Top Language Learning Tips according to Our Members
You can find lots of advice online about how to best learn a language, but what do expats have to say? People who have lived in many different countries or travel a lot, often have a lot of experience in language learning. Here, our members are sharing their top tips!
Immerse Yourself in the Language and Have Some Fun
There are lots of ways to learn a foreign language. But one of the top tips from our members was to indulge in some light entertainment. Combining something that you enjoy with language learning (which can be a bit of a challenge at times), is a great way to expose yourself to the language, have some fun, and practice your language skills along the way.
“Being a polyglot and a language coach, I see that 80% of success in learning a language depends on your psychology. It is the biggest accelerator to work out the blocks and negative beliefs about learning process or about the language or its culture. Next step is to find the type of activity when you are not just learning a language but feeling pleasure.”
“My top tip to learn a new language would be to get used to hearing it. Watch TV shows and movies in the targeted language, even better if the movie is from the targeted country of the language.”
“Surround yourself with the intended language and fully get immersed in it, be it reading a short text, or listening to music.”
“You have to live a language, it has to be around you every day. Read articles of your interest (can be literally everything ... even a recipe of a lovely dish!), watch videos that catch your attention even if it's hard.”
“For me one of the best ways to learn languages was watching movies in their original language and reading newspapers and magazine articles on the internet.”
“It helped me a lot reading the newspapers, simple books and magazines and listening to the news on the radio all the time even when I go to sleep (this is particularly important as the proper language is used (not the dialect).”
“I speak English, French and Arabic, Currently i am learning German. what helped me, is 2 things.
1. listen to music from the language you are learning
2. watch movies in a foreign language and read subtitles.”
Fall in Love with the Language
While integrating language learning with a bit of downtime is great, no amount of entertainment will ease the experience if you do not love the language or simply don’t want to learn it. Motivation is key to becoming fluent in a foreign language, otherwise it’ll be a struggle. And the best motivation is falling in love with the language.
“Language learning has to be a happy habit. Language learning cannot be secluded in books and grammar.”
“First off. To learn a foreign language you must want to learn it. Being English can make you lazy if you surround yourself with English speakers in a foreign country.”
“Fall in love with the language. There is no other point to get better if you don’t have the affection for it.”
Of course, you can’t always choose which language you need to learn. Maybe a new work project requires some proficiency in Arabic, or maybe you are following your partner to Sweden and learning the Nordic language is the only way for you to follow settle in there. But when you find a way to connect positive thoughts and some fun to the task of language learning, it is going to be easier for you and you will make progress very quickly.
Practice, Practice, Practice
But with all the fun and love for language, we can’t forget that it’s also hard work to learn something new. Making your language learning not just a priority but a habit is the key to becoming fluent.
“One more important principle — to come back to this language daily as our mind forgets 50% of information from the previous day if we do not come back to it.”
“Perseverance is key. Find 15 minutes a day and stick to that. Perhaps you will find yourself doing more than that.”
“The best way is to practice more and more: if you want to learn, don't be afraid. You should listen to everything you can in the language you want. It is OK if at the beginning you don't understand that much. Keep going, look for the words’ meanings, research the phrases, the accents....”
“Never ask people if they speak a language you are familiar with, directly jump into the unknown and practice, practice, practice.”
Practicing a language can, of course, come in all kinds of shapes. Maybe you are going through the grammar rules until they finally make sense, or you’re trying to expand your vocabulary. In the end, though, one of the best ways to practice a language is by talking to a native speaker.
Make Time to Talk to the Locals
There is nothing better than talking to a native speaker to get the full language experience and learn a few words and phrases that are not in your text books or your language learning apps. No matter if you are talking to your new neighbors, some new friends from work, or if you find a tandem partner to learn with, speaking with the locals will definitely kick your language skills up a notch.
“Make friends and keep company with the native speakers, listen, ask, and speak as much as you can. At first, of course, it is difficult because you don't know what the hell is going on but slowly you will absorb words, phrases, swear words, etc., and when you form your first reasonably 'intelligent' sentence you will be pleasantly surprised.”
“As someone who did not know German, I would like to recommend that people who want to learn a new Language like German, to find educated old people, because those people can speak slowly, which plays a huge role in the learning process. Besides that, they won’t make a lot of grammatical mistakes.
The most important reason, why I’m saying old people is because they have plenty of time and they will enjoy teaching and investing their time to help you learn. It is a win-win situation for both sides. ”
“Mix with the local people and most importantly speak to them, listen to the accent, make mistakes, keep talking and making new mistakes, and ask for the correct way of saying things ... never give up or fear making an error or embarrassing yourself.”
“You can't get motivated to learn language until you hear people speaking it. I was never interested in the Arabic language, but when I visited Lebanon for the first time and heard people speaking, it sounded like something I could dig into.”
“Learning the language helped me connect to the locals and this is the best integration. Or you end up having a network that is purely expats and this limits the enriching experiences you can enjoy with understanding the society as is and our fit within.”
It can be a bit more difficult to find native speakers to practice with if you’re still living in your home country. While you can always join clubs or organizations that get you in touch with people who speak the language you are trying to get the hang of, this doesn’t fully replace immersing yourself in the culture of a country.
Travel or Move Abroad for the Full Experience
If your aim is to not just learn a language but also to learn more about the culture that goes with it, the world view that informs the language, and the people who speak it, traveling, or better yet, moving abroad is essential.
“Living and/or studying abroad is an excellent way to learn and practice a new language. Avoid networking only with people that are not fluent in the language you're learning.”
“Learn to immerse yourself in the culture of the language. Because without that, even after perfecting your grammar, sometimes you may express your thoughts in ways that are totally out of context (in that particular language). I mean, there's a reason why google translator hasn't been able to rule us, right?”
There is not just one step to learning a new language, and everyone learns in a different way. But whether you are tackling one of the more common languages, such as English, Spanish, Chinese, or Arabic, or are looking to learn one that is not as widely spoken, our members’ language learning tips will definitely help you make some progress.
But wait, isn’t there something we forgot?
What about the Grammar?
The consensus among most of our members is that hyper-focusing on the grammar of a language will not help you learning it. After all, language is constantly shifting and changing, with new words being invented regularly and old ones going out of style. But while many thrive in their language learning journey, focusing first and foremost on practicing their speaking and listening skills, others would rather hone their grammar knowledge first.
“What does not help me is intense grammar. I get totally lost in the rules, don't remember the sounds. I simply don't think about how to combine verbs, nouns, prepositions, etc., when I'm speaking. So learning too much grammar in the beginning feels unproductive for me.”
“Please forget about grammar learning and focus on blended learning. One of the highly asked questions by every student and learning centers here is about grammar.”
“Language learning cannot be secluded in books and grammar. You have to live a language, it has to be around you every day.”
“Sadly, language teachers rarely teach the formal language and grammar. Mastering the slang and mixed tribal languages were not helpful because it did not equip me to have professional conversations.”