This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my disclaimer.
You want to learn a language. Maybe you want to learn a language to gain a promotion or woe a lover. You might find that you want to travel or live abroad, make new friends or be part of a community.
What is the best approach to learning a new language? Whether you are a total newbie or just looking to brush up on your language skills, we will discuss what makes an excellent language learner and tips to improve your language learning.
I really believe in immersing yourself in the language. Not only are you learning a language yourself, but you also have to learn about the culture and its mannerisms, idioms and slang.
If you have the chance, you should go to the country that speaks the language and stay with a family on a cultural exchange or join a language program. This is by far the best way to learn a language.
Some people learn the language in school and equip themselves with the knowledge needed to pass the exams. I don’t believe that schools have educational facilities and tools in place to help us gain fluency.
Sure, we will learn a few words in class. I don’t know anybody who reached fluency in Spanish, French, or Irish in school in my country. There were always outside influences, such as an immersive language experience or growing up in a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area). These are the things that really trigger growth and promote fluency.
Some people opt to learn a language independently. They use apps like Duolingo, devour language learning books and watch tv in that said language. Although people can learn a language independently, it is quite unlikely they will reach fluency by themselves. There are some limitations to this method but it’s not impossible if you incorporate a variety of tools and resources to aid learning.
How to Learn a Foreign Language on Your Own?
If you want to learn a language by yourself, take these points into consideration. Learning a language by yourself is not impossible, however, it requires a huge amount of resilience and commitment.
Tips on How to Learn a Language:
- Purpose: Decide the reasons you want to learn a language
- Plan: Make a plan and update it weekly with bite-sized learning
- Choose Learning Material: Decide what areas you’d like to focus on, find the lesson material, and learn.
- Focus on a Range of Skills: Work on each skill – listening, reading, speaking, writing
- Consistency: Stick to a regular schedule without missing a day
- Multimedia Approach: Read books. You need to exercise your reading skills but be careful with your pronunciation. Watch TV and Youtube. Watch kids shows if you have to start there, or news sites for advanced learning. Listen to audiobooks. You can speed them up or slow them down.
- Supportive Community: Find a group of like-minded people looking to learn the language
- Improve Fluency: Find a tutor who will teach you and improve your fluency
Decide why you want to learn a language
Do not underestimate the importance of this step. Revert back to the reasons when you feel overwhelmed. It will remind you why you are doing this and why it is important to you. This will help you keep determined and resilient.
There are times when you will feel like giving up, so you have to give yourself fairly good reasons why you should keep going.
Make a plan and update it weekly with bite-sized learning
Decide what areas you’d like to focus on, find the lesson material and learn. You may need to refine the plan to something you can stick to.
You will need to update your progress and decide what parts of the language to focus on next.
Work on each skill – listening, reading, speaking, writing
Do not neglect any of the skills you need to learn a language, you need to divide your time to develop each skill. This will help you develop overall competency in a language.
Do not neglect your grammar and pronunciation.
Stick to a Regular Schedule
Try to learn every day, even just for a few minutes. You really want to make learning the language a habit. Incorporate new words into your everyday vocabulary. Apply the words in everyday scenarios.
Be conscious of using the language whenever possible. If you start missing your scheduled days, you may find it difficult to get back on track.
Audiobooks are good for people who learn by listening but also helps others pick up the language and pronunciation. Listen at slow speeds at first. Gradually build up the speed as you begin to understand more.
Audible is one of the largest audiobook sites owned by Amazon. They have a 30-day free trial and you get access to a vast range of audiobooks, suitable for language learners. Get your 30-day free trial for Audible here.
Whether you want to read with a Kindle or paperback version, picking up a book is a great way to learn a new language. It will dramatically improve your English language skills.
Be careful that you are not pronouncing the words in the book wrong, as it is easy to pick up bad habits.
Watch TV and YouTube
Watch kids shows if you have to start there, or news sites for advanced learning.
Watching TV or sites like YouTube is similar to immersing yourself in the language. Adding subtitles is a visual aid that will help provide greater understanding and speed up the learning process.
When you add subtitles, see if you can add “English CC.” English closed caption describes the sounds in the film, such as “car passing.” This can help you improve your vocabulary.
You can watch things you’ve watched before. This will avoid the frustration of not understanding what is going on.
Find a group of like-minded people
Find a group of people who want to learn the language too, such as friends and family, and learn together.
If you don’t know anyone who wants to learn too, why not join a club or workshop in your locality with like-minded people. You could also join language-exchange groups or sites online.
Find a Tutor
They will teach you and improve your fluency. You can find independent and inexpensive tutors on sites like italki and Preply. They will help you learn from your mistakes and improve your language skills.
Of course, this isn’t independent learning but it might be good to have someone you can ask questions from time to time.
Don’t Make These Mistakes!
Here are some problems that you may encounter while learning a language on your own. Be consciously aware of how you learn a language and make sure to use your time efficiently.
Here is what you DON’T do when learning a language:
You won’t know whether you are pronouncing something right or wrong. A slight error in pronunciation could form an entirely new word. You would have to constantly check on your pronunciation and use Google to pronounce the word for you.
For example, English learners sometimes say “bitch” instead of “beach.” This is a typical pronunciation error which unfortunately produces a rather offensive word. There are other tricky things to watch for, such as “read” in the past tense, which is pronounced “red.”
There are so many little mistakes you could make in the long run, so pronunciation is an important aspect to focus on.
You may not know you are making errors with your pronunciation until it’s too late. This can lead to frustration and confusion when trying to converse with native speakers.
You can check your mistake by typing the word into Google ‘word+ pronunciation.’ You can hear the pronunciation. Keep a journal seperate for words you regularly struggle with and write down the word phonetically to help you remember it.
Only Focusing on One Skill
You need to exercise many skills when learning a language. We will have to include: grammar, listening, speaking, reading and writing skills for a start.
When you learn independently, you may find yourself better at some skills than others. You may enjoy the reading aspect more than speaking, for instance.
Unfortunately, studying just one or two skills is not enough to learn a language. You need to combine all of these skills to learn a language, so you must purposefully plan your schedule to include all of these.
This is why you should use a multimedia approach, using audios, books and speaking practice to help you learn.
Lack of Motivation
It is very hard to motivate yourself to learn a language unless you have a burning desire to do so. Maybe you need it for a job or want to learn it for exams.
You may consider having an accountability partner, such as your mother, brother or boyfriend. Let them check up on you and make sure you are sticking to your goals.
Learning a language can be overwhelming and it’s important to stick with it. Consistency is key.
The language you learn is spoken differently by region or country. You will have to recognize these differences and tailor the course to study the style and accent you are looking to gain expertise in.
For example, English learners who want to study in the U.S. might not be interested in learning from a British English speaker. Not only is the accents different, but the mannerisms, slang, customs and traditions. That’s not to say you cannot learn from a British English teacher, as you can still derive a lot of benefits. It depends on the teacher of your choice.
You shouldn’t rely on textbooks as your sole source of information. You should consider watching TV or getting in touch with native speakers.
Benefits of Learning a Language with a Tutor
You may consider learning with a tutor online. You can find tutors online for virtually every language and there are some great platforms where you can find very affordable tutors. This allows you to still learn the language from the comfort of your home.
What are the advantages of having a tutor?
When you make a mistake, you will know it. You are instantly corrected and discouraged from making them again. Otherwise, you could form many bad habits when you aren’t corrected and believe something to be true.
The tutor will say the word, write on the screen, provide meaning and context. This will help you understand what your mistake was, why it was wrong, and how you can improve. This is a prime advantage of learning with a tutor.
Focusing on all Skills
When you learn a language online, you are learning quite intensively, which is why classes are no longer than an hour.
One-on-one sessions allow you to immerse yourself in another language and gain the practice you need.
You will work on tasks together by speaking and listening. You will also have a reading or written element during class and for homework.
With a native speaker, you will avoid a lot of the mistakes you would normally make, which could become a greater problem down the line.
Productivity and Motivation
Having a tutor is like having an accountability partner. They want you to succeed and get results. You will be much more inclined to learn when you have a tutor to help you along.
Sharing language learning difficulties you have will reduce stress, boost productivity and motivation. With someone to help you along and provide feedback, you will notice the results. Language learning would be easier with a set schedule with a tutor.
Understanding the Culture
The native tutor will have an array of informal sayings and phrases that you wouldn’t hear otherwise. It will help you understand these speakers and the way they think.
Customs and traditions vary from country to country. It is a good way to make a friend from that country, so you can learn how to make conversation, influence others, and be a confident speaker overall.
As an English language teacher, I see the huge benefits that one-on-one learning provides. Students gain fluency in the language when they speak to a native speaker. They are not misled by the mistakes of their comrades that have only partial knowledge of the language.
An English language teacher is trained to address the different problems students may encounter when speaking the language. They address these problems in a simple yet effective way, adapting to the students’ level. The language learner can achieve great communicative, listening, spoken, and written skills.
Where can I find a language tutor?
If you want to learn a language, download italki and select from the thousands of teachers available. italki is one of the leading platforms for finding language tutors online.
You can also be a tutor yourself! Filter search by price, availability and language to find the best language tutor for you. I’ve seen tutors quote prices for as little as €4 per hour, all the way up to €70 per hour.
What works for you when learning a language?
It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still reach native-like fluency even as an adult. If you want to learn a language, I recommend trying out different things to see what suits you best. Don’t make it a chore but something you look forward to each day.
Create the desire to learn the language and motivate yourself with like-minded people. Once you do, you will be unstoppable!
Here is to your success!