7 steps to become an expert at learning languages
1. Try speaking to people in your new language right from the beginning
It may feel ridiculous when you can’t say much, but it’s an important exercise. It will push you to learn some new phrases in context, and your pronunciation will get better too. Listen to your speaking partner and try and match them. No doubt your conversation partner will teach you a new word or two. Also, the sooner you become comfortable speaking in an unscripted way in your new language, the better.
2. Experience your new language in different ways
Don’t just leave your language learning to class time, but switch some of your media to your target language too. Listen to music, learn the words, and sing along. Find a TV series or a film you like and watch it in your target language with the subtitles on, and if you’re a bit further along in your language journey, find out the classic films in your target language and watch those.
3. Talk to yourself
This is sounds slightly bonkers, but it works. Have imaginary conversations with people in your target language. If it helps, imagine the conversation you would have in a shop, or if you just met someone and had to explain where you’re from and what you’re doing. I end up doing this quite a bit before I have to phone someone, or do something official – I run a few test simulations in my head. When I run into a phrase or word I don’t know, I look it up so I’m a bit more prepared.
4. Consistency in your lessons
I have made the biggest leaps in my language learning when I’ve been consistent with my lessons. Do what works for you: picking specific days for lessons doesn’t work for me, but I have a target of three classes a week and that feels more doable for me. If you prefer a schedule, do that. Whatever it is, stick to it even when you’re not feeling up to it.
5. Make notes
My husband has a little notebook where he notes down words he comes across in German that he doesn’t know, so he can look them up later and practise. This helps him keep track of new terms and phrases he wants to practise as well. You can also write down phrases you’re trying to learn, or if you were struggling to express yourself, you can make a note of the correct way to say it. This gives you a handy record of how far you’ve come too – flip through the earlier pages and you’ll be amazed at some of the things you found difficult only months ago.
6. Find language content about things you enjoy
While listening to music really works for me, my husband prefers watching TV shows with subtitles on. I don’t force myself to listen to German Schlager music (cheesy pop music they play really loudly at Oktoberfest and other folk festivals), I found music I like listening to. The key is to go deep on a subject you already like, but in your target language. I subscribe to cooking magazines in German, and I find them quite easy to read because I know a lot about cooking already. Watch YouTubers or listen to podcasts, just find your niche subject, but in your target language.
7. Swallow your pride
This is one I really struggle with, but it’s critical. Don’t get hung up on getting everything perfectly correct when you speak, otherwise you will never speak to anyone. Just make your best attempt, most people will be fine with it. Sure, there will be a few people that are a bit rude, or interrupt you and correct you, but don’t let that stop you. You can’t move forward without practising, and the people who really do well learning languages just forge ahead.
Now, let’s practise that being consistent with our lessons part, and go book some Lingoda classes!