5 Secrets to Learning a New Language

Learning a new language is a fairly common goal, but it can be difficult to accomplish. To help you gain proficiency in the language of your choice, we’ve rounded up the following language learning tips and secrets from real people across the web:

Just Do It (Talking, that Is)

Benny Lewis, who speaks 8 languages fluently and runs the “Fluent in 3 Months” blog, offers this simple tip for beginning language learners as the core of his “Speak from Day One” language learning course: “You just need to speak it. Speak it regularly, speak it confidently, and speak it immediately. The more you speak, the quicker you will improve.”

This is easier said than done, of course. You have to be willing to sound like an idiot. That’s why immersing yourself by traveling to a country where that language is primary is so effective: speaking from personal experience, the only thing worse than having a cashier at an Italian market give you the stink-eye while you try to ask to use the telephone is being stranded at said market because you can’t call your ride. Being in another country forces you to get over your awkwardness and social anxiety.

Even if you can’t travel, though, it’s easy to put this tip into practice. Just find a native speaker, and check your dignity at the door.

Actively Watch Movies

When Lifehacker writer John Smith was learning Spanish, he enhanced his skills by actively watching movies in Spanish-at first with English subtitles, then with Spanish subtitles, and finally with no subtitles at all. He explains his process here. The advantage is that it gives you a “chance to hear a more diverse set of voices saying the same things, and all the while it is reinforcing the basics of the language, the bread and butter phrases that are used the most.”

Know Thyself

Michael Erard, the author of a book on “hyperpolyglots” (people who speak many languages), recently told Time Magazine that one thing the hyperpolygots he interviewed had in common was that “they know how they learn, so they don’t waste time with methods that don’t work for them. An example would be knowing that social interaction is a problem and saying, ‘I’m going to spend time with texts.”

Persistence Pays Off

Another common characteristic of hyperpolyglots? Per Michael Erard, “they don’t give up.” Trying to pick up a new language can make your brain ache, especially if it’s not closely related to the language you already use. Keep trying until it “clicks.”

Learn Passively

This tip also comes from Lifehacker: Modify the environment around you so that it helps you learn your new language passively. That means labeling as many of the objects in your house and office as possible, and also changing the settings on your computer and your phone to make them speak the language you’re learning.

Do you have any other tips that make it easier to learn a new language? Share them in the comments!

Image source: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by j3net

4 replies
  1. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    All solid advice. Another one I would give is the need to stop relying on memorization. Instead when you are adding to your vocabulary to embed the new words in the target language – something like – My WALLET is where I keep my paper money. I usually keep my WALLET in my back pocket. This way your memory is establishing multiple links in your brain…not just a translation one ( one which is hard to access when using the language, hence the common complaint “I have a poor memory”. ) Us the right techniques and see how fast your memory starts to improve.

    For more strategies to avoid ( and hence embrace the opposite), download my FREE Ebook at http:languagelearningunlocked.com in return for answering a few wee questions to help me with some research for a book.

  2. Eric
    Eric says:

    This is a great article with some very useful language learning tips! I have found that labeling items in my home with the language I’m studying helps a lot. Once I have a base of everyday useful words to pull from I can hold a somewhat proficient conversation.


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