5 tips to help you learn a new language

When I moved to Chile, despite having varying exposure to the Spanish language, I was far from being able to speak and yet alone understand. After four years living in Chile, I am content with my level of Spanish, though far from perfect, I can operate in not only a social context but within a professional firm as part of management.

Now as R goes through the language learning process with English, it has caused me to reflect on some tips to hopefully make the process easier.

Just as a disclaimer: we all learn differently, and we all are in different circumstances, so if you don’t find one (or all of these) to be helpful, that’s totally ok! There are so many articles online around language learning for you to do your own research and find your own way.

  1. Understand and define why you want to learn x language and what you want to get out of it

There are hundreds of reasons why a person may want to learn a language, having a really string understanding as to why you want to learn, what you will get out out it will help you endure the challenges language learning has along the way and also help you to decide how best to study. Ie. Do you want to use it for work, or just in a social context or maybe you are learning it just to read and understand the culture better

  1. Try to integrate the language as much as you can into your life (living overseas and at home)

There is a popular belief that living in a country that speaks the language you are learning will make you fluent in x amount of time – however I beg to differ. From my time in Chile I have encountered people who have surrounded themselves in an English-speaking bubbles (which is fine I guess if you don’t want to integrate or learn the language), or maybe they taught English all day and had little to no Spanish in their day to day life. When you are learning a language it is all about practice, weather you are in the country where they speak that language or not you should try extra hard to integrate in into your life.

But if you are living at home or overseas there are languages exchanges, cultural events that you can attend. Even just getting as much authentic language content as possible into your life, movies, podcasts, books, the list can go on.

  1. Consistently study

Language learning is a longer-term goal. It will most likely take longer than a 3-month half marathon training program. Like running, learning is all about consistency of practice. Most people don’t sign up for a half marathon with no experience and run it, you shouldn’t expect to go to class once a week and then become fluent.

  1. Try and think in the language you are learning

Slightly hard when your vocabulary is limited but try and start to associate things and words together without translating in-between. I found back in the day flash cards with pictures rather than English (my native language) words to be very helpful as it helped me associate the new work to the image rather than to English.

R recommends a flash card application called Anki

  1. Laugh about it and have fun

Though easier said than done, I found one of the best ways to improve my Spanish was enjoying it and laughing at myself with all the errors I made (sometimes not at the time of the error, but I definitely now have some fond moments of terribly embarrassing things that I said without realising).

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