Why learn a new language?

Do you know how to order a coffee in France? Or to ask for directions in Mexico?  Learning a new language will, among others, connect you with new people, advance your career and allow you to deepen your connection to different cultures worldwide. On top of that, research shows that knowing multiple languages will make it easier to understand and learn new ones. But learning a language is not something you can do overnight. Let me give you 7 tips on how to learn a new language!

1. Increase your vocabulary

The first step of learning a new language is to increase your vocabulary. Try to learn a number of new words and phrases on a daily basis, we recommend at least 5 to 10 of them. Begin with words and sentences that are a necessity, for example learn how to say “Hello, how are you?”, “thank you”, or “my name is…” in the language you want to learn. Also, have a thought about words that you are using frequently: “apple”, “money”, “what”, “where” or any other word. If you keep doing this exercise for a longer period of time you will know a great amount of vocabulary quickly and without much effort. However, it is important to have consistency, otherwise you will forget the words anyways. Check this blog for 6 tips on how to not forget a language.

2. Listen to music and watch movies/series in that language

While learning French, watching Intouchables in English is a no go from now onwards. However, you can definitely change the language to English, when learning English! This tip will help you get familiar with the language you are learning. This also helps you get in touch with the culture associated with that language and therefore with the spoken language and common phrases people use on a daily basis.

3. Create an immediate translation

By changing your language settings on your phone, you will help train your brain to make links between your mother tongue and the language you are learning. Another way is to glue post-it notes with the translation to objects. This way you’ll see the words on a daily basis, and it’ll be easier for you to learn vocabulary and get in touch with the alphabet, as you’ll be linking the actual object with the word.

4. Practice, practice and practice 

We understand that you will not always have much time to learn. But keep in mind that opening up your study materials for a short period of time will stimulate your brain to stay within the language learning process. It is possible to learn a language at home, but the key is to practice and revise. Also, reading a short story is a good starting point when learning a language since the sentence structure is not very complex. Practicing the language in your head is also one way of improving it. Create sentences in your head and construct fake conversations in your new language. By visualising a conversation, it will help you when you are actually having the conversation – kind of like Beth Harmon did with chess in Queen’s Gambit.

5. Get exposed to the language

Try to pay attention to your surroundings and you’ll end up getting more in tune with the language you are learning. You’ll be able to recognize certain words you see – which really helps with motivation! When buying groceries, read the ingredient list first in the new language and for any word that you do not understand you can have a look at the translation in another language. 

6. Make it a social process and talk to others

Practicing the language you are learning on a regular basis is key. By speaking with others, you will learn to express yourself better, by having to say the sentence right away instead of translating it before you say it. Another advantage is that you will be able to practice on your pronunciation and it will improve your listening skills. Thus, do not speak English to the waiter of a Portuguese restaurant for example. Try to say as much as you can in your new language!

7. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!

Maybe the most important tip: no one expects you to speak perfectly at first. The only way to reach for perfection is by practising a lot. Allow yourself to make mistakes, because it means you’re putting your knowledge into practice. And remember at first you will speak the basic words, but will not understand much. Then you will improve your vocabulary and will understand more than you can actually speak. In the third phase you are able to have conversations with other people, however it may not go as smoothly as you want, but you are improving! Lastly, you are able to have conversations and understand others without having to translate everything in your mind first. So, the more you speak, the sooner you will sound like a native speaker.

How to start learning

Does learning a language still seem difficult to achieve? We’re here to help! Through SPEAK you can learn and get exposed to the language you’re learning in a social environment that is safe and informal where migrants, refugees, newcomers and locals are brought together. On our Language Groups you get to learn from locals or natives, who lead the groups as buddies, and practice the language through a chat group and fun challenges! A bonus benefit is that you get to meet new people and learn about their cultures and habits, therefore get a better understanding of the language.

Are you not sure yet if you want to learn a new language or which level you are currently at? No problem! Simply have a look at our app! In our app you can check your current level, join any language group you want and talk to others to practice what you’ve learned.

Learn more about our App and join our community of SPEAKers in an upgraded learning experience!

Author: Souhail Boussalem

Souhail is a marketing intern at SPEAK, he is a student at the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands and he moved to Lisbon in September. He loves to surf and to explore
the city.

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