There are many ways to learn a foreign language. This article features tips that come from the experiences of some us who speak several languages.
Expect no miracles
No, you can’t learn a foreign language in 24 hours. Nor in 48, nor in a month or three. The truth is that second language acquisition is an ongoing and virtually endless process. What you can expect, however, is a certain degree of understanding and the ability to say certain phrases in a comparatively short period depending on the complexity of the foreign language, the time you spend studying, your motivation, and your dedication.
There are no easy and hard languages
Languages can be comparatively more or less complex, but this is always a matter of the learner’s preferences and linguistic background. The simple fact that a language exists – no matter how perplexing it might seem to a foreign learner – means that it is meaningful, usable, and economical, i.e. that it can be learned. Some things may be easier or harder to comprehend, but with the right mixture of effort, motivation, and understanding, nothing can remain “all Greek to us” forever.
Most importantly, find ways to enjoy learning.
Grammar is usually the most nightmarish area of the entire business of foreign language learning. Unpleasant as it may seem, this is also a step that can’t be omitted. However, it is important to determine how much grammar you actually need for primary understanding and usage of a foreign language.
Don’t try to learn all the grammar at once. Learning how to express and understand tenses and relations within a sentence is quintessential – first learn this well, and then immerse yourself in written and spoken material in the foreign language, with your grammar book always on hand.
Listen, Learn, Read On
Immerse yourself in the foreign language. Learn the orthography. Access websites, read books and magazines, listen to music and programmes in the foreign language. Listen and read carefully and do not worry even if you understand every tenth word. You need to get your eyes and ears used to the target language. Watch the grammar rules unfold in real life. Copy down words and phrases you encounter for the first time. Explore topics of interest to you in the target language. Most importantly, find ways to enjoy learning.
Talk, Talk, Talk
Some people feel insecure about speaking a foreign language, especially at the first stages of learning. There is no need to be. Even if you know only five words of a language, use them. Enjoy their sound, listen to yourself actually speaking the language, and perfect your pronunciation. Do not forget that you will always be able to understand more words than you will be able to use – much like in your first language. This is just the way things are.
If you have the opportunity, talk to native speakers. You won’t be laughed at, in fact people tend to react positively to foreigners making an effort to learn their language and are often willing to help. Once you lose your fear of speaking, everything else becomes far easier.