So you’re learning a new language?
There are numerous ways that learning a new language can benefit you. From helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease to amazing intercultural experiences.
The world we live in today demands quick results, so you’re going to want to learn a new language fast.
But let’s be real here – it takes a lot of time, effort and practice to become fluent in another language.
Still, there are some methods you can use to accelerate the process.
What Type of Language Learner Are You?
Here are nine ways that you probably didn’t even think of that can help you get there, and some of them will surprise you.
1. Travel Abroad
This might be an obvious thing to do, but when you travel abroad and actually immerse yourself within the home country of the language you want to learn, it definitely speeds up the learning process for you.
While you may feel like you’re being “thrown to the wolves,” you’re forced to learn the language faster in order to communicate among the locals.
You either adapt, or you “die,” metaphorically speaking.
Even something as simple as locating a breakfast cafe or a landmark that you are hoping to visit will quicken the pace at which you learn simple phrases.
It makes for great practice to explore an unfamiliar place to learn new phrases of a specific culture and language. It’s like the ultimate adventure, and you are the star of the movie.
There’s no telling where your conversations will lead you or what you’ll come to know from your immersion!
Additionally, in many languages, there are various “conversational” or slang words and phrases that vary slightly from traditional language learning. You’ll be put to the test and learn to interpret variations of traditional words and conjugations.
To challenge yourself even more, travel alone. This way you will not be able to utilize anyone else’s interpretations to lean on as a crutch.
2. Pronunciation and Vocal Coaches
It is imperative that when you learn a language you speak with proper pronunciation.
Pronouncing words correctly can make all the difference in certain languages, as you very well could place an incorrect inflection on a syllable or emphasis on the wrong vowel, which could affect its meaning.
And you certainly wouldn’t want to pronounce something incorrectly that may offend someone…
One way to diligently work toward improving your pronunciation is with a vocal coach, and it may be beneficial to seek out someone that has a background in another language. Though many classically trained vocalists will often have experience singing in at least one other tongue.
Tracy Reina, voice teacher and founder of the music school Music To Your Home, is also a local vocal coach in New York City.
She states that “learning to sing songs in another language can be helpful in improving your grasp the language itself.
You will have to work at pronunciation and inflection, which can be wonderful assets if you are learning the language.
3. Practice Every Single Day
Though this tip may seem like a given, it is probably the most important piece of advice when learning a new language.
If you do not practice speaking in a new language, you will not improve your ability to speak that language. It’s that simple!
Tracy Reina, the voice teacher, specifically teaches her students that “practice is the only way to notably improve your speaking, singing and language skills.”
You should specifically schedule and carve out time for mastering your new language.
Whether that’s while driving in your car on your morning commute or while making dinner in the evenings, there are numerous ways to sneak in some devoted practice time into your busy schedule.
Another great way to take your practice to the next level is by enlisting the help of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers…anyone who can engage you in conversation.
Give them your translation book and have them ask questions to quiz you, making sure your responses are in proper form.
A vocal coach acts as another great resource here, too, since he or she can work with you not only on practicing but in correcting your pronunciation and emphasis. This ensures you’re memorizing a phrase correctly.
4. Make Mistakes
Here is a tip you probably would not have expected to hear: go ahead and make mistakes.
There’s a common saying which indicates that you learn best from your mistakes, and this holds true when learning languages as well.
If you make a mistake and learn from it, you’re much less likely to repeat the mistake again.
The essential element here is that you need to have someone who is willing to correct you and do so properly so that you avoid miscommunicating going forward.
A vocal coach can be of great help here as well. He or she can correct and advise any errors in your speech
Be confident in your speaking when learning a new language – don’t be fearful of getting it wrong and rely on the bits and pieces of a conversational phrase that you feel sure of.
A coach or fellow conversationalist can only correct your pronunciation and word choice as long as they hear you making the mistake out loud; practice, practice, practice, no matter how many errors you make originally.
5. Repetition and Memorization
These two concepts go a long way in learning a new language.
The more you repeat something and commit it to your memory, the easier time you will have recalling it in conversation later on.
Memorization by repetition is one of the best ways to execute your learning process, especially if you can go as far as to memorize complete phrases you can use when traveling or striking up a conversation with locals.
Speech lessons have long benefited both short and long-term memory.
This is because when you work on mastering something with an instructor, you are consistently practicing your skill, which triggers the brain’s receptors to memorize.
When you learn a song in another language, the same receptors are being fired, even if that song is in another language from your native one.
The key is to make sure you have an understanding of what the song is actually about, otherwise, they are just words in another language that don’t have meaning.
Utilize singing in another language as a surefire way to repeat phrases over and over.
Even if your singing voice is better left unshared, the repetition and memorization associated with putting words to a tune will prove useful in recalling a phrase in a new tongue.
6. Take Tests/Quizzes
The online world can be a fabulous resource when learning a language.
There is an endless amount of proficiency tests and quizzes on the internet that you can utilize when working on your skills.
Take some time to test your knowledge and how far along you are in the language learning process by taking a quiz.
You can also enlist the aid of a voice teacher to provide you with a speaking test, where you are meant to carry on a conversation with them in your new language to see how you would “score.”
In this instance, a teacher will be extremely beneficial for checking things like the proper verb or noun usage and proper emphasis or pronunciation – something that the online tests can’t provide.
While you may not be learning a language in the same way you would in grade school, it is important to find out just how far you are coming along in your studies to see if there are areas to improve upon and how realistic your skills would be in the real world.
7. Learn Children’s Songs
Sounds silly, right? But you wouldn’t believe the benefits this can provide.
Since children’s minds are more apt to start with simple elements, the words and phrases within children’s songs are going to be easier to comprehend, especially when just starting on your learning of a language.
Ask a vocal coach if you can practice reading sheet music for children’s songs and see how easily you can grasp the concept of the stories within. This will not only enforce repetition, but it will also test your comprehension and simple pronunciations.
As you graduate in your understanding of a new language, the songs should become simple to the point where you outgrow this learning tool.
Then you can work your way towards songs that have more complex sentence structures and slang phrases in order to challenge your comprehension.
8. Write It Out
When you write things down you tend to utilize repetition in a way to make something more memorable.
Simply put, by putting words and phrases to paper, they will stick with you.
Find someone who speaks your new language fluently who can take samples of your writing and decipher them.
It will help you find out if you are truly grasping the concepts of sentence structure, tenses, and conjugations.
Remember to start small by writing simple phrases and responses and continue to test yourself as your knowledge grows.
Below are some great writing prompts, courtesy of FluentU, that you can use at each level of your language learning process. Each question is specifically meant to challenge your comprehension in a unique way.
- Who are you?
- What’s your family like or what’s your best friend like?
- What’s your favorite: hobby, food, season, movie, tv show, animal?
- What are you doing this weekend?
- Describe your daily routine.
- What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you?
- Where would you like to go on vacation or what is the best trip you’ve ever taken?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years or what are your goals for the future?
- Write a poem (rhyming or not) about something that inspires you
- Pretend you’re instructing someone on how to do your favorite activity
- What do you think the world will be like in 50 years?
- If you were given three wishes, what would you wish for?
- What do you think the most significant world problem is or if you could change one thing about society, what would you change?
- What is your favorite literary work and what has it taught you?
- If you could teach your future children or other children one future lesson, what would it be?
- What topics are not adequately addressed in schools today? Why should these topics be addressed more?
- Describe a recent world event. What are the potential consequences of this event?
Give these a try and see how well you can actually convert your thoughtful responses to well-written sentences.
9. Set Goals and Deadlines
You are more likely to accomplish something if you give yourself a deadline.
Plan an upcoming trip or reason to utilize your new skill. If you have a specific use for your new language, or a deadline in mind, you’ll be more motivated to master the language.
In other words, it gets easier for you to reach fluency.
Be realistic, though; don’t expect to learn to speak conversationally in a week or two. Give yourself time so you can feel comfortable communicating without error.
You can also start small with your goals, like learning some basic words within a certain time period. Then, create a new goal and deadline for the next level up.
Give yourself a reward every time you reach a new goal and continue to motivate yourself to keep going. Mastering a few words and phrases before giving up does not make you fluent.
Hold yourself accountable by putting your deadlines out on social media or by telling your friends and family so that you follow through. Or try setting goals with someone you’ll be traveling with and master a new tongue together!
Overall, remember to stay positive and not get discouraged. As stated before, learning a new language is not easy, but as your comprehension grows, you will grasp the reward.
Try to keep your goals fun and find unique situations to put your lessons to use.
Put items like “Strike up a conversation with a native speaker” or “Perform a song in another language at karaoke” on your list and challenge yourself to test your skill in public.
In language learning it ultimately comes down to regular practice and effort. It can take quite some time to reach fluency.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t speed up your progress.
There are ways in which you can become fluent just a tad faster.
The advice in this post may help you do just that.