10 Essential Tips for Learning a New Language

We are global. We move about and we travel. Not all travel is touristic, however, as the gaps in global businesses close. According to the the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Travel and Tourism Office, the number of U.S. citizens traveling outside the country for business and leisure jumped by 6 percent last year, reaching a total of 93 million. As we connect with different people and cultures, language becomes essentially important when seeking to study abroad, work abroad, and even conducting business. But you need not worry-you can and should learn a new language! Learning new languages doesn’t only open opportunities beyond your imagination, it keeps your brain agile and will help you materialize your capabilities to connect and understand your fellow global citizens! Isn’t that exciting?! Once you commit to learning a new language, follow these 10 essential tips for faster acquisition, and speak-ability (see how I did that? LOL):

  1. Take a course. Some of us need community. Joining a class not only commits you to learning, it offers motivation and guidance in learning your chosen language. Language schools are also a great place to network with other students and you’ll inadvertently gain more information about your language by way of other students who have traveled to different countries, business opportunities, all while enjoying a group setting for practice.
  2. Supplement your education online. Youtube provides an array of language lessons for free. Listen to it while you drive, when at home, repeat the words you hear.
  3. Watch films in the language of pursuit, put on the subtitles. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your brain registers the sounds of chosen language. It will also help you in pronunciations, stresses, and tonal sounds.
  4. Learn at least 3 words a day and use it in a sentence. No one to practice? Recite these sentences while you look at your mouth in the mirror. Our tongues must become familiar with certain words. You’ll find your mouth making shapes you’ve never used.
  5. Don’t get hung up on the grammar. You will make mistakes. Focus on small phrases and practice saying them over and over. You may also write down essential travel phrases like: Hello/Thank you/My name is…/Where is the bathroom?/How much is it? Practice saying these phrases in your chosen language. Also remember, your vocabulary will grow quickly. Sometimes, one word sentences and pointing (using your body to communicate) helps.
  6. Buy a language CD to listen to while you drive and/or while at home.
  7. Get a friend who speaks your language and frequent areas where your chosen language is spoken. Tell your friend who is a native speaker, that you wish to learn the language and requests that all conversations be done in said language for a time. This is a great way to get corrected on grammar, and honor your friend’s culture. Go to restaurants, cultural events, and even try to get invited to private gatherings and listen. Watch mannerisms, listen to expressions and conversational colloquialisms.
  8. Practice your new language. Order food, make purchases at a store, or begin with greetings. If you’re in New York, go to China Town and practice your Mandarin; In Miami, order a cafecito (Cuban coffee) in Little Havana. Learning a new language can be delicious as you immerse yourself in its culture through food!
  9. Listen to music in your chosen language. You’ll discover a plethora of wonderful music and become familiar with the poetry of your new language. As you listen, try to understand phrases. Write down words or phrases you don’t understand. Try to understand figurative language: similes, metaphors, and idioms.
  10. Practice writing! You can get a pen pal. Write a letter to a friend. Or you may write a letter to yourself. You can also practice writing a poem. You cannot write without reading. Reading allows more practice and familiarization with your chosen language. Not ready to write? Google Translate an entire text you’ve written in your native language. Read and become familiar with inverses in language.

Learning a new language can be scary and even frustrating. But don’t give up. Follow these tips and I can assure you that your new language will spill from your lips with ease in no time. Challenge yourself and have fun! Parlez-Vous Francais?!