How To Learn A New Language Successfully: Tips and Resources To Get You Started
Learning a new language can enrich your life in many ways. However, there is no doubt that this, just like learning any new skill can be quite intimidating. And it can be costly as well. From evening classes to full-time college or university courses, there are lots of options when it comes to learning a new language. However, you might want to try learning a new language online. There are some great online language courses ranging from beginner language courses to conversational courses, all the way to advanced courses that can help you build fluency in the language of your choice. And better still, there are free online language courses that you can sign up with to test the waters and decide if you really want to invest your time and money learning this new language.
Building fluency or mastering enough of a language to engage a conversation can be of great help if you are moving to another country or expanding your business. Some languages can even help you access new opportunities and do better business in your home country. However, before spending your hard earned money on an online language course, here are five tips that can help you optimize your learning experience.
1. Come up with your language learning goals
The first step to learning a new language online, just as with any other skill, is to define what you hope to achieve. Without goals, how will you know what you hope to achieve and measure your progress? Most people get overwhelmed when faced with the idea of learning a new language. There are literally thousands of words to learn and so different ways to study. You will narrow your focus and get down to the actual business of learning your desired language.
Studies have shown learners who set their learning goals are more likely to be successful in their learning. Here are a few guidelines that can help you get the most from your learning goals:
- Keep your eyes on specific and tangible learning outcomes – Be sure to come up with comprehensive goals and focus on what you want to learn rather than how much time you are willing to set aside for learning. Here is an example of a specific and tangible goal: “This week, I am going to learn 50 new German vocabulary words related to home care.”
- Come up with short-term goals – It is important that you have the ultimate goal – that which you hope to achieve. However, long-term goals can be quite intimidating. Therefore, be sure to break down your ultimate goal into smaller bits and come up with smaller weekly or monthly goals.
- Challenge yourself (but be reasonable) – Your learning goals will work best when they make you push yourself. However, they can be discouraging if they are too daunting. The best way to get around this is set goals with a range of outcomes. Here is an example, “I want to learn 20-30 new German words this week.” The lower number in this target is meant to help you understand the goal is achievable, while the higher number is to help you push yourself.
- Put down your goals in writing – You are likely to commit to the goals you have written down. Pin your goals in a prominent spot like your kitchen, bathroom mirror or your phone’s home screen.
2. Learn the “right” words
Languages are made up of hundreds of thousands of words. English, for instance, has between 650,000 and 1 million words, with new words coming up every day. Fortunately, you do not have to learn thousands of words to be proficient in a language. Take this for example: the top 100 words make up nearly 50 percent of English language texts, and the top 1,000 words make up nearly 90 percent!
Here is a list of the top 1,000 words in these languages:
By focusing your energy on mastering these words first, you can avoid wasting time and master these languages in a shorter time.
3. Learn smart
You will learn a new language faster and more efficiently if you come up with a learning technique. For instance, you can use flashcards when learning vocabularies. Flashcards will help you focus on individual words and test yourself; and this is important for memorizing information.
Here are a few tips that can help you learn with flashcards:
- Try out electronic flashcards – While paper flashcards work just fine, electronic flashcard programs tend to come with some unique benefits. For instance, they allow you to execute large tasks on your phone or tablet. You can take advantage of public flashcards that automatically change the order of cards and make use of repetition to increase the amount of time between repetitions of a flashcard. Both techniques help you learn better and faster.
- Try to guess what the word means before turning the card over – flashcards are great when you are using them to test your memory. So be sure to guess what a word means before confirming from the flashcard
- Master translation first, then learn how to form new words – It is a lot easier to learn the translation of a foreign word than it is to say that word when you can see its English equivalent. Begin by looking at the side of the flashcard that has the foreign word on it, and then memorize its English translation.
Practice will make you perfect, and effective practice will make you perfect even faster!
4. Start practicing the words you have learned
As a beginner, it may seem overwhelming speaking a new language throughout the day. But, it is not as challenging as it may seem. There are several easy and fun ways to make the new language part of your regular life.
First off, seize every opportunity you can to use the new words you have learned in a sentence. Carry your flashcards around with you and study them while on the bus or train, or during your lunch or tea break.
When you start feeling tired, switch from active to passive learning by doing what you normally do in your native language in the language you are learning. You can watch a video or TV show, or listen to a radio broadcast in the language you are learning. The idea is not to try to understand everything. Rather, your goal is to familiarize yourself with the sounds of the language you are learning. Listen will help you achieve the following:
- Accustom yourself with the language’s cadence
- Learn to identify and master common words
- Learn to understand and use cognates
- Motivate yourself
5. Test yourself
Knowing that there is a test coming up is a great way to stay motivated and learn faster. It is important that you regularly test yourself to track your progress. There are several online games as well as language practice tests that you can take to help with this. You can find online practice tests in almost every language, including Spanish, French, Japanese, German, and Italian.
Planning to take a standardized test several months down the line can also help you stay motivated, and earning a certification can go a long way in proving your language level to potential schools, employers, or even yourself.
6. Make it fun!
You will learn best when you make the process enjoyable, so be sure to make your language learning as fun as possible. You can achieve this by playing games while learning. Games come with the natural competitiveness and can help you practice new language skills even when you feel exhausted.
You may also focus your learning on things you find interesting like your favorite hobby. If you love cooking, for instance, study words in your desired language that are related to cooking, watch instructional videos on cooking, and talk to chefs who speak the language you are trying to learn.
If you are learning Chinese and are fascinated by Chinese culture, learn words that are used for describing the Chinese cultural processes, and spend time reading articles about Chinese culture.
Finally, find and make friends with people who speak the language you are trying to learn or are interested in learning it. Remember, you cannot learn a new language in a vacuum. Real life social events and conversations are what make learning a new language fun and achievable. So, be sure to interact with people and learn more about their culture and lives. You will be surprised at how excited they will be to share the information with you and help with your learning.
Six top languages to learn now
Deciding to learn a new language is one thing. Deciding the most useful language to learn is another. If you are a seeking to learn a new language for purposes of maximizing your opportunities, for work, business, or travel, here is a list of seven languages you need to learn and why they are useful.
Thanks to the abundance of opportunities in the Middle East, the Arabic language is increasingly becoming a serious investment for those hoping to tap into the opportunities available in this part of the world. The World Economic Forum describes Arabic as the fifth most powerful language in the world, and it is expected to grow in popularity as trade expands to and from the Arab world.
Knowing how to speak Arabic can help you open up an international career in a range of industries including finance, education, foreign services, journalism, and more.
Learn Arabic online with these courses and resources:
Spoken by over 200 million people in 5 continents, French is definitely one of the most important languages worth learning. In fact, after English, French is the second most learned language in the world. Learning how to speak French can open the doors to French companies around the world in countries like France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, as well as North and Sub-Sahara Africa. Learning French can also be an added advantage for students seeking to pursue their studies in French speaking countries. Learning how to speak French can also set you up for additional scholarship opportunities, which can save you a ton of money.
Learn French online with these courses and resources:
Germany is Europe’s largest economy, and this makes German one of the most important languages to learn for international diplomacy and business alike. Besides, German is an official language in six countries (Germany, Belgium, Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein). Learning how to speak German can be economically valuable for workers and students alike.
Learn German online with these courses and resources:
4. Mandarin Chinese
With China’s GDP set to overtake the US’ by 2029, learning how to speak Mandarin is one of the smartest moves you can make. Of course, there is much more to Mandarin than just economic opportunities. Mandarin is the world’s most spoken language, and the second most used online after English.
Learn Chinese online with these courses and resources:
While you will be able to practice speaking Portuguese with the 10 million natives in Portugal, Brazil seems to be the next frontier for those seeking business opportunities in Latin America. In fact, the British Council includes this language in the top most important languages for UK’s future, a clear indication that learning how to speak Portuguese can open up a world of opportunities for diplomacy, business, and education.
Learn Portuguese online with these courses and resources:
Spanish is spoken by 480 million natives around the world. Over the past decade, learning how to speak Spanish has not only become necessary for those seeking employment opportunities, but it has become a necessity too. Spanish has become the foreign language of choice after English both in North America and Europe. It is also an official language in over four continents.
Learn Portuguese online with these courses and resources:
Now that you are ready to learn a foreign language…
No matter your reasons, learning a new language can help you grow your network and open up exciting opportunities. While it may seem like a daunting task, nothing is impossible when you put in effort and create a learning plan. Your journey is going to be full of trial-and-error experience, but you must never give up! Embrace the learning adventure before you, figure out your learning style, experiment with different language learning tips, sign up for an online language course of your desire, and get ready to add one more language to your repertoire!