For many of us, the start of the new year is the time we often resolve to learn a new language. We conjure up dreams of communicating seamlessly with locals during our next trip and impressing our friends with newfound skills. But most of the time, as we get caught up in work and life, our plans get shelved along with our books.
But the truth is, learning a language shouldn’t be a chore. After all, reading, listening and chatting with others are all great, enjoyable activities and learning should be, too. And it also can be easy—if you approach it in a fresh way.
So put down the books, and try one of these other ways of learning a new language. You’ll have the basics down pat before your next trip.
1. Learn as if You’re (Really) Young
When you start to learn a language, approach it through the eyes of a child. Children’s books and learning materials start with the basics and break them down into small fragments.
When I first started learning French, I learned my numbers in 10 minutes with this French Numbers Song. Later, I used children’s books and music videos to help gauge when I was ready to move past an introductory level. When I got to Belgium, I gained confidence by speaking to friends and younger students—they understood my basic words, and I wasn’t so worried about messing up. These conversations gave me the foundation to learn “formal” French later.
2. Watch Movies
Before I left for UK, I got to know the most popular Hollywood Stars of our time. I immersed myself in their movies and songs, which not only made my ear familiar with the inflection and sounds of English language, but also helped me learn a few basic phrases.
Of course, my first words in English, “Stirred, not shaken” didn’t really help me get around London efficiently. But, because I understood how real English is spoken, as I learned the language, I ended up speaking it fluidly instead of like a robot (as I might from one of those audio-lessons). I also got to bond with my new friends about the movies I had seen and the music I liked.
Later, I learned a lot of basic phrases by studying karaoke songs—and even performing them. While it was embarrassing at first, it did help me practice my language.
3. Go Shopping
Instead of reading about the local market in your language text, why not just go there? Visit the Spanish shops and restaurants, or other ethnic neighborhood in your city at home and talk with people to practice numbers, basic words and phrases and polite formalities. You will often find that vendors are always happy to chat and even happier to help correct language mistakes. It’s a great place to practice a lot of conversation in a short amount of time.
4. Use Technology to Learn Like a Local
There’s no need to invest in expensive software when there are so many free resources and apps out there. With a few downloads and apps, you can get daily updates and lessons in our blog. You can change your gadgets settings to your target language. You can also get one-on-one attention with your Capsule teachers. In addition, the BBC has great language-learning guides, which offer insight into culture and everyday life in other countries.
5. Speak as Much as You Can
The only way language will stick is by speaking and listening often, so take any opportunity you can find to use another language. Talk to friends from other countries, try out an ethnic restaurant and speak to the owners in their language or join meet-ups of like-minded language learners.
Even when you’re at home, try to speak new words and ask your teacher about how things are pronounced correctly in a different language. Remember to work on your accent and tones—one of the best compliments to receive is “your accent is really good!”
You don’t need to go to the country to successfully learn a language. I had specific goals, accepted making mistakes as OK, and spoke with natives as much as I can. I definitely won’t lie to you and say that it was easy. I worked really hard and had to feel like an idiot a lot of the time, but it was worth all the struggles and time invested.
Remember: because you’re learning, it’s OK to make mistakes! In fact, you should embrace making mistakes, because this is an essential part of learning any language. Stop thinking of it Academically, remember the only “Failure” is not doing anything.
A language is not an academic topic that you can pass or fail, but a means of communication. There is no “failure” here, just various degrees of success when you can use that language. Do NOT aim for perfection-or-bust. Even a small success of being able to buy lunch in the language, with bad grammar and not using precisely the right word, is something worth being proud of.
Learning a language doesn’t have to be a resolution that gets tabled again—it can be something to embrace in a fun new way. So as you prepare to travel to a new country this year, don’t be afraid to dive into the language. You are just one email away from it. Write us on firstname.lastname@example.org
José R. Galindo
Head of Capsule Languages Ltd.