Learning a language takes time and effort. A lot of people hesitate to even try. Considering how hard it is to learn a new language, is it worth the effort?
There are ways you can make language learning easy, fun, and enjoyable. And the benefits of being bilingual are endless. This article is all about getting you through those rough times so that you can meet your goals and ultimately become fluent in another language.
1. Make a Plan and Build on It
Planning is absolutely essential to reaching fluency. No matter how hard it is to learn a new language, you need a good learning schedule. By taking what your goal is, and how much time you have in your daily routine, you can create a habit out of language learning. If you planned well, you can track your progress and gauge your language level regularly.
Every plan should include the four pillars of language learning:
You need to do all four of these activities regularly. This way you can have a well-rounded language education. It doesn’t have to be much, but you have to make time for all four. Even writing a few sentences a day, listening to a podcast, reading a single news article, and talking to your dog will help. They don’t require much time, but they will help you reach your goals.
Supporting skills will help you learn a bit faster if you have time for them. As boring as they are, working on grammar and vocabulary are what you need to attain fluency. Working on the sounds can be entertaining at any phase, but you do need to keep at it, even after you reach the intermediate level.
2. Focus on Your Core
You need a good foundation or core to succeed. In the early days when the enthusiasm is wearing off, put your mind on learning the basics. It doesn’t distract, and while it isn’t as exciting as those early days, you can start to see progress as you go. This means drilling for grammar and very basic vocabulary. Find the most commonly used words in a language and make them part of your regular studies. The more you use them, the closer you will be to fluency. According to the Pareto Principle, 20% of the vocabulary makes up 80% of everyday speech. This means that even with a small vocabulary you can already have meaningful conversations in your target language.
3. Start Talking
As resistant as most of us are to this part of the learning process, it is critical. You can hide behind books, flashcards, and apps all you want, but the only way to be fluent is to engage in conversation. Once you have your core established, start talking, and writing. These are the productive skills that prove that you have successfully learned the language.
It is easy to listen and read without thoroughly understanding everything. Speaking and writing remove that safety net and force you to use vocabulary and adjust your grammar in a way that reinforces what you learn. Writing is easier than speaking because you can go back and fix it more easily. If you need, start with that. Write a story or blog a couple of times a week using a lot of long sentences. The more memorable the situation, the more likely you are to remember it, and the more often you are likely to do it. Don’t allow language learning anxiety to mess with your progress.
4. Find Your Motivation
This step cannot be overemphasized. How hard it is to learn a new language depends on how well you can keep up your motivation. Once you are out of that honeymoon phase, you need to remember why you are learning. Your reasons need to go well beyond meeting language requirements or to look smart.
The more reasons you have to learn, the better. The benefits of being bilingual are endless. You can communicate in a different language. See the world in a different light. Gain cultural appreciation. Speaking several languages even improves your brain health. Your memory and cognitive skills enhance. Your achievements help your mental health improve. And bilingualism has been linked to better chances against Alzheimer’s and dementia. These are just a few of the amazing benefits that could serve as motivation for you to begin your studies, no matter how hard it is to learn a new language.
5. Work on Self-Improvement
We all have things we don’t like about ourselves, and there is no time like learning a language to also adjust our perceived faults. It is far easier to change who we are than most of us realize. If you are not sociable, learning a new language is the perfect time to start reaching out more often. If you tend toward being lazy, you now have something that requires work. As you train your brain to work in a different language, work to improve yourself. How hard it is to learn a new language doesn’t matter when you’ve become a better version of yourself.
6. Experience Language Immersion on a Different Level
Language immersion has never been easier. There are so many technologies, tools, and tricks available you almost have to work at it to stay monolingual. You don’t have to leave your home to thoroughly immerse yourself in a language.
Take the time to find the tools and tips that work for you and have at it. The only thing keeping you from immersion is a misguided belief that you have to go to a country that speaks the language. If you deny yourself the ability to speak or think in English for an hour or two every day, you will find that you get a very similar sink-or-swim experience as if you were in a country where the language is spoken.
7. Improve the Way You Study
School teaches us one way to study, but it isn’t the only way, or even necessarily the best way. Cramming is certainly a poor learning habit most people develop while in school.
If you know your learning style, use that to improve the way you study. You will find that you get a lot more out of a study session that focuses on the things that help you learn better.
Don’t get complacent either. The best way to learn is to constantly do new things. If you use different activities and tools, not only is it more entertaining, you are more likely to see improvements in how quickly you learn.
8. Get Some Sleep
Sleep is important for staying awake, alert, and learning. If you give up sleeping to try to do more studying, you could find that you learn far less. Everyone is different, but if you have always been the kind of person who requires 7 or more hours of sleep at night, your body needs it.
Once you create your plan and get to work on it, you can sleep easier knowing that all you need to do is follow through. If you start to dream in the language, you will know you are well on your way to fluency.