This is a great post written by Sarah Hus Loubet, founder of Trad'Esprit and Like (a) French, a language school that specialises in offering an immersive learning experience. Here, Sarah shares her top tips on how to learn a new language.
Everyone I meet has the same experience of learning a language: “I used to learn a language at school, but I don’t remember anything” or “I understand, but I can’t talk.”
Do you struggle to learn languages? Would you love to learn but think it’s just not for you? Lots of people want to speak another language because it opens up so many new possibilities. It allows you to travel to new places, work in new environments and communicate with new people. Plus, learning can be a great hobby.
However, if you think about the bulky process and learning methods – the 30 other learners with who will share a room, the strict teacher, the long journey to reach the class, the expensive book to buy, the boring topics, etc. – it’s easy to feel discouraged.
Nowadays, who wants to (or can) sit for hours in a classroom? No one. We don’t have much time to dedicate to learning a new language. We don’t want to be passive learners using old fashion methods, we want to be active learners and mostly, to learn efficiently! And you know what? It is possible – just follow my tips!
1. Just relax
The first thing you need to do when you learn a language is to relax and open your mind. Otherwise, you can spend hours practicing but it will just go in one ear and out the other, meaning you memorise nothing. So, avoid the stress – and the crowded classrooms – and choose a teacher/or a class with whom you feel confident. After the first session if you have a good feeling and you’re looking forward to the next session that means you’ve found the right fit for you. Otherwise, change!
2. Short session
Research by Dianne Dukette and David Cornish (2009) uncovered that adults can only sustain attention for about 20 minutes. Therefore, if you want to take full advantage of your language class, I recommend a short session (about 30 minutes) and, for intensive progression, several times per week.
3. Grow your confidence
One of the biggest issues when you learn a language is to feel shy or worried about making mistakes. Just breathe and relax (see tip 1), and start with a 1-to-1 session with a private teacher. Then, book a group session in a small group (5 learners) and little by little you will feel more confident. In my experience the more relaxed and happy the learners are, the most efficient the learning is.
4. Interesting topics
It is important to learn through topics that you like, otherwise you will get bored quickly and lose focus. The lesson must be tailored entirely for you with topics that interest you. This is much more effective as you will be engaged and able to learn more in a short space of time because you will be happy to talk, read and write about it.
5. Be passionate = active learner
Now that you are relaxed and confident, be passionate! Show interest in the language and the culture! Research your hobbies and choose what you want to focus on. For example, read books or comics in French. Go on social media, on the Internet, read news or articles, find out more about the country. Do you know that you can visit a French museum or monuments online? Visit the Eiffel Tower from the comfort of your own home.
If you spend just 10-15 minutes per day, you will learn more about the culture, you will increase your vocabulary, and have topics to talk about in class!
6. It’s all about immersion
To travel and stay in the country is the best and fastest way to learn a language. But don’t worry if you can’t, you can still create an immersive experience where you are and it will be very efficient as well.
How? Easy, just go online! Listen to music, watch a movie or the news, and listen to the radio or a podcast. The objective is to hear the language as often as possible (even if you don’t understand at the beginning). Every language has a different frequency. To be able to speak, your brain needs to soak up the language and the frequency.
7. Don’t get bored
If you always learn the same way, you will get bored. To avoid it, change the topics you focus on or activities you do when learning the language. Also, mix things up by using different platforms and technologies for learning.