Whoever starts the adventure called mastering a language will encounter difficulties of various kinds, from the number of words to remember and grammatical rules to apply to strange pronunciations and vocal combinations. But, by following some of the best tips for learning a new language, you’ll be able to get the grasp of your latest challenge.
Motivation is usually a good incentive to break the language barrier because languages offer prospects for improvement both in the professional and personal sphere – from discovering a whole new world of unknown cultures to future job opportunities. And is there a better motivation to conquer a foreign tongue than international relocation to your favorite country and a chance to speak like a true local?
#1 Don’t Get Discouraged
When you decide to expat the first piece of advice is to find motivation and will, especially when moving across the world. Once your motivation is in, there comes persistence. It is important to study regularly, even when you are drowning in work because it will help you maintain the motivation. And it is easy to lose it at the beginning when unfamiliar expressions start flying around your head, and you get lost in translation.
Don’t be discouraged, but rather try to understand the context and later look up the expressions and terms that appear often and memorize them. As you advance, create your own vocabulary of words and phrases you will get to use the most in your professional environment and everyday life. It will help you build your confidence, which is also one of the prerogatives of success. Being able to communicate with the locals will also help you adjust to a new country.
Your mistakes can be your allies, as you will learn through them as well. And do not waste time by trying to perfect your vocabulary before you start talking to someone. Speaking is the only way to improve your ability to express yourself.
#2 Conversation Is the Key
Conversation is, without a doubt, the most efficient way to learn something, and some courses even favor it over grammatical rules. And no surprise there. If you have a person in front of you rather than a book, won’t you be more motivated? If someone asks you something, will you just stare, or will you engage every inch of your brain to structure a sentence?
Besides, the process of memorizing works much better during a conversation than while reading. It is probably because we connect specific terms to situations and emotions – it’s our brains’ effort to create a context for unfamiliar information. So the conversation is all about implementing the right expressions, and it is the implementation that counts.
Speak with Gestures
Gestures play an important part in studying. When you speak, you create a gesture, whether you are aware of it or not. Because of that, gestures play an important role in learning and speaking. They enable us to memorize something more efficiently by letting our brains focus on remembering the vocabulary and put expressions into context when going through an unknown phrase or word.
Once you memorize specific phrases with some gestures, you’ll be able to reproduce each phrase with the corresponding gesture. The use of movements and actions will add concreteness and visualize the verbal information, which will contribute to a better understanding and representation of raw data.
For example, it is much easier to remember the word “walking” after you connect it to a personal memory of you physically walking. The same goes for any other term or activity.
#3 Listening Is Crucial When Learning a New Language
Mastering a foreign tongue is done at a subconscious level to a great extent, so listening plays a big part. Try to listen actively to native speakers. Radio and TV can also help you hear common phrases, the structure of the sentence, and basic rules of communication. Some people suggest listening before reading, as it will make it easier to recognize the written expressions. So profit from this option while walking or going about your usual tasks.
Use Music, Movies, Books, and Media
Getting to know the culture of the native speakers will also facilitate your efforts. And what better way than to do that than by using your phone or laptop? Online and audio courses can be a great starting point for the basic phrases, but don’t underestimate the power of other media, such as movies and music. Audio courses will help you make the first step and progress from not knowing anything at all to knowing some simple sentences and phrases.
Reading newspapers, listening to the radio, watching TV – it will all help you. Once you get to know the basics, watch the movies to enhance the ability to understand by connecting the expressions and phrases to the actual situations, making it easier to memorize them. Even better, if you can, find a copy with subtitles, just for reference. Music is another tool that can help you, as it combines learning with fun, and fun is always the right motivation. Playing computer games can also broaden your vocabulary.
#4 Learn Common Phrases and Words
To build up your confidence when mastering any foreign tongue, try to learn the most common words and phrases. It will allow you to communicate with other people more easily. Don’t attempt to pack your brain with too many unknown expressions at once.
Usual get-around phrases are a good start, such as asking where you can find a street, a restaurant, or a city landmark, what someone does or how he/she is doing, and so on. It is advisable to carry a pocket dictionary or consult your phone app when a seemingly important word appears. Also, when particular expressions keep popping up during conversations, write them down for future reference.
Learn to Ask “How Do You Say Something”
One of the most important things you need to get the hang of is to ask how to say something. When you’re just beginning, it is advisable to start with personal pronouns, question expressions starting with W (Where, When, What, Which, Who, Why) and How phrases, as well as the basic tenses (present, past, future). But most importantly, finding out how to ask about a word or phrase is an excellent opportunity to grasp any unknown expression. Aside from looking something up in your dictionary, asking a local will also do the trick.
#5 Embrace Your Mistakes and Learn From Them
We memorize through our mistakes, and that is no empty phrase. Mistakes are an inevitable part of studying languages, so don’t fear them, but rather, embrace them and make them work in your favor. It is easy to slip into the wrong pronunciation even within the Latin-based languages like Italian or Spanish, as the root of the words is common, let alone the ones you’re not familiar with at all. And no one expects you to start speaking fluently at once. It’s the learner that sets the goals, and if they are too high, you might get discouraged. The meaning of the expressions can also be deceiving, as there are several terms similar in pronunciation but with a completely different purpose, so you might want to be careful there.
#6 Don’t Worry About Forgetting a Word
It will happen a lot that you cannot remember a word or a phrase while talking, or you are just not sure whether the one in your mind is the correct one. Do not worry or try to remember, but just explain the meaning in as many other expressions as necessary, because the point is to communicate and understand each other, not to make a perfect choice of words. Persisting in remembering the right word will just slow down the conversation and possibly let it lose its continuity and spontaneity.
Getting a Pocket Dictionary Might Help
It might seem old-school, but having a pocket dictionary can make a difference. You can use it to look up a word, even if you’re in the middle of a conversation. Whether it’s a dictionary app or a physical copy is up to you. But even something as simple as looking up a word can affect your conversational skills.
#7 Use an App
Your mobile phone can be an excellent resource to help you learn a language. Aside from being able to have a dictionary app, there are many apps that you can download to practice every day. Their main advantage is that they are always with you. You can practice while you’re waiting for someone, riding the bus, or before sleep. Whenever you need to pass the time, you can take the opportunity to study something unknown, practice what you have already studied, or just play a little with the app’s lessons.
#8 Set Realistic Goals
Setting the goal level too high will not necessarily lead to success. On the contrary, it may be discouraging. Failure is not an efficient driving force, but small achievements are. Start by getting to know the basics and then advance at your own pace, but be consistent, because consistency is essential. It will help you remember the expressions you already know and enable you to move forward. In that respect, opt for shorter practices each day rather than long studies once a week.
You can set a goal of memorizing 100 words at first, and once you have practiced them enough to make them stick in your memory, proceed to the next task. Some research indicates that remembering the most common 100 words will allow you to conduct 50% of your conversation. When you reach 1,000, you will be able to conduct 80%, and with 3,000, you will reach 99%.
You also need to be strategic about your goals. Start with a small and realistic goal, then set other ones according to your progress, because reaching them one by one will definitely serve as an incentive. Measuring progress is also useful. Check the same text to see whether you understand it better as the time passes.
#9 Practice Whenever You Can
Practice makes perfect, as the old saying teaches us. Whether it is in your head or with somebody, practicing is an excellent studying tool. Practice by inventing dialogues in your head and using the phrases you know because it will turn out to be handy when you engage in real conversation with someone. You can choose a topic you believe might pop up and work the conversation over in your mind. For example, when getting to know someone, describing your job will definitely be on the menu, so search for phrases to use when trying to explain what you do. Or where you come from – well, that is a large area to cover. Practicing is vital for your confidence, as it will reduce the number of mistakes you make while speaking.
Go to Popular Social Spots to Practice
As much as reading and listening to audio materials is an inevitable part of language internalization, you should not neglect the power of social networks. From social platforms to chat rooms, the Internet offers a plethora of options, so use them.
#10 Find a Partner If Possible
You shouldn’t be afraid of asking someone else to help you out while you’re studying. Everyone gets stuck while getting the hang of something new, but the best way to overcome any difficulty is to have someone by your side to help you.
Getting support from someone will help accelerate your studying immensely, regardless of what stage you’re currently at. You can find someone who is also trying to master the same foreign tongue as you are and arrange to meet up and share your progress. You can give each other feedback and even exchange some helpful resources.
#11 Talk to Yourself
If you can’t find a partner or just prefer doing things by yourself, then the best thing you can do to practice is to talk to yourself. There is nothing wrong with talking to yourself – who better to understand you than you?
It may sound weird, and feel weird at times, but talking to yourself is actually a great way to practice your pronunciation and communication. The more you use the language, the better you’ll get at it. Not to mention that it’ll also build your confidence and help you whenever you have to speak to someone.
#12 Don’t Wait Too Long to Start Speaking
Don’t be afraid of starting to speak with people. It’s completely normal to feel insecure about initiating a conversation when you’re still a beginner. Still, it’s essential to practice, and what better way to get good at speaking than talking as much as possible? There’s no need to wait until you think you’re ready.
It’s normal to feel apprehensive about speaking when you’re still a relative beginner. However, it’s important to realize that you get good at speaking by speaking – not by waiting until you’re ready because that day never comes. Find a partner or tutor – locally or online – and schedule regular sessions. Three to four times a week is ideal.
#13 Be Your Own Teacher Instead of Going to an Expert Course
Classes and courses are usually a slow way of internalizing languages, even though it can also depend on the teacher, their motivation, temperament, and methods. But generally, it is not an efficient way and will more likely turn out to be a loss of time and money. Group classes usually follow the progress of the slowest student, so if it does not match your tempo, you will stagnate. Personal tutors are better, but also more expensive.
However, the intensity is more important than the length of any expert course. If you study intensively for more prolonged periods daily during a couple of weeks, it will prove to be more beneficial than if you study shorter but over a more extended period. And classes usually don’t work that way. You don’t need a course to speak like an expert.
Become Efficient With Different Tips for Learning a New Language
There are a variety of websites that offer an exchange of vocabulary practicing, so find someone online to practice mutually. Facebook friends are a good option. When making a conversation, once you remember a word you should try to repeat it several times in the following sentences and later during the day. Repetition is the mother of studying, as the old Latin proverb teaches us. Along with the conversation as the most efficient way to become fluent in languages, you can read books and newspapers, watch movies, listen to the radio, etc.
#14 Leave Your Comfort Zone
Staying within your comfort zone where you are familiar with expressions and structures will get you nowhere. Sticking with the things you know well is no way of improvement. You have to improve all aspects to be able to make progress and start speaking fluently. And pursuing the elements we know best is a dead end. Break out of your comfort zone, even if it means making mistakes because the ultimate goal is to be fluent in foreign languages, not just English.
#15 Go Through All the Tips for Learning a New Language and Be Patient
First, you think about the motivation to learn a language. If the motivation is strong, the learning process will go on smoothly, even if it’s German or Spanish. Then, you set up reasonable goals and fulfill them strategically, one by one.
After that, you advance step by step, from not knowing anything, through understanding what is being said and not speaking yet, to reaching a conversational level. It is best if you can ensure this process is fun because it will keep you going. That means studying through the usual fun activities, such as listening to music and watching movies, not just sitting in the classroom reading the same verbs in Spanish.
Also, remembering common phrases and expressions first will help you maintain a conversation, which is essential in this process. Stick with the topics useful in your professional and real life, and not in the area of astronomy, for example, unless you are planning to become a rocket scientist.
Think about the sentences you implement in your everyday life and get to know them instead of wasting time and energy on technical terms. Don’t get discouraged by mistakes because they are part of the learning process. And do not be afraid to speak even if you cannot remember all the right expressions; they will come eventually if you are patient.
So get all the needed documents to travel abroad, arm yourself with patience, and go to one of the best cities to live in Europe where you can master a foreign tongue and experience a different culture.