Learning another language is a massive undertaking. Just when you think you’re making real progress, you’ll pop on a TV show in your target language and realize you don’t understand a single sentence being uttered.
It’s important to know that disappointments like this are completely normal. The path to fluency is a topsy turvy one, but the following tips should help you blast through with more confidence:
1. Bring in the professionals
Language learning tools like Duolingo and Rosetta Stone are fantastic for improving your vocabulary and building your understanding of grammar. However, nothing beats real conversations with native speakers. With this in mind, it’s well worth your time to arrange online tutoring with a native speaker. This will allow you to ask questions about grammar rules you find confusing. Your tutor will also converse with you in your target language, helping you develop your speaking and listening skills.
2. Find language partners
A tutor will do you a lot of good, but language exchange partners will accelerate your comprehension even more. You can find these people via apps like Cambly or online platforms such as Facebook, Craigslist, and community noticeboards. The idea is to find someone who speaks your target language and is looking to improve their English skills. You can chat online or in a local coffee shop and spend some time talking in each language. Since you’re both learning, no money needs to be exchanged, and you may well make lifelong friends.
3. Talk to yourself
This may sound crazy, but the more you talk to yourself in your target language, the more proficient you will become. Language partners and tutors can’t be on call 24/7. However, there’s nothing stopping you from chatting with yourself. As you’re planning your day or thinking about things in your native tongue, challenge yourself to translate those thoughts into your target language. If you have time, you can look up any words or phrases you’re not sure of. By doing this regularly, you will transform the way you think and personalize the language you’re learning.
4. Change the way you use subtitles
If you’re serious about learning, you’re likely already consuming media in your target language. However, if you’re like most people, you watch shows and movies with English subtitles. Though you will still learn a little from this, statistics show that you’ll retain the most by switching the subtitles into your target language. This can be frustrating as you will miss a lot of detail in the beginning. However, you will speed up your learning time by throwing yourself in at the proverbial deep end.
5. Be consistent
The final and perhaps most important piece of advice we have is to maintain consistency in your approach to language learning. This doesn’t mean you need to study for the same amount of time each day. However, it does mean that you should aim to make daily progress. This could come in the form of tutoring one day, chatting with a language partner the next, and then chilling out with a TV show in your target language on the weekend. You can vary your input, so long as you make sure you’re spending at least a little time each day immersed in the language you’re trying to learn.
Though it is certainly challenging, learning another language is highly rewarding. On top of the powerful cognitive benefits, it opens up so many opportunities in your career and your social life. Use the tips above to boost your learning experience, and you’ll be on a clear path to fluency.