If you’re like me, you would love to learn to speak a foreign language, or two or three. Whether it is for employment, travel, or just for fun, keeping the brain engaged in learning is healthy, smart, and many times fun if you choose the right thing to learn. Being able to communicate better should certainly be on everyone’s bucket list. Let’s take a look at why this particular activity can be difficult and how we can overcome this.
What Is the Best Way to Learn to Speak a Foreign Language?
Perhaps the answer can be as simple as understanding the learner. What is your learning style and what will fit best with that? There’s not one best method; find out what works best for you. If the first one you try doesn’t work well for you, try something else; trial and error can definitely prove beneficial. What you learn about your learning style and what works best for you in learning one language can then be used to simplify the process of learning the next.
Keep these points in mind:
- First and foremost, motivation is essential! Know why you want to learn this language and what you intend to do with it. Make sure your vision is clear and your motivation is strong. Be passionate – ready for a great adventure!
- Time is a key. It’s not like you just “get it” overnight. Don’t give up. For some it may take more time for the language to “click,” and once it begins to click you can soar. Kind of like riding a bicycle – once you get it, you’ve got it!
- Avoid the fluency trap. Don’t worry how fluent you are in a language. Focus on making sentences to converse with others. You may not sound like a rocket scientist in your early conversations, but at least you’re talking!
- Language learning is ongoing, it never stops. You can always acquire more knowledge. Think of your own native tongue – don’t you learn new words and ways of saying things all the time?
10 Steps to Success
Step One: Pick a language: There are so many to choose from, so your first language should be one you are going to use. Think through how and when you want to use a new language. Don’t just keep with the same language you started learning in school just because you already know how to count to ten! There is so much more to language acquisition than numbers and alphabet! Commit to a language that intrigues you, that you will use!
Step Two: Set goals: Goal setting is important in business, in living your daily life, so why not in charting out your language adventure? If you don’t have a goal or endpoint in mind, it’s hard to get there. You can revisit your goals often, and reset them as necessary.
Perhaps your first goal is to be to able to learn a few phrases that will get you by in a restaurant. Once you achieve that, set a new goal.
One goal you should definitely set is time. Decide how much time you’re going to be able to dedicate to studying, and how often. The key is consistency and regularity. You will not progress much, if at all, at an hour once a week. I’ve heard it said that probably the ideal is an hour a day, 3-4 days a week, and this can be broken down into 15 minute chunks to keep it fresh.
Step Three: Get started: There are many foreign language software products on the market to help you get started. I invite you to peruse the reviews on this website and consider which products sound best for you. You could also start to immerse yourself in your new language by checking out free YouTube videos, watching movies in your new language, etc.
By doing these things you will get a feel for the language, how native speakers speak, both the intonation and speed. It will give you confirmation that you actually like the language and give you incentive to begin learning.
Step Four: Commit and purchase a course: There are plenty of well-written language courses available online. Sometimes your local library may even have a course or two you can check out free of charge. Knowing how you learn best and what product will fit that may be a good place to start. Look for a product that will help you achieve your language goals (Step Two).
Whatever product you choose, a word of wisdom – don’t rush through. Make sure you can completely understand any dialogues you hear on the recording before moving on. Use the vocabulary you are learning and apply it to your daily life. Perhaps even practice saying phrases out loud when you are making the bed, or eating a sandwich, or however the vocabulary you are learning fits the situation best.
Most important – be patient!
Step Five: 5: Expand your learning: Try out additional courses or other resources to supplement what you are already learning. Remember, variety is the spice of life. Don’t get stuck in a rut and let yourself get bored. Try something new. Vary your activities.
The purpose of languages is to communicate with people; people are key! When you begin to feel confident and want to try out your knowledge, spend a little time preparing for your first conversation, then take the leap and begin to converse with native speakers.
Revisit the television shows you watched in Step Three to see how far you’ve come in your understanding. Look for children’s stories on line in that native language. Be creative in finding things to read in that language as additional practice.
Step Six: Stay alert – don’t get complacent: If you think you’ve come far enough – don’t stop! If you’re getting bored – don’t be fooled – you are probably only half way to your goal. Think of ways to keep in fresh, maybe change your schedule, try new topics, review your goals from Step 2. Don’t stop before getting to the next step!
Step Seven: Travel: This is what you have been working toward! Certainly you can visit the country much sooner than Step Seven if you are the traveling type, but having it as a goal or incentive is definitely a good plan. This step may also be a bit trickier for you depending on where you live, and what your financial situation is like. In any event, it is your reward and a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture to test out your new language skills.
Travel is a lot different than sitting in front of your computer reciting the dialogue! This visit is really an essential piece for the serious language learner. Don’t be surprised to hear phrases and words that you never heard in your lessons. Sometimes the dialect of a given area can cause differences as well.
Don’t let these differences stall you, let them inspire you. Native speakers will delight that you are making the effort to communicate with them!
Again, if a trip is outside your means, there are free language exchange websites to check out as an alternative.
Step Eight: Overcoming the learning plateau: It is going to happen. You are going to hit a wall. I may as well just put it out there. Courses don’t last forever, so you will need to stay engaged and keep learning.
Be creative. Can you hold a conversation about current events? Could you teach a Sunday School class or answer the question, why am I here? Can you read a book in that language, cover to cover?
Remember, language learning never stops: there’s always more to learn. Step Eight leads very nicely into the final two steps.
Step Nine: Fully engage: You are ready to graduate from children’s books and shows. If you don’t have a satellite connection, find replays online. Read novels in the foreign language. Many e-books are free.
Pay attention to how the different mediums handle language differently. You will continue to learn words you’ve not heard before and can surmise just from the context. Keep a dictionary handy for those times. Perhaps set a new goal at this time to learn 5-10 new words each time you listen to a TV show, news broadcast, etc.
Don’t stop learning!
Step Ten: Use your knowledge: You have reached the summit – you have acquired a second (or third, etc) language. How will you use this? Will you be an interpreter?
You’ve got a great vocabulary and understanding of grammar. Hopefully you’ve developed a passion for the culture and history of this language. Keep a journal and write only in that language. Pat yourself on the back as you have acquired something many people only dream of.
These steps are only a guide designed to help you feel a sense of accomplishment as you move ahead. You are in charge of your language acquisition. There is no penalty for skipping a step or spending more time on one. These are only a guide, and there are only ten so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Learning another language is rewarding and fun, especially when you get to the place where you can use it to communicate. The world is so big, and there is so much to be learned from those around us.
So, now that you have decided to learn to speak a foreign language, choose your foreign language software course, and get started today!