In the previous article, I wrote about the benefits of learning a foreign language, and the positive impact it will have on both your personal & professional life.
However, I am always asked this question ” What is the best way to learn a foreign language?”.
There are multiple methods or ideas you can use to learn a new foreign language. In this article, I will share some commonly used methods that people use to learn a foreign language.
My friend Tom wanted to learn French. This had been on his bucket list for a very long time. He decided to do something about it, and plunge into action.
Tom inquired with the local schools & colleges and sought their advice. They recommended French Immersion if he was serious. The local school suggested that through Language Immersion, Tom will be able to accelerate his learning of French.
Through the program, the school will find a family in Quebec with whom Tom can stay for a few weeks or months, and during that stay, he will learn the language. In other words, immersing himself in the environment will motivate him to quickly grab the language.
Tom took the suggestion and headed to Chicoutimi Quebec and stayed with a local family for a couple of months. He had no choice but to speak French because the locals in that town mostly only spoke French.
After his 2 months, Tom was glad that he took the program. It was a valuable investment of his time & money. Since he was away from home, and he did not have anyone to speak English – he learned French quickly.
There are many resources available for this online. Most schools & universities provide resources/directions regarding language immersion. If you can invest the time (weeks & months), Immersion is a proven method to learn a foreign language.
If you find the Immersion process to formal, the other alternative is to travel (and it is more fun). If you wanted to learn a particular language, choose a country where the language is spoken – and go & live there for some time.
A friend on mine, Rob went to Thailand there for a vacation, then he realized how much he loved the local language and culture (now, who doesn’t love Thailand once they have been there, no pun intended). Once he was back in Canada, he realized that it was harder to learn Thai here. There were not many classes/courses to learn Thai.
But that did not stop Rob. He structured his work in such a way that he can live anywhere and still be able to be productive. Thanks to modern technology this is possible. Once he planned & structured his work – he decided to go back to Thailand. And he did.
Now Rob lives in Thailand (Lucky b*****d). And he is continually learning Thai. Now you may not want to live somewhere for an extended period of time to learn a language, but this strategy works.
I turned 30 last year, and I decided to make my 30th birthday a memorable one. I decided to do something I always wanted to do for a long time – train in a martial arts camp for a few months. It was on my bucket list for a long-time and I wanted to do it then.
After thorough research, I chose a Martial Arts School in Nicaragua. My plan was to stay there for 2 months and train non-stop all day. I spoke to the Program Director, booked my trip, and then packed my bags, and headed out.
I knew that Nicaragua was a Spanish speaking country, but I was under the impression that English also was spoken there (how naive!!). I arrived there & to my shock found out that hardly anyone spoke English. It became very difficult for me to do anything, even order lunch if I did not learn Spanish. I knew that I must learn Spanish quickly or else I will have a very difficult time.
So I enrolled in a local Spanish class. And I also spent most of my time learning Spanish using Duolingo. Necessity forced me to ramp up my learning, and within weeks my Spanish improved. In less than a month I was conversing with everyone with my newly-acquired broken Spanish.
For years, I had tried to learn Spanish but could not follow-through, and here I was in another Spanish speaking country, and I was forced to learn it quickly. Like they say “Necessity is the mother of all invention”.The more something becomes a MUST/NEED, the faster you will acquire that skill.
This is analogous to a new-immigrant coming to North America. They have hardly spoken English prior to arriving here – but once they are here; they are forced to learn quickly. Their economic life is at stake – so they ramp up their English learning as soon as possible.
Am I saying that – jump on a plane and go to a foreign country, and force yourself to learn that language?
If you have the flexibility and resources to do it – I highly recommend it.
4. Language Exchange Groups
Thanks to event websites such as Meetup and Chillwall, you can find local language-exchange meetings or events. People come to this meeting with the sole purpose of learning & practicing a foreign language. This is also a great opportunity to interact with other cultures.
Learning a language is one thing – but continually practicing it another thing. Many of us learn a foreign language in school – we might even have earned an “A” grade on that subject. But once we leave school we don’t continue to practice, we don’t refine the skills, and hence we forget everything we learned.
I learned French in High School – try speaking 2 sentences to me in French, I will probably start you at like a Deer Caught in the Headlights. Guilty as charged, I haven’t practiced French in 14 years.
In his book First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast, Josh Kaufman explains in-depth about the differences between Skill Acquisition versus Education.
“Skill acquisition requires practicing the skill in question. It requires significant periods of sustained, focused concentration. It requires creativity, flexibility, and the freedom to set your own standard of success” – Josh Kaufman
Language Exchange groups or meetups are a great way to hone your language skills. Repetition and practice sharpen your skills and helps you retain all the vocabulary you acquired. Nothing beats live interactions with real human beings.
5. Technology to the Rescue
Ever seen the famous iPhone ad in 2009 “There is an app for that”. Exactly!! there are apps for learning languages. Thanks to technology, you don’t necessarily have to enroll in a structured classroom type of environment.
Rosetta Stone has set the gold standard for audio/video-based Language Learning. You can learn pretty much any language using their CD or DVD programs. However, it comes with a hefty price tag. I personally have never used their programs, but they have a strong reputation.
Duolingo is a free mobile app and website (and my favorite) for learning languages. Although the choices are limited regarding how many languages are available – you can’t beat the price. FREE!!
The app consists of many tests, courses & also uses Gamification to speed up the learning process. And you can also compete with your friends.
Duolingo came to my rescue during my stay in Nicaragua. I am currently learning Portuguese on Duolingo. It is my biased opinion – to quickly learn new words, sentences, etc. this app cannot be beaten. However, you still need to go out a practice conversing in that language.
I hope you find the above list useful. What are some other methods you have used to learn a new foreign language? I am curious to hear your ideas.
Feel free to share if you found this article resourceful!!