Being born and raised a speaker of English in an isolated part of the world, I never thought it important nor possible to pick up another language. Turns out I was wrong on both accounts! Bi-bilingualism is associated credibly with enhanced high level thought, multi-tasking and attention span, and is also incredibly possible to achieve by putting the following five simple measures in place.
5. Get an App
Download an app or some software for your computer and get into it, today! There are a multitude of free online learning platforms like Duolingo (the worlds most popular way to learn a new language) that turn learning into a fun, interactive, rewarding experience. Use it during times your brain's usually idle, like while eating breakfast, on the train or waiting in line for something. Something like this is great for building your vocabulary to a point where you can start stringing simple sentences together. Keep a list of phrases you think important from your chosen app and read through them from time to time.
4. Immerse Yourself
Find as much media as possible from the language you'd like to learn (newspapers, magazines, television, YouTube channels etc.) and get stuck into it! The best way to begin with this is to watch your favorite movies, TV series or doco's with subtitles of the language you'd like to learn. This'll give you a gauge on how the language sounds, what words are being used for what and how grammar may differ from your own language. Change the language of your phone and facebook to your desired language. It'll be a pain in the ass at first (trust me) but understanding it will soon be second nature.
3. Find a Native
Find somebody in your area that speaks the language you wish to learn and meet up! They may also wish to improve their English, making it a win win situation. Schedule regular meetings and take notes on what to practice in between catch ups. Using software is great, but it lacks the human element of colloquialism. There was much for me to learn when switching from using language software to speaking with locals i.e. pronunciation, regional differences, obsolete words. Think of how much English has evolved since you were a child, other languages do that too.
Learning a language takes practice! Make time for yourself every day to do a little dedicated practice, even if it is just 10 minutes (that's only 2.5% of your day!). This'll ensure that your new language is always in your thoughts and on the tip of your tongue. You'll begin to think in the language. Have a go at narrating your day to day actions in your thoughts with your new language. This keeps is fresh in the mind and highlights areas that need work. Make language podcasts a part of your routine from when you're in transit, grocery shopping or exercising.
1. Don't Be Afraid
Whenever you get the chance to use your new language, just go for it! You're going to feel like an idiot sometimes and you're going to muck up. A LOT. But that's half the fun! I've found from my own experiences that locals more often than not are overjoyed at your attempts to learn their mother tongue. You'll undoubtedly surprise yourself at the ease of which certain phrases communicate your ideas in exactly the same fashion English does.
A saying rings true in my mind when hesitant to use my Dutch "Speak to a man in a foreign language and you speak to his brain. Speak to him in his own language and you speak to his soul!".
Learning a new language has been (to date) one of the coolest things that life has yet offered me and I'd like for you to also share this wonder.
So start off simple with an app, then immerse yourself, find a local, practice daily and take a leap of faith. In no time you'll be having a conversation in a language you only just decided to learn!
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