5 Hacks for Learning a New Language



Learning a new language is hard. Millions of people have spent years in a classroom, or have buried their heads in language books with little to show for their efforts. But don’t despair, there is hope! Here are my personal recommendations for how to learn a new language faster and more efficiently.

1. Speak!

When learning a language, if you do not practice what you are studying in a real world context you are never going to get anywhere. In my native country of Canada, it is mandatory to study French all throughout elementary school and high school. In total, that is 9 full years of French education. You must be thinking that all Canadians speak perfect French right?!

Wrong! I can count on one hand the number of people I know who are fluent in French. I believe the main reason for this harsh reality is that we have never really practiced our French with real French speakers, and our education system does not make this a priority.

You can study all you want, but you will never create the mental links in your brain that are an integral part of language acquisition if you do not practice what you are learning. It would be like if you studied the rules of basketball for years but never actually set foot on the court! LeBron James did not get good at basketball by reading a book about basketball.

2. Use Duolingo

Duolingo is by far the best free language learning software that I have come across. By completing the entire program, you can easily achieve about an A2 level which is more than enough to get you started in a new language. The software will give you a strong foundation which you can build upon in your future studies.

Did I mention it’s free? Not only does it cost less than that French book you’ve never opened, but it can be accessed online at any time from your computer, phone, or tablet. The program is structured like a video game and it’s addictive too. You will not believe how the time flies when studying with Duolingo.

You can access it here, and it’s available in 23 languages and counting.

3. Live with Someone who Speaks your Target Language

While this tip applies more to those living in a country that speaks your target language, it is still an extremely efficient way to get good at new languages fast. My Spanish did not start improving rapidly until I moved in with my current roommate who is a native Spanish speaker.

Keep in mind that this strategy is MUCH more effective if the person you are living with has little to no English skills. English is the enemy when language learning and this is one of the best ways to force yourself to practice on a daily basis. If you prefer living alone, try dating someone you speaks your desired language,

4. Watch Foreign Language Movies and TV Shows

Whenever I meet non-native English speakers who speak the language at a high level, they usually tell me that watching movies and TV shows in English was the key to their progress. These programs will expose you to Native language spoken in real world settings all without leaving your couch. For most language learners, Netflix is by far the best resource for accessing foreign language media.

If you are just starting, try watching your favourite shows in English but set the subtitles to your target language. Pay very close attention to the subtitles and try to match them to the English you are hearing. Once you become more comfortable in your new language, set the audio to your target language but keep the foreign subtitles on. When you are at an advanced level you will not need subtitles at all, and at this point you are more or less fluent in your target language.

5. Listen to Foreign Language Music

Listening to music is effective for some, but not for others. It really depends on the person and if they are actively listening to the song lyrics or simply listening to the instruments and vocal sounds. Add in the fact that it can often be difficult to distinguish what the singer is saying behind the instrumentals of a song.

With that said, I know many people who say that listening to music in their target language greatly helped to improve their listening and vocabulary skills. You can listen to music virtually anywhere you can carry your phone, and for that reason this method is extremely practical for many people. Just remember to pick something where the lyrics can be heard clearly and are sung slowly. Busta Rhymes is not recommended for English learners.

Written by Peter Wywrot

Buffalo Turbines repBuffalo Turbines: Specializing in steam turbines for drive applications and steam turbine generators for power production.

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