How can we learn a new language fast?
“How fast can I learn a new language?”
“I have been studying French for years, but I cannot utter a single word when the time comes…”
“I study vocabulary every day but when I try to write a composition I can never remember the word I want to use…”
“I know someone who got a diploma in 9 months while I have been studying this language for three years and I still haven’t had a certificate exam.”
How many times have you heard all that? I am sure, not a few. The real response following these questions has two sides. The good one and the bad one.
Which side would you like to hear first? Let’s start from the good news! The truth is that we can learn a foreign language a lot faster than we actually think. We believe that learning a foreign language always takes years. We also believe that we should have learned a lot more things by now, after all the years that we have spent studying it.
Let’s take a moment here and explore this phrase in a more honest way. We haven’t actually dedicated years learning the foreign language. In fact, we have spent some hours in our lessons and some others during the week for studying. If we gather them all together, they won’t add up to the years that we think have gone by just learning this language. Maybe if we gather all these hours together, we are going to get some months in total. So, we haven’t really wasted years of our lives learning without a result as we thought!
The bad news now. We can’t learn a language unless we put in the effort it takes! For each of us this means a different time span. However, no one can learn a new language without studying, without making tons of mistakes, without practising and without setting it as a true goal.
Here are some tips that may accelerate the process of learning a new foreign language:
- Let’s set it as a direct goal. If we do that, all of our actions, research and studying of the foreign language will undoubtedly lead towards gradual yet profound learning, without feeling like this being just another obligation to attend to. When we remember how many amazing opportunities and confidence we will gain when we have finally learned, nothing will stop us from craving to get there as soon as possible.
- Let’s define what SUCCESS is to us. Is it speaking the new language fluently? Reading whole books in this language without the help of a dictionary? Communicating comfortably with a native speaker? The sooner we determine what exactly success meant to us, the more we will target towards activities aiming that. While trying to specify what success is to you, please try not to be influenced by others, even if this is your teacher, parents, colleagues, classmates or friends. Each person has completely different dreams and goals and a completely different life to implement them. Choose what is best only for you and what kind of learning this new language will take you closer to your more general goals.
- Let’s discover our “strong” spots. Each of us has noticed which ways of studying offer the best results. Some practise their speaking and listening skills by listening to music or the news in the new foreign language, while others have observed that their vocabulary and writing talent are enhanced by reading articles or novels. Others, maybe, see progress by daily revising last lesson’s notes. When we single out our strongest studying habits and we start repeating them more often, the results will be undeniable and quicker than we would expect.
- Let’s not escape from studying. Υeap, you know exactly what I mean. The time that we have programmed to sit down and study, suddenly a friend is calling us and it is absolutely necessary to see us. Or, the moment we sit down at our desk and get ready to start studying, we remember how hungry we are or that we have some urgent phone-calls to make, or that maybe it is about time we ironed these huge piles of clothes waiting for us. Either we interrupt our studying for a bit and come back to it, or we don’t stand up from our chair, we have inevitably interrupted our stream of thinking and concentration.
- Let’s focus on the vocabulary of the language that we are learning. There is absolutely no need to learn new words by heart, or to repeat them one by one out loud, without actually using them in small phrases or sentences. There are more productive ways in which we can memorize words that are daily used, through reading texts in the foreign language or watching a TV series made with our new language as the original one, with subtitles in the same language so that words can be better marked in our minds.
- Let’s boost our memory! No matter how acute or weak our memory is, there is always room for improvement. When we keep on exercising our memory, we slowly increase the amount of information it can retain. This process will have a remarkable effect on our learning.
- Let’s practise what we learn as soon as possible. Even if we don’t always have the chance to practise what we learn by traveling to that foreign country, at least not yet, we can always find ways to train in other ways. We can try reading any kind of text, small or big, written in that language. We can also watch the news or a show in that language, even with the help of subtitles in that language. Last but not least, we can always find a native speaker online, through sites dedicated to that aim and have a conversation with them.
- Let’s revise a lot more often. Mainly the parts that seem difficult to understand with the first attempt. We don’t always have to be in our office or at home to revise something. All we need to do is simply to have our note-book or one of our books with us. Whenever we find some available time, we can take a look. On the other hand, we can make a program of small, frequent revisions on our own, without waiting for a test to do that.
- Dive in! In a different kind of sea…Take a deep breath, close your eyes and get ready to enter an entire new world! While learning a new foreign language, the best thing you can do is surround yourself with cultural elements of that civilization. The music expressing the character of its people, the history that has formed its identity, its struggles and successes, the unique traits that set this culture apart from all others will help you undeniably embrace its language. If you do that, each little thing you learn, will not feel unrelated to others but everything will gradually be connected within the mentality of the language.