Even if you’re totally excited about this new language learning journey you’ve embarked on, at some point or another chances are studying this new language is going to feel like a chore.
My best piece of advice is to find ways to incorporate your studies into things you’re already interested in.
For me, that’s reading. More specifically – and it’s totally fair if you make fun of me for this – I like to read blogs in other languages.
Movies are also a really good tool, especially if you can find subtitles in the language you’re learning as well.
Music is another way to start listening to things in your new language.
Games are of course also an excellent way of studying a new language! A lot of language learning computer programs include games.
Decide what you want to get out of the language
There are many different reasons to learn a language, and often the motivation behind learning it will help decide how best to study.
I studied Ancient Greek purely to be able to read old philosophy texts (lol, I know) so I focused on grammar and only studied vocab from Greek to English, not vice versa, and I didn’t bother with speaking.
On the flip side, when I’m studying a language because I’m planning a trip somewhere, then I try not to worry about grammar and instead learn useful phrases.
The beginning is the most exciting part
Seriously though, there’s nothing like starting a new language and learning how to actually say stuff! It’s such a rush and totally addicting, which I think has actually pushed me to begin a whole lot more languages than I know I’ll ever actually learn – I’m looking at you, Tibetan.
This also means that it’s totally worth spending a few weeks studying a language before a trip somewhere because even if you know you’ll never pursue the language when you come back home, the learning process is going to be fun and likely make your trip a lot more interesting as well.
Set concrete challenges
When the initial excitement of learning a new language begins to fade, it can be hard to stick with it. The hardest bit for me is definitely when I’m comfortable enough with a language to understand most things and make myself understood.
Basically when I start getting complacent it means it’s time to enroll in a new course or sign up for online lessons, or commit to some sort of challenge that will require me to level up my skills.
Think in the language you’re trying to speak
Obviously, this one is going to be hard if you only know like, 20 words in this new language, but get used to expressing everything you possibly can with those few words you do have. It’s really, really hard to translate directly between two languages, especially if they’re totally unrelated, and it can lead to really awkward and unnatural sentences.
I think this is also a big reason each new language becomes easier to learn – we get better and better at communicating with a very limited number of words and kind of just going with conversations where we only understand a portion of what’s being said.
Know your strengths – and then ignore them
It can be really tempting to only play to your strengths when studying a language. So if you’re good at memorizing vocabulary, then you might want to spend all day doing that, or if you’re really good with accents you’ll focus on mastering that before you even have any grammar down.
The thing is, the stuff you’re good at is going to improve quite naturally, so you don’t need to worry too much about it. And if you focus too much on one aspect of a language, then you might actually end up hurting your progress.
It’s amazing how much of a language you can learn in just a few days. It’s also amazing how much you can forget in just a few days.
Language learning is one of those things where it’s much better to do a little each day instead of a lot every once in a while. You’ll learn way more if you spend 30 minutes studying every day rather than say, 8 hours once a week.
Every language gets easier
There’s a reason people who have studied one or two foreign languages tend to then go on to study even more languages. I think it’s a really helpful thing to keep in mind because it means finally trying to learn a new language not only means opening up a new world in that particular language, but also a whole world of new languages to learn.