You’ll certainly go deeper in any travel if you speak the local language, but how do you go about learning a new language? Well after trying a few different approaches this is what I’ve found.
Note: This list is in chronological order of where to start, not in order of importance. In order of importance, the last step is about 10x more important than all the others combined!
Step 1) Software
Welcome to the beautiful world of the www. You can find anything here, and learning a new language is not an exception. Rosetta Stone is probably the most well known, I personally use Memrise which is online, free and fun. There are many others out there, so feel free to shop around. This is a first step as you will start to get comfortable with the language.
Step 2) Audiotapes
Back to the 80’s? You bet! Okay, so it will no longer be a ‘tape’ per se, but it still functions in the same manner. This should be used in tandem with the software so that you have both the visual and auditory learning working together. Personally I use Michel Thomas which is a stress-free and relaxed approach, but I’m sure there’s many others out there that are just as good. Find one that works for you.
Step 3) Back to School
Make a quick google search to see if there’s any classes available in your area. If you have done a little bit of the software and audiotapes you will be well on your way in a beginner class and may even jump into an intermediate class. Most importantly you will have the confidence to speak when called upon. You are ready for interaction which will speed up your learning greatly.
Step 4) Personal Tutor
If you find a class or not, getting a personal tutor is a great option. Try to find someone that is a native speaker of the language. Speaking English is a great asset, use it as trade bait (you teach them English for half an hour, they teach you their language for half an hour). Look online or put up posters and you’ll probably find someone. Of course, you can always go out and pay an actual tutor where you can learn in a more structured manner from a better source, but you will have to pay for it. For the moment, you will learn heaps just from having the opportunity to speak to someone.
Start writing stories about anything (describe what you did that day, talk about your dinner plans, your vacation plans) in present, past, future, and ask your tutor to correct them. You will start to realize where your gaps are when you are attempting to tell a story.
Step 5) Go There!
There is absolutely no substitute for going to the country. Everything else leading up to this step was preparation. Now that you’re prepared you have to actually go there. Get into conversations on the street. Have a drink or two to lose your inhibitions and speak to the people in the bar. You can even take full immersion classes and live with a homestay family if you want to put your learning into high gear. But no matter what, you have got to get on the ground in a place where people do not speak English.
Learning a new language is learning to think in a different manner. That means don’t translate. As soon as you have even basic language skills spend some time each day thinking to yourself in that language. Pretend to have a conversation with yourself over what you ate for breakfast and do not translate! You’ll have to learn the small words in order to get this trick down, and this is a trick. The moment you can get this figured out, your brain will start firing in a different way with the language.
Ten minutes a day! This is the golden rule. At the beginning you may put in a few long sessions when you are motivated, that’s great, but don’t make it the only way you practice. Even after you speak the language, you have to keep it up. So set aside ten minutes everyday to read an article, write an email, Skype a friend, or anything else that will get you to use the language. You don’t have to stop there, languages get easier and easier to learn as you get more of them… keep going!
Wondering which language to learn? Take a look at:
Learning a new language will help you in many aspects in life, so get out there and get started. Remember that anxiety, stress and pressure are all hindrances to the learning process, so just take it easy. One step at a time will lead you on your way to learning a new language comprehensively and quickly.