The Number One Way to Learn a Language

By optilingo

What Is the Best Way to Learn a Foreign Language?

If you’re looking for a quick way to learn French or any other foreign language successfully, then you have plenty of options available. Some would say that you should immerse yourself in your native country. Others say that you need to watch TV shows and movies in your target language. And others will argue that reading and writing in a second language will get you there the fastest.

The truth is that these are all successful strategies. Each one holds merit and has been proven successful over time. However, there is one strategy that far outweighs the others. And when you pair this strategy with the best language learning program and other immersion strategies,  you see rapid results.

If you had to choose one strategy to adapt so that you rapidly learned a foreign language, it wouldn’t have anything to do with what materials you used at all. Instead, it has more to do with how you approach language learning.

Why You Need to Think About Language Learning Differently

Many people have a bit of PTSD with language learning. It’s no joking matter. Xenoglossophobia defines the anxiety centered around foreign language learning. Most of this is a result of tedious, life-draining language classes we were forced to sign up for in high school. Many often struggle through these classes as they attempt to do what is necessary to pass so that they can graduate.

The result is an inadequate approach to language learning that has more to do with drilling, cramming, and testing than it does about immersing yourself on a journey in a new culture by trying to understand its language.

If you want to be successful, then you have to change this approach. If you’re going to become fluent in a second language, then the skill you need to prioritize over any other is active learning.

What Is an Active Learner?

There are two types of learners, active and passive learners. The majority of learners are passive learners. It’s a result of being “forced” to do something. People show up. Sit down. And go through the motions until the bell rings. Passive learners pick up skills and knowledge along the way, but they often don’t feel like they learn much from the educational experience.

Active learners take a different approach. Active learners want to learn. They need to learn. When you put an active learner in a situation, that person will readily dive into the material, tear it apart, and begin applying it. Active learners don’t pay attention to the clock. In fact, they work against it. Their goal isn’t to merely survive the day, but to try and accomplish as much as possible. And it’s this approach to language learning that will bring you the fastest results.

The Brain Works Differently When You’re Interested in Learning

Every day, you’re exposed to a near infinite amount of stimuli. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re standing at an intersection, waiting for the light to turn green, pause and look around you. You’ll notice buildings, trees, signs, each car that’s waiting to move forward. And that’s only in the 100 feet surrounding you. Every day, you’re constantly bombarded with information. Your brain has to learn how to filter it out. Otherwise, your mind would implode.

Only when you’re actively engaged in what you’re doing can you turn on all senses and attempt to register the full experience. This often happens when we are doing things we enjoy. Games, movies, dinners with friends, we’re fully involved in these moments. They pass by so fast we often wonder where time went.

Your goal should be to try and treat learning a foreign language with as much enthusiasm as other captivating moments in your life. The more you want to learn, the more successful you will be.

You Need to Feel Motivated

At first, learning a foreign language doesn’t seem easy. If it were, most people would be able to speak more than one language, and there wouldn’t be so many platforms aimed at helping people achieve fluency. And yet, many people tend to find it a frustrating process.

This often happens because people aren’t motivated to learn a second language. They do it because they feel like they don’t have any other options. There’s an outside influence forcing them into language learning. And when you feel forced, you push back. Always.

Instead, adopt the mindset of an active learner and alter your perception of language learning. Pursue it because you are thirsty for more knowledge. Study it because you want and need to be lost in it. As you do this, you find out how to learn French, German, Russian and all the other languages easily. And once you understand how learning a language works, you’re able to rapidly achieve fluency in whatever language you study.

What Characteristics Define Active Learners?

Because active learners want to learn, they’re motivated to find strategies that make them more effective. And they push hard to reach their goals. However, motivation alone does not define active learners. They have a variety of traits that help ensure their success, no matter what they are studying. Here are a few other characteristics that make up active learners:

  • Independence: They don’t wait for others. They learn on their own and seek out help when they need it.
  • Curiosity: They find answers. And they are drawn toward what they don’t know, shedding light into the unknown.
  • Focus: They don’t let distractions pull them away from what they’re studying. They aren’t afraid to shut out the world for a while and immerse themselves.
  • Drive: They want to be successful. And they know the time and energy it takes to accomplish this. They believe the trade-off is worth it.
  • Self-Reflective: They’re constantly evaluating their learning strategies, trying out new ones and dropping ineffective ones.
  • Enthusiasm: They don’t have to be dragged into studying. They actively seek it out. They enjoy it.
  • Awareness: They don’t passively drift through a subject. Instead, they focus on the experience. They notice details and incorporate them to promote learning.

Language Learning Is a Journey

At the heart of every active learner is the understanding that learning is a journey. When they set their minds to learn anything, they do so because they understand that it’s an experience. It isn’t about reaching the final destination. And with language learning, there’s never a definitive point where you can stop and say, “I’ve learned it all.” Think about your mother-tongue, how many words and grammatical structures exist that you don’t know about?

Instead, active learners are prepared for the journey. They strap in, and set off towards the horizon, actively moving towards their goals. And as they make progress, they begin to reflect and adapt, setting new goals. When you apply this mindset to language learning, you’ll rapidly move towards fluency without the struggles passive learners experience.