So many people like to sell a product by saying that you will gain something valuable in record time. “Lose 10 pounds in a week.” “Learn French in 30 days.” “How to earn $5000 in your first month of blogging.” Let’s be real: That doesn’t happen. Unless you are a prodigy or very lucky, big achievements which will change your life take time and effort. I have spent years studying Spanish, from not really trying in grade school to piquing my interest in high school to going all in during college. Here I’m listing the things I have found to work when you’re studying a new language (in no particular order).

Actually care

This is an essential yet often overlooked aspect of learning. It really applies to any subject. Care about what you’re learning. Feel connected to and passionate about the reasons your studying, and find ways to make the process enjoyable. Not only will this decrease your chance of burning out and giving up, but you will try harder and learn faster without realizing it.

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Movies/TV

Watching a movie or TV show in another language has a lot of benefits. For one thing, you get to hear various different people speak at a conversational speed and practice real-world levels of comprehension. Another nice thing is that there are images and emotions to help you understand what the words might mean. The academic community agrees that around 70% of communication is through nonverbal cues. (Source: a fact I retained from an Intro to Communication textbook in college). Watching a movie helps your brain synapses connect the words you hear to objects, people, or emotions to help you pick up on the meanings as well as retain the vocabulary more easily. Something great for beginners is to watch something they’ve seen before dubbed over in their target language with subtitles in that same language. Don’t use subtitles in your native language or you will get lazy. The subtitles help you pick out words that are spoken unclearly or too fast to pick up. Watching something you’re familiar with helps you understand better, because you already have a general idea of what they’re talking about. Once you’re more advanced (or right away if you’re feeling adventurous), you can start looking into movies or TV shows which were originally written and filmed in your target language. A film I enjoy in Spanish is Nueve Reinas, an Argentinian movie about con artists and heists.

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Take a Class

Classroom learning is not always the best method for learning a language, but there are some important benefits. A huge one is accountability. You have to show up, participate, study and do homework, so there are consequences if you don’t force yourself to use the language on a regular basis. If you are hoping to learn academic-level language skills, which would be useful in professional settings, classroom learning is essential. It also puts someone who is an expert in the subject at your disposal to explain things and answer questions. And a class typically gives you information on a variety of subjects, many of which you probably would not have thought to study outside of the classroom. I’ve written essays in Spanish about bullying in schools and Chilean birth control policies over time. The second one I never would have taken much time to research, and both of them provided me with vocabulary terms which I had never come across before.

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Music

Listening to music is an incredible way to boost your comprehension skills. When you put it on, listen to the lyrics and try to pick out words you know. Understand that song moves differently than normal conversation and it might be difficult to pick up what the singer is saying sometimes. One thing I find helpful is to listen to a song, look up and read through the lyrics, find any words I don’t understand in a dictionary, then listen to the song again. I then understand way more that I’m listening to, and can more accurately sing along if I get into the groove. Different styles have different benefits, whether it’s differentiating words that run together or understanding fast-paced dialogue.

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Use your language

A popular phrase amongst language learners is “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Finding opportunities to use your language skills is super important for learning new things, and it’s also a good way to retain the knowledge you already have. Find as many ways as you can to use this language, especially speaking with someone. If there’s a cultural center near you, a religious location such as a church or temple offering services in your target language, or you have a friend who speaks the language (or is also trying to learn it). Even thinking out loud to yourself in the target language is helpful. Be creative and find as many ways to practice as you can.

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Use the Internet

The internet is a powerful tool. Use it to your advantage. There is so, so much available online to help you learn. You can find lessons, podcasts, Youtube videos, connections with penpals who speak your target language. There are even apps you can download to improve your knowledge.

At the end of the day, what matters most is not giving up. Try a few of these strategies, spend consistent time and energy, and don’t get discouraged. You are embarking on a long road, but an incredibly rewarding one.

What are some tricks you are already using to practice your language skills?

Images sourced from pexels.com

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37 thoughts

    1. Spanish is a beautiful language, it’s never too late to start learning again if you still want to learn it! I can send you some links to resources if you want.

  1. Thanks for sharing this tips, it was really helpful. I’ve been in Italy for a year now and it’s been difficult for me to learn the language. Though, I understand quite a lot but I’m so scared to speak because my pronunciation is nothing Italian, I mean, it’s far from the Italian way of pronunciation. Which makes me feel like nobody is going to understand me.

    1. I’ve always wanted to see Italy! I think it’s great that you are understanding, that’s an important step. Have some confidence to speak, and I’m sure you know more than you’re giving yourself credit for. You’ll get the hang of it, don’t give up 🙂

  2. Like the candidness at the start of this post which drew me to it. I have always wondered how those claims come true. Glad to find an echoing perspective. We have learned a few languages and as we reflect, all the points you have mentioned are really helpful. One thing which really helped me overall was, just try and speak more, even if it sounds funny, as that gives others a chance to correct us.

    1. I definitely agree with that, especially your last point. My experiences abroad were essential because when I met people who didn’t speak English, I had no choice but to try my hardest in Spanish and be willing to make mistakes.

    1. Thank you for that! If you could learn any language that you don’t already know, what would it be?

  3. This is really indeed when I really want to learn a different language I’ve always listening their music watching their movies Very nice tips from actually it really works!

    1. It’s certainly a lot easier when you’re doing it the right way than when you’re using methods that don’t work, that’s for sure!

  4. Great tips! As someone is who is bilingual (and always studying languages), I try different ways to use and express languages. I also live in a country where English is not widely spoken, so it helps me to get better at the other language.

  5. All of these used together will help you learn that new language more quickly. One thing that I like about television and music is that they also expose you to informal language or slang, something you don’t always find in a textbook.

    1. That’s a great point! The informal aspects of language are what always seem to trip me up because until fairly recently I was mostly using classroom Spanish.

    1. I love the internet! Have you had any especially positive experiences with language learning tools online?

    1. Duolingo is great! I find it’s a really good aid for adding to your vocabulary and practicing listening/pronunciation skills.

  6. These tips are amazing. When I was new to English, I take help from YouTube. I started watching English speeches & it really helps me. Well, you’ve discussed some more great point. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I’m glad to hear that! On YouTube did you watch tutorials to learn English or did you watch videos with people speaking it in conversation?

    1. It’s a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding. What language would be at the top of your list to learn?

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