Step 1: Pick a Language
I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you already have an idea of which language you want to learn. I’m also going to assume that said language is not English, because if it is, then please go back and pick a new one. It’ll be fun! As for what languages I would recommend learning; well there are too many for me to name here (I’ve heard over 6,000), but some of the more popular ones are: Spanish (for Americans), French (for Canadians), German (for Germans), Mandarin Chinese or Japanese. Because English is used all around the world, it’s usually best not to learn another European language as your first one unless you just really want to. English has been so widely spread since the days of British colonialism that anyone in any country should be able to help you in it. I am learning languages is fun, so I like to challenge myself by learning ones that are harder than others.
Step 2: Watch a Few Movies, Listen to Some Music and Read Some Books in Your Target Language
Once you’ve decided on a language, start by listening to some music. If you’re not familiar with the language, try and guess what they’re saying. Then listen again; this time write down what you think it is or have someone who knows the language give it a go for themselves. Keep doing this until one of two things happens; either you know roughly what’s being said or there’s no way in hell that anything was said (then try something else). Now if you want to learn how to actually speak your target language then watch movies with subtitles turned on (or without). You will be surprised at how much faster they really pick up languages after watching them for a while! The reason why I say “movies” instead of “TV” is because TV shows just don’t seem as interesting as movies do. This keeps your attention more and makes the learning process more fun! Reading books might be boring at first, but over time it gets easier once the words become familiar enough for you not to have to look up every word in the dictionary every five minutes.
Step 3: Find a Language Partner
You can’t learn a language by yourself. This is why it’s best to find a language partner, either on Skype or through some other means. A language partner is someone who already knows the language that you want to learn and will help you with things like vocabulary, pronunciation and sentence structure. They could be your friend or anyone else for that matter; it just has to be someone willing to help! If you decide on Skype, make sure they’re located in an area where the target language is spoken (or at least close). You don’t want them using English as the medium of communication because then it defeats the purpose of having them teach you their native tongue in order for you to more easily communicate with others in their region who speak your target language. Also keep in mind that they aren’t going to correct every single thing that comes out of your mouth, so don’t feel bad if they correct something small here and there while ignoring big mistakes (like calling your mother “mama” instead of “mom”). The only time this really becomes an issue is when it makes understanding what’s being said difficult; then again, this could also mean that maybe learning from them wasn’t such a good idea after all if they aren’t doing anything about those grammar mistakes. I am learning a language, but I am not learning German because of my grammar issues.
Step 4: Take a Class or Use a Textbook
Now if you want to learn how to actually speak your target language, it might be best to take a class. At the very least, you’ll have an excuse for why you don’t know anything about the language (plus it will add some structure and routine into your study). If taking a class isn’t possible for whatever reason, then try out some textbooks. They usually have accompanying CDs/DVDs which can make things much easier than trying to pick everything up by yourself through trial and error.
I hope that you have found something useful in this read. Learning a language is hard, but it can be really fun. If you think that learning a language is something you want to do, then go for it! It’s well worth the effort and time put into it. If any of you have interesting stories about learning a language or a quote about languages, feel free to comment down below. I’d love to hear from everyone else!
I hope this blog post has helped some of you out there looking for information on how to begin your journey into the world of foreign languages and/or linguistics (or just plain foreign languages if your not interested in going further than that). If anything else comes up related to either topics I’ll try my best to write more articles on them (and if anyone knows where I can find good high-quality resources please let me know). Until next time!