by Naomi Binford
Learning a new skill is always a great but exciting challenge. On the one hand, it lets you explore facets of the world and yourself that you were never exposed to before, but on the other, the journey can be long and difficult. When these tough times come, we often feel like giving up.
But don’t abandon your natural curiosity just yet. There are no direct shortcuts to learning things, especially languages, which are rich in cultural and social contexts, but you can always find a workaround that gets you there slightly faster.
Here are six ways to boost your language learning skills:
Our minds have been programmed to process language. These translate unfamiliar sounds as foreign to us, but if we train our minds to familiarize themselves to the language we’re learning, mastery will be easier from there.
Practice communicating using your chosen foreign language. Find a learning partner or even a native speaker who is either your friend or who is willing to tutor you, to converse with. Ideally, you should do this daily to really hone your skill, but if you don’t have enough time, just do it as frequently as you can.
Having a set objective is a key motivator. Knowing what you want to achieve is one step to achieving it already.
Try envisioning this goal as early on as when you decide to start studying the language. It doesn’t have to be one, distant goal at once. You can have several small goals that you tick off a list as well, if it helps you put your progress in perspective.
Start with something realistic. If you don’t know anything about the language at all, a good goal would be to expand your vocabulary. After that, you can move on to being able to read whole sentences, and then converse in a conversation, etc.
As we’ve already established earlier, languages are tied to specific contexts. This means that you’re not just learning the language itself, but the culture within which it exists, too.
Don’t take this as a burden. Think of it as an opportunity to immerse yourself in expanding your knowledge, an added bonus, if you will, in getting to know something outside your personal worldview.
Immersing yourself in the culture can also help accelerate your language learning by giving you a deeper understanding of every word and sentence. This is especially helpful in learning idioms and local expressions that are necessary if you want to get to the level of a fluent to native speaker.
One of the greatest advantages we have in learning new languages today is that we have technology on our side.
Previously difficult processes before are now simplified at the tip of our fingers. Expert freelance author Oliver Kim writes in one post that technology has greatly helped his language learning experience.
Kim shares a few of his secrets to using a healthy digital approach: “Download apps that let you practice with verb conjugation and sentence construction, listen to podcasts. Even keeping a simple dictionary app on your phone for important moments will do.” There are a multitude of popular language learning tools around the web ready for you to make use of.
Rushing will only stress you out and further hinder you from advancing on to the next step of the learning process.
Be patient with yourself. Understand that it takes plenty of time to get to know a new language, especially one that’s totally different from your own. It doesn’t sound like much, but building up your self-esteem helps you sustain your stamina for the very frustrating roadblocks in your learning.
While you’re at it, make sure to accept that you’re not going to get it perfect during the first few tries. In fact, a large part of your learning process will be you making mistakes, but that’s actually the best tool in learning.
Seek the help of others to correct you when you’re wrong. Don’t beat yourself up for it; instead, take note of your mistakes to avoid making them again. Investing in your personal motivation is a huge factor in optimizing your skill.
The discussion goes back full circle with this final tip.
Since our brains are susceptible to language patterns, easing it into a new language is largely dependent on how well you can remember these repetitions. It sounds like a memory game, and at first it will really seem that way, but over time your brain will identify the patterns faster, until you’re no longer conscious you’re doing it at all.
Aside from that, facilitating recall might come naturally if you give a personal touch to the learning process. For example, a certain word might sound like another word that’s familiar to your own language, so you associate it with that.
But if you want a more formal approach to it, using flashcards that either translate or provide a picture of a certain word or phrase in the language also works.
Regardless of what your intentions in learning a new language are – be it to use it for travel, work, or as a requirement in class – it’s always a fascinating experience to get to know something that was previously foreign to you.
It can be frustrating at times, but motivation comes in knowing that learning is an endless process, and that today’s tools make it learning much easier than ever before.
As a golden rule, use the language to converse and communicate with others who are also studying or already using it whenever you can. Set a goal so you can keep track of your personal progress. Learn more about the context behind the language. Be patient with yourself, and feed your curiosity while you’re at it.
Naomi Binford is an editor at dissertation writing service Edugeeksclub. She loves gathering tidbits of information on random subjects that fascinate her and sharing those with her readers online.