10 Tips For Learning a Foreign Language

1. Start now – If you return home from a holiday all excited about learning the language then grab the bull by the horns and get started straight away. The longer you leave it, the more that initial excitement will fade. There is no time like the present, and the sooner you begin, the sooner you will be speaking in a foreign tongue.
2. Set realistic expectations – with the right study methods and discipline you can learn a language quite quickly (from several months for the simplest, to a year for the more complicated) but you should always be realistic with your time frame. Nobody can learn a language in 3 weeks. Also be aware that it will take time for your ears to become tuned to hearing the new language. This may mean that for the first few weeks you feel you can understand nothing, but once your ears become ‘tuned’ it will all fall into place and your understanding will drastically increase overnight
3. Short frequent lessons are better than long infrequent ones – when we talk about studying for only 30 minutes per day, this is not only to help the working population find time, it is actually considered the most productive timespan. 30 minutes per day is much better than 2 hours twice a week. The mind is perfectly adapted to small bite sizee chunks of information and will soon ‘turn off’ if too long. Try and find 30 minutes each and every day to do your studying-on a lunch break, on the train home, or lying in bed.
4. Study out loud – Say the vocabulary or the sentences that you are trying to remember out loud. Saying the sentences in your head is not the same thing and your progress in both memorisation and speaking ability will increase dramatically by passing the words from your brain to your mouth. If you feel silly, just make sure you do this part at home in a private room, but make sure you do it. You may also catch mistakes with your own pronunciation when you speak aloud.
5. Don’t be scared of making mistakes – Here is where children have the advantage. When a child is learning a language it starts by uttering gibberish that eventually transforms itself into intelligible sentences. Children are never shy at guessing at words and getting them wrong and neither should you. Everyone who learns a new language makes mistakes, but if you are shy at making them you may never learn from them. The quickest way to learn to speak a new language is to try, and hang the mistakes.
6. Use flashcards (learn vocabulary) – To learn a language completely you need to use a combination of language learning techniques, and one of these techniques is flashcards. To learn any new language well you must expand your vocabulary. New words are the foundation of every language and the best way to learn them thoroughly is through flashcards. Whether you make them yourself or buy a set, everybody can find enough gaps in the day to look at the cards and check the vocabulary. Just whip them out whenever you have to wait-in the elevator, waiting for food, walking to a meeting-it just takes a second to look at the card and learn a word. Very effective.
7. Review previous material – occasionally it can be helpful to review past material. Go over the vocabulary you learned last week, or the sentence structure you looked at yesterday. A brief review can make sure nothing is forgotten
8. Immerse yourself – try and find as many ways to practise your language as possible. Find native speakers on the internet and chat or call them- meet them if you can. Watch foreign movies with subtitles. You will be surprised how many words you recognise once your ears are tuned to the language. Do not worry if you can understand more than you can speak, this is usual, especially with learners who cannot practise often.
9. Take a holiday – treat yourself, if you have the opportunity, to a trip to a country that speaks your new language. Try and restrict your use of english for the entire time, and use the language you have learned to make yourself understood. Take a dictionary; you will be surprised at how much more you will learn if you try, and how much fun you will have. Remember, do not worry about making mistakes. The locals may laugh with you at your attempts, but they appreciate it and are happy that you are trying and will make every effort to help you, and make you enjoy yourself. If possible go on a language study holiday in the target country.
10. Have fun – Possibly the most important of all the tips for learning a second language – above all, do not see your language learning as a chore, if you do, you will not last and the studying will fail before it really begins. This is another reason why the 30 minute rule is so important. As well as being the most efficient and productive learning time, it also means that students do not avoid their studies. The thought of a quick 30 minute lesson is much more palatable than imagining sitting down for 2 hours. 30 minutes never detracts from the rest of your day and should mean your studying lasts longer. Enjoy it, and have fun!

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