I am a native Flemish speaker, and can speak fluent English, yes I know it isn’t a massive list of languages (apparently!)… Through my travels I’ve met many travellers and a topic that always comes up is “how many languages do you speak?” For many people the answer seems to be 4 or 6 or 7… HOWEVER, “surprisingly”, what they mostly say is: “I know some words in that language” – which doesn’t count as knowing a language. Not at all. Don’t let someone who says they speak 10 languages make you feel uncomfortable or interfere with the current language you are trying to learn. Stick to one language, until you’re fluent in it. Don’t go jumping from one language to another like many people do, otherwise you just end up knowing a few words in a lot of languages, but never at a very high level.
Anyway, recently I moved out to Barcelona, ready to start learning a new language – Spanish. I did not know a word of Spanish when I first came here, except vamos ala playa,… but yeah.
I was curious to find some tips, tricks and tools that would help me in learning a new language. So, I started searching on the internet, and found some very good ones! Of course I know, it all comes down to practice, however knowing some new or clever ways to improve the language you want to learn, is always nice.
So here I want to share with you 8 great tips, tricks and tools to help you with the process for learning a new language!
¡Vamos a empezar!
Doulingo is a fun and very effective language learning tool available on the web or as a free mobile app. Duolingo helps you keep track of your progress and keeps you motivated to learn more by rewarding you with badges and experience points. It’s kind of addictive, which in this case, is definitely a good thing! They currently offer 15 completed courses for English speakers. (Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Russian, Ukrainian, Esperanto, Polish, Turkish and English). Have a look, it’s a lot of fun!
2. Social networks
Organisations such as Couchsurfing and Meetup often organize language exchange events for practicing a certain language. If you live in an international city check it out! It will not be on a very intense level, or at least not the ones that I’ve been to, as mostly they are in a very relaxed atmosphere with a couple of beers, but, you do get the chance to practice in person with someone and, who knows, maybe you’ll meet someone who you can meet up with on a regular basis to practice with!
Italki is a language learning service done through skype. There are 3 options to choose from. 1. Professional lessons: this option tends to be more expensive, however you are far more likely to get a structured lesson. 2. Informal tutoring: These are run by uncertified teachers who may not have any experience teaching outside of skype. However this doesn’t mean they are necessarily bad teachers! Prices for these lessons are more affordable.
3. Language Partners (found in the ‘Community’ tab): This is a free option. You help someone out with your language and they help you out with theirs. I would recommend this option once you have reached a certain competence in the language you’re learning as they aren’t lessons as such, more an exchange with someone in order to practice.
4. Start with the 100 most common words
One of the best things to do when you start learning a new language is to learn the 100 most common words first. If you get those 100 most common words done to a good level, this will boost your skill of that language dramatically. Start making sentences with them, and try and use them as much as possible. Studies have shown that the most common 100 words in any language account for 50% of all spoken communication!
5. Carry a pocket translator
Carry a pocket translator with you! You already kind of do – your smart phone! Google translator is far and away the best, however, it requires 3G or internet connection to work for IOS users. Android users can go ahead and download offline language packs and use Google translator offline. For IOS users I have another good free recommendation, the app Yandex.Translate – Not every language has an offline package yet. Here are the ones which you can download: German, French, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, Russian and English.
When I walk around in Barcelona and see something I do not know, or I want to ask something, I simply flip my phone out of my pocket and look it up. Even if you don’t live in the actual country where the language is spoken, you can still do the same. If there is a word that you do not know, look it up. You’ll end up learning something new every time!
6. Talk to yourself
Go and talk to yourself! Pretend you are having a conversation with someone. No it isn’t weird, well at least not until someone spots you… :). If you don’t have someone around to practice with, this is a great way to keep new words fresh in your mind. Also a good challenge is try and start thinking in the language you’re currently learning, it will definitely help you remember things.
7. Let technology help you
Change all settings to the current language you are trying to learn! Change your phone, computer, subtitles, the voice of the GPS, ATM, etc. Yes, it can be frustrating, but if you are actively trying to learn a new language, immersing yourself completely in it, helps a lot! And the words you do not understand will push you to go on and look them up. It will help you to stay active on the current language you are learning. You may be surprised at how much this works!
8. Study the language every day
Study the language every day. Obvious? I guess. But, there are many people who claim to have studied a language for 6 years and still aren’t fluent. Then they say they had too much trouble with the language and claim it’s too hard for them. What they actually did however was practice for only an hour or two a week. This comes back to what I mentioned earlier. It is important to stay focused on one language, and to practice it EVERY DAY!