If you recently decided you want to learn another language – congratulations! It is an exciting (and sometimes frustrating) goal that ultimately pays off in ways you can’t even imagine.
Deciding to learn another language is the easy part. Now you are wondering how to do it. There are many traditional ways, but they can be a bit expensive. Many learners would like to do the basics on their own. But is that possible?
By the end of this article, you will have the five tips you need to turn your doubts into a proper foundation for learning another language.
No One Understands the Way You Think Better Than You
Sure it sounds corny, but when it comes to learning another language, it means a lot. Remember back in school when you found you simply could not understand a concept, no matter how many times the teacher said the same thing. Odds are good it was because the teacher wasn’t teaching in a way that made sense to your psychology.
Here are the things you need to do to work with the way you think.
SMART Goals for Anyone
Goals are a must, but you have to be reasonable while making your goal challenging. SMART is an acronym for
You need to set goals that meet each of these elements of SMART.
The Journey Is as Good as the Destination
You need to enjoy the process that you choose to learn the language. If you are going to do something you hate, there really isn’t much point in teaching yourself. Any teacher or tutor can make you just as miserable at a greater cost. You are learning on your own so that you can learn in a way that works for you.
That means the experience should be enjoyable; not a chore (maybe sometimes, but not all of the time). Once it becomes a chore, you are much more likely to stop.
You Know What You Like, So Choose Wisely
Think about what you like to do, and try to find ways to use that for your language learning. If you like playing games, there are many apps to help. If you like reading the news, do it in the language you are learning.
Create Your Ideal Learning Environment
You have almost complete control over the environment in which you study. So set yourself up for success by creating the environment where you can work best.
Switch between Languages
Environment isn’t just about your surroundings – it’s also about your schedule. If you take time out of your day to do certain things like reading social media, the news, or blogs, see about doing the same activities in the language you are learning.
Do you subscribe to any magazines? See if you can get them in your target language and put them around your home.
Do you like watching movies and TV? Find shows that you enjoy in the language of your choice. Your current free time can easily be translated into productive learning time too.
Cold Turkey on Your Devices
This is one you should probably wait to do (you at least need to know enough to switch back to English from the other language), but it can be a great immersion tactic.
Change all of your devices to work on your chosen language.
Yes, it will be hard, but there is nothing like facing a challenge head on.
If you aren’t sure what something says, you can probably make some pretty good educated guesses based on what you saw when the language was in English. If nothing else, the icons will be the same, so that can teach you a lot about tech words in that particular language.
Add Language Labels
Everything in your home is a learning experience in the beginning. While you are making flashcards, create stickies too. Put them around your home, identifying everything you are currently learning (except your fuzzy animals – best not to put anything sticky on them, use their crates, boxes, and other equipment instead).
Are you learning about the names of food? Label the dining area and foods in your fridge and pantry.
Are you learning colors and numbers? Add notes everywhere to reinforce them.
It helps to associate the word and the image in your mind in a way that rote memory simply doesn’t.
Monitor Your Progress
Remember the SMART goals? Here’s where they really come into play.
Progress in Days
Your goals should be measurable in a time unit that focuses on your achievements. This can be in hours or days. For longer term goals, you can try weeks and months, but the gains will be a bit harder to track.
Listen to Yourself
This tip may make you cringe, but it will certainly help. As long as you are also listening to native speakers, you know the way the words should sound. Record yourself talking and listen to it. You will be able to hear where you are making mistakes, as well as seeing just how far you have come in a month or quarter.
Keep a Journal
Writing in another language is just as important as speaking. It’s also a bit easier (even if you have to learn an entirely different alphabet or range of characters).
Why? Because you can write at a slow pace without feeling so self-conscious. Write a little bit every day and see just how much you have improved in a couple of weeks. You will be so pleased when you aren’t just journaling, “The cat ate. The dog barked. I slept.”
The transition from a simple sentence to more complex one gives a real sense of accomplishment.
Teaching Yourself Does Not Exclude Outside Learning
Language is a communication tool. Don’t lose sight of that.
You can’t become fluent in any spoken language without actually speaking it with someone.
There are teachers, tutors, and other students out there, all willing and able to talk in the language you are learning. There are even native speakers out there who will be more than happy to get a chance to speak their native tongue.
Take the time to find someone to talk to so that you can put your learning to good use – actual communication
Get Others Involved
If you are really jazzed about learning a language, see if friends and family will join in. You will feel far more at ease talking to them.
Be Consistent – Make Learning a Daily Habit
If you don’t’ work at it (almost) every day, you aren’t going to go anywhere. Look for ways to incorporate your learning into your daily routine. Listen to podcasts and play apps that help you learn the language while you wait on something or someone. Put breaks to good use, and learn while you exercise. There are so many ways to work your studies into your habits – you just need to be creative about ways to do it – instead of being creative in reasons why you don’t have time.