Learning a Foreign Language: 5 Tips to Get You Started

Posted February 18, 2013 by Elica Sue in Languages
Learning Khmer

Flickr image by Loma87

In this internet era, it’s easy to travel the world – with Google translator in hand – and find your way around just like a local would. But is that the type of travel experience you’re looking for?

For a deeper and more rewarding travel experience, making an effort to speak a few words of a foreign language will take you a long way. Thankfully there are plenty of ways to pick up basic phrases and greetings that will probably earn you a smile or two.

Whether you’re a steady learner or a speedy one, whether you want to learn a language or have to learn a language, these five tips that will help you kick start your journey into a whole new world.

1.

Find out…

a. Why you’re learning it: One of the most important things to know before diving into learning a new language are your motivations. Are you learning it because your job is moving you to Germany? Are you learning it to communicate with family in Japan? Or are you learning it because it’s always been your dream to speak French? These motivations will help you decide what to learn first, for example, words related to your job, or phrases that you want to use for traveling and interacting with locals (slag, anyone?). But no matter what your reason is, don’t lose sight of it — these motivations will help you push through when you’re having a bad day.

b. What kind of language learner you are: You might have heard that some children are auditory learners, while some are visual learners, and others are tactile learners. It’ll help your learning process tremendously by knowing what kind of a learner you are. If you’re more of an auditory learner, you’ll find that hearing a phrase will help you out a lot more than seeing it written or writing it yourself.

2.

What do you like to do?

Recognizing what you like to do on a daily basis can help incorporate learning a language into your daily life. It’s an effortless change, a small change, but an effective one. If you always have your iPod on you, try downloading songs or podcasts in Spanish language. If you enjoy meeting new people, try searching online for a penpal website. If you enjoy reading or spending time at the library, pick up a simple children’s book in Chinese. If you enjoy watching movies, flip on the subtitles or change the audio to a different language. Trust me, it’s easy to find a way to blend your life with your language, you just have to know what you enjoy and what works best.

3.

Do your research

No one likes being caught by surprise…in a bad way. Before you get into your language, do some research to see how similar it is to your native language — read something about the grammar. Does it have a different writing system? How does it sound? Does it have feminine and masculine nouns? Doing a little bit of research before you begin can prepare you for when you get around to learning any of these components — just make sure the research doesn’t scare you out of learning it!

4.

Set goals

Setting goals can help you progress with your learning; you might give yourself two weeks to learn the basic words and phrases, and in  a month’s time, you might want to be able to have a simple and casual conversation in your targeted language. Set a schedule to help you push yourself (not too hard), but if you realize that other circumstances are preventing you from learning at the pace you want to, don’t be afraid to rearrange it. Don’t forget to take into account everything from how much time you can dedicate to learning it, to what kind of a learner you are, and how fast of a learner you are — be realistic! You’re dealing with a very real-life skill, so you’re going to have to be realistic.

5.

Have fun and don’t get discouraged

Don’t forget to have fun with it; take a day of rest, learn some slang instead of conjugations, or look up some jokes in your targeted language. Sometimes it feels a little bit out of reach, and you may have doubts clouding your head, can I really learn enough Chinese to be fluent one day? But remember that learning a language takes time — it’s a long process, but it’s also a personal journey. You have to learn new words, maybe a new structure, how to speak, and how to read, just for yourself — it’s a lot, but if you stick with it and look back, I promise you you’ll be rewarded.

Do you speak a foreign language or are you in the process of learning a new one? Share with us your tips and experience!


About the Author

Elica Sue

Elica Sue is WildJunket's web editor and writer specializing in languages and student travel. Based in California, she grew up with an exposure to a menagerie of culture, language, and art, and is a student pursuing what she is most passionate about: writing, traveling, and learning languages. She blogs at Travelengua.

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