Learning a new language is a rather unoriginal goal – yet one that so many people fail. If you made such a resolution this New Year’s Eve and still have not given up on it – congratulations! Around 80% of those resolutions fail by mid-February. So, if you are still sticking around and wishing to learn a new favorite language, keep reading.
While motivation is something talked about way too often, it is crucial in learning new skills. With learning a language, one should be crystal clear on their goals, at least at the start. Once you are clear on your objectives, make sure to reinstate them – and reflecting on your progress. Do you want to be conversationally fluent? Would you like to read books in your target language? Maybe you enjoy entertainment, movies, and music coming from a country or culture you appreciate? Or are you looking to study abroad? Realizing what it is that you want to get good at might give you a powerful kick-start to your language learning progress – after all, you cannot and should not even try to learn everything all at once. Getting good at one particular aspect might push you forward to pursue more.
Traditional studying methods might work well with getting to know the language, as well as bringing a sense of organization and structure in your process. However, it might be useful to think of language learning the way children do it – they listen and repeat, babble, make a lot of mistakes, and say many silly things before speaking their mother tongue well. You do not necessarily need to go around trying to chat to everyone until you get the conversation right – but bringing some child-like joy and curiosity into your learning might add a pleasant twist. Watch movies in your target language, try repeating what your favorite characters said – and rewatch them again to see if it is going any smoother. Get familiar with the sound of the language through immersing yourself in content and conversations you find enjoyable. For some people, it might mean even incorporating random online chatting platforms into their language practice.
Little steps can take you far
Daily progress is something that keeps you motivated and going – that sense of accomplishment after completing a Duolingo lesson and increasing your activity streak might push you to do even more – and do better. Additionally, even little bits of daily practice can add up to loads of new vocabulary learned. Knowing that 1000 essential words can be enough to be conversational, learning five new words a day results in learning enough vocabulary to start speaking in less than seven months! While it might not be the case in every language, little daily steps will make a high contribution even if it not visible right away.
Have you ever seen people, who can barely speak the language, yet still are sizzling with excitement to express themselves – and eventually communicate in their target language, even if imperfectly? Meanwhile, your other friend might be well-versed in grammar, know loads of sophisticated vocabulary, yet still feel intimidated every time they attempt to speak. One aspect of this difference might come down to their attitude, and while some people will naturally be more outgoing, it is possible to retrain yourself around this. The advice here would be not to fear making mistakes –you are going out of your way to talk to someone else in their language, and it is well worth the applause! Your effort most likely will be appreciated, and it eventually will make you a better speaker. Long-term goals over short-term embarrassment!
Keep it fun!
Final advice on learning a new language would be keeping it fun for yourself and trying out different methods to see what works for you. Once you do, make sure to keep your learning materials varied and diverse. Do you enjoy cramming grammar books? Sure, but keep watching that Youtube vlog. Are you on a one-year streak on Duolingo? Great, but review your grammar and immerse yourself in the language in some different ways! Maintain your sense of wonder, curiosity and celebrate small wins along the way. Best of luck!
By: Viktorija Tuzaite, NHL University of Applied Sciences ’21