By Grace Goudie
Edited by Danika Suh
43% of the world can speak at least two languages. There are a number of benefits to being able to understand multiple languages including being able to communicate with a wide variety of people, boosting your resume, and improving your memory. Although there are numerous positive factors, the amount of effort and time that learning a language takes discourages many students. However, there are several ways to work towards your target language while also having fun. Below are some tips and tricks:
Connect with a community.
It can be hard to stay motivated when you’re learning a language by yourself! Often, you have no one to communicate and develop your speaking and reading skills with. By connecting with a community of people working towards the same goals, it makes it easier to stay disciplined and encouraged. While in-person groups or clubs are great, you can also turn to online platforms to meet others. Places like Reddit and Discord have communities of people who practice their writing, listening, reading and speaking skills together, and help each other out with grammar and other tricky subjects.
Read newspapers and articles.
Newspapers and articles such as blogs are great ways to learn new common vocabulary in your target language. Not only do they help improve your reading skills, but reading articles also benefits your writing. You will pick up correct phrase order and learn tricks to make your writing resemble that of a native writer of that language. Reading articles that interest you can also expose you to a variety of opinions, news, and culture that are relevant to the language you are trying to learn.
Keep a journal.
Journaling has a number of benefits for language learners. It serves as a way to track your progress and work on your writing or speaking as journaling does not solely have to be done with pen and paper. It can also be done by recording yourself on a phone or a recording device, which can benefit your mental health as well. By taking note of your negative thoughts, doubts, and fears, you can learn to recognize what makes you stressed when learning your target language. From there, you can take steps in your life to avoid or adapt to your “stressors.”
Practice vocabulary words.
Increasing your vocabulary is something that benefits all language learners, from beginners to masters. You can make your own vocabulary list by using a dictionary and cue cards, or you can use pre-made selections on websites like Quizlet. Although studying is typically seen as boring, you can definitely make this a fun activity. You can create short stories using 5-10 words, or you can create a song to help you remember how to conjugate different verbs. Play to your strengths and interests!
Listen to podcasts/TV shows.
Podcasts, just like articles, are great for learning new things while also practicing your listening skills! There are some options for beginners, but podcasts are more suited for those who already have a strong foundation in the language, as there’s no visual cues to help you along. TV or youtube videos are other tools you can use to expose yourself to your target languages. On some streaming platforms, you can find shows and movies created in a foreign language with subtitles, making sure to do more than just read. Focusing on the words while also being exposed to the English translation can help you notice errors in your understanding and guide you along. Once you’re comfortable listening to your target language, you can turn off subtitles completely and be surprised about how much you really understand.
Learning a new language is definitely a slow process and in order to maintain motivation, create small goals and keep track of your progress. Work in little increments and start with a few words, then move on to learning a couple sentences. As you work, keep in mind how far you’ve come. Some examples include video taping yourself speaking, or referring back to your journal to see the new vocabulary that you’ve developed. Most importantly, enjoy the journey. Whether you’re a beginner or someone on the brink of fluency, remember this: learn the way that works for you and with the process that brings the most fun!