Learning a new language later in life is not as easy when you are a child. Children naturally soak up a language in their years as infants and toddlers, and the process of learning expression begins at just weeks of age. Children can even easily learn multiple languages at once if they interact in the respective languages with the same people. For adults, adding a new language is not as simple. It requires concerted effort, and is not something that just happens as it does with children. There are many ways one can learn a new language, especially now thanks to the advent of the internet. Here are some of the best ways you can try to pick up a new language or brush up on your foreign language skills.
“Language immersion” is a more complicated concept than it would seem on the surface, usually referring to a classroom environment where school or college-aged students “immerse” themselves in the language they want to learn, heck or high water, for many or all of their school subjects. It is considered one of the fastest ways to learn a language. There are some different ways to go about immersion as an adult, the most obvious of which is to move to a foreign country. The key to immersion, however, is to make a commitment, which is embodied in Middlebury College’s no English pledge — you are committing to get along in life without your native language. There are also language immersion programs available domestically and abroad for people of all ages.
Make Friends & Practice
Whether you make friends in person or online, one can use friends who speak a foreign language as a practice partner for speaking and learning. With the advent of various technologies, such as Couchsurfing and Zoom, it is easy to meet travelers and stay in touch with them online. There are also specific online services such as “language exchanges” where people can try to meet others who want to learn the language that they speak. This guide on the Cormier method is helpful, and outlines how it is important to be sensitive to your partner’s needs as well as your own, to be respectful of your partner, and to be judicious while giving corrections.
Consume Foreign Programming
Watching foreign programming is an attractive way to pick up a new language because it is both entertaining and low cost. It’s not as easy as just working through your Netflix subscription with another language dubbed on top, however. The program should be engaging, have subtitles, and be repetitive. In this manner, you know what is being said, and if you watch a program over and over, or one that has similar plotlines, you begin to be able to associate similar events with what is being said (subtitles help with this expecially). Shows like Friends or soap operas are examples of good predictable show structures. Experts agree, however, it’s best to pair with some other form of formal language instruction, whether in a classroom or via a digital learning curriculum of your own.
DuoLingo & Language Apps
Duolingo is a good option for super-beginners, people who want to pick up basic phrases and picking up the writing system if it is not the 26-letter alphabet. These apps do not replace other people, however, so they might be better considered as a starting point or a supplement to immersion, an actual class, or interacting with people who speak the language in an exchange. DuoLingo also keeps you honest, with daily reminders and gamification to make sure that you are practicing every day.
Learning a new language as an adult is hard work. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and some of most of the tactics suggested in this article are best combined with one another. Another key thing is to not worry about making mistakes; people will understand you do not speak the language, and most people will give you the benefit of the doubt. However you decide to go about it, consistency and commitment are key. ¡Buena Suerte!