up bilingual and studying modern languages at University (German and Spanish) I know exactly what it’s like. You may not be studying like I did and want to learn a new language for a reason of your own, and that’s ok! I’ve pulled together my top tips for learning a new language, to help you along the way 🙂
1. Know and recognise your motivation
The day that you decide to learn a new language, you’ll have a motivation for it. You may need it for school, for work, travel, or because you want to set yourself a new challenge. By outlining the reason why, you decide to begin your language learning journey. It’ll give you that motivation to continue learning and wanting to strive for that ultimate goal; fluency!
2. Language Learning apps
There are so many language learning apps available to us, and the great thing is, they’re free!*
When I learnt Spanish, I made use of all the mobile apps you can think of; Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, Babbel, Busuu. It’s worth downloading the apps, but also reading up on reviews to see which one fits best with your learning needs. Rosetta Stone for example, focuses more on the grammar and sentence structure, whereas Duolingo focuses on vocabulary building.
*you may need to pay a subscription fee, in order to access additional features.
3. Write it down!
One thing that I found really challenging at the start of my language learning journey was remembering vocabulary. Words would just often go through one ear, and out the other! Whilst it can be quite tedious, writing the words down on paper a few times helps to embed the word into your brain and will eventually stick.
You can also write the words down on post-it notes and leave them next to your desk, or somewhere that’s visible for you to look at throughout the day. As mentioned in tip number 2, various language learning apps (like Duolingo) are based on a methodology to foster long-term retention.
4. Spend some time in the country
This may be an obvious one, but one of our best tips for learning a new language is to fully immerse yourself, by spending time in a country.
I was fortunate enough to study and work in both Germany and Spain in my third year of university. My level of understanding and fluency improved beyond belief, which wouldn’t have happened hadn’t spent time living there.
Whilst it can be difficult with other personal commitments like work and family to see this being achievable, if you’re able to live and work abroad for a few months, I definitely recommend doing so!
5. Listen to audiobooks
Audiobooks are great to listen to during your commute to work, or even when you are cooking! Audible is a great platform to use. They offer lots of different resources (stories, grammar books) in many languages, ranging from beginner to advanced.
You can subscribe to get a free 30 day trial and see what resources are available before you commit.
6. Get a tandem partner
Textbook and language app learning are brilliant and you can learn a great deal, but nothing beats having a conversation with a native speaker. I would recommend Busuu for just this. Busuu allows you to help, correct and support other learners’ work and they’ll be able to help you in return.
Busuu is also a great way to build friendships. I helped a Spanish girl with their English, and vice versa and we organised an exchange a year later. If you decide to do something like this, be sure to be safe and remain vigilant before moving into anything.
7. Go to meet up groups
If you live in a city, there are so many opportunities for you to join groups. You can take part in activities to meet other likeminded people and practice your language skills with them.
For those of you living in London, Meet Up is a great platform to use. Whether that’s going for a coffee, taking part in a painting class or going for a hike, you’ll be able to meet native speakers to practice all those skills that you’ve learnt!
It can be very daunting and you may feel embarrassed, but that’s how we improve! This is a top tip for learning a language that will also expand your social network. Having friends that speak the language is extremely helpful.
8. Take advantage of free online resources
There are tonnes of resources online that you can make use of and they’ll boost your learning experience. Resources such as magazines, newspapers, reading the local news, listening to music on Spotify, the radio!
Depending on where you’re at with your learning journey, it may be difficult to understand most, if not everything that they say – but worry not! It’s completely normal. Fact is, even in our native tongue, there are going to be words that we don’t understand, we’re only human!
9. Watch TV series and films on Netflix
Not only is Netflix great for watching your favourite TV shows and good old classic movies, they also have foreign films and shows for you to take advantage of.
Top tip: try not to have the English subtitles on, but have the subtitles of the target language. You don’t have to watch the entire film/ show. Instead, you can pause every minute or so and make notes of new vocabulary!
10. Be consistent
This is one of our obvious tips for learning a new language. The more consistent you are, the quicker you will learn and be well on your way to fluency!
Top tip: dedicate a set time in the da, write it in your phone calendar and stick to it. You can start with maybe 5 minutes, then gradually build up to 20-30 minutes (depending on your other priorities) It doesn’t matter how long you spent on it – consistency is the most important!
11. Create achievable, yet ambitious goals for yourself
Depending on the reason why you’ve decided to learn a new language, think about what you need it for. Is it because you are studying it for university, or is it because you are moving abroad for work and need to speak it at a professional proficiency? Based on these reasons, set goals, either weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly.
Whilst it’s important to be ambitious and push yourself, be sure to set realistic expectations for yourself. Language mastery doesn’t happen overnight, so bear that in mind when setting yourself goals. 🙂
12. Learn to sound more native
This one was actually one of the most difficult ones to work on. I struggled for 2 years trying to roll my r’s in Spanish and I just sounded like a brit with a heavy Midlands accent trying to sound Spanish.
I spent so much time listening to Spanish natives and working with a tandem partner (who was from Seville) and it helped me massively. I spent 8 months living there and people mistook me for being Spanish – now that’s a massive win!
The best tip I can give you is to keep talking – even if it’s to yourself in front of a mirror, or repeating words out loud. It may seem a bit silly at first, but it will soon become second nature to you! 🙂
13. Keep everything you learn, relevant
If you’re just starting to learn a new language from scratch, you need to learn the basics, no matter what the end goal is. But once you’ve reached a decent level of proficiency, you’ll need to ensure that what your learning is more targeted and relevant to what you need it for. For example:
- If you’re looking to learn a language for business/ work purposes, you’ll need to ensure a high level of proficiency, which means expanding your vocabulary and knowledge to achieve this.
- If you’re learning a language because you’ve bought a holiday home in Tenerife and need the language to get by, you’ll need to ensure that you understand the basics. It’ll be of more of a conversational level.
14. Have fun!
Discovering a new language is meant to be fun. Even if you need tips for learning a new language for work purposes, as opposed to wanting to learn off your own back – it still needs to be fun.
You don’t need to be so serious about it and spend hours working through endless grammar books (well, you may need to do a bit of that, if you are studying at university). Make use of other resources that are a bit more light-hearted.
15. Be prepared to leave your comfort zone
If you haven’t been brought up bilingual, or know a few other languages already, it’s going to feel pretty unnatural to you to begin with. You could be an expert in marketing, in accounting, or a great cook. We don’t just suddenly become good at what we do through not trying, we work hard and gain experience and knowledge over time.
16. Reward yourself
Learning a new language is a long process and it may leave you feeling deflated at times.
Be sure to reward yourself for the small achievements. If you understand some lyrics in a song, or you finish a level on Duolingo, each step you take, no matter how big or small, makes up the building blocks for you to become a master of language!
I hope you found these tips for learning a new language helpful. When it comes to languages, the key thing to remember is to have patience; Rome wasn’t built in a day. Ensure that you dedicate 20 minutes a day at least and also go over the elements that you have previously learnt in past sessions so you don’t forget all that you’ve learnt! Practice makes perfect!
Good Luck! 🙂
By SusieAuthor bio:
Susie is a passionate traveller that loves a sunny beach holiday, but also appreciates the cultural side to a trip and checking out undiscovered destinations. She’s the go-to Toucan Traveller for great holiday stories, cool photos and foodie recommendations.